“It has been said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:’ but I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5:31,32
Divorce. Oh my goodness, how taboo! But this isn’t really even about divorce. It’s about what was happening in someone’s heart first that led to divorce. It’s a story of men who just decided they didn’t want their wives any more. She wasn’t satisfying them in some way, whatever way that was. It wasn’t even about her having a sexual relationship and being unfaithful to them. It’s a story about a woman being a wife and a man just not wanting her anymore.
When did this become about divorce? When did we miss the point that God values women and He values them as highly as men. I think maybe that happened when our world became man’s world instead of God’s world.
This isn’t about divorce. It’s about the value of another person. Jesus, You are dealing specifically here with the worth of a woman to a man. And obviously she wasn’t worth much. Because here it was all up to the man to divorce her. You said there was one reason that was allowed, infidelity, but to free yourself from your commitment to your wife on any other grounds was to put her in the position of having to live a life of adultery. There was absolutely no way in that culture that she could make a life for herself without marrying another man. And that other man would be just as guilty of adultery. Why?
I’m going to jump around a little bit here. When Boaz started to notice Ruth, he asked an interesting question. “Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, ‘Whose damsel is this?'” (Ruth 2:5) Why was that so important? Well, in our Greek thinking today, we identify ourselves individually. Not so for the Hebrew. For the Hebrew “identity is directly tied to someone else’s involvement…Her identity is expected to be derived from the possession and protection of someone else. She is who she belongs to. She is the extension of the one who has responsibility for her.” (Skip Moen)
Now put that into the light of these passages about divorcing these women. Here were men who had taken a vow before God to protect and be responsible for this woman. Today, You say, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved those He called out and gave His life for them.” Now, how does this divorcement show that kind of love, that kind of responsibility for the best for someone else, that kind of protection?
Now let’s go back to Genesis 2:24. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” That’s a pretty strong picture there. How could it be so easy for these men to rip their own flesh apart with no feeling and no pain over it? See, these men should have forsaken, abandoned, and separated from their parents and parents’ ways in order to “cling, attach and join with his wife.” They should have entered into a new union, a real union, a separated union with their wife. But they never really paid that price. They just got a possession and not a wife. And they never knew what they were missing.
We can be given so much and miss it all. But sometimes in our deepest sorrow and disatisfaction, we start to see the truth. Like Solomon in Ecclesiastes. “After all this, there is only one thing to say: have reverence for God, and obey His commands, because this is all that we were created for. God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret.” Did these men reverence Your heart, God? Do I? If I do, then I’ll know the worth of those around me because You created each one. You created every one of us to be a masterpiece. Did these men obey Your commands? Do I? Did they cling to their wife as though she was flesh of their flesh and bone of their bones? Do I really stop to think about the heart of Your words and live it out in my life by Your revelation and power? Am I not only concerned with what You created me for, but am I just as concerned with what You created my fellow man or woman for?
We are responsible for each other just as those men were responsible for the well-being of their wives. You are going to judge us for how we take care of those around us. There is nothing hidden from You.
I better learn what Your love looks like because it’s the standard I’m being held up to.
We’ve been trained to think of “theology” as “the science of God and divine things; or the science which teaches the existence, character, and attributes of God, His laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. “ That came straight from Noah Webster’s dictionary. But this kind of theology was never Your intent, Lord. Your theology really goes to the roots. The roots of this word are God and discourse. Theology is about intimately listening to You as You disclose Yourself and then it’s relating that back to You in the discourse not only of my words, but in the discourse of my life. See, being involved in a discourse with You is all about “the act of the undertaking, by which it passes from premises to consequences; the act which connects propositions, and deduces conclusions from them.” That’s the original intent, and unfortunately, it’s become obsolete.
Jesus lived out what theology is supposed to look like. He took His discourse with God and applied it wholly to His life and the lives around Him. That’s what our discourse with You should look like too. It’s not cut and dry. It’s full of emotions and hard things including pain. Somewhere along the line we have to realize we’re all shattered souls and that we are responsible for the other shattered souls around us. But if I don’t see myself as shattered and in need of care, why would I see myself needing to care for anyone else and why would I see my own need for care from my spouse? Praise and worship is not seperate from our heart’s cry or the heart’s cry of our spouse or neighbor. Maybe the problem is that we’ve become anemic to real Christianity. Skip Moen shares, ” If God is to be my really intimate partner, the lover of my soul, then He must come to me when I am overwhelmed with grief, desperate and alone. I need a God Who feels what I feel; a divine spouse Who knows the darkness that wants to drown me. I need the equation balanced. Forsake must become cling.” And if this is the kind of intimate partner that I need, then what kind of partner should we be to our spouses? What kind of love should I show to those around me whether man, woman, boy, or girl? How can I call myself a Christian if I don’t love like Christ?
“Just as the Father sent me into the world, so am I sending you.” I wonder how many times I’ve displeased You? I wonder how many times I’ve just totally missed the mark? I wonder how many times I have totally disregarded Your heart for my own desires? Yet, You don’t divorce me. You say that You will never leave me or forsake me. You put an example in Your Word of a prophet who You told to marry a prostitute. And even though she falls back to her old ways, he stays faithful, and searches her out and gathers her off the slave block back into his arms. Why? Because Your heart is for those who belong to You. You would do everything to do what’s best for them. You would sacrifice Your life and Your pride.
What would man sacrifice for his wife’s well-being? What would I sacrifice for someone else’s well-being? Would I? Or are we too caught up in ourselves like Narcissus? Narcissus, from Greek mythology, was a beautiful hunter. He had an enemy named Nemesis. Do you know how Nemesis defeated Narcissus? He lured him to a pool of water and when Narcissus saw his own reflection in the water, he was so infatuated with himself he couldn’t stop looking. Eventually, he died, overcome by his own beauty. He was infatuated and obsessed with himself. And isn’t that the root of the problem here? “But God, in His sovereign love for us, fixed His eyes on us as His Bride, condescended to our weakness and self-centered arrogance, dwelt among us, lived for us, served us, and gave Himself for us–and He did it all for our eternal good and His eternal glory.” (Burk Parsons) What a “Titanic” lesson we have to learn here.
Lord, in the true story of the Titanic, at the moment of decision, class barriers were broken down. Because of the prevalance of “Christian influence,” men, both rich and poor, gave way to women and children at the cost of their own lives. Paul’s words, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,”(Philippians 1:21) became real in their lives. Narcissism was defeated and Christ reigned in the hearts and lives of those men. So Lord, whether I’m a man or a woman, do You truly reign in me? Do I live a life dead to self and alive in You, a life that dwells among others, lives for them, serves them, and gives myself for them? Am I doing what I do for their eternal and temporal good and for Your eternal and temporal glory? May I make that “Titanic” choice.