Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thoughts on marriage and divorce from Matthew 19

I was reading Jesus' words in Matthew 19 about divorce and marriage for Bible study this week.

The disciples essentially ask, 'if divorce is not permissible, is it better not to marry at all?'

Jesus then makes a very wise point about approaching the marriage relationship. At first I thought he was making a value judgment, saying that if you can accept not marrying then you should--it's better to serve the kingdom than to marry.

However, I don't think this is the case. In verses 11 and 12, Jesus is saying that each person should be honest with themselves and discern if they are committed to marry or not, and if not, then make the decision to accept that.

This fits with the be fruitful and increase in number command from Genesis, but leaves a wide space for single people working for the kingdom. In a patriarchal society then, and now, this is counter-cultural. It liberates women (and men) from living within the framework of having value only when attached to a man (or woman).

It also puts the onus on Christians to consider carefully if they are committed to marriage.

Among believers this should be convicting--divorce rates are as high among Christians as non-Christians. Perhaps we do not properly consider the commitment as Jesus stated it. Perhaps we have been swayed by a cultural expectation and by patriarchy.

As a single person, I have no experience from the side of marriage--just my dating history. However, I can still see from this side that Jesus is emphasizing commitment in the marriage relationship. I have felt the pain of a breakup for just this reason.

Countless examples of family's and friends' marriages show that love in marriage is not easy. This truly underscores how critically important it is to understand that sort of love and what you are deciding to do when entering into marriage. The 'in sickness and health', 'hard times and easy times' phrases may be the most important in the vows that are commonly used.