Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Make It Right

couple sculpture
Photo credit: Daquella Manera

Mark 10:1-9

He left there and went back to eastern Judea. Again the crowds gathered around him, and he began teaching them, as usual.

Some legalists came and to test him asked, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?”

He answered, “What did Moses say about it?”

“Moses said a man can divorce his wife by writing a note to leave.”

So Jesus said, “Yes, he said that because of your callous indifference. But the prior law is that since, “God made them male and female, and therefore a man leaves his parents to be joined to his wife: the two are one entity. Because they’re no longer two but have become one entity, what God has created, a man shouldn’t destroy.”

This is a matter of people wanting self justification, and legal cover, for something they know is wrong without having to ask. And Jesus doesn’t play that game.

Jesus doesn’t deny that the statute is there, or that it shouldn’t ever be used. But Jesus is clear: it’s there because something has gone terribly wrong. And anyone who has been or is currently going through a divorce can tell you that it’s true. Something went wrong. And it has to do with callous indifference, or hardheartedness, somewhere in the picture. Could be mostly one partner, or the other, or both. But there it is.

The statute is meant as an emergency release, to allow people space to heal and move on after something terrible has happened. In other words, it’s purpose is healing and redemption. And it’s just as necessary today as it was then. God doesn’t intend for people to be locked into abusive relationships, for example.

But the legalists have made the statute into a means to commit a domestic violence, by using it as a free legal license to betray a sacred trust. It’s not the statute, but the circumstances in which it’s abused that Jesus objects to.

Same goes with any law that’s intended for people’s protection but re-interpreted and implemented to betray a sacred trust so that one person or group can gain an unfair advantage over another.