Posted by: richard | 13 November, 2007

Relationships: Protecting the Precious (1/2)

We move on next week (Monday 19th November) to Matt 5:27-32 which is where Jesus tackles the subject of marriage, focusing on lust, adultery and divorce as particular instances of marriage gone wrong. Here are four questions for refection. It would be great to get a few thoughts on questions 1 and 2 via the blog in advance of the session.

  1. Jesus talks about ripping out eyes and cutting off hands. If we ignore this, we risk ignoring the seriousness of Jesus’s words; if we take it literally we risk becoming absurd (as well as blind and limbless!). How should we understand these severe warnings about lust?
  2. To get a broader perspective on New Testament teachings on divorce, check out Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Matthew 19:3-9. Coming back to Jesus’s words here regarding divorce, how should we interpret them? For example, if “anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery”, does that mean that if someone gets divorced they have to remain single for ever?
  3. What therefore can we say to people who have been through divorce and remarriage?
  4. Jesus is clearly holding up marriage as precious and that our sexual behaviour – and way of thinking – is a clear way in which we can be salt and light to the world. Think about your (current or future) marriage; how are you nurturing it, fighting for it, and protecting it from the insiduous effects of lust?
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Responses

  1. Two more resources from HTB in case you want to think over this more deeply. How to respond to divorce, and Sex in the 21st Century.

  2. Just to prove I’m not always a last-minute blogger 🙂

    After the traumatic divorce of 2 Christian friends of mine, I asked the question about remarriage, and a wise slightly balding minister (achem, johnlambert, achem…) once told me that in light of Jesus’ words in Mark 10, that if in the unlikely event that he divorced from his wife, he would be scared of getting remarried and wold probably think it best to err on the side of caution given Jesus’ strong words on this one!

    I think in my heart of hearts I agree as I can’t see anything Biblical saying that divorce is ok (other than if reconciliation is impossible following adultery) never mind condoning remarriage…

    Though I’m not sure how that relates to scooping your eye out or chopping off your hand…!

  3. Thanks Jenni! Regarding “never mind remarriage”, I think divorce and remarriage might be inextricably linked. A suggestion: divorce is only divorce unless it allows for remarriage. To put it another way, if one is not allowed to remarry, then divorce has not really taken place.

  4. So does that mean that if there have been irreconcilable adultery problems and divorce happens then remarrying is fine??
    xx

  5. Well, in Matt 19:9 Jesus says “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery”. So it sounds like if someone has been unfaithful then divorce and remarriage is an option.

    But I wouldn’t use the term “fine” really, since I think the point of New Testament teaching on marriage is that marriage should be permanent as it creates deep ties, and breaking them is destructive for both parties.

  6. I have a christian friend who married a divorced man so she was wrong to do that?

  7. Well I think it’s clear from the passages that God’s plan was for divorce not to happen… No man separate, not divorce/remarry, etc…. He wants couples who marry to stay married, and to love one another.

    Application… A woman who is beaten by her husband? A couple who constantly argue and just can’t seem to find a way to love one another? Falling out of love and losing hope….?

    Marriage is a HUUUGE commitment, and when you make it you say for better for worse, in sickness – which can be physical or mental – and in health etc… But it’s not easy, and you can see how couples don’t manage to stick to that… It’s a commitment and not a story of “being head over heels in love” all of the time – a thing which many people don’t seem to understand these days…

    “How can God want me to live in such a horrible situation? Surely he’d want me to be happy?”

    But Jesus went through such an awful situation, to make a new covenant, a new promise with us… When we make a promise in marriage, we make it before the Lord… And he works for good in all situations… Job for example, we see the stuff he went through, and he stuck with it. We can see fruit through our sufferings:
    Romans 5: Not only so, but we[c] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us

    But the questions keep coming backl… How long can a person cope living in what feels like a dead relationship? Does it depend maybe on reliance on the Lord? Getting strength from him to continue when it feels hopeless, to keep hope in him?

    In any case we have all done wrong things, we’re all sinners, so even if it is wrong, she’s definitely forgiven…

    Just a few ponderings……!! Got a bit long, sorry!

  8. Also, another question… How should our views on marriage and divorce be tranfered into our relationships, conversations and advice, with/to non-christians…?
    e.g.

    a friend who is considering divorce?

    a friend who has been married, but was left by her husband, and is now living with her boyfriend, afraid to re-marry?

    etc

  9. A few things I thought of over lunch. Firstly, it is acceptable for widows to remarry (1 Tim 5:14, Luke 20:27-38) so it seems ok for a person to have more than one marriage partner in the course of their life.

    So I think the prohibition on divorce and remarriage – in the context of Jesus’s discussion of adultery a second earlier – is to say “Divorcing and remarrying isn’t a cunning way to avoid adultery either” – in other words, if you can stay in a marriage or work at reconciliation, do that. But if the other person has already terminally broken things (adultery probably, divorce and remarriage certainly) then I think it’s ok to get remarried.

    Makes sense? I think all this should really be focused on how can we be salt and light in our relationships: and this involves faithfulness, tenacity and total commitment to sticking with the other person. Now that is good news that society wants to and needs to see!

  10. Had a lil chat with Ekkardt and Liz in the office about it…. Also what came up was if you are both Christians, and enter in to the relationship and marriage with this, then you are both accountable to God, and you are both accountable to each other in your way of living and sticking with it etc….. But if one of the couple turns away, stops believing (I’m not saying doubting), stops sticking by the promises made, stops caring etc… a marriage takes two people…. where does that leave us…

    It reminded me how foolish it could be to marry a non christian, as you don’t have this same accountability to God, or church community of support, or example of what love should look like, that you would both be aiming for…

  11. What about then a christian widower considering living with a divorced non christian ? …ie my father with his girlfriend !!!
    Shall I say “it’s wrong to live with her, you should marry her “… as a christian friend/daughter would say ?
    or shall I say “she is a divorced person, she will commit sin if she lives with you, but you are ok because you are a widower” !

  12. It’s so hard to know the balance between it being between the person and God, and being accountable to one another…
    I wonder what he thinks God thinks about it… And if he kind of knows, maybe he needs help facing up to it…
    xx

  13. Nicky Gumbel’s thoughts from the HTB talk:

    Choose wisely
    Celibacy ‘…and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 19 v10-12)
    Marriage ‘“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no-one separate.”’ (Matthew 19 v4-6)

    Invest massively
    ‘So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no-one separate.’ (Matthew 19 v6)

    Concede reluctantly
    ‘…except for marital unfaithfulness…’ (Matthew 5 v32 & Matthew 19 v9)
    ‘But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. A believing man or
    woman is not bound in such circumstances…’ (1 Corinthians 7 v15)

    Rebuild carefully
    ‘…and marries another woman…’ (Matthew 19 v9)

    Embrace unconditionally
    ‘…He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted.’
    (Isaiah 61v1, quoted by Jesus in Luke 4 v18)
    ‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ (Psalm 34 v18)

  14. It was another good session on Monday, thanks all. I think I will post the learnings from our discussions as a separate blog post. In that way, we separate our pre-discussion musings from our post-discussion learnings and actions…. just experimenting!


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