Passage: Matthew 19:3-12
This week, we’re starting a month-long series on marriage. For those in our congregation who are married, I hope that it will be a series that helps us to work through what it means to live as pprentices of Jesus in our marriages. For those who are not married, or who have been married in the ast, I hope that this series will help us understandthat we can live as apprentices of Jesus whatever our marital status.
We live in an era where one’s status can often be determined by your marital status. Consider, for example, how people often describe their “partner” as their “better half”. The implication is that a person is only completed when in a relationship with someone; that they are only half a person. (Perhaps some would debate the percentages!)
Life in this world of sin and selfishness, as anyone can attest, is complicated. Marriages are no exception to this. Consider, for instance the marriage of Jacob and Leah (oh, and Rachel too! See: complicated!) in Genesis 29. We have to ask ourselves if it is even possible for one mere human to ever fully satisfy another. If not, then how can we live “complete” lives?
Even in our churches, we often focus all of our energy and attention on those who are married. I can testify from my pre-married days of often feeling left out and less than those around me. Once, many years ago, I remember visiting a church which explicitly stated that only married couples were allowed to run bible study groups.
We live in a hyper-sexualised age. Much of our advertising relies on this. Many of the movies, books, and celebrities we fill our lives with suggest that an ultimate aim in life is to find the one that can fulfill you in all areas.Many people don’t get married these days, preferring instead to simply co-habit with someone. At first glance, this makes sense: they have found someone who loves them and who makes them feel special. But on deeper reflection, this represents an unwillingness to publicly and permanently throw one’s lot in with another. To co-habit with someone other than your spouse is to keep one’s options open into the future.
Lest those who are married get uppity, it must be said that sometimes, cohabiting partners could be seen as more honest than people who get married, only to later divorced. The difference between a divorce and a defacto relationship coming apart is simply that the married couple had publicly committed and bound themselves to their spouse. As far as God is concerned, any time a man and a woman come together, they become one flesh. (See 1 Cor 6:16).
But what, we have to ask ourselves, is God’s purpose and design for such a coming together? If God is King, then all of our lives should be centered on him – including our relationships and sexuality. If we think that God’s will should be done on earth as it is in heaven, then we should certainly be asking ourselves what God’s will is for marriage!
This week, our passage finds Jesus being approached by some religious experts trying to trap him with respect to his views on divorce. In that day, there were two main schools of Jewish thought on this. The first argued that a man could divorce his wife for whatever reason, even trivial ones. Taken to extremes, one could argue that simply being attracted to another woman was a good reason to divorce your current wife! The second main school of thought was much stricter, allowing divorce only in the case of infidelity.
In answering their question, Jesus takes us back to the origins of marriage: the stories of creation and the first couple. Drawing from God’s creative intent, Jesus argues that divorce is by nature contrary to God’s will. From that same source, we also learn about the God’s intended shape for marriage: a life-long commitment whereby a man and a woman are joined together by God into one flesh.
But how do we apply this ideal to the real world messiness of life and relationships today?