Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Mark 10:1-12 (Comments on Lent for Everyone by N.T. Wright)
This passage which includes Jesus’ words on divorce are very troubling words. Divorcees that I have spoken to and counseled with through the years understand this scripture simply as one of condemnation. I quite frankly don’t blame them for their conclusion. Christ’s forgiveness and mercy seem to be noticeably absent here. The context of this passage is very helpful to us in how we can interpret these words for our situation today. The Pharisees ask Jesus whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Their main purpose is here is to try to trick Jesus into saying something that would get him in trouble with the religious authorities or with Herod. Jesus most certainly heard the news about John the Baptist’s fate after John condemned Herod for divorcing his wife so that he could marry his brother’s wife Herodias. If Jesus condemns divorce, the Pharisees can squeal to Herod and perhaps Jesus would be facing the same fate as John. Jesus does not fall for their trick. He tells them that Moses required them to have a certificate of divorce because of their hardness of heart. God’s intention for marriage is not that you (my words here) dump your wife when you find someone better. You don’t discard them like tissue paper. God’s intention for marriage is that two persons come together and unite as one flesh in mutual love and caring. Jesus said, “what God has brought together let no one separate.”
Jesus’ words about divorce do not come until he is out of earshot from the Pharisees and alone with his disciples. As Wright points out, Jesus is most likely referring to Herod and people like Herod when he spoke about divorce. I don’t believe that Jesus was attempting to cover every possible scenario here when it comes to divorce and broken relationships. I’ve heard about horror stories about pastors telling abused wives to go back to their husbands and reconcile with them because divorce is not an option. I don’t think God is jumping for joy in heaven just because two miserable people have stuck it out in marriage for 40 years. Marriage is about a joyous, loving, and growing union. I’ve heard divorced people tell me that it was their full intention to be married to their spouse for a lifetime. Our intention might be to live lives of perfect obedience to the Lord. But we know that life is also about sin and brokenness.
Our United Methodist Church acknowledges that we fall short of the glory of God in our relationship with Him and with one another. This brokenness of life also includes broken marriages. We do not advocate divorce as a first option. But we understand that when a marriage is broken that both persons need the healing presence and mercy of the Lord to help them pick up the pieces and begin again. I’m personally grateful that my dad, a divorcee, did not hesitate marrying my mom for fear of being forever condemned as an adulterer; otherwise I wouldn’t be enjoying this gift of life I’ve been given. I believe in light of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness that we witness throughout the Gospels that Christ also offers us a new start when our marriages do not end up the way we had originally intended.