For better, for worse
A lady came to live next door, with her baby girl. She was of Asian origin, and recently divorced. Before long her ex-husband issued terrible threats, and fearing for the safety of both herself and her child, she finally relinquished the baby to his family’s care. It shouldn’t have happened under British law, but people with determination and power find ways to circumnavigate rights. I watched my neighbour decline into a downward spiral of disastrous relationships and poor health, as her status in British Asian culture reduced.
Add to that sort of scenario, a culture where women are uneducated and unemployable. where practically their only career option is prostitution, and you begin to see why Jesus had a problem with divorce (Matthew 5:31). He was speaking into a situation where men could legally just decide, for any reason they fancied, to simply relieve themselves of their current wife and go find another they preferred. Women had no say in the matter, and could be left unable to support themselves, and unlikely to find a suitable provider.
The cultural laws were badly flawed. But Jesus was in the business of reforming hearts, not society. If people saw marriage as a life-long commitment, then they would be more careful in their choice to start off with, and invest more effort into making it successful. An easy opt out made marriage into a disposable commodity, leaving terrible consequences for the powerless cast-off wife.
Today, in western culture, women do have more rights; but as my neighbour’s situation demonstrates, divorce can create dire problems. The solution is still the same as Jesus saw it – making marriage a life-long commitment, so couples invest their energy into making it work. Of course there will always be painful situations that have no such easy answers, and then we can only repent and thank God for his grace. His covenant to us is a life-long commitment, however we behave to each other.
As a Church, we need to teach people how to make the right choices about if and whom to marry. We need support for married couples to make strong relationships. We need to encourage and value those who are single, that they don’t feel pressurised into an unwise marriage. And we need to help those whose marriages have failed – it is not an unforgivable sin, and there are often disastrous consequences to work though. And of course, we need to comfort those who have been parted by death from their life-long partner.
In short, we all need help. We all need support. We all need prayer. What are you doing about it?