The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Hen Blyth. In January and February each year I am free to indulge three of my passions - making marmalade, knitting socks and sowing the seeds for my garden in propagators on the kitchen window sill.  Bliss!

Matthew 19: 1-15

Divorce

19 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," 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.'

The little children and Jesus 13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Reflection

When the Pharisees tried to catch Jesus out he often answered with another question or by quoting the Bible. On divorce he quoted from Genesis 1. God created human beings as male jand female and designed them so that they could become "one flesh" through sex. Sex is a physical joining, but Jesus said it's also spiritual: God joins the man and woman together. In other words, sex is a big deal and the one flesh that's created should not be messed with. This is the Biblical view of marriage.

It takes discipline to remain faithful to one person for life. That's why God in his loving kindness let Moses give people a way out - but only if that "one flesh" covenant had been violated.

In 2021 in the UK we find this teaching really hard - and so did the disciples. They suggested it would be better not to be married - and I think Jesus' answer here suggests he agreed and thought singleness was a higher calling than marriage. He is clear that "one size does not fit all". But his answer is also reassuring because he acknowledged how hard this was - he knows the immense pain so many of us sometimes feel about our most intimate relationships.

In church it can be really difficult not to be married. For years I felt like a second class citizen and was ashamed because I was single. But the truth is marriage is hard work. My husband and I got married at 45 and 44 having been single and celibate up to that point. It was a difficult adjustment!

Let's not judge ourselves or each other. Whether we are single, dating, married or divorced, God loves us and his grace is sufficient for us. Praise God!


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