It’s A Microcosm
Of The Culture Jesus Faced
On August 22, 2017, India’s Supreme Court banned the Muslim practice of triple-talaq also known as instant-divorce by which a husband could unilaterally divorce a wife instantly by simply saying the word “talaq” to her three times.
The law was so lax that sending the words by text or WhatsApp was sufficient to execute the divorce.
At one time, triple-talaq was the norm in other countries also but India is the last country to ban it by judicial decree. To quote US News:
…While judges or politicians elsewhere across the Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia, have managed to reform Islamic laws, bringing them under their own courts or codifying them, this never happened in India.
The article also mentions that many of these instantly-divorced women become destitute and homeless.
Calling triple-talaq insensitive is an understatement. It was the worst kind of cruel. It’s banning was celebrated by the ladies.
I mention it here because this represents a modern-day microcosm of marriage practices in the first century. Males were dominant, capricious and arbitrary. Easy divorce was not only possible it was expected during Bible times and the outcome could be just as devastating.
I talk about this in the last edition of my book, In Defense of Divorce. It’s one explanation as to why Jesus placed the fornication restriction on divorce.
Since most women were entirely dependent on husbands for financial security during Bible times, and for much of human history for that matter, a divorce could be devastating. There’s no certainty a remarriage would follow and if there were no kids, there was no fallback plan.
Even if there were kids, there were no guarantees. If a wife is removed from favor, any children she bore could also be disinherited. Herod the Great is a prime example. He had one of his wives and her sons executed. If he could find a loophole for something so severe, we shouldn’t think it unlikely that men could find culturally acceptable ways to dismiss their wives and the children they bore, leaving them on the streets.
The Bible doesn’t teach such barbarity but it was the done thing.
In light of that, it is no surprise that Jesus made fornication a reasonable guideline for justifiable divorce in that day and culture, and that is also a good reason we should be a little less restrictive when divorce is entertained or happens in our modern day.
Remember, the Indian court wasn’t banning divorce. It was banning instant, one-sided, inconsiderate, cruel and unfair divorce. And that is exactly the motivation Jesus had when He introduced the fornication restriction to the culture of His day. His intent wasn’t to forbid divorce. He only provided a reasonable justification that applied specifically to that culture.
Every culture and sub-culture should take the same approach. Rather than encourage divorce casually or forbid it adamantly, our thinking and responses must be guided by what is fair in the situation.
We don’t live in the same world and cultures vary widely today. We shouldn’t be flippant but reason demands we factor fairness into our legislation.
India’s Supreme Court is a good example. It found a way to do that.