Jesus and Lifelong Marriage

Sat, 16/06/2012 - 21:25 -- James Oakley

I'm disappointed to read more than one assertion in yesterday's Church Times that Jesus never taught that marriage is lifelong.

Perhaps one ought to read Mark 10:2-9

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Jesus graciously acknowledges the sad reality of divorce. But he also is very clear that this was not God's design from the beginning; God created marriage to be for life, and only legislated on divorce because the sinful hardness of our hearts requires such regulation.

It's true, of course, that Matthew records the same conversation, but picks up a different emphasis. He's entitled to do that - presumably there was more to the conversation than either Matthew's or Mark's summaries allow. Reading the two together, we are not left to conclude that Jesus is naive about divorce or unsympathetic to those who have been badly bruised by the sinful ways we mistreat each other. Nevertheless, in either account Jesus is clear: God's design at creation was for marriage to be a lifelong union.

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