Summary: Part 6 of a 13 week series Hearing Jesus Again. This message looks at what Jesus says about divorce.
Jesus On Casual Divorce
Part 6 in series Hearing Jesus Again
Wildwind Community Church
June 14, 2008
Dallas Willard writes: “Divorce, if it were rightly done, would be done as an act of love. It would be dictated by love and done for the honest good of the people involved. Such divorce, though rare, remains nonetheless possible and may be necessary. If it were truly done on this basis, it would be rightly done, in spite of the heartbreak and loss it is sure to involve.
This certainly represents a change on my part. I recall with embarrassment sitting around a seminar table at the University of Wisconsin in the early 60’s. the professor had not yet arrived for our seminar in formal logic, and one of the class members was talking about his divorce proceedings. Without being asked for my opinion, I ventured to say, “Divorce is always wrong.”
Looking back on it, the strangest thing of all was that no one objected to what I said or even to my saying it. Everyone seemed accepting of it. Of course that was because my words represented a cultural assumption of those days. But in fact I was vastly ignorant of the things men and women do to one another.
Later I came across the situation of a devout woman whose husband had married her as a cover for his homosexuality. He consummated the marriage so it couldn’t be annulled, and after that he had nothing to do with her. They had no personal relationship at all. He would bring his male friends home and, in her presence, have sex in the living room or wherever else they pleased any time they pleased. Her religious guides continued to tell her that she must stay in the marriage, while she died a further death every day, year after year.
I was simply an ignorant young man, full of self-righteous ideas. This and later episodes of discovery educated me in the hardness of the human heart. But Jesus, of course, always knew.”
As we begin today, let me have you just think on this for a moment. The easiest thing for us to do in religion is to say, “That’s a sin.” Nothing is easier than making up labels calling various things sin. Once we’ve done that, we can go around sticking them to people. It’s especially easy for us to read scripture and then say, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me.” The problem there is in automatically assuming we know what God said! There are thousands of Christian denominations in America today, precisely because each one assumes it understands what God said just a little better than the others. And they frequently disagree with one another over a number of things. Worst of all, they all claim to be “following the Bible.” Never mind what this says about the lack of humility we often have when we approach the scriptures, let’s just focus on how confusing it is to discern what Jesus might have been trying to say. One of the reasons I have been so systematic in this series, and tried to show you that Jesus himself was being systematic as he preached through his Sermon on the Mount, is because if we assume one thought follows logically from the one before it, it will help us hear Jesus in context. And context matters even more than the words we say. I may say, “I love you,” but if you can’t see me as I say it, you don’t know if I’m speaking to my wife, reading a poem out loud, or talking to a taco.
Jesus speaks his words on divorce in a certain context. Because this issue is so controversial, I want to take a moment to set up this context for you. What have we learned so far in this series? First, in the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us about the kind of people the kingdom is open to, but he’s not telling us it’s not open to us unless we’re on that list. These are not rules for us to follow. His point is that the Kingdom is open to everybody, provided that they will cultivate kingdom hearts. Then Jesus comes right out and says, “If you want to live in this kingdom, you must be righter than the righest people you know – the teachers of the religious law.” From there he goes on to give a series of contrasts between what had previously been considered the standard of rightness, and a new standard he was laying out – the rightness of the Kingdom Heart. Two weeks ago we covered Jesus’ words on murder (it’s not enough to not kill – you have to deal with the anger in the heart that leads to murder). Last week we looked at what Jesus had to say about lust, or fantasized desire (it’s not enough to avoid illicit sex – you have to deal with the heart that wants to).