Broken and Restored Relationships
“You did not choose me, but I chose you…” John 15:16
#1 Marriage Destroyer
Anybody want to guess what the number one destroyer of marriages is? (wait for response)
Two psychologists, Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of the University of Denver took on a project of trying to uncover the processes that destroy marriages. They studied couples over the course of years, and even decades, and retraced the steps of those who have split up back to their wedding day. What they are discovering is unsettling. None of the factors you would guess could predict a couple’s durability: not how in love a newlywed couple say they are; how much affection they exchange; how much they fight or what they fight about. In fact, couples who will make it and those who don’t look remarkably similar in the early days. They found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationships. Of the couples who would ultimately make it, 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were insults. Among couples who would later split (divorce), 10 of every 100 comments were insults. That gap magnified over the following decade, until couples heading downhill were flinging five times as many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples. “Hostile putdowns act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over time,” says Notarius, who with Markman co-authored the new book We Can Work It Out.
“In the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and the couple can’t get through a week without major blowups.”
U.S. News & World Report, February 21, 1994, p. 67
Read Passage – Matthew 5:31-32
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
The Indecency Clause
This is the third antithesis of this section of the Sermon on the Mount and the main issue Jesus addresses in this antithesis is the sanctity of marriage. Jesus is addressing the issue of divorce from Deut. 24:1 which reads:
“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house…” Deut. 24:1
Why address this? Divorce had become a widespread phenomenon in the ancient world and he had Moses address the issue to:
1) Protect the sanctity of marriage.
2) Protect women who were being dismissed without any real cause
3) Make sure a woman who was divorced had a way to remarry and not be thought of as a harlot or runaway adulteress, i.e. otherwise a single woman would not be able to provide for herself or sustain she and her family.
And don’t forget what God said about it; it was man’s hardness of heart. Some of the issues were that this was a male dominated world so men could divorce women but woman couldn’t divorce men, the women didn’t have that right. This was a big issue for women because that had no way to provide for themselves or be financially independent. So this law became important because to actually get a certificate of divorce, although it was a stigma and the woman might be looked at as used goods, it did allow woman to remarry. The real problem came in the interpretation of the law. When was it okay to divorce and when was it not okay?
The Torn-Apart Marriage
So Jesus goes back to the original intention and quotes this Mosaic law in verse 31:
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’” vs. 31
This was a big problem in Jesus’ day as well because it had go0tten worse over the years. The legalism of the religious leaders didn’t help, they definitely took the man’s side.
Ex. The woman caught in adultery that they bring to Jesus to trap him. Where is the man?
The more liberal school of Israelites called the “Hillel” stated that a man could divorce his wife for any reason of indecency, that’s from the word “displeasing” that we see in Deut. 24:1. A good example of this would be something to the affect that if a woman cooked a meal that did not meet her husband’s specifications it could be considered “displeasing” and he could divorce her. It’s easy to see that men of that day would have taken advantage of this.
Ex. The reason for divorce that we have heard of in our day that the toothpaste cap was left off the toothpaste tube.
Jesus wants to get back to what God’s intention of marriage that is be a permanent union between a man and a woman. Interestingly, this is the 2nd time Jesus says this in this section of Scripture. In 5:27-28 he states his concern about adultery and he uses the word “moicheuo” interpreted adultery. In verse 31 here, he uses the word “porneia” also interpreted adultery. Porneia includes any sinful activity that intentionally divides the marital relationship. Jesus really wants to protect marriage and make sure that anyone taking the sacred vows of marriage is not making a sham of the relationship.
The Views Of Divorce
Let me just stoop for a minute and say this is a really uncomfortable subject to preach on. People really get heated up about this topic and if you don’t agree the emotions become really intense. I have taught quite a few classes on this subject and almost every time someone has come us to me and either been really upset with me or felt I just missed the point all together. Here’s an interesting thing about this subject, people fall into one of three categories on it: They are:
1. No cause for divorce
2. One cause for divorce
3. Many causes for divorce
And…even more interesting is that they pretty much use the same Biblical passages to support their stance. So again, it comes down to how you interpret it.
Here is the bottom line on this subject: God instituted the union of marriage between a man and a woman. His desire is that we take those vows seriously. Most people today still take those vows asking for God’s blessing on their union. Divorce is falling short of that ideal. For some reason, when we fall short in this area, many people fail to see any area of grace and forgiveness. You can be a liar, a cheat, a thief, etc. and people will forgive you. But for some reason, people are very unforgiving and understanding about divorce.
