Epiphany 6 :: Divorce?

Matthew 5.21-37


Fragile Heart

Okay, let’s talk about divorce. Just to get the conversation started for those of you who have either been through it or know someone who has. Let’s be honest. Divorce is a rupture of a relationship. This rupture takes many forms: as many as there are people involved [which is just about everyone]. Infidelity oftentimes does not even enter picture. Over time relationships can suffer greatly if the couple involved does nothing to try and heal the rift. At other times, one or even both persons really try to make the relationship work, but nothing seems to help. Of course, many relationships end because of abuse or fear.

Divorce is a fact of life and people ought not be penalized if a marriage ends. Reconciliation and wholeness and restoration can occur, even if the relationship is over. And such is necessary if further relationships are to be strong. It is a tricky, even a messy, thing this business of relationship-living. They are difficult to maintain. They should be difficult to end.

Enter Jesus and his admonition: “I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Wow. Harsh words for us to hear today.

But back in Jesus’ day they were even harsher. You see, Jesus was trying to make it difficult for people to end relationships. Under Torah a man [not a woman!] could issue a certificate of divorce for just about any reason. Burn the breakfast? Out you go! You aren’t as pretty as my neighbor’s wife? Get outta here! And the woman had no recourse but to leave, hoping that someone else would marry her and take care of her [because her family certainly would not!]. His further call for a man not to marry a divorced woman, seems to continue to make his point: relationships are not to be entered into lightly; neither are they to be ended lightly.

You see, it’s all about relationships. In fact the whole of Jesus’ teaching could be summed up thus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, body, soul, and might. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Our relationships with one another are none other than a reflection of our relationship with God. Neither should be entered into—or ended—lightly!

Link to RCL Lectionary for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany.

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