Tag Archives: divorce

Coming Home to God’s Truth About Marriage

Jesus was questioned about marriage and divorce by hostile Jewish religious leaders. They hoped to trick him into saying something that would cause him trouble.

Jesus quoted from Genesis, reminding them that God established a design for marriage when he created Adam and Eve. He made them male and female, and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.

Jesus emphasized the permanent nature of marriage by adding these words: “They are no longer two but one flesh, so what God has joined together let no one separate.” God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman freely and fully committed to each other for life.

The religious leaders thought they had trapped Jesus into contradicting Scripture. They said, “Why, then, did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus corrected them. Moses allowed divorce; he did not command it. And he allowed divorce, Jesus said, because of people’s hard hearts. It was not God’s design or desire. In fact, God sees unwarranted divorce and remarriage as adultery.

But God also knows that hearts sometimes become so hard that broken relationships are the inevitable result. So he makes concessions, but he does not change his design. The goal is still a faithful union between one man and one woman. A divorce in the past need not keep us from succeeding at God’s design for marriage now.

Jesus is saying that some parts of the Bible are weightier, or more fundamental, than other parts. God’s original design for marriage is more fundamental than his allowance for failed marriages. The concession does not cancel the design.

Jesus’ disciples were listening carefully to this discussion. They were surprised by Jesus’ strict view of marriage. Perhaps it would be better not to marry at all, they suggested.

Jesus agreed that some people are called to live single, but not so they can engage in open and temporary physical relationships. God’s call to live single is a call to live celibate, and to devote oneself to God’s kingdom work in a special way.

Jesus’ words are helpful for Christians today. Our culture is rejecting God’s design for marriage. As a result, many people have suffered broken homes and strained relationships.

If we reject everyone who has deviated from God’s design for marriage, then we are raising unnecessary barriers to the life-changing experience of God’s transforming grace. On the other hand, if we follow the world in redefining marriage and sexual morals, then we are misrepresenting God and his truth.

We should model our lives after Jesus. He unapologetically exalts God’s unchanging design for marriage, but he also extends God’s mercy and grace for hearts that were once hard but are now open and willing to come home to God’s truth.

May we be faithful agents of God’s holiness and his grace,

Brother Richard Foster

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Does Jesus Ask The Impossible?

Jesus promises that he came not to abolish God’s written word, but to fulfill it. This announcement is important because his interpretation of Scripture is strikingly different from what is commonly taught and thought (see Matthew 5:17-48).

People may think that they are good with God if they avoid murder. Jesus says that his followers must not only avoid murder, but avoid getting angry. In fact, we should go out of our way to reconcile with others, even our adversaries, even if it means taking a loss.

People may think that they are good with God if they avoid adultery. Jesus says that his followers must not only avoid adultery, but not even think about it. In fact, if our right eye or right hand causes us to sin, we should gouge it out and cut it off.

People may think that they are good with God if they legally divorce. Jesus says that his followers should consider marriage to be a life-long commitment. In fact, we should think of remarriage as adultery (except when the first spouse was unfaithful).

People may think that they are good with God if they keep their oaths. Jesus says that his followers should forget about swearing oaths. Instead, we should make sure that our words are always truthful. In fact, anything else is from the Devil.

People may think that they are good with God if they are fair when they punish those who do them wrong and if they refuse those who are undeserving. Jesus says that his followers should not seek retaliation or restitution at all. We should turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give to those who ask.

People may think that they are good with God if they love their family and friends. Jesus says that his followers should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Even sinners love their friends. We should do more.

And then Jesus says something even more astounding: So, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Is he saying that we are not really his followers unless or until we are perfect? No, that is not what he is saying, because Jesus is speaking to those he has already called and he already considers them to be his followers, knowing that they are imperfect.

What is Jesus saying? Jesus’ words are not a legal code but an interpretation of God’s legal code which is recorded in the Old Testament. He is not giving us a new and improved Law, but he is showing us the right way to think about God’s existing Law.

God’s Law does not set a minimum standard that defines the least we must do in order to be right with God. God’s Law is his way, a pathway that leads us toward absolute godliness. When we become followers of Jesus, we begin our journey on this pathway, the narrow path which leads to life.

As we walk along the pathway of God, we begin to go beyond the letter of the Law and to pursue the spirit of the Law. We concern ourselves not merely with what our hands do, but with what our hearts do.

As we follow Jesus on the pathway of God, we turn ourselves not merely toward protecting and nurturing our own, but toward reaching out to the “others.” We do not insist on getting what we deserve, nor do we always insist on punishing others as they deserve. We promote more than justice; we promote mercy and grace.

As we walk the way of God, we grow toward maturity. Yes, sometimes we fall back, but then we move forward again. For those followers of Jesus who heard these words first, it was Jesus’ physical presence that empowered them to progress. For us, it is God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ that empowers us to grow toward perfection.

At no time in this age do we arrive, so we always have this labor of love. But we are not frustrated because our journey is not without end. One day this narrow path will bring us to our destination. And on that day we will be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Let us walk the narrow path that leads to life,

Brother Richard Foster

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