“Can anything good come out of Liverpool?”

On August 30, 1968, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was released. At seven minutes and ten seconds in length, it was the longest song ever to be #1 on the British charts. It was #1 on the American charts for nine weeks, and I still have vivid memories of listening to that song on the School Bus heading to a track meet just a few years later.

It was written by Paul McCartney for Jules (he changed the title and lyrics to “Jude” because it sounded better and was easier to sing), the son of John Lennon, when his parents divorced over John’s adulterous affair with Yoko Ono. Paul wanted to encourage Cynthia (John’s ex) and Jules to “take a sad song and make it better.” In other words, don’t let this get you down; keep living. The “her” in the song was supposedly Jules’ self-worth, reminding him that all of this was not his fault. When John heard the song, being who he was, thought it was all about him, and the “her” was Yoko, and that he should “go out and get her.” Some people just—don’t—get—it.

The upshot of all this is that divorce is a horrible thing. How horrible is it? It is so horrible, and the harm done by it is so great, that God only provides two reasons why a divorce should be allowed. The first of these is made very clear by Jesus in Matthew 19 when he says, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The Greek word translated, “sexual immorality” is “porneia,” which covers a wide range of sexual infidelity. The second reason given why a divorce may be sought is found in 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul writes:

13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.  14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:13-15)

These three verses are describing what we would, today, call, “desertion.” If the husband or wife leaves (thus, showing evidence of unbelief) there is absolutely nothing one can do about it. The “innocent” party (innocent in terms of not being unfaithful or deserting, not perfectly innocent because we are all sinners) has to let the unbelieving spouse go. In both of these cases, divorce is not required (the spouses can work diligently to repair the broken marriage covenant), but it is allowed.

However, even in these cases the pain caused to the offended spouse, the children, the two families, the friends who too often are pressed to “take sides,” etc. is great and does not quickly go away. Thus, I plead for husbands and wives to take seriously those vows made to his or her spouse and God on their wedding day when the promise was made to:

I, ________, take you, ________, to be my wedded wife—to have and to hold—from this day forward—for better, for worse—for richer, for poorer—in sickness and in health—to love and to cherish—till death do us part—and therefore, I promise my love.

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