You can’t take a marriage apart; you can only break it apart. It’s not like a clock, where you can disassemble the gears and levers. It is more like epoxy, in that once it has been mixed together and made, it is no longer possible to “unmix” it. That is why divorce hurts – hurts everybody involved and even some who aren’t involved. That’s why God said He “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16), because he hates it when we hurt ourselves. If you don’t believe those blunt statements, I would invite you to talk with thildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, co-workers and bosses who have shared with me their gaping wounds from divorce. Divorce is not how God designed it to be.
In Jesus’ day, divorce was considered to be okay, provided the husband gave his wife a certificate, which would allow her to remarry. In the conditions of that culture, a divorcee almost had to remarry – it was either that, move in with her parents or starve. Jesus challenged that understanding with this:
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)
If you define “adultery” as the act of sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse, these teachings don’t make sense. But if you define “adultery” as breaking the covenant of oneness that God established in marriage, then they do. A divorced woman is (in that culture) forced to remarry, which forces her to do something that violates her covenant of oneness with her (former) husband. Once again, Jesus teaches that righteousness is not achieved by drawing a line and then not stepping over it. Righteousness is found in wholeheartedly pursuing the rhythm and flow of how God designed life to be lived.
It is ironic that many have used this teaching to justify divorce, saying “Since my spouse was unfaithful, if I divorce him or her I haven’t stepped over the line and sinned.” Jesus meant “Don’t force your wife to break her covenant of oneness – that is, unless she has already done so.”