You have heard that it was said “God hates divorce,” but I say unto you…
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Those who bend the laws of God and teach others to do the same… who could Jesus be talking about? Firstly the Pharisees and scribes and priests and whoever invented manmade laws which actually flouted or ‘trumped’ the laws and precepts of God. Secondly, those who had a laissez faire approach to the law (“she’ll be right mate!” as we Aussies say). And both of those groups were suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
Abusers: when you insult your victims, whenever you call them fools or fruitcakes or dimwits, you are making yourselves liable to the hell of fire. The same goes for all those church leaders who dismiss the reports of victims.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother [or sister], and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:23-26)
Jesus is speaking to abusers here, not to those who are rightly accusing the abusers for their wrongdoing.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Husbands who are indulging in porn, Jesus is talking about you!] If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)
Porn users must do whatever it takes to quit indulging to porn. If they don’t, they can’t be received into the Kingdom of God.
It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
Jesus was pouring scorn on the scribes and Pharisees: Okay Pharisees, you think you’ve found a loophole in Deuteronomy 21:1 that allows you dismiss your wives at will? Your loophole doesn’t wash with God. You’ve cherry-picked verse one and twisted it out of all recognition. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Moses didn’t condone male divorce, let alone make indulgent concessions to men. Moses knew that men were divorcing their wives despite all God’s guidance about how personal relationships ought to be conducted. He only narrated the ‘case study’ in verses 1-3 which mentioned the practice of male divorce in order to promulgate the law in verse four. Moses’s regulation was to prevent an abominable end-product that sometimes ensued when men hard-heartedly engaged in divorce.
Moses didn’t give this teaching in Deuteronomy 24 to license male divorce. He gave it because men were divorcing in hardness of heart and he was trying to restrain an abominable end-product of such conduct. From the beginning it was not so. Listen up, religious leaders! The point of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is not verse one, but verse four. If the rabbis (both Hillelites and Shammaites) had faithfully interpreted Deuteronomy 24 in the light of Genesis 2, they would never have drawn the conclusions they had. They only created this interpretation to serve themselves.
Can you hear Jesus’ outrage at the Pharisees? He wasn’t siding with the Shammaite school, as so many commentators have supposed; he was pouring scorn on both schools of Pharisees, the Hillelites AND the Shammaites. No wonder the disciples were so dismayed that they said, “If that is the case, it would be better for a man not to marry!” The Pharisees had crafted loopholes of male privilege from Deuteronomy 24:1, and Jesus had just closed the loopholes tight. Jesus’ declaration left no wriggle room. If any Pharisee had a mite of conscience left, he would have been red faced. But most of the Pharisees probably just burnt with inward fury.
… You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:38-41)
One way that victims can maintain their dignity and personal power in the face of oppression is to give the oppressor more than he demanded. This demonstrates that he has not cowed you and you still have the power of choice in your own actions. And by giving him exceedingly more than he demanded, you are subtly mocking his demands.
Now, kindly allow me now to paraphrase our Lord’s sermon style…
You have heard that it was said “God hates divorce,” but I say unto you that is a notion invented by your religious leaders. Scripture says:
…the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
(Malachi 2:14-16, NIV 2011; emphasis added)