October 5, 2003
Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, "is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?"
Jesus said, "What did Moses command?"
They answered, "Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her."
Jesus said, "Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hard-hearted ways. In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."
When they were back home, the disciples brought it up again. Jesus gave it to them straight: "A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery."
The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let the know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Then gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.
1. In How Good Do We Need to Be, Rabbi Harold Kushner comments on the word we usually translate as "rib" in the creation story is more often translated as "side." This leads him to look at creation's climax being "a two-sided human being, one side of which was male and one side female. 'Male and female He created them.' When this androgynous creature could find no suitable mate among all the animals, God caused it to fall asleep and surgically separated one side from the other, leaving a masculine human being and a feminine human being, who were then suitable mates for each other."
He goes on to look at implications of this such as it making Eve a full partner in creation, not an afterthought, and that "human beings marry to find wholeness, to make themselves complete. This new reading of the story of the creation of the first human beings would tell us that the purpose of marriage is to create a new entity, a single being made up of two formerly separate individuals, each supplying what the other lacks. That is why divorce, however legally accessible and socially acceptable, and however necessary in individual cases, is always such a wrenching experience. It represents the surgical separation of two souls that had been fused."
Woe be that which cuts this "organic union."
2. Another way of coming at this hard-heartedness that excuses divorce are three more sentence from Rabbi Kushner's book, "But if romantic attraction is the basis for love among courting couples, it is no longer-term basis on which to build a marriage. The illusion of perfection in the other will not last. And that is why the essence of marital love is not romance but forgiveness.
When we can no longer forgive, love is gone. Is there anything sadder?
3. The disciples shooing away the children is a cause of divorce. Divorce between the children and Jesus. This whole chapter can be seen as a discourse on the intention of GOD to bring together, not to separate. Where is the church still acting like the disciples in separating "children" or "the bottom of the societal heap" from Jesus? Is it with those oriented toward their own gender? Is it with the poor and homeless, the lonely and lost? Is it with immigrants or the sick without insurance? Who would you add to the list of those the church separates from Jesus?