I want to focus on the verse 15. How many times have you said, I know what I’m supposed to do, but for some reason I just keep making the same mistake, or, in most cases, I keep committing the same sin? This is exactly what Paul is talking about here. Every single one of us knows what we are supposed to do. We all know that we can’t just will to do the right thing. Only with putting ourselves in the hands of our Savior do we even have a chance. In vs. 15 he speaks for us when he says: “I don’t understand my actions.” I don’t understand why I keep going back to that which I know is going to harm me. Again, our will is not able to force our actions to change. It is almost as if sin is an addiction that if we just try to fight on our own, we cannot overcome it. Vs.24 Paul calls himself a wretched man and in desperation asks the question: who is going to save me. The answer comes in vs. 25.
Let’s go back to the first part of this Scripture. It is always interesting to me when I discuss divorce with people who for most other issues have fairly orthodox and conservative approaches to Scripture. If they have been married to one person all of their life then they can sign on to this Scripture, if they have lived through the trauma of a divorce, for that is what it is, then they have a very different understanding. If you will notice that Paul’s approach is coming strictly from the obligations that the woman would have. If her husband dies then she is freed. If her husband is alive then she is bound. Jesus also addressed divorce and he added a caveat: “except for unchastity”, but this was from the perspective of the man. The man should not divorce except for the case of unchastity. So where does that leave us?
It is universally known that men and women did not have the same rights in Jesus’ day. He had to speak about them separately because they were viewed and judged separately under the law. The woman did not have the power to divorce, but she could be divorced. The ability for a man to divorce his wife was unlimited. So…imagine what would happen if a woman woke up one morning and for no reason of their own, was kicked out of the house, divorced. Paul says she should not remarry, Jesus says the man should not have divorced her in the first place. In Paul’s scenario the woman is left with no place to go, is not allowed to marry to have a home to protect her. In Jesus’ scenario the man should not divorce his wife. It is here where Scripture is not as clear and black and white as we would like it to be. As a result, we are given the freedom to continue to follow the Holy Spirit and see where it leads us in regards to divorce and remarriage. There are other areas of Scripture that give us this freedom where we do not see a message that is always consistent with itself and so we must discern the movement and the voice of the Holy Spirit in the text.
For this reason within the Presbyterian Church, and in my own theology, divorce is never the desired result, but sometimes it is the necessary one. When it needs to become, or has become the result, I’m going to allow myself to give the benefit of the doubt to those who are in my midst that they are following God’s will. It isn’t complicated when you are dealing with people and when Scripture gives you the freedom of interpretation that doesn’t contradict His Holy Word.