Yesterday I discussed treatment of divorce by Jesus in Mark 10, and asked how the creation origin of divorce aids those facing real conflict in marriage and what the church should do about the problem of divorce.
Because marriage is God’s, and God designed man male and female to reflect his image on the earth, the union of husband and wife in marriage is also God’s. We sometimes think of marriage as simply a convenience that God grants, and that rules and regulations governing the marital union are there for our benefit. After a fashion, they are there for our benefit, but not the sort of benefit we prefer.
We prefer convenience and self-fulfillment, so that when our marriages no longer serve either of those purposes, the rules and regulations serve to give us a way out of them.
But Jesus doesn’t allow this construction of the marital union. He affirms the truth that when people are joined together they are “one flesh”, and what God has joined together, “let not man separate.” But what about real conflict within marriage? Here’s where gospel practice comes in, and where the accountability of the church comes in (should come in).
If the marital union is God’s, and each person in the marriage is God’s (“you are not your own, you have been bought with a price”), then God provides the means for the people in the marriage to preserve it, despite their own sometimes contrary desires. We preach about forgiveness, mercy, grace, longsuffering…but not when it comes to our wife or our husband. They after, all have had too many chances. So our flesh says.
But the Spirit says otherwise, and should we aim to act in a godly manner within our marriage, then our conflicts within in them should dissipate. We learn better ways to handle conflict. We practice seasoning our speech. We actually forgive and show mercy. In short, we display the fruit of our Spirit to — shockingly — our own spouse.
The church should be intimately involved with marriages. Parents of children contemplating divorce, the man and woman contemplating divorce, the pastor contemplating performing the marriage ceremony, the congregation from which the couple come, all should be greatly concerned with this proposed union. All those same parties should be interested in the health of that marriage after it is formed. And should things go badly between the married couple, all those same parties should be right there in the mix, counseling, exhorting, disciplining for the purpose of salvaging that marital union.
And, if necessary, churches should expel in discipline the one at fault in a divorce, should it be necessary. There are too many divorces among those claiming the name of Christ and claiming the Bible as authority in general, but there are certainly too many “Christian” divorces occuring in which no one suffers church discipline.
God has given us the gift of marriage, and has provided the means to keep them healthy. It is to our shame that we do not use them.