Thursday, January 24, 2019

EmmDev 2019-01-24 [Sermon on the Mount] On Marriage and Divorce (2)

On Marriage and Divorce (2)

Yesterday we considered the state of marriage in Jewish, Greek and Roman cultures. What was evident was that woman were not respected, that divorce was too easy, promiscuity was huge problem and consequently the ideal of marriage had been tarnished.

Today we still face the horror of the abuse of women. Divorce rates are high. Being faithful to one spouse has been disparaged. We too need to heed the call of Jesus to a higher ideal.

If you turn to Matthew 19, Jesus expands on the ideal of marriage. He takes marriage back to the Garden of Eden. He uses Adam and Eve as the cornerstone or blueprint of marriage. (We might argue that Adam and Eve were alone in the garden and so it was easy to be faithful! That may be so, but it doesn't change the fact that this is what was intended.)

Moses introduced the idea of a 'certificate of divorce' to acknowledge the tough reality that some decisions aren't always a clear right vs wrong or good vs evil. Some marriages can become so destructive and toxic that divorce is the lesser of two evils.

The problem is that this was the "thin edge of the wedge."
Moses allowed for divorce on the basis of a husband becoming 'displeased' with his wife because of indecency (which is interpreted by most scholars as adultery/infidelity). Unfortunately "displeasing" was separated from "indecency" and so divorce for petty reasons became the order of the day.

Jesus does not forbid divorce in this text, but He brings us back to a higher standard than that of society around us. Not only should we think very hard before we divorce but we should also think very hard about remarrying or about marrying a divorcee.

But we must be sensitive here. Our task is neither to condone or condemn. God created the institution of marriage in the Garden of Eden for Adam's good, because God saw that Adam was lonely. The guidelines, ideals and laws provided in the Scriptures are not meant to be restrictive but to protect the precious bond of marriage and the family that would grow from it.

In the pastoral context, we must do everything possible to prepare couples for marriage and when couples are in trouble we should do our best to repair marriages. But when there is abuse, addiction or some other pathology that cannot be repaired (after genuine efforts have been made) then divorce may be the lesser of two evils.

We should never condone divorce, our hearts should always break when a marriage fails.
Equally so, we should not condemn but rather help people to heal.

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.      (Matthew5:31-32)

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