I know that after my little diatribe yesterday there are probably some who read it saying, “Duh, what do you mean, ‘Why bother?” but that was kinda the point. There are at least three intense moments of prayer that stand out in my life before I began to go to church in earnest. The first was my conversion—theologically normal by Baptist standards. Conviction and a confession that I needed saving followed by prayer. While I realize that “Jesus please come into my heart and save me” is a long ways from “God the Sovereign Lord of all creation, elects, sanctifies and finally glorifies those whom he has chosen from all eternity to save” it still marks the beginning of Gods long work in my life.
I suspect most people are right in that range somewhere. All of them can’t be damned to hell because of poor theology—and can I get a ‘praise the Lord’ on that one?
What does this have to do with Jesus statements about divorce in Mark 10? Well the second prayer event in my life is none of your business but the third I’ll share. I asked God to please not let my parents get a divorce when I was about ten or eleven and it didn’t’ work. I have been angry about that on and off for the last ‘x’ number of decades. But imagine my consternation when I realize that all it boiled down to was their own hardness of heart?
The few times that I have had opportunity to speak to this point with anyone or any group I always try to belabor the point that divorce does no one any good. It’s hard on everyone involved right down to the poor people that have to deal with the misery you’ve brought on yourself while waiting in line behind you at the grocery store. It paints everything you touch with a certain kind of agony, and only the completely oblivious are unaffected by it. Kids, I discovered at an early age, are particularly susceptible to this grief and if you think that by divorcing your no-good spouse you will be doing them a favor—unless there is some sort of physical threat—you’re sadly mistaken. Trust me, I know that not all threats are physical. Not all bruises are on the skin. In spite of that Jesus makes this rather barren statement to his disciples when they ‘asked him again about this matter’ in v.10. “11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” [Mark 10:11,12 ] In fact Matthew 5:32 takes it a step further and says that “everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” I think the Bible makes it plain through and through that any kind of unfaithfulness is an abomination in the eyes of God. Whether we’re talking about scales that balance in favor of the merchant in the book of Proverbs or Christian men who call themselves leaders using their positions of authority for advancing their own agendas in 2 Timothy: God hates unfaithfulness. It is something that he is not and it is a sin.
As I stated above this is something that I have had ample opportunity to consider. I was a part of a singles class in my first church that was taught by a divorced woman. Each time this subject came up—and it did on occasion as you would expect in a room full of divorced folks—the concept of divorce was rationalized by the class members. Each time I would examine my bible and think to myself “This just doesn’t add up.” I can still go around the room in my mind and see the faces and the stories. Domestic abuse and self destruction, irreconcilable differences and a cheating spouse, everyone had a reason for their reasons to divorce. But I still think that it is unjustified in nearly every case. And even the cases where it happens because of unfaithfulness there is still room for grace. Think on that one for a bit would you before you blast me for it.
There is always room for grace, in every activity. And when there is not, it is because of our hardness of heart.
I was struck by this as I was reading through the tail end of chapter nine. One of these days soon, if it hasn’t happened already, one of you—either the husband or the wife—is going to get angry about something. That anger will turn into resentment and pretty soon there will be a pretty dissatisfied spouse running around the house: Either the angry person or the other one who is sick of the other person stomping around all the time. If the two of you have unstintingly applied the ‘readiness given by the gospel of peace.’ (Ephesians 6:15) you will be prepared for such an event because you will have studied the biblical principles behind reconciliation. Otherwise your ‘poverty’ in the Word will leave you out in the cold and possibly not allow you to recover your spouse or your marriage.
As I read those passages, though, I couldn’t help but think that most of the hardship in this world is caused by that same problem. Our hearts are hardened for a lack of the soothing balm of the Word of God. So we write the problem off because of that hardness rather than dealing softly with those who need it.
Your spouse needs to be dealt with softly and you’re the only one who can do it. You hope. Because if you don’t you can be sure that there is someone else out there who would be delighted to plunder that treasure that God has given you.
Correct me if I am wrong and we’ll both be better off.