Imagine those sitting on the grass as Jesus teaches. Jesus takes pieces of the Ten Commandments and uses different words to talk about them. He doesn’t share them as some bitter pill. The way Jesus talked about the commandments was different and enriching, There was more yes in his teaching than no.
That is important to remember as we come to his teaching on marriage. Jesus isn’t full of rebuke; he is full of compassion for those who have been broken by the misuse of marriage. He is lifting his voice in the protection of women as well.
“Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully . . . he said, "has already committed adultery." (Matthew 5:28) He spoke about wandering eyes that came from a wandering heart. He wanted to address the issue of where it started instead of where it ended. Why? Because wherever it ends, it breaks not only a commandment of God, but it also breaks hearts and lives. It leaves wounds that sometimes never heal.
Then, Jesus spoke in hyperbole—exaggerating the remedy. He suggested to get rid of the offending eye. But Jesus wasn't advocating self-mutilation here. If we had been in the crowd, we would have seen his raised eyebrows and a hint of “do you get it” in his eyes. It’s what he doesn’t say that is the message: Wouldn’t it be easier to simply to stop looking?
And when he talked of divorce, it wasn't to shame anyone. Unfaithfulness destroys the trust that makes one flesh. This teaching comes from God’s heart that had been trampled by the unfaithfulness of the people He tried to bless. Over and over in Old Testament scripture, God compared blatant disobedience to broken marriage vows with Him.
I remember when I was single, feeling like a misfit in a married world, I made a significant discovery. I realized I didn’t want anyone to lift singleness over marriage or marriage over singleness. What I really wanted was for good marriages to multiply, even if they didn’t include me.
Jesus's teaching focused on protecting marriage and the hearts of those who marry. Split hairs here and miss the point. His ultimate desire is for people to use God’s gift God’s way.
I won’t speak to the maelstrom of messages about marriage and divorce that bombard us everywhere. but I will speak about God’s heart. God always calls us to higher standards than our world lives. He never wants something He created to be misused or denigrated.
His heart is invested in everything He created. Jesus’ words are not easy or popular, but they are from God’s heart where we find love in the purest form.
May God give us courage to protect marriage because our broken world continues to do the opposite.
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