From: Su Min
(recovering steadily from ulder: PTL!)
Today we read Matt 5:31-32, and open our hearts to hear Jesus teaching us the spirit of the law that goes beyond the letter of the law. Jesus says, "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife, must give her a certificate of divorce. But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced commits adultery."
"It has been said" is the formula that Jesus uses to refer us back to an old testament law. Jesus has already made a wider interpretation on the laws on murder and adultery. In today's reading he refers to the old law on divorce. The old law clearly made provision for divorce. But Jesus teaches us that this provision was made on account of the hardness of men's hearts (Matt 19:9). In this teaching, and in the expansion Matt 19: 1-3-12, Jesus upholds the concept of a life long covenant relationship in marriage. What God has joined together, let man not put asunder, let man not separate (Matt 19:6).
How are we to understand the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law in the climate of the present day where divorce breaks up one in six marriages and Christian families are not exempt? How do we reconcile remarriages of divorcees? I believe Jesus intends for us to make marriage a life long commitment. This commitment is not easy to maintain. But if husband and wife dedicate themselves to God and to each other, make a habit of searching the scriptures, and studying the word, then I believe they will be in a better position to do God's will. Not that it will always be easy. Those that preach a gospel of health and wealth preach a gospel of lies. God does not promise us good times all the time we are here on earth, but he promises us His eternal presence with us all the time, and good times with Him in eternity.
How then, do we relate to divorces and the remarried? Should we ostracise them, treat them as second class Christians? Allow them to make donations to the church but not allow them into the holy of holies? (Ah yes, such is the treatment many are subject to). Or should we love them as any other children of God?
The message that comes to me is to love the sinner but not the sin. Divorce is not according to God's plan. So divorce is a sin. But divorce is not the only sin. Divorce is not the greatest sin. In fact, there are many many many others sins, and there are sins that each of us are repeating day after day. Jesus says ,"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7)". Jesus knows we all are sinners. The word declares "all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)". But we need not go around with this burden of sin on our shoulders. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". (1 John 1:9.). This is the promise of God. The message to the divorced is to accept that they had made a mistake. And in confession they are forgiven, cleansed and purified.
Purified. The forgiven sinner is purified. Thus I believe the spirit of the law says to us in our relationship with those who have been divorced: Love them as you love all other children of God. Pray that God would heal them. And help them walk in his way.Let us pray
Father, thank you for our lesson today.
Thank you for forgiving us our sins as we confess them
Thank you for teaching us about the sanctity of marriage and how we may preserve it
God, you teach us to love one another, for in doing so we spread your love.
In the name of Jesus who loved us enough to die for us, the same who rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God, there to reign for ever and ever.
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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