This reading is one of those that cause the pastor to enter the pulpit with some fear. The topic involves divorce and adultery. The problem is that quite a few people gathered will be divorced; the pastor might be too. While those having remarried could be fully blessed, the sin of adultery still hangs in the air. So how can we hear good news from this lesson? Especially, since the reading has so often been used as a mallet to hammer down the law.
As usual, we start from the perspective of power. Those days men had the power and women didn’t have it. Children? They had even less. One line of thinking held that a man could simply dismiss his wife with a slip of paper. No valid reason really was needed. The man had the power to do as he willed. The woman was often left destitute. This is how power works. It determines those who win and those who lose.
Jesus was challenged on this thinking about divorce. Really, the goal wasn’t to learn his belief as it was about trying to trick him in his words. Jesus said that Moses gave permission for divorce because of our ‘hardness of heart.’ Hardness of heart is essentially our determination to force life and relationships to fit under our power or control. So we physically abuse, emotionally abuse, withdraw, deny, intimidate, threaten, restrict, etc., in order to have dominion over the other. This struggle over who has the power and the consequences, is not what God had intended from the beginning.
From the beginning, the two are one flesh. They aren’t divided. They aren’t lopsided. They are one. We marry for love. However, we can also marry for power. We marry for lust. We marry for prestige. We marry for wealth. We marry for the ‘trophy’ at our shoulder. These latter reasons leave marriage as a transaction to serve our ‘hardness of heart.’ If we are going to treat marriage as hardly more than a transaction, then what we are doing is little more than adultery.
Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of heaven is to enter it as a child. The kingdom of heaven is the realm and rule of God. Do you want to enter into such a kingdom? Then be like a child. Remember, children were the ones with little or no power. Leave the quest for power and dominion at the door. Want the blessing God had intended for marriage from the beginning? Leave behind the ‘hardness of heart’ to control. Enjoy the oneness God wanted us to have in life.