The author M.G. McLuhan, has been in ministry for over 50 years and has been married over 50 years. He has now retired. Over the years he has been exposed to and believed a very strict interpretation of the Bible about divorce that tended to look down on and marginalize divorced people.
He has counseled enough hurting people to realize that maybe he had been too strict, so he has really dug into Scripture trying to show both God’s high standards for life-long marriage and God’s compassion for those who don’t live up to the ideal.
Several key points:
Up until recent years divorce was so rare in the church that the church really didn’t spend lots of time thinking about the various ins and outs and nuances of divorce. Those that did were primarily at the seminary level and disconnected from everyday counseling situations.
The Bible can be divided into three segments as far as God’s view on divorce. The first segment is from Adam to Moses. God didn’t say much except the Genesis account of the man leaving his father and mother and becoming one flesh with his wife. Various books of the Bible mentioned marriage but really gave no regulations.
The second segment is primarily the Mosaic law.
The third segment is what Jesus and Paul taught about marriage and divorce.
One thing that McLuhan does well is review the different segments of the Mosaic law about divorce. One thing that he really points out is that through the Mosaic law God was protecting women. The Mosaic law talked about situations where the wife was a captive, where she wasn’t loved, where a woman could demand a divorce. What I forgot was that adultery wasn’t a reason for divorce because the punishment for adultery was death.
Even though the Mosaic law doesn’t apply to us today as Christians, I feel his analysis is helpful in understanding the culture that Jesus was later speaking to later on.
He does a good job helping us to understand God’s ideal for marriage; that it is joining two whole persons in spirit, soul, and body.
I think McLuhan made a good point that Paul’s treatise on divorce was addressed to a culture very similar to ours – Christians who had come out of a very pagan culture. Paul quoted Jesus, but also addressed concerns that Jesus didn’t because Paul was talking to mostly Gentile people.
Another very strong point McLuhan makes is that divorce is not the unforgivable sin. He does explain a lot of the Greek behind Paul’s teaching.
Although he is very strongly supportive of marriage, some of his examples of when divorce was justified, I didn’t agree with. I think he may have unwittingly given people more possible reasons to divorce than what he realized.
I think this is a good book to read to get an over all big picture view of marriage and divorce in the Bible. If you are a person going through divorce, or contemplating one, or if you are helping people in deep marital struggles, I think it would be wise to read some other views also as you wrestle with what is appropriate in the situation you are facing.