Heavenly Father, take me by surprise today with a word for me from Your Word.
Consider: "God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God" (Max Lucado).
Divorce is no new issue. It was a concern for the Pharisees (3) and before them the prophets (Mal. 2:14-16). Long before them, Moses had faced it as well (Deut. 24:1-4). Jesus goes back further, however, to first principles. Do we do that or do we tend to look for simple solutions? It's not too surprising if we do: people's lives and happiness are at stake. For that very reason the deeper principles need to be faced. Before unmarrying we need to understand marrying.
The question is a test. Could a man (note, not a woman) divorce for just any reason, or only in certain circumstances? This was a live issue for the Pharisees. Two rabbis, Shammai and Hillel, represented the two sides. The crux was the phrase "something indecent" (Deut. 24:1); did it refer to adultery alone or to less serious things as well? Depending on Jesus' answer, they could box him as a conservative ("traditionalist" in today's media speak) or a liberal. His argument shocks even his disciples (8-10). He goes further: marriage is not a right; it's not for everyone (11-12). That probably did nothing to reduce the shock. Marriage is not simply a human arrangement to be changed at will (4-6). When two people are married, God is involved (whether they recognize it or not) and they are "joined [literally "glued"] together." However, just as Moses permitted (not "commanded," 7-8) divorce in certain circumstances, so Jesus recognizes an imperfect world (9).
Applying this teaching with compassion in today's complex world is a challenge, so it's worth noting that Matthew doesn't record it in isolation. It follows Jesus' teaching about forgiveness (Matt. 18:21-35) and is followed by another reminder about the importance of protecting children (13-14; cf. Matt. 18:1-9). It's so easy for divorce to be the first resort rather than the last.
Apply: What insights from today's reading and commentary surprised you? If you are not married, what can you do to help strengthen others' marriages?
Father, marriages are under assault, from within and without. Protect and strengthen Christian marriages so that they will be a strong witness to the world.