He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them. 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.’
How often we approach this text by asking the very same question – ‘Teacher, am I allowed to divorce my spouse?’ ‘Teacher, can a divorced person serve in (whatever) capacity in the Church?’
All the while, we miss the deeper message Jesus is giving us. Asking, ‘is it lawful?’ implies our desire to do the wrong thing if we can get away with it.
Jesus instead points us to the purpose of marriage – or of any human relationship. He takes us to the beginning: how did this start? Why are you in this relationship? Is it because of what you can get out of it, is it because of how you can use others to your own advantage, or do you really want to become ‘one flesh’ with the other? Are you so fascinated by your spouse, your friend, your community, that you want to spend the rest of your life building this relationship? Are you so invested in the relationship, that you will use any opportunity to encourage, to nurture, to grow, to pray for, to comfort, to help, to do whatever it takes to help the other in becoming the best version of themselves they possibly can?
We are not being unfaithful only when we trespass the boundaries of a relationship, or when we break our bonds. We are unfaithful whenever we stop investing in the other person; whenever we take the other for granted; whenever we look to our own interests, and rights, and wishes, instead of the other’s.
Marriage, and every human relationship, is an opportunity to help turn another person into the image of Christ. We get to play a part in the process that builds daughters and sons of God! Are you ready to forget yourself, and give yourself completely for the other?
Jesus didn’t just ask that of us; on the Cross, he showed us what love looks like. He showed us that no price is too high – that being part in the process of transforming eternal souls is worth any effort.
God of love, teach us to see the other with your eyes. Teach us to realise what an opportunity it is to invest in building each other up, what a privilege it is to build the image of Christ in the heart of another, help us to be the heart of Christ loving one another in your name. Amen.
Marius Mazuru, pastor, Pilgrim URC Church, Plymouth