Malachi 2:13-16: Divorce: Part Three
Children and divorce
The heart and divorce
Hatred and divorce
We are in our third sermon looking at the matter of divorce. So far we have looked at the spiritual consequences for those who pursue divorce; what constitutes a marriage and last week we laid out an overview of the Bible’s teaching on divorce. We got as far as looking at Genesis to the teachings of Christ. I wanted to say one last word based on the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7 before we moved on with our exposition of Malachi 2:13-16. I feel that there is a missing ingredient in most discussions around Christians divorcing and it is the reality of membership and church discipline. Jesus told us that God allowed but did not command divorce because of hardness of heart, Matt. 19:8. Jesus helped us see that divorce for any reason is sinful but there are situations that involve sexual unfaithfulness that make it allowable. Paul in 1 Cor. 7 adds to the grounds for divorce including desertion. Paul says that if an unbeliever walks out on an unbeliever then the unbeliever is to be at peace. The Reformed churches have recognized that the innocent parties in these situations are free to remarry in the Lord. This where church discipline and the role of the church becomes so important in any divorce. Contrary to popular belief divorce is not a private matter that is just between the married couple and their lawyers. Every Christian is to be a member of a local church, being shepherded faithfully by elders. So if a marriage between members in the church is heading towards divorce, because hardness of heart, in other words sin is involved, the elders will have to get involved to seek a reconciliation. And if one or both of the parties involved is hard of heart and impenitent refusing to honor God in healing their marriage, church discipline will come into play. This helps in several ways. Firstly, it reminds Christians of their duties and a neutral voice stands outside their marriage and speaks God’s word and will to them calling them to repentance and obedience. Secondly, this is a protection that God offers to Christian marriages. Thirdly, in the instance of someone refusing to do the right thing and reconcile, church discipline will kick in and the offending party will be cut off as an unbeliever, their walking out interpreted as a desertion putting the innocent party in a position to remarry in the Lord. This holds both parties accountable. Now let us be clear, there are many instances where one party is a clear victim and having clear grounds for divorce they can pursue divorce, going through this process with your elders discussing things and praying with you will help you do it in a way that glorifies God. It should always be hard to get a divorce, but sometimes when the sin involved is pursued impenitently, then the victim can take much comfort from the support and approval of their elders during this difficult time. The bottom is this: for Christians, generally speaking, a divorce cannot take place without church discipline happening because someone is pursuing sin with a hard heart.
Now we want to continue with our look at Malachi 2 and in particular v15-16. There are three things we still need to draw out of these verses. Children and divorce; the heart and divorce; and hatred and divorce.