From: Su Min
Subject: (20 Feb) Marriage
Thursday 20th February 1997
Epistle to The CyberChurch
GREETINGSTo all the blessed saints in cyberspace: the to-be-married, the already-married, the once-married, and the never-will-be-married: shalom!
TEXTToday we look at Matthew_19:1-12.
CONTEXTJesus had just finished teaching about forgiving, showing us that we have been forgiven of so much, and likewise we should forgive to perfect completion, seven times seventy times.
TRAVELLINGWhen Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea, to the other side of the Jordan (Matthew_19:1).
Jesus our Lord and Master, Jesus our Perfect Example, uses the short time He has left on earth to maximum effect, criss-crossing the country to preach the message of repentance, and bringing His healing to the people. He goes to the "other" side of the Jordan, the "far" side which is the East Bank, the region of Judea called Perea.
Mini-lesson: our time on earth is running out. We too should maximise our time and set our priority inspreading the good news. Spare no effort. Get off your comfort chair and go out near and far to tell of the saving grace of Jesus.
HEALINGLarge crowds followed him, and he healed them there (Matthew_19:2).
Mini-lesson: large crowds followed Jesus. They were unwhole. They were sick. This particular verse doesnot mention the degree or dimension of their disorders but we know from previous passages that Jesus healed the demon possessed, the lame, the blind, and more importantly Jesus healed the soul: Jesus IS the way to life eternal. We who are unwhole also follow Jesus: and He heals us!
TESTSome Pharisees came to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" (Matthew_19:3).
Mini-lesson: These Pharisees were up to no good.. Not everyone who approaches Jesus comes with goodintent. Do we ever come to Jesus with selfish purpose? Do we try to manipulate him? "Lord if you will do this for me I promise I will..." Heaven forbid! Let us never come to Jesus to test Him!
QUESTION ANSWERED WITH QUESTION"Haven't you read", he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew_19:4-6).
Jesus answers the question with a question. Get back to the basics. Turn to the scriptures. Have you not heard? Have you not read? You who pride yourselves in following the law, do you not know the text upon which the law is based? And Jesus points back to Genesis_1:24,27_and comes to the finite conclusion: "Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Jesus knows the scriptures and understands the spirit and intent as well as the letter of the law. We can learn something here. This underscores the importance of knowing the scriptures, meditating upon them, and living with their guidance. And this text underscores the inviolate sacred union in marriage.
PERSISTENT ATTACK"Why then" they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" (Matthew_19:7).
Deuteronomy_24:1_was interpreted strictly by the conservative school of Shammai, allowing divorce only for shameful adultery by the wife, and very widely interpreted by the radical school of Hillei, allowing divorce for the slimmest of excuse. The Pharisees were by implication asking: "Which teaching do you agree with; Shammai or Hillei?" Either answer would give them ammunition to attack Jesus.
JESUS UPHOLDS MARRIAGEJesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman, commits adultery. (Matthew_19:8-9)
The phrase "marital unfaithfulness" is translated in the KJV as "fornication".
In the Greek text the word is "porneia", Strong's Concordance #4202, "por-ni-ah", to act as a prostitute.
The conservative interpretation of Jesus’ teaching is that this is unchastity of the bride prior to marriage, not just indiscriminate sex and multiple partners after marriage.
Jesus says that unless the woman was unfaithful BEFORE marriage, the man who dismisses her himself is committing adultery. Note here that the Mosaic law on divorce was to protect women, so that they would not be divorced on any whim and fancy. In that setting divorce could only be arranged after the council had agreed that fornication had occurred. We also know that Jesus had compassion for the adulteress, forgiving the sinner but not the sin, and charging those that were about to stone her to examine their own hearts, their own lives, their own sin: Jesus did not condemn her but forgave her and liberated her into a sin-free life... (John_8:1-11).
PERPLEXEDThe disciples said to him, “if this is the situation between a husband and a wife, it is better not to marry" (Matthew_19:10).
The disciples were perplexed at the profundity of the teaching. Here was the sanctity of marriage upheld against the law that permitted divorce. If the union between man and woman was so strong that separation by divorce was not allowed, would not that make life miserable for those who could not get along together? If divorce was not allowed, if the bond between husband and wife were not to be wrought asunder, if this is the situation between a husband and a wife, was it better not to marry?
HEAVENLY PERFECTIONJesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they are born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Matthew_19:11-12).
The union between man and wife in holy matrimony, when partners are selected in accordance to the will of God, allow for a garden of Eden paradise on earth. It is God's will that man and wife when brought together in marriage, should remain faithful to one another, in sickness and in health, for better for worse, richer or poorer, forsaking all others, for as long as the both of them shall live. This is God's plan. The one who can accept this should accept it.
Those that can not should not marry: or else they may end up seeking divorce. Divorce is not the worst sin possible. There are many divorced people who recover from the trauma and go on to lead a deep relationship with God. There are many others whose marriage is on the rock: they are morally and socially divorced but fail to sign the legal papers. Legally married but divorced in every other aspect. May God have mercy on their souls. The point of the lesson is that God has a perfect plan for each married couple: a plan that holds them together through thick and thin. Part of the secret of success is a deep relationship with God. And part of the secret of success is the humility to forgive one another.
(btw: "others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven" has been used as a reference that priests should remain celibate: I do not see this as what was intended by this verse: kingdom work is not the exclusive prerogative of all who have renounced marriage, but rather it is the work of all the saints: imho.)
SUMMARYWhy does this message come to us just after Valentine's day? What is the connection? Why talk of divorce when the thoughts are focused on love and marriage?
The Pharisees came to test Jesus. The law provided for divorce, yet Jesus talked about forgiveness: Is there a link? I believe there is. For if a husband was willing to forgive his wife seven times seventy times, and if a wife was willing to forgive her husband seven times seventy times each time they had an argument, a quarrel, a misunderstanding, I believe the angels in heaven would indeed dance and rejoice, for the harmony and unity in the family would indeed be paradise on earth.
BUT reveal the big selfish pride that grows like an ugly beast within us: AND have two self centredpersons each insisting on their individual rights: If there is no place for forgiveness in their hearts, if they harbour the hurts and repeatedly count the injuries, then you know why they say it is like living in hell!
We thank you for the institution of marriage, set out right from the beginning, between Adam and Eve.
Father, it is your will that those who come together in Holy Matrimony are to be One Flesh for as long as
the both of them shall live.
Teach us to have You, Mighty God as the centre of our lives.
Help us place Jesus as head of our household.
Fill us with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that we may share with our spouse: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
Enable us to forgive our loved ones for their trespass against us:
forgiving them even seven times seventy times.
Forgive us our sins, O God, even seven times seventy times.
In the Matchless name of Jesus. AMEN.
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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