When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 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’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Marriage In Community
A hard heart will result in divorce. A marriage may not be dissolved, but a hard heart means that one or both partners have ceased the open attitude that marriage was meant to be built upon. There are legitimate reasons for divorce. Jesus says that porneia (sexual immorality) is an excuse. For that immorality to occur, there must be the assumption that one partner at least has hardened toward the other and is getting their kicks elsewhere. A hard heart is usually self-serving but some reasons for being self-serving are more understandable than others. If someone changes physically by putting on a few pounds, adding cellulite, sagging a little through age and fatigue the hardening toward that person can be superficial and consumerist. If someone shares a dreadful experience where something significant is lost in an accident like a house burns to the ground or a child is struck with a car, the protection of a heart from pain by blaming the other person can be more complex and understandable. In all cases we are to guard our hearts but not harden them. We are to filter what comes in to our hearts but we are not to close our hearts.
Is your heart as open to your spouse as it was when you married? Ideally it should be more open. Are you tender in your time with your spouse? Do you cultivate appreciating the gift that God has given you in your spouse. If your spouse seems difficult they are a means of receiving more of God’s grace in order to love unconditionally. If your spouse is easy they can be a source of God’s comfort and affirmation. In each case, though, the focus should not be on what I receive from my marriage but what my marriage enables me to develop in myself as I am conformed to the image of Christ?
- What question is Jesus asked about marriage?
- How does Jesus respond?
- Why do you think the disciples thought it might be preferable, then, not to marry?
- How do you cultivate a tender heart toward your spouse?
- How can you truly affirm your spouse and listen to them so that you create a safe place for them to share their hopes and dreams? Do you really listen to your spouse and show interest when they are looking insecure, afraid, or angry?