Ex. This hits really close to home for me. My grandmother went to church regularly an d six months after my mother was born, her husband, my grandfather, had an affair, took off and divorced my grandmother. She was kicked out of her church because she was divorced. It’s called excommunication. She had done nothing wrong yet the church wouldn’t let her worship there because of her divorce. This had repercussions for years in my family. It drove my grandmother from her faith and it had a lot of negative — in her family. My mom went to church as a child but not in her teen years and it was only after I was born that my mom went back to church. I owe my Christian heritage to my mom willing to go back to church. My grandmother came back to Christ in the last weeks of her life.
So what are we to do when it comes to this passage? We need to realize that relationships are hard. They take work. Relationships can be strained and let’s face it, some break up. But here is the good news and what I really feel about his topic: God is a God who forgives. God is a God who restores broken relationships. And God gives us guidance on how to keep our relationships fresh and moving in the right direction. I realize some of you may have gone through the difficult process of divorce. I also want you to feel that love, grace, and forgiveness that God brings to you and hope that these words of Christ move you toward a deeper commitment in your relationships and in your relationship with God himself.
A God Of Restoration In…
So what can you and I do to move toward building our relationships and in the process, maybe help us to avoid or lessen the chances that our marriages end in divorce? Here are some steps right from God’s Word. It’s broken down into two areas: internal and external.
The first internal step is setting your priorities; the things that are important to you and thenm committing to them. Believe it or not, you are a priority to God. Long before you were, long before you had a chance to know right from wrong, long before you could fathom God, he choose you and made you one of his priorities. John 15:16 says:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you…” John 15:16
You are a priority to God. How can you set priorities? Here aer some tips on doing that:
- Set goals
- Build good habits into your life
- Commit to conflict resolution
- Be willing to say “no” to things
- Be willing to work at what is important
Ex. Franklin-Covey daily planning organizer. List tasks, assign priority letters, i.e. A, B,C, etc. then assign numbers to accomplish, 1, 2, 3, etc. GO TO WORK!
Ill. What this looks like in a marriage: goals like lifetime commitment, buying a house, having time together, build in habits of spending time together, don’t let anger fester and build, talk things out and commit to love, and work hard.
The second internal step is in your thought life. Your thoughts and your thought life is not just taking things as they come and a hap hazard thing. It is important to know that you can control your thought life an discipline your mind to think in a certain way. This is especially true when it comes to relationships. How you think about others goes a long way to building your relationships. Galatians 5:14 says:
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
There are a few things we can do to help our thought life.
- Keep your mind from harmful things
- Choose to think about good and positive things
Ex. Your spouse: Choose to keep your mind pure and focused on them. Keep your mind away from inappropriate thoughts of other, keep way from harmful things that put negative thoughts in your mind, and then choose to focus on the things you love about your spouse and the good qualities they bring to your life.
Now things take a turn from the internal and they work themselves out into the external.
The first of the external steps is to speak the words that are helpful, encouraging and that build up. 1 Thess. 5:11 says:
“Encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Thess. 5:11
Unfortunately too many times our words only come out on special days like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries and even then we sometimes write them down and don’t speak them.
Challenge: Speak kind and encouraging words – call them in the middle of the day, spend a moment at the end of each day to tell them how much you appreciate them and love them, or how about aloud in front of others (too many times people hear us complain about our spouse and not build them up) and written it good too, texts, notes (maybe in their car or on their desk or on the mirror, etc.)
Ex. The notes I have in my room or the letters I keep in my desk
And finally, we let these steps come out in our actions. This is an important step and one that should not be missed. 1 John 3:18 says:
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:18
The actions are the place others see our commitment to relationships and the expression of our love. This is love in action.
Ex. Little gifts, opening doors, doing something without being asked or something off a honeydo list, a special treat or surprise, etc.
Now you also have on out, if you do this and someone asks why, you can just say “My pastor told me to!” J
The Big Wedding
Here is the great thing about this: These things are reflective of our relationship ith God and what he does for us. Follow me on this, God makes us a priority, we are in tis thoughts and he never forgets us or forgets about us, god tells us in his Word how much he loves us and his actions are constantly showing us how much he loves us, i.e. answers to pray and blessing in our life.
Let me put his in marriage language. God loves us and we, the church are his bride. One day he will be coming for his bride, you and I, and we will be with him forever. See this is like an engagement period. For those of you who are married remember you engagement period. It’s magical in many ways. You are excited about that wedding day, you are filled with anticipation, even when things don’t go well, love prevails and you focus on the positive. This life is like our engagement period with God. We are told in Revelation 19:7:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Rev. 19:7