Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What Did God Intend?

On Sundays in my class we have been going through the gospel of Matthew. Last Sunday we did Matthew 19. In this chapter, Jesus is approached by a group of Pharisees that are intent on testing Him. This is not unusual. They were always testing rabbis that did not adhere to their traditions and their approach to the interpretation of God's law.  "They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”"

The question in itself says much about who these men were and where their hearts were in regard to their families and in relationship to their God. In ancient times and particularly among the Jews, women and children were regarded as property, sometimes to the exclusion of any notion of love for family. There were two schools of thought among these men - rabbinical traditions handed down from rabbinical schools by men long dead in Christ's time. Rabbi Hillel and his school would have said, in answer to the question, that you could divorce your wife for anything you did not like about her...her cooking, her mother, her housekeeping skills. One of Hillel's disciples went so far as to say that if you found a better looking woman, you could write your present wife a certificate of divorce and marry the other one. It was awful. 

The other rabbinical school, founded by Rabbi Shimmai, had a gentler, kinder approach. The only reason you could divorce your wife was over some kind of sexual infidelity. Jesus, in His day would have approved this as a reason for divorce, but he would not have commanded it. You see, the Pharisees and their rabbinical schools before them, haggled over the meaning of a Torah passage from Deuteronomy 24. They did not take into account other Torah passages when they considered the issue of divorce.

Jesus in His reasoning, went back to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. In the first passage, Moses makes clear that God created men and women for each other and in the second, he makes it clear that God intended men and women to marry - to leave their families, commit to each other and become one flesh, one mind, one soul; more than mere room mates or even partners. "Leave and cleave". Commitment and oneness. The two pillars of successful marriage. This was so far away from where the Pharisee were, that you have to wonder, were they stupid or what? Why would they not consider 'original intent' when debating this issue? There are things people do not want to hear when they consider how they should live their lives. The notion of marriage as a covenant or even a partnership would have upset their apple cart of control, therefore they could not even entertain the idea that Jesus was promoting.

God intended men and women to marry, have families and live lives committed to each other and to Him. He did not intend that you should be able to trade up if your present situation was not working out as you had hoped. Jesus gives us one valid reason for divorce in the gospels. That reason is sexual infidelity. Paul gives us another reason in I Corinthians 7 (verse 15 I think); that is if an unbelieving partner leaves the relationship. There is compelling spiritual logic behind both of these reasons for divorce. They destroy the two pillars of marriage; oneness in regard to the first and commitment in regard to the second. Does this mean divorce has to happen? No, but these would be justifiable reasons for it. 

So having said all this, I wonder how many Christians see their marriages in this light? I wonder how many have divorced because they wanted to trade up like the Pharisees? Buyer's remorse notwithstanding, this cannot be your attitude. It is not what God intended.

At this point, if you know me, you are probably thinking, "who is he to lecture us about marriage?".

It's true that I cannot speak from experience, but you know, I have heard any number of you complain about your situations. It is tiresome, but it is what it is. Work to change the freakin situation so that you do not violate there terms of your covenant with you wife or husband. Oneness and commitment should be your goal. 

This was God's intent from the beginning. His Word says as much. I do not need to be married to know this. It is not a Christian thing of a Jewish/Hebrew thing. It is an ordinance from God handed down to ALL humanity from the beginning of time. If you are married or making plans to marry, you need to remember how God views this institution and take it very seriously.

If you are like me, you might want to consider staying that way. As Paul would say, 
"But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this."

One more thing. If you are like Paul and me....not married...you must remember your covenant with God and the fact that He is living in your body. You must remain chaste in terms of sexuality. If you cannot do that, then find a suitable opposite sex partner and marry. 

Is chastity and celibacy a gift? Well maybe, but it's also a requirement if you are single. Do not forget that. It's what God intended.

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