Summary: Marriage is God’s design, and his ordinance form before the fall. Sex is involved; sex is designed for union of man and woman in marriage
A man shall leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one
Have you ever sat in a marriage service and wondered, "When are those two actually married?" At what point are they man and wife together? After there vows is it? After the exchange of rings? Or is it when the priest says "I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife" and then, joining their hands says "That which God has joined let not man divider." Is it then, or maybe later when the marriage is consummated. An unconsummated marriage may be declared null and void
Let not man divide
At that point, I suspect, most couples have little idea of dividing. Though I do recall one bride-to-be on BBC Daytime Live saying something like "In five or ten years time we’ll both have changed. We’ll be different people, and feel differently about each other. That’ll be the time to split up and find fresh partners." I wonder how many they spoke for, and maybe voiced an unspoken agenda? Statistics show that one in three marriages ends in divorce. Divorce has become the soft option.
The scripture from Mark brings us face-to-face with the issue. What did Jesus teach? He was asked by the Pharisees, who were laying a trap for him, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? If he said "Yes" (which they taught) they could accuse him of being at odds with John the Baptist (whom the people respected). If he said "No" they could give him over into Herod’s hands. They were trying to get Jesus in the same type of Catch 22 as they later tried over the issue of paying taxes.
Jesus, in his reply, went back to the Scriptures as first principle. In this case his answer opened up the wider issue of sex and marriage. And indeed it’s only as we understand God’s intention in sex and marriage that we can understand the truly Christian position on divorce. So Jesus takes them back to Genesis and Creation, to those words we heard quoted by Jesus. Before I go further let me say this:
Much of the reading from Genesis 2 had to do with Creation. We read in verse 7:
The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.
Then in verse 22:
The Lord God made a woman from a rib he had taken out of the man
and then in verse 23 Adam says of Eve:
she was taken out of man.
Do we really believe that today? Don’t we think we know better? Don’t we know man evolved, and evolved as male and female from the apes? How many have read Desmond Morris’s best-sellers The Human Zoo and The Naked Ape ?
In that atmosphere little wonder that our teaching on sex, marriage and divorce has lost its roots! We think we are animals! Morris has actually written another book: Intimate Behaviour on a scientific comparison of human sexual behaviour and the ape’s.
But, do we really know? Is evolution truth? Is it not just a theory? Might it not just be that God did create humankind, and woman from man (which is not just a chauvinistic remark!) It’s only as we return to the truth of creation teaching that we can have a true understanding of the mind and will of God on sex, divorce and marriage.
We begin with sex. And let me say to begin with, and say it with emphasis that the act of sex is in God’s intention good. God took woman out of man; took part of man and then said "Let them be joined together" Sex is not something inherently sinful, dirty or to be ashamed of. And it’s important. The injunction and that is what it is, and which Jesus quoted stands in the creation before man had fallen. The command to sexual union comes from man’s original state of innocence. In that sate it was God’s good and perfect will and note, not just something for making babies. That of course is one glorious consequence. But the primary intention is purely to express the fact that just as woman came out of man, so the two belong together.
That brings me to a second point about sex. (by which of course I mean sexual union)
The man shall be united to his wife
The word which many modern translations have as ’united’ (and the Authorised Version as ’cleave’) is the Greek word proskolla’o: it’s a strong word and its root is in kolla which is the word for ’glue’ So the joining together of man and woman in sex is no casual affair. It commits them together. It cements them together. There’s an intensity in the human sex act which is not just biological. We call is ’making love’.