Divorce is Not an Option

Rev. Walter F. Beckmann

I just finished reading a book my family gave me for Christmas — Tom Brokaw’s best seller, The Greatest Generation. It’s a series of interviews with members of that generation called to fight World War II. My family knew I’d appreciate that book because I’ve often told them how vividly I recall that 1941 radio bulletin about Pearl Harbor.

I wasn’t quite a member of that great generation. I was only eight when the war began. But sometimes I was invited to join their games, especially if they needed a few extra cowboys to form a posse. The time came, though, when those older boys were no longer involved in neighborhood games. They had gone off to serve their country and knew that they were in “for the duration.”

But their sense of commitment wasn’t limited to military service. Those who returned home usually applied that same loyalty to their careers and also to their marriages. “For them,” Brokaw notes, “divorce was not an option.”

I lived next door to a member of that generation. One day he put a football in my hand and said, “Hey, kid, this is how you throw a spiral.” I still have the Japanese invasion scrip he sent me from the South Pacific. When he came home after the war he married a girl from our church. They must just about be ready to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve met many members from that generation who’ve enjoyed long and successful marriages. Divorce was not an option.

We can find some marital commitments advocated in another book. The Bible tells us that when some Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus with a question about divorce, he told them, “What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). When they pointed to the divorces Moses had once permitted, he told them that Moses was dealing with people whose hearts were hardened, but that was not how God had created marriage. Divorce was not an option.

Jesus did point out that there was an exception — marital unfaithfulness is scriptural grounds for divorce. Later, through the apostle Paul (I Corinthians 7:15), he tells us that you’re no longer bound to a spouse who has deserted you. But two exceptions do not change the rule.

Like Israelites in the days of Moses, our society has demanded and received easy divorce laws. Marriage is often treated like a trial subscription to cable TV — if you’re not completely satisfied you can cancel at any time.

But, “til death do you part.” Isn’t that an awesome commitment? What if things get rough? Those who bearded World War II troop transport ships made an awesome commitment. Things often got tough for them, but they were in for the duration.

Remember, marriage is a two-way commitment. Our spouse commits to stay with us, even when the going gets rough, even when we may be the cause of the rough going. If you have the chance, talk to people from that greatest generation who have had the joy and stability of living together for 50 years. They’ll tell you, “In spite of some of the rough times it’s been marital bliss. It’s been the greatest, just as we knew it would be because Jesus told us to do it.”


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