What God Has Joined Together, Let No One Separate

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.
— Matthew 19:4-6

These are the words of Jesus in reference to a question related to the lawfulness of divorce that was posed to him by the Pharisees, who were the religious experts in Jesus' day. The verse that Jesus quotes comes from Genesis 2:24. 

In a past blog post, titled, The Recipe for the Foundation of an Amazing Marriage, we looked at the concept of two people becoming one flesh. The biblical principle is that a husband and wife are bound together by God through the marriage covenant. Marriage, as God ordained it, is meant to be a relationship where two individuals become "glued" together for this lifetime.

However, the idea I want to explore more fully in Matthew 19:4-6 is the last statement Jesus makes in verse 6—"Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." The word for “separate” in the original Greek is chorizo and it can be translated “to place room between.” The meaning carries the idea of driving a wedge that divides.

This is a powerful statement for several reasons.

  • It is God who joins the two individuals together in the first place, not the individuals themselves. To be clear, the man and woman choose to be married, but it is actually God who makes them one flesh.
  • Contacts in close proximity to the married couple should not interfere or bring separation to the marriage partners. Some translations use the phrase "tear apart” instead of “separate.” The negative connotation is clear.

Both are profound concepts, but the second serves as a warning on many different levels. 

Guarding Against Separation from the Outside

The first warning is the most obvious, and that is people outside of the marriage should not be corrupting, distracting, interfering, or undermining the relationship. Such behavior is detrimental to the marriage and since the two individuals were joined together by God, it is treading on His handiwork if there is an attempt to defile it.   

This can happen in many ways. 

For example, if someone speaks badly of one spouse to another, if someone tries to give unwanted and ungodly advice, or if someone tries to occupy too much of one of the spouse's time.

The most common offenders, of course, are family and friends who tend to have a personal bias in favor of one spouse over another. Now that's natural and to be expected, but not tolerated nor encouraged if it interferes in the stability of the marriage. 

Guarding Against Separation from the Inside

The second warning, which ironically is commonly overlooked yet is in direct context to the actual question the Pharisees were asking Jesus ("Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"), is that Jesus' statement is not only to outsiders, but specifically to the couple. When He said, "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate," He is speaking to the husband and wife. 

The reason why is because although it may be others who naturally tend to interfere in the marriage, it is the marriage partners who must not allow it. Nobody can undermine your marriage unless you allow them. If you do, you would be just as culpable, if not more so.

It is not marriage that fails; it is people that fail.
— Harry Emerson Fosdick

Failure to protect the marriage and avoid separation comes with a heavy consequence.

Separation taken to the furthest extent will lead to the ultimate level of marital disintegration—divorce—which is something only the couple could legally agree to do.  In other words, if they do become "separate" it's because ultimately they chose to. Therefore, the destroyer of what God has joined together would be one or both marriage partners.

Is such a choice acceptable?

Jesus did permit for divorce to take place in the event of sexual sin in the marriage (v. 9), but this is an allowance based in mercy, not a requirement. As a standard, Christ’s words ring clear—“Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Man does not have the right to unjoin what God has joined. Only He has the right to undo what He has done, and that happens when one of the marriage partners steps from this life into eternity.

As Christian men and women we must be vigilant to protect our marriages and not allow unhealthy influences to drive a wedge into the relationship, or to allow ourselves to sabotage the union. 

God designed marriage to be a lifelong commitment that thrives and stands the test of time! Marriage is an investment—let’s be sure to treat it that way. 

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