31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Let’s face it, this is a difficult Gospel for many of us…there is not much lee-way here, little room for interpretation, as Jesus is very clear about his thoughts about divorce; and while this Gospel can make those of us who are divorced feel a little uncomfortable we do not get to cherry-pick what works and doesn’t work for us from the Gospels…we have to face them head on!
Knowing that I am divorced, a friend of mine once asked me how I would preach on this Gospel, and I told her (half joking) that I had it covered: as according to Jesus, the reason for my divorce was the only one he noted as being ‘acceptable’ (yay me!).
Today I realize that I was wrong: I am not completely in the free and clear as I have been in a long term relationship with divorced woman, which leads me back to the same adulterous trap…even though I never cheated on my ex-wife, and have remained faithful to my girlfriend!
It really doesn’t seem fair to me to be called an adulterer for being faithful to two different women (at two different times). Yet, as I noted, we do not get to pick and choose from the Gospels, nor do we get to decide what teachings of Jesus’ to follow, and which to leave untouched because they are uncomfortable for us.
However, we CAN put a spin on this Gospel message!
Usually when we think of putting a ‘spin’ on something, we can equate that with creative lying: a way of avoiding or “changing” the truth to make it more convenient for us!
However, this is not what I mean when I suggest we put a spin on today’s Gospel, we can take into account the time and culture in which Jesus said these words, and look at how his words can speak to us today in our time and culture. While my marriage ended in part (but not entirely) due to actual ‘unchastity’, there are many ways to become unfaithful and to break the trust and love that can keep a marriage healthy.
‘Unchastity’ can come in the form of verbal and physical abuse, disrespect, addiction (and all the joy that comes along with it), loss of affection and compassion, etc. There are so many ways that a relationship and trust can be broken between two people who at one time were so close. By broadening the definition of ‘unchastity’ we can put a good ‘spin’ on these words of Jesus…
Staying in a abusive and/or a relationship that is broken beyond repair is not good for us, nor is it good for our children, friends, family, or even our ex’s. I do not believe that God wants us to be in pain, but would rather have us be happy, joyous and free to love each other, and to make Christ known in our world. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that God would consider us sinners for taking care of ourselves and our families. I also find it hard to believe that we would be considered as sinners for finding a relationship that works, providing us with love, hope and compassion.
That said, I have been chastised and even condemned by some Christians for being divorced, even when I pointed out that mine was “acceptable”; and even though I tried to make light of these comments, it still bothered me, just as it hurt my feelings when I was told that my daughter needed both parents in order to grow up strong and healthy! I tried to remember that most of these people meant well, and that they could not know of the damage that staying in the marriage would have caused to us all?
And for those who did NOT mean well…there is always forgiveness…as followers of Christ we are called to forgive, and that includes those it may be hard to forgive!
This forgiveness we share is for each of us as well! While I do not believe that it is not a sin to have been divorced or to have found a healthy relationship with a new partner…there can still be guilt: this would explain why those negative comments bothered me so much…as I am prone to rumination and second guessing myself…and I have also been hard on myself for the divorce and for the job I have done as a single parent!
The good news here is that while we may struggle to forgive ourselves, God already has! All we need to do is remember that we are immersed in grace and embrace the forgiveness that surrounds us as a free gift, and then move on with the help of the people around us. Once freed from our own guilt, we are free to be the best parents we can be (even if we are not always perfect parents), and the best people as well!
Living in the light of God’s forgiveness and love, we are called to carry this light with us in all that we do, by sharing the in the light of Christ—we are giving hope to those who struggle with the loss of a relationship, the loss of trust, and may be feeling like lost sinners and not equipped to be single parents!
For the light that we carry is the light of God’s love that will never leave us or betray us, something we can never lose…and will never break our hearts…as it is this light that calls us to wholeness and the joy of living, and raising our children as single (or any other kind of) parents!
And it is this light that carries the message that us we do not face any of these challenges alone…and that is a message that cannot be spun!
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for bringing the Gospel to us right where we are, telling us that while there are many ways to break a relationship and destroy trust, it is your words that bring us hope and healing…NOT condemnation and despair! Thank you for sacrificing your only son so that we may know the joy of true forgiveness; as parents we know that this was not an easy gift to give! Help us to live up to this gift, by carrying the light of your love with us wherever we go, and in whatever we do! Let us remember that this light can free us from the darkness of sin and guilt, so that we can be the best people and parents we can be! Help us to also share this healing light with our own children as they fall short of our hopes and your glory.