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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Word For The Week

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

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?"

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'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'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."


Matthew 19:1-12
One thing that I find to be exceedingly humouros is how people will scream at the top of their lungs that there is no such thing as absolute truth, that it is wrong for someone to try to assert their opinion as God's truth, yet when it comes to a heart-felt belief of theirs they immediately pirouette and embark upon a crusade to make sure that their prefered principle is followed from Alabama to Africa to Afghanistan. This does not mean that their prefered principle is necessarily wrong - it may well be a universal truth - but if one is going to assert universal truths then it would be a good idea to affirm the existence of universal truths.

This is the kind of problem that the Pharisees faced in our text today. They tried to trap Jesus, making Him take sides in a debate among the Pharisees between the schools of Shammai and Hillel regarding the correct intterpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. It was a classic case of missing the forest for the trees as the Shammai school believed that divorce was permissible for anything indecent - even something as trivial as burning dinner - while the Hillel school believed that divorce was permissible only for something indecent, specifically infidelity.

Jesus corrected both schools, faulting them for focusing on getting out of marriages instead of honoring God's intention for marriage - a man and a woman bonded together for life - saying, "Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 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'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Jesus didn't speak to the mechanism for bringing a couple together, be that dating or arranged marriages or eHarmony, but spoke to the life-long commitment between a man and a woman to become a "one flesh" union.

One problem that too many people experience is the divorce of power and responsibility, especially in the Western world. Too many people seek power and not enough people seek responsibility, because the Biblical motif is one of servant leadership, not the tyranical exercise of power. People are given "responsibility for" and not necessarily "power over" - this is what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 20:25-28 when He told His disciples, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

In marriage a husband is given responsibility for his wife, not necessarily power over his wife. He is responsibile for her well-being just as Jesus is responsible for the well-being of the Church (q.v. Ephesians 5:15-33). And just like Jesus does not coerce the Church into anything, a husband is to lovingly head his household - taking responsibility for all that goes on within the household. Now any effective leader will delegate responsibility to those who are better equipped to handle those areas, such that if a poet is married to an accountant then the poet would be wise to let the accountant handle the check book, but ultimately it is the husband's responsibility - he is accountable. In many ways this is akin to the Miller Lite Man Law commercial where they ordained the "You Poke It, You Own It" Man Law. Essentially, if you put you finger in a beer while carrying it back to the guys at the table then you own that beer. Likewise, if a man decides to have sex with a woman then he is responsible for her upkeep for the rest of her days. No exceptions.

People like the power, but they too often duck the responsibility.

Jesus' disciples understood exactly what He was saying and they weren't having any part of it, saying, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." To their thinking the only way to get their wives to "act right" was to threaten them with divorce and starvation - divorce and starvaton were closely linked back then because women weren't strong enough to be employable as manual laborers and the economy wasn't one where you could just go get an office job or work at McDonalds. The disciples, as most men of their day (and ours), were interested in having their wives serve them, in having their wives in a place below them or behind them, but Jesus corrected them by taking them back to creation - a woman's place is beside the man, not behind or under or in front of the man. The man is responsible for the woman, but the woman is his equal in dignity and stature even while he is the head of the household.

This order can be seen within the Godhead. Jesus is fully divine, yet He submits to the Father. The Holy Spirit is fully divine, yet He submits to the Son. There is a functional subordination within the nature and character of God, so it should come as no surprise that within God's creation He has ordained functionally subordinate roles for the family.

Not everyone will accept this.

Naturally, there are those who will not accept any kind of subordination - functional or otherwise - as they view themselves as prime movers, the captains of their fate, the masters of their souls. It is a cute fantasy that is easily debunked by one well-placed hurricaine or tornado, but it is a fantasy that people are entitled to maintain if they so desire, free will and all that. This is what Jesus meant when He told His disciples, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given" and "The one who can accept this should accept it." Much as it may gall some people, not everyone is called to salvation - some people are perfectly happy on their road to perdition and there is nothing that I or anyone else can do to deter or detour them - but those of us who are called by the name of Jesus Christ should accept the words of Jesus and live accordingly, fulfilling our responsibilities and exercising power from a loving perspective of servant leadership.

Man Law.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to know where your towel is,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 8:18 AM

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