Friday, August 14, 2009

Because Of The Hardness Of Your Hearts

Some Pharisees came to Jesus to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "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 man not separate."

Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."
Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this should accept it."

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In the Book of Genesis (1:27), there is a wonderful, poetic description of the creation of man and woman. "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." God also gave them names. "Adam" is not a name like James or John; it means "creature made from clay" (The Hebrew word for "clay" is "adamah".) At the beginning of the book of Genesis, "Adam" refers to man and woman equally. Clearly, man and woman are on an equal footing before God, and both are equally images of God.

Of course, this is all before the Fall. After the Fall, everything has changed. Humans are considered to be under a curse, and they each suffer for it differently. To the man, God says, "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken." (Genesis 3:19) To the woman, he ssays, "Your husband will rule over you" (Genesis 3:16) Scholars consider this a reflection of the way it was in the Near East at the time that Genesis was written, in particular the way women were treated in that society. A woman was subject first to her father, then on her marriage, she became subject to her husband. She was subject to them because she was their possession.

At the time of Jesus, divorce was very easily obtained. Some Rabbis of that time taught that if a woman ruined a meal, or spoke disrespectfully about her in-laws, her husband had the right to divorce her. Some even said that if a man noticed a woman who was more beautiful than his wife, he could divorce his wife and marry the other woman.

This tradition was the foundation for the question the Pharisees raise to Jesus, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" Jesus does not get into a legal hassle with them about the Mosaic Law. Instead, he hearkens back to the original state of innocence -- back before the story of the expulsion of the man and the woman from the Garden of Eden. He affirmed the original state over the corrupted state. He proclaimed God's notion of man and woman, and of marriage. The original state was the companionship of equals, not ownership of one by the other. It was love, not domination or subjection.

Today, wherever husbands and wives love one another, refusing to consider the other as property - disposable or not -- the mind of Christ is made visible, and human persons are living in a state of original innocence, not of original sin.

1 comment:

Mary333 said...

Thank you, Father,for this post. With all the broken marriages in the world, my husband and I feel blessed to be together!