“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
It is interesting how quickly discussions about marriage can gravitate to conversations about marriages gone bad. Divorce, remarriage, fornication, adultery seem to be topics that work their way into the dialogue rapidly as we recall someone else’s recent divorce, betrayal or remarriage…maybe even our own.
Question: How often do we have conversations about what is truly great about marriage?
BEHIND THE CONTROVERSY
In this passage it is easy to become embroiled in the controversy that Jesus addresses among the religious leaders. When we speak of marriage we assume we are all thinking the same thing.
And so, we are automatically drawn to the controversial rather than the generally accepted. The religious rulers of Jesus’ day seem to have largely moved past discussions of marriage and gravitated towards divorce: a fertile field for debate and polarization across a wide spectrum of opinions. This becomes even more explicit in Jesus’ answer to their divorce question in verse 3 of Matthew 19:1-12.
“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,” God said (Genesis 1:26). In John 1:1-4 John speaks of “the Word”, Jesus Christ, who was there at the beginning with the Father and the Holy Spirit bringing about the creation in all of its grandeur. Mysteriously (to us) perfect singularity in purpose as One is now granted to mankind as man and woman unite to mirror the great Oneness, in whose image they are created.
So, it only makes sense that this mystery continues in mankind as man and woman unite in marriage:
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
When we descend into the distortions of God’s intention the process of dissention and controversy begins as we analyze the aberrations of God’s intent rather than dwelling upon the grand design. The religious rulers had been guilty of this very problem and Jesus goes right to the real problem: the heart of man.
THE DREAM OF ONE
Praying for all future believers, Jesus’ prayer on the night He was betrayed highlights this longing of God for a divine one-ness with those created in His image:
20 “…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [the apostle’s] message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
THE GRAND DESIGN
Jesus prayed that those who would believe in Him would be one, just as Jesus and His Father were one. This is why Jesus gave the glory that God gave to Him to those who believe, “that they may be one as we are one–I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23).
Taking the next step, Paul makes in clear in 1 Corinthians 10:31, everything we do is to be for the glory of God. Whether individually or collectively as the body of Christ, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21).
Now, what happens a man whose mission in life is to glorify God marries a woman whose mission in life is to glorify God? In their one-ness they now work together to glorify God in their marriage and, in the process, become the mirror of divinity that God intended at the beginning. They, too, become one in marriage as the Father, the Son and the Spirit are one as God. The natural outcome is that their marriage glorifies God as God intended it to do.*
THE GRAND HORROR
In this context there are at least two things that do not make logical sense any longer. First, the idea of adultery or fornication do not have a context. Second, divorce itself wars against the very divine intention of a holy God. “I hate divorce” God says (Malachi 2:16). When two God-loving people whose only desire is to glorify God come together as one, just as the Father, Son and Spirit are One, how can one even conceive of the dissolution of the marriage?
As Jesus would say later in Matthew 19:8, the only conceivable way it can make any sense is when God considers ‘your hardness of heart.’
CONCLUSION: THE HEART OF THE MATTER
In Matthew 5:27 and verse 31 the issue is not a matter of the law and fornication, adultery and divorce. It’s a matter of the heart. Two people united as one in the desire of their hearts for God’s glory do not live by the latest marriage controversy of the day or try to justify adulterous, lustful hearts. Rather, their focus is upon pleasing their God to His glory.**
* Thomas, Gary. Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage To Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy? (Zondervan, 2000).
** Mason, Mike. The Mystery of Marriage: As Iron Sharpens Iron. (Multnomah Press, 1985).