One of the most painful and humiliating experiences that someone can go through would have to be divorce. (note I did say – one of)
Michael Jensen and Dave Black have both recently blogged about the issue of divorce. Dave comments, within the context of his Greek students studying the book of Mark.
This week we are in Mark chapter 10, where Jesus’ pronouncement against divorce and remarriage figures prominently. We live in a world where divorce and remarriage are AOK whereas marriage was intended by God to be permanent. Remarriage while the partner is still alive is adultery, and Jesus would be appalled at the ease and frequency with which it takes place. To one and all (myself included) Jesus’ words present a firm rebuttal to our cultural addiction to serial polygamy.
And Michael writes
Divorce – which isn’t a sin in and of itself, though of course it results from human sin and weakness – is not like sins in that it is an individual act in time. It is a state of being which a person forever is, at least in human terms. The challenge for church communities is this: how can the gospel be good news for the divorced person? If there has been genuine repentance, forgiveness and healing in the life of the divorced person, how can we, her brothers and sisters, express it too? Or must we go on adding trauma unto trauma? Doesn’t the gospel call us to a new identity in which the rags of the old self are cast off? Or don’t we really believe this?
I think context is the key to understanding the issues of divorce. Indeed within the context of Mark- it would appear that remarriage of any kind is adultery if the former partner is alive. Yet the question to ask is if this is what Jesus is really saying?
David Brewer writes an interesting article for Christianity Today.
In it, he argues that the cultural and historical context of divorce needs to be considered within the framework of what Jesus is saying. He makes an interesting point that in that time; women had the ability and right to divorce their husbands if they didn’t provide intimacy, food and shelter. (exodus 22) And that the context within Mark and Luke is the key term of divorcing for any reason. A sect within the religious leaders were teaching that they could divorce their wives if they displeased them for any reasons. And it was within this context that Jesus collared them about their hardened hearts and isn’t actually fully addressing the issue of divorce at all.
I think that together; Black, Jensen and Brewer have it right. Yes Jesus would be and is appalled at the ease and rate of divorce within our communities. However the same can be said for all the sin that happens in our lives and within our communities? And indeed it is for and because of the issue of sin that Christ died and raised and will come again – and in him all are made clean and forgiven…. how we walk this out and treat others, will be determined by how much we actually do believe this.
- Note:that I have a personal interest in this subject and have been divorced and am remarried.
- Within the Gospel context – I have made the point elsewhere that in Luke 16 Jesus isn’t talking about divorce – rather is telling the religious leaders they have divorced themselves from God and married money.