This weekend, God’s Word speaks to us about marriage and divorce.
One day a man came into his pastor’s office and said that he was sick and tired of his marriage. He said he didn’t love his wife, that he wanted a divorce! The pastor listened and simply replied, “Good!”
The man was shocked at his pastor’s immediate response! He had dreaded coming to his pastor, knowing that his pastor upheld marriage very highly and that divorce was only as an absolute LAST RESORT after many attempts to try and repair the broken relationship of the marriage.
But his pastor continued, “You know, if YOU feel that way about your marriage, I wonder if your WIFE might also feel that way.” The man admitted that he had not thought about his wife’s feelings for quite some time! Then the pastor challenged this man to join with his wife in getting a divorce… not from one another, but from the kind of marriage in which the two of them were involved.
The pastor asked, “What would it mean for the two of you to ‘divorce’ yourselves from that kind of marriage and to start building a new one?” The choice that this man faced was which kind of love would he choose, love of self (sinful divorce) or love from God and for his wife (divorce from a self-centered life).
This is the message behind this sermon title: “Everyone Should Get a Divorce” – we all need a “divorce” (whether we are married, single, divorced, remarried) from the sinful love of self – to the life-giving love from God and for others.
As Christians, we know that God’s will is always to SAVE a marriage (whenever possible) rather than to end it. God’s will is that NO ONE (neither husband, wife, children nor other family members) should have to suffer the terrible pain of divorce. But as Jesus acknowledges in today’s Gospel reading, divorce sometimes must be “permitted” because of mankind’s “hardness of heart” (sinfulness). God forbids divorce except for marital unfaithfulness (adultery or desertion) as we read in Matthew 19:9, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness (not just one time, but on-going unfaithfulness and refusal to be reconciled), and marries another woman commits adultery.” And 1 Corinthians 7:15, “If the unbeliever leaves (refuses to honor the marriage relationship, lives as if there is no marriage relationship), let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances.” Adultery and desertion are terrible situations – as some know from experience and many of us know from family and friends that have and are experiencing! That’s why, in God’s gracious wisdom and love, in an effort to prevent the pain and agony of “brokenness” God declared from the beginning: “what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:9)
Although the world we live in far too quickly considers divorce to be the solution to broken marriages, God’s loving will for us is that there be no divorces – “what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (v.9); and yet, “because of hardness of hearts,” divorces are not only permitted, but even necessary sometimes for the safety and welfare of the spouse and children!
When a person is diagnosed very early with heart problems, it would be unthinkable to even suggest that we might as well do nothing or end their life. Instead, we know that such a person needs immediate, special attention, possibly “radical surgery” to remove the hardened cells and then time and changes to become healthy again. If the hardness is not acknowledged (ignored or not dealt with), the hardness becomes worse and worse, ending in death.
This is the same with marriage. There are times when it is “hardened” because marriage is always made up of two sinful people. When these times come, the world’s solution is oftentimes “death and burial” (divorce), while God’s will is always healing and restoring. God gives us Godly pastors and counselors who are committed to helping married couples as well as those who are single, by bringing the “healing” Word of God; God’s gracious gift of confession and absolution; to every situation, no matter how bad or helpless it might seem.
These Christian pastors and counselors know that “Everyone Should Get a Divorce.” Certainly not from their spouse (if they are married), but a “divorce” from the sinful love of self which destroys relationships – whether with our spouse, in relation to children or any of our relationships.
Did you notice that the verses in Mark 10, doesn’t only tell us about Jesus’ teaching against sinful divorce, but it also includes a teaching concerning little children. When people were “bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them”, the “disciples rebuked them.” Apparently, the disciples, with their sense of self-importance, tried to send the little children away. Apparently they thought they were too important to be bothered with a bunch of kids.
“When Jesus saw this, He was indignant.” (v.14) There is no one anywhere; whether young or old; single, married, divorced – no one who is outside the vast bounds of God’s love!
God knew that our sinfulness separates us first of all from His great love and blessings (vertical relationships); and secondly destroys our relationships with others (horizontal relationships). That is why, in His boundless love, God sent Jesus to take all our sin upon Himself, to suffer and die for us, so that we might “live a new life.” We see this blessing given every time we celebrate a baptism; and we receive it also as Jesus gives us His true body and blood in Holy Communion for the forgiveness of sins. We have confessed our sins and received the Absolution; God, the Holy Spirit again today works in our lives through His Holy Word; God works in us a “divorce” from our sinful, selfish nature and re-creates in us a “new heart,” a heart and life full of God’s love that shows itself again this week in our relationships with others; our spouse (if we’re married) / little children in our lives / all others.
God’s Word of Law tells us that we should get a divorce from our sin-full, self-centered life of living only for ourselves; and God’s Word of Gospel assures us that God freely accepts us into the Kingdom of God as He “creates” in us a “child-like” faith.
A teacher asked her students to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Soon the little hands got busy drawing. Pictures emerged of firemen, doctors, sports figures, teachers, nurses, etc. As the teacher looked around the room she noticed one little girl just sitting and dreaming. She walked over and asked how the picture was going. The girl responded, “I’m having a hard time drawing what I want to be.” “What is it you want to be?” asked the teacher. She responded, “I want to be happily married, but I don’t know how to draw that.”
How would you draw – “happily married?” From God’s Word we know that First God has “healed” our vertical relationship with Him – sending Jesus to die on the cross to forgive us all our sins; and we also know that God also “heals” our “weak” horizontal relationships – with others around us – therefore, the little school girl could have drawn a cross to picture her dream of being happily married. The vertical speaks of God’s love in Christ coming to us; the horizontal speaks of God’s enabling power to help us in all of our relationships! And all of this because of Jesus our Savior!
I pray that you can join us this weekend for more of God’s gracious, healing and strengthening gifts of His Word and Sacraments, and that you are daily being blessed in your reading and being guided by God’s precious Word.