Did Jesus really say that Moses was wrong when he allowed divorce? I guess the answer to that question would be not exactly. He simply affirmed the reasons why Moses allowed divorce while at the same time he affirms God’s plan for married life. The plan designed by God is that the two become one. Our problem with marriages in the 21st century is that we fight to retain our independence. The modern vision for successful marriages is that it is a partnership where the two are equal in all things.
Yet God has given us a vision of marriage that is totally different. Marriage in the eyes of God is 100% for the good of the other. Christ and his bride the Church is just one of the scriptural images of this total giving of self for the other. The truth is that the readings we have today are not totally about divorce. They are however, about our inability to stop serving self. These readings show us another one of the ways the world distracts us and leads us away from becoming all we are called to become. It shows us this inability to give of ourselves in our marriages and in our inability to give of ourselves to Christ.
Since marriage is the vocation where the majority of us find ourselves, Jesus does tell us that success is found in dying to self and serving someone else. But since more than 40% of marriages fail it is obvious that we are not learning to live within our marriages as Christ intends us to live. So it is important for us to take a good look at our marriages so we can become all God intends as spouses and as disciples.
I would say that most marriages find a comfortable place of coexistence. We reach a place of comfortable togetherness but at the same time find ourselves enjoying separate lives. The general description for this existing together is “if it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it.”
Yet in all other areas of our lives we continue to strive to improve. We work hard to advance in our careers; we exercise to improve our health and self-image; we update our homes and our wardrobes to stay modern; we take classes to improve and challenge our intellect and so on. But when it comes to our marriages we say they are good enough so let’s not do any more than what we are doing. We take this same approach to our journey of faith. We are comfortable so why do anything more or change what we think works.
God tells us in his word that “we perish for lack of knowledge.” Or in one version it says we perish for lack of a vision. God’s vision for marriage is one hundred and eighty degrees from secular world concepts of marriage. First the world today is telling us not to marry but just commit your selves to one another. Then the world tells you that if your do marry you must maintain your independence. Then it tells you that independence means you need time away from each other; you need to maintain your financial independence and freedom of expression and experimentation.
God says “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (LK. 17:33). That describes marriage life according to God. Marriage is giving up what we most desire for the sake of the other. Discipleship is also giving up what we most desire for the sake of following Christ. We cannot die to self as disciples without dying to self within our marriages.
Today we do recognize that marriages have failed and at the root of failure is a lack of dying to self by one partner or the other. That is the reason Moses allowed divorce – hardness of heart Christ called it. That hardness of heart remains today and because it remains marriages continue to fail.
I invite you who are married to examine those areas in your life where you can do more for your spouse. To love your spouse by giving up something you desire in order to do something that includes them. Find something to do to reignite the passion of your youth. Stop doing those things that do not honor your spouse or your commitment to them. Then begin to pray and invite Christ to show you how to die to self in order to love your spouse as he loved his bride the Church.
If you are not married, but are considering marriage, then begin to cultivate in your dating relationship the concept of giving for the sake of the other. If you are single and not dating but are open to where God is calling you, begin to serve others in your family to learn the joy in giving of self for others. Shock your family by your willingness to do what is best for the good of the family instead of what is best for you.
Then take the concept of serving others to your church community and offer your gift of self to influence others to discipleship. Did Jesus really say not to divorce…not really but he said to divorce the world’s concept of serving self by dying to self.