Why Even Bother Getting Married Then?

26 01 2012

So, another one of those tricky questions: when is it ok to get a divorce? This was the question put to Jesus by those rascals, the Pharisees. Rule-keepers have a thing for policies. Jesus, in response, gives them the narrowest permission because He knew they weren’t looking for grace, they were looking for an excuse: if someone cheats on their spouse, sexually, then divorce is an option. More surprising though, is the disciple’s reaction to this. They don’t nod their heads in agreement. They don’t say, “Yes, that’s right, we need to protect marriages.” No, they say (essentially), “What?!?!”

“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry!” (Matthew 19:10)

I know this reaction. It is like when my kids ask to go somewhere with the idea that they will be able to stay out late-late and I say, “Be back by eleven,” and then they say, “What? Well, then I am not going to go at all!”  Ok. Immature, but OK.

It’s kind of the same drastic response.

I’ll bet when Jesus said what he did, everyone thought of 50 other reasons they would want to divorce their spouse besides adultery. Really, it isn’t that hard to come up with a list. And Jesus, knowing how we think says, divorce is, 100% of the time, because of hardened hearts of one or both spouses.

Sin is the thing that leads to divorce. It isn’t honest to say (like Seal & Heidi Klum in the entertainment news this week):

“While we have enjoyed seven very loving, loyal and happy years of marriage, after much soul-searching we have decided to separate. We have had the deepest respect for one another throughout our relationship and continue to love each other very much, but we have grown apart…” (people.com)

Does that make any sense? Not really because if you have deep respect for someone and love them very much you should be able to work it out. One or both of these people let their hearts get hard and it is tragic.

  • When one person will not reconcile
  • Will not engage in a solution
  • Will not repent
  • Will not stick it out
  • Will not try and try again
  • When one person gives up

Divorce.

The disciples are ready to give up before they begin. It is like saying, “Well, really, who can live together for a lifetime? It’s unrealistic, Jesus. You are setting us up for failure. Why bother, then?”

So nothing has changed, has it. Divorce was acceptable then, and it is more than acceptable now. In fact, marriages start and end within 72 days it seems. We used to fight for marriage as Christ-followers; now we just fight. It’s a mess.

It is hard to submit to “one another.” Really hard, because it is hard to soften one’s own heart and truly desire rightness when it is easier to just desire other things and justify it. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 13 should quietly go away because even if love keeps no record of wrongs, people do.

It is easier to gripe and point out faults and think about one’s own happiness then to choose to engage lovingly with another human being. We are selfish. I am selfish. I can – even if it doesn’t show – get my back up so easily. Drawing together feels like giving in rather than giving. If Mike irritates me, I’m irritated; so easy to get irritated; so easy to think the worst about a lot of petty things.

So, the disciples say it’s better to not get married then to have to work at being the one to have a soft heart.  I think what I can appreciate about their statement is that it is really honest. Anyone who is married has thought it: “it would just be easier to do what I want, when I want.”

We desire relationship, but we don’t know how to have a relationship.

Jesus only gives one reason to divorce, which shows how serious He viewed covenant. Except for one reason, husband, you better smarten up and soften your heart. Except for one reason, wife, you better look with new eyes upon your husband. Change your heart. Serve one another. Figure it out “until death do you part.”

Irreconcilable differences are only so because someone, or two people, stubbornly house a hard heart. Someone wanted the wedding, but didn’t want the work.

Oh, the damage done.

— Teresa Klassen

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