KEY THOT: The Pharisees came to Jesus to test him by asking if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. They were not trying to save marriages but to justify their reason for divorce. The Pharisees were divided on this issue: those who belonged to the conservative Shammai school allowed for divorce only on the ground of adultery but the liberal Hillel school allowed for divorce on any and every trivial ground. Jesus’ answer to the test question was to take neither sides but to refute their justification for divorce. He pointed them to the real cause for divorce: “hardness of heart.” In fact, Jesus is saying: to have a happy marriage don’t change your partners—change your hearts. Divorce is never God’s solution for troubled marriages: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Instead of arguing over what are the “biblical” grounds for divorce and remarriage, Jesus tells us that the real issue is the hard heart. If we want to save our marriage, don’t find reasons to change our spouses—but focus on changing our hearts. I heard a testimony of a husband who said: “For the first 15 years of my marriage, I focus on my wife’s faults—and I almost destroy my marriage. In the last 15 years, I focus on my own faults—and our marriage was saved.”
The real reason for divorce is the hardened heart. Jesus came to save our marriages by empowering us to change our hearts, not giving us excuses to change our partners. And the hard heart that needs changing has to start with mine, not my wife’s. And this repenting doesn’t need to wait for my wife to start first—it takes the more spiritual spouse (me, of course) to initiate the process of reconciliation and healing.
It’s very easy to blame our spouse for any and every conflict (I do that quite often—and of course, I blame Adam for this blame-shifting disposition!). But if I’m honest, I am the one whose heart needs changing. If I just focus on repenting the sins of my hardened heart, I will be able to keep my marriage in good health.
Father, forgive us our transgressions as we have forgiven the transgressions of our spouses. Deliver us from our hard hearts, and fill us with Your agape love that will overflow to our spouses. Amen.