Let’s be clear: In the Bible, Law is Law. The proper approach to Law is the Hebrew mystical traditions of seeing through the particulars as limited expressions of something deeper and more substantive. The whole idea is to inspire awe at the moral divine character of the Lawgiver and Creator.
Now, the particular Law Covenant of Moses was for that people in that time and place. The same goes for what comes across as Law in the New Testament. It’s still just a limited expression. If Israel needed judges to mediate particulars of the Covenant in pursuit of divine justice when the specifics didn’t quite fit the context, we also need judges under Christ. We need heart-led elders in Christ who will understand how to shape peculiar and confusing situations to match the character of our Lord. What was written in the New Testament as commands were expressions of His character in a context far different from ours.
Christ said divorce was not really a part of God’s original plan (Matthew 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12). Paul echoes this teaching (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) in a different context, stating it somewhat differently so it would fit. We ought to respect that teaching, but we don’t need to allow New Testament Pharisees to shake their fists at us in legalistic demands.
Legalism was not inherent in Hebrew culture, but was the result of a deeply perverting influence we call today Hellenism. The ancient Hebrew mystical approach was anything but legalistic.
We don’t travel to cities and preach in the public square any more. That doesn’t fit the modern context, and it’s illegal in a lot of places now. We don’t teach about avoiding food offered to idols. We aren’t even in a position to know whether meat came from strangled animals for the most part. Those were applications of divine character for that time and place.
Most of Jesus’ teachings stand in the context of the Jewish life, where at least most of the trappings of Moses were obeyed. What He told the Twelve about divorce was in the context of Jews more or less under the Covenant. Paul says something different because his audience was mostly pagans who committed to Christ from within a deeply paganized culture. We live today in a secularized culture based on long forgotten pagan traditions, and the laws are quite different from those of the Roman Empire. We need to fit our understanding of Biblical Law to match the context of today.
The issue of divorce is a matter of tactical choices within this context. Secular law and judicial precedent have really perverted everything about it, twisting and tearing the moral fabric of Creation. Divorce is still a hideous thing, but sometimes the lesser of evils. We need to be very careful about it. Nobody in this virtual parish is going to shake a fist at you and shame you if you are convinced that’s where the Father is leading you, but you should be ready to explain how that choice shines with the glory of God.
Just chasing your own personal fulfillment is not sufficient justification for divorce. Granted, we are in one whale of a messed up situation, and staying celibate after separation is quite a challenge. It’s a tall order. But put in context: We are starting a new work entirely, something which is virtually impossible to base in the existing mainstream religious structures. Indeed, we are rejecting the entire Western Civilization; this is no small decision. What we do here in this first generation will be very costly, demanding great sacrifice. This is what it takes to give birth to something the world has not seen in two millennia or more. This requires a very long view across multiple generations.
We are the pioneers and our position requires investing in the future by suffering through problems the succeeding generations shouldn’t face. This does not make us more noble; it’s simply what God has called us to do. He’ll make heavy demands of the next generation, and the next, and so forth, each with their own characteristic sacrifices. Ours is dealing with the shocking disjuncture between our world and the one we seek to restore. Frankly, this is all the more difficult in that we aren’t eclipsing the existing society or changing it, but building a whole new parallel society while still maintaining our ability to cooperate with the fallen one in which we live.
Divorce is just one issue; everything we do as humans is subject to a complete renovation under Biblical Law. We are mystics, not legalists, something utterly foreign to our world. The heart-led way is revolution, a secret rejection of how everyone else lives. We have an awful lot of work to do breathing fresh life in the ancient ruins long neglected. Building a Secret Kingdom from the ruins will be a massive chore, but future generations will bless our memories if we truly seek the fullness of the Lord’s favor today.