Job 1:1, 2:1-10 and Psalm 26 OR
Genesis 2:18-24 and Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Thoughts on the Word:
Mark 10:2-16 (NRSV)
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
This week's Gospel reading can be confronting in for people in a world where almost half of all marriages end in divorce, however it is important that we not shy away from what Jesus is telling us here. What Jesus is telling us about marriage is extremely important, especially in a climate where the institution is coming under increasing attack around the world, and even in some quarters within the Church.
Marriage in the eyes of Jesus is a sacred union, which inseparably joins a man and a woman in a bond that is established by God. It is not something that can just be idly dismissed, and in fact Jesus warns that those who do divorce and remarry commit adultery. Now, in the corresponding passage in Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 19) we see that there is one exception - sexual immorality (ESV) or unchastity (NRSV) is suitable grounds for divorce. Thus we see the importance placed by Jesus on the role and place of sex as a gift within a marriage, it is a special part of the bond that God establishes in marriage, and so integral to its foundation that it is the only reason provided for the permanent dissolution of a marriage. In today's society however the number one reason given for divorce is not the unchastity of their spouse - it is 'irreconcilable differences'. Put simply things get tough, and people decide its easier to divorce than to fight for their marriage, after all it is all about 'me' in the modern world - why should 'I' compromise, why should 'I' sacrifice some of 'my' happiness for the benefit of my husband/wife. Narcissism is the chief cause of marriage failure in today's society (in my humble opinion).
So how do we reconcile world where the divorce rate is so high, and where a good proportion of those sitting in the pews on Sunday are divorced and in many cases re-married to Jesus condemnation of divorce? Some people claim that divorce and remarriage puts these people in a constant state of sin, for which the only remedy is to reconcile with there original spouse, some churches even refuse the sacraments to people in this position. This in my view demonstrates both a lack of compassion and a lack of understanding of plain logic. If someone divorces and remarries it is safe to assume that they will consummate that new marriage (and in today's world it is sadly likely that the relationship will be consummated before the marriage), once that happens - once either party to the original marriage commits adultery, a valid reason for divorce is raised, and a valid divorce occurs in the eyes of God. Now this does not make it ok that people get divorced, and it is not a justification for it - it simply shows that the sin of divorce is not an ongoing one, that it is a single event, for which a Christian can repent and move forward from.
I wanted to establish this aspect about the sin of divorce, that it is an event and not an ongoing state, because divorce and remarriage are often raised as an example of Christian hypocrisy by those who advocate redefining marriage to allow for the union of same sex partners. It is argued that if divorced and remarried people are accepted in our churches, even in leadership roles, despite their state of 'ongoing sin' then we lose all credibility to refuse to allow same sex marriage, as even if we consider these people to be living in a state of sin - it is no different to the remarried heterosexuals. Of course when subjected to the logic I outlined above this charge fails.
What advocates of same sex marriage (even those within the church) seem to miss is Jesus' very clear defining of what constitutes a marriage in the eyes of God : 'But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” ' Jesus gives us a clear definition of marriage here by quoting from Genesis, a marriage is quite simply the joining as one a male and a female. There is no room for any other interpretation here - Jesus is clear about what a marriage is.
What also seems lost on people is the importance of sex. As I stated before sex between a married couple is considered to be so sacred, so fundamental to marriage, that abuse of this gift is the only grounds for divorce provided by Jesus. Now given the importance placed on sex and the consequences of sexual immorality, is it reasonable to conclude that it would be acceptable in God's eyes to change the definition of marriage to include homosexuals who unrepentantly practice a form of sex which is repeatedly condemned and declared to be immoral throughout scripture?
Now I will no doubt come under some pretty heavy fire for this sermon, I will be labelled homophobic, a bigot and probably worse. The truth is however I am not a homophobe - I have no irrational fear of homosexuals. I am not a bigot, and I do not wish any harm on any homosexual. I simply wish to acknowledge that marriage is a construct of God, designed for a man and a woman, that as the foundation of family it is also the foundation of society, and it should be protected.
It must also however be honoured and given its rightful place by Christians. We must elevate marriage back to the sacred space it belongs and stop treating it as something that can be discarded when things get tough. Jesus viewed marriage as a sacred bond established by God, do you?
God bless you this week.