Pray for those whose marriage is on the rocks
"Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and divorce her. But Jesus said to them, "because of your happiness of heart, he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his other and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate." Mark 1:2-9, NSRV.
Well, we are again in the month of June, one which is traditionally a time for marriage. Indeed, in many nations, more marriages take place in June than any other month. It is appropriate, therefore, that we should reflect on the institution of marriage in our meditations this month.
In this regard, there is one most disturbing trend. The established Christian concept of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman is facing many challenges today. This is evidenced by the fact that there are those couples who live together for many years without seeking to become married. One reason for this also is the rapidly increasing economic prosperity of women.
In the past, when the man alone was the breadwinner, they were prepared to stay in marriages even though they were not being treated with respect. This is no longer the case. If women are not satisfied with this condition, they can manage on their own and feel no obligation to remain in such marriages. The increasing high rate of children born outside of wedlock is a sure sign of this trend.
Finally, there is 'gay marriage' or 'same sex marriage' in which two persons of the same sex or gender seek to be married. The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in favour of such marriages has, no doubt, given tremendous new impetus to this approach. It is then no wonder that today the rate of divorce is increasing not only in the USA but also throughout the Caribbean.
This is precisely why Jesus' teachings on marriage expounded on in our reading today is relevant to us today. It behooves us, therefore, to pay special attention to it especially if we hold tenaciously to the Christian concept of marriage as the lifelong conjugal union of one man and one woman (See Genesis 1:26 - 31; 2:18-24).
Yes, at that time, teaching on divorce had become an issue of major discussion with some scholars following Rabbi Hillel, who took a liberal approach allowing divorce whenever a man wished to separate from his wife. Indeed, divorce was amazingly simple, as a man could write a bill of divorce and send his wife away virtually with no rights. It may be surprising to some to learn that divorce in ancient Israel was much easier for a man to obtain than it is today. On the other hand, women had no rights and a woman could not divorce her husband no matter how badly he treated her.
JESUS LIBERATED WOMEN
Jesus did so much to liberate women from oppression. At the other extreme was the teaching of Rabbi Shammai (who was once a disciple of Hillel). Much more conservative than his former master, he held tenaciously to the position that divorce was normally wrong and should not be practised by "the people of God."
Note, then that when the Pharisees came to Jesus asking about divorce, it was a trick question, designed to determine whether he sided with the liberal position of Rabbi Hillel or that of Rabbi Shammai.
Jesus, in responding, "cut through all the pros and cons of the respective positions of the two rabbis" and went back to Genesis. He established the original position of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman and while permitting divorce only on the grounds of adultery, Jesus conceived of it as far from ideal. According to the teaching of Jesus, divorce is 'a second best' making it clear that Christians should do everything possible to avoid the break up of marriage.
Evidently, there are those today who take marriage lightly and the moment they experience challenges, they "run to court".
According to the teaching of Jesus, however, this is morally wrong. Those joined together in matrimony should make every possible effort to remain together for life in accordance with their vows.
What, then should be our response as Christians when we hear or know that a couple well known to us is facing challenges in marriage? What should we do when we learn that their marriage is on the rocks?
Well, it is most effective to begin by stating what we should not do. It is summed up in one word we all now - gossip!
Far too often, even those in the church indulge in idle, negative gossip about others whose marriage is on the rocks. Generally speaking, the old adage is most useful, "if you have nothing good to say about others, then say nothing".
More positively, if you know them well, you may speak to them offering whatever wise counsel you can. You may also recommend that they consult with a Christian marriage counsellor. Recently, many couples have been saved from divorce by seeking and receiving wise, Godly advice from counsellors.
There is one thing you can do for them as a Christian.. PRAY! Yes, instead of talking about them or even talking to them, you can at least pray for them. You need not say anything more to them than: 'I'm praying for you!"
Spend more time, quality time praying to God for them. You would be surprised how many marriages have been saved from divorce by the prayers of the people of God!