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Divorce

It happens.

Like slavery happens.

However, you can't legally get away with owning slaves in the U.S. anymore, while divorce is readily acceptable both in and outside the church.

But so what if it's acceptable. Is it okay?

Perhaps God sees divorce and slavery similarly.

Slavery—some people owning others—was never what God wanted for his people. Certainly not. Slavery was what God rescued his people from in Egypt. And slavery is the image Paul used to speak of our bondage to hard-heartedness and sin and death. Certainly, it would seem odd for a Christian now-a-days to own slaves.

But it happened back then.

And divorce too—the dissolution of a marriage—was never what God wanted for his people. Of course not. Marriage was the symbol of Christ's union with the church. And God from the very beginning made us to be together, not lording over one another or breaking up the union.

But it happens.

And God knows it will happen.

He knows because he understands what sort of people we are. We are the hard-hearted sort who have the propensity to resist God and push away from those closest to us. We find comfort in hardening our hearts so no one can hurt us. We think it's a form of protection to "withdraw into one's own little world, recreating reality by rationalizing sinful activities and attitudes, casting blame on everyone else, and developing a veneer of bitterness that warps all relationships" (Wilkins, 653).

Left to ourselves, this is what we do. And it happens within the marriage long before couples ever sign any divorce papers. I suppose you could say, they divorce in their hearts before they divorce on paper. This heart-divorce is what God hates. The paper work is just a sign of what had already happened inside.

Similarly, murder is the proof of the hate within one's heart. Adultery is the proof of the lust. Boasting proof of the pride. And avoidance proof of the fear.

God cares about the heart. If there is to be made any improvement on our sorry condition, it must start in the heart. If any marriage is to be saved, if any relationship mended, or friends reconciled, it must start in the heart. And if the heart has not Jesus there, there is little hope.

Even if the heart has Christ, still is can remain hard and rely upon itself for protection and the pursuit of happiness. That is why God gave the Israelites—the people chosen to represent him to the world—some rules about divorce and how to treat slaves. The innocent had to be protected. The marriage, honored and respected.

One spouse may wish to work at the marriage while the other may be too hardened to try. One may be too hurt to give the marriage another try. Both may be shut off to each other. And that is not even mentioning adultery.

Two selfish beings trying to live together in love is bound to make trouble.

I suppose that is why Jesus' disciples said, "If this is the situation between a husband and a wife, then it is better not to marry" (Matt:19:10).

"Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given" Jesus replies (Matt 19:11).

Who has accepted this word? Who can continue in this way? Is it just the super-Christians? Jesus answers this question in the very next verse as he invites the children to come to him for the second time in the book of Matthew. Who can accept this word? Those who have child-like dependence on God.

"As weak, defenseless, vulnerable children, they must continue to maintain dependence on their heavenly Father for their purpose, power and significance of their life of discipleship" (Wilkins, 646).

It is only with this kind of dependence that we can become so secure in our identity as sons and daughters of God that we can give ourselves unreservedly in spite of our earthly circumstance, to serve others (Wilkins, 673). And it is in a marriage that serving and selflessness are most essential.

None of this competing for power or grappling for fulfillment. The hard-heart softens as this child-like dependency creates a heart that beats in sync with the Savior's.

Wilkins, Michael J. The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004.

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