Matthew 19 – Quit Quitting and Get Forgiven

Matthew 19 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs

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Today’s PassageMatthew 19

Just as I promised, the Pharisees kick off this chapter by putting Jesus to the test on the topic of divorce right after he’s healed a bunch of people. Some other stuff also happens in the chapter, namely Jesus embracing children as his disciples consider them a nuisance, and the rich young ruler. But we know Jesus is cool with the kids, and we already looked at the rich young ruler when he showed up in Luke 18, so today it’s Jesus on divorce.

It seems that lately I’ve seen more than one person on a blog or Twitter or such suggesting that today’s high divorce rates are to be celebrated, that people are getting out of bad relationships and refuse to be trapped in unhealthy situations. And I suppose they’d be right, if a loving God with a plan for our lives didn’t exist (which some will debate) and if we were generally good judges of what is actually healthy for us (which is manifestly false). But as Jesus points out, for as long as there have been human beings, God instituted this thing where a man and woman uniquely and exclusively join each other for life, especially the sexual part of life. He cites the account of humanity’s creation from Genesis, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5, Gen. 2:24), adding, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). According to Jesus, marriage isn’t a man and woman joining themselves to each other. It’s God joining the man and woman together.

And as I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to write next, I can already see the complications. Does God join together every marriage, even those between people who could care less about what he’s up to: say, atheists or maltheists or apatheists? And what do I, the consummate single guy, know about the messy world of marriage and divorce and remarriage? I don’t know anything from direct experience, but I know what Jesus taught: that divorce is a concession to human failings, and that “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). The fact that real life gets messy doesn’t erase the ideal as something to shoot for.

God knows we fall short of his perfect will for our lives. We’re all but guaranteed to botch whatever we do in some respect or other, but God’s plan for us takes our failures into account. He’s about commitment, about not bailing simply because the relationship gets tough or life gets ugly, about faith that he’s bigger than the crap we wade through and the crap inside of us. God intends to work within our relationships. Which do you believe is greater, your ability to make a mess of your marriage or God’s ability to improve it? Who’s the omnipotent one here?

And whatever you’ve botched, even if you’ve divorced your spouse and they’ve remarried or you’ve remarried and the whole thing’s a mess, God offers forgiveness. He loves you. He’s ready to work with you right where you are. Even if you make mistakes in the future–and if my experience is any indication, the odds are not in our favor here–God is ready to forgive those and keep working on you with you anyway. It’s not getting it perfect that saves us; it’s God’s grace acting through faith.

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