Receiving the Kingdom
Mark 10:2-16 World Communion Sunday
Jesus teaches on divorce
Last week spoke about the seriousness of our faith… quality of life being based upon our relationship with Jesus not about how we feel about things… its about what pleases God not us…
It seems to me that this passage that talks about the marriage covenant is a continuation of that same theme… the seriousness of our covenant relationship…
So while this is about marriage it can also be applied to our life of discipleship of which marriage is one relational expression…
If we take our relationship with God seriously we need to take our other relationships seriously… Marriage, parental, friendship, work…
Receiving the Kingdom… the kingdom of God is not based upon rules or laws; it is based upon relationships that bring about or live out God’s creative purpose (first and foremost our relationship with God, then with each other and then with those not part of the community of faith)… the rules or laws come about to help us… to guide us in how we are to best live out those relationships. So the question that we need to ask ourselves is: which is more important; the rules or laws that help us live out the relationships OR the relationships themselves? It seems to me that that is what Jesus is trying to get folks to understand… not only here but in other places in the gospel especially around Sabbath laws. It’s not that the rules or laws are unimportant—just the opposite; they form the boundaries in which we are to live out our relationships; but they should never take precedent over the relationship… The goal is to maintain the relationship if at all possible… to be reconciled to one another in our relationships.
In the case of divorce, that is not always possible or even healthy or safe—especially if the relationship is an abusive one (not only physically abusive… emotional or psychological abuse should be included here too). But even if we acknowledge the need to break the marriage covenant for reasons of personal safety, we also have to acknowledge that God takes all of our covenant relationships seriously and that the need to break the relationship is based in our human sinfulness… so divorce even for reasons of abuse should not considered lightly and any breaking of a covenant relationship displeases God and goes against God’s will and creative purpose… in other words divorce for any reason is a sin (hence Jesus’ words in our passage this morning from Mark). With that in mind we also need to remember that when we acknowledge our sinfulness and turn to God for healing and forgiveness, God is faithful and God forgives.
So when I read this passage that deals with divorce, I don’t read it in terms of talking about the legal laws and scriptural laws regarding divorce but the seriousness with which God takes honoring our covenant relationships… and marriage is the most intimate of our covenant relationships. So much so that the Bible repeatedly describes our relationship (as people of faith) with God in the terms of marriage (both in the Old and New Testament). And ultimately, in all of those instances we (as the community and as individual people of faith) are unfaithful (what I call spiritual infidelity or adultery). We are the ones that have not honored the marriage covenant in our relationship with God (Let’s call it what it is… sin). So God would be justified in forgetting us or divorcing us from himself. (Justice being; getting what we deserve). But God chooses not to do that. God values the relationship more than laws or rules governing the relationship and so chooses to be reconciled with us… that is the seriousness with which God takes our covenant relationship…
There are certainly consequences to our actions when we fail to honor our covenant relationship with God (and each other for that matter)… there is spiritual and relational fallout and there can be physical, financial, and emotional fallout that we have to deal with as well.
But the good news is that God chooses to forgive and be reconciled with us through his relationship with us through Jesus Christ who reconciles us to God and God to us.
God places more value and importance on the relationship than the rules governing the relationship. But we should not try to evaluate this in terms of our modern western culture and society that consistently devalues and undermines the seriousness of the marriage covenant. In God’s kingdom there is no such thing as a no-fault divorce. The consequences are serious and the price to be paid is far greater than we have the ability to cover. So God in His mercy (not getting what we deserve) and grace (getting what we don’t deserve) covers it for us. God paid the bill, so to speak, on the cross with Jesus’ death.
Now some might get the wrong idea about how we should respond to this great gift of grace that God gives us… They may want to treat it like an open bar at a wedding reception… going back again and again never thinking of the consequence and not really caring because hey! I’m not the one who picks up the tab! That kind of attitude does not honor the relationship and the magnitude of the gift or the giver. In fact it lessens it. It is exactly the opposite of the nature of the gift and giver which is self-less and self-giving.
[The Apostle Paul makes a similar (if not the same) argument in his letter to the church in Rome, Romans 6:15; Paul states that because of God’s gift of grace in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, sin no longer has power over us and in his rhetorical argument he continues, “What then? Should we continue to sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By No Means!”]
God is serious about His relationship with us, our relationship with him, and our relationship with each other.
So what do we do about it?
Well, any successful marriage requires commitment… commitment to the covenant—to the promise we make to each other that no matter what… we’ll work it out. To me that’s what defines true love. It also requires that we look to meet the needs of the other in the relationship… if I’m doing my best to serve Connie and her needs and she’s doing her best to serve me and my needs… each of us striving to give of ourselves in that way then there’s going to be a lot fewer bumps in the road. We also need to make sure we talk to one another so that we’re on the same page and so that we can help each other to do what we need to do—let’s call that one accountability. And last but certainly not least we need to live out our marriage relationship as part of our relationship with God—not individually but together.
It’s no different in our lives as members of the body of Christ or should I say as the bride of Christ (Revelation).
For our relationship with God to be strong and vibrant we need to honor the seriousness of the commitment we make… that no matter what it takes we’ll work it out… that we will receive the kingdom of God as a little child… what that means is that we will put our utmost trust in God. And why not? God has put his trust in us… for us to respond to his love with our own. And How do we do that? We look to serve God’s wishes or will by serving each others needs and the needs of the community around us so that too can know God and God’s desire to know and love them.
We also need to communicate with God. Not only as individuals but even more importantly as his people… We need to listen to God by coming together to help each other hear and speak God’s Word to us… to help each other live faithfully in our daily relationship with God, each other, our families, our friends, our co-workers… we need to help each other be accountable to our covenant relationship with God and each other.