April 05, 2007

Mark 10.1-12

On leaving those parts he came into the regions of Judea and Transjordan; and when a crowd gathered round him once again, he followed his usual practice and taught them.

The question was put to him: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" This was to test him.

He asked in return, "What did Moses command you?"

They answered, "Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife by note of dismissal."

Jesus said to them, "It was because you were so unteachable that he made this rule for you; but in the beginning, at the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be made one with his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. It follows that they are no longer two individuals; they are one flesh. What God has joined together, man must not separate."

When they were indoors again the disciples questioned him about this matter; he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; so too, if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

3 Comments:

At 3:47 PM, Blogger forrest said...

This doesn't, to me, have the cogency of those teachings that I recognize as indisputably-Jesus.

How I ended up married to an extremely inappropriate woman for nearly 10 years--was resigned to a life sentence until one day she did her "Forrest we need to talk" thing and set off into: "We really don't have much in common, you know"--and because I respected her a lot, we tried marriage counselling until I realized that yes, we could probably negotiate our differences but I didn't wantto--and at long last I was free, lonesome as hell but given a new life and a chance for new mistakes... I'd been very wrong and confused to start with, or none of this story would have even begun.

Sometime later I met and shacked up with my true wife, and after several years, even though I didn't really hold with making promises of love, I knew I wasn't going to leave this one, and as she said, a wedding makes "a good excuse for a party."

Not everyone you try to marry is your wife.

 
At 6:45 AM, Blogger david said...

This doesn't, to me, have the cogency of those teachings that I recognize as indisputably-Jesus and also Not everyone you try to marry is your wife.

I did not marry my "first love" but I have married once and it seems after 19 years to have stuck. So that gives me a somewhat different perspective I think. We are too different and have too little in common to be "soul mates" -- but we are committed to one another to us as a relationship -- and that has helped us to weather many storms. Marriage -- in our culture at least -- is a choice. And not just on th wedding day but on every day thereafter. At some point making that choice may no longer be worth it. But that doesn't mean it wasn't worth it on all those days prior to that day. So, while currently practicing monogamy -- and planning (God willing) on continuing the practice with the same partner into eternity -- I do not have a "high view" of marriage per se.

But Forrest, both yours and my views of marriage are mostly moot regarding this gospel passage. In Jesus' day most marriages were arranged and love matches the exception and not the rule. A good marriage was one that grew into a love match - not one that began that way. Divorce then was political (as in Herod's) or economic -- and so more likely a practice for estate owners than for peasants and labourers.

In those days, a widow could control her deceased husband's estate (Romans) or her son would administer it and give her a stipend (Hebrews). A divorced woman got her bride price back and became an economic burden to her father's family.

I have no real opinion whether or not this saying is authentically Jesus' -- only that it speaks to a radically different economic situation than our own -- it is not so much a positive teaching about what marriage can be so much as an indictment of marriage practices as Jesus (or whomever) found it.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Yeah, it isn't so much whether this was really Jesus as whether the intention was to institute an inflexible tyranny over people's love lives, as people have sometimes done with the saying in modern times.

Which points up the tension between following Jesus in two senses:

1) Yessir, boss! and

2) Actually following Jesus as we "follow" an argument.

I think that we owe him loyalty, as transmitting a greater wisdom than ours, but that he intends us to touch that wisdom ourselves, which implies examining what he means until we come to actually see it. Anything less, just falls short.

A "high view of marriage." That's a cultural thing, comes of hearing too many lovesongs, I suppose--but taking it back to the Garden of Eden does imply a higher dimension. Anyway, I've always tended to feel a great yearning for what marriage is supposed to be, coupled with contempt for the trappings of marriage used as an institutional trap. "What God has joined together" is not the same as "What the State (or a preacher, or a temporary confusion) has joined together."

The choice you speak of, of continuing a relationship--is not just because one is committed to it. I was released from that, and blessed the day. But when there's no choice, because the commitment is burned into the heart, when it isn't just "how many things in common" but that this woman is more important to me than anything we might disagree about, even when we're (rarely) shouting at each other...

 

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