On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Marriage Breakup and Hardness of Heart
“What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. (Mark 10:3-5, NIV)
Our Lord was without sin, and yet He endured much criticism — all of it from religious people.
Thus far in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ critics have challenged Him seven times (2:7,16,18,24; 3:2,22; 7:5). On this eighth occasion, the Pharisees came to test Jesus’ answer regarding divorce. Jesus responded by asking what the Law required.
He thus forced them to articulate what they understood to be the teaching of Moses. Jesus may have asked the question because He wanted to draw out which school of the Pharisees they belonged to — the conservative school of Shammai or the liberal school of Hillel. Those two schools of thought differed on the grounds for divorce: Shammai held that divorce could only be obtained if there was adultery; Hillel, for any cause.
The answer to Jesus indicates this group belonged to the liberal camp. They held that the man could just write a certificate of divorce and send away the wife. Had this group of Pharisees been from the conservative side, their answer would have been: “Moses permitted divorce only in instances of adultery.”
Jesus hit the nail on the head as to the cause of divorce: hardness of heart.
That’s why marriages don’t last. Tenderness is gone. Self-interest and self-fulfillment become more important than the spouse’s welfare. “I want to be happy” is simply a cover for hardness of heart. But the “I want to be happy” person who leaves the marriage can never really be happy because the problem lies not with their spouse, but in themselves. Their heart is hard.
The opposite of a hard heart is a soft one — a heart that is supple and lives the virtues articulated in 1 Corinthians 13.
How do you keep from having a hard heart when your marriage is in trouble? There are scriptural keys. Keep a daily life of prayer and reliance upon the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and a right heart. Subordinate your feelings to your knowings; if you live by your emotions rather than doing what is right, your inner life can become full of poison. Forgive easily. In fact, Jesus calls us to forgive an infinite number of times (“seventy times seven”; see Matthew 18:22, KJV). This does not mean you become a doormat that permits yourself to become abused — thus, you must balance forgiveness with strength to stand up to injustice.
A wife was so upset with her husband, she went to a counselor asking, “What is the meanest thing I can do to my husband?” He told her to treat her husband like a king for 30 days and at the end of that time, he would have so fallen in love with her that she could then break his heart with the words “I’m getting a divorce.” At the end of 30 days she went back to the counselor and said, “In these 30 days I have done nothing but good to him. I’ve actually fallen in love with him and I cannot get a divorce.” She had learned the valuable lesson that actions precede feelings. If you let your emotions determine your actions, then hardness of heart is a distinct possibility. But when you do the right things, you prevent your heart from becoming hard.
A prayer of response
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark