Sunday, April 3, 2022

Luke 16:18 and Divorce

 In doing a quick google search this morning, I saw that most of the articles/interpretations of Luke 16:18 make no allowances for divorce under any circumstances. They read this verse in isolation and therefore consider it a very simple teaching, so I wanted to add another voice to the conversation (in whatever capacity it has an impact).

We've been reading straight through Luke's gospel this Lent, and one of the themes that Jesus brings up again and again is that the law is important and still relevant, but PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE LAW. If someone seeks healing on the Sabbath, Jesus is going to heal them. If someone is hungry on the Sabbath, Jesus is going to feed them. The law is vital, but only insofar as it helps people live holy and righteous lives. If people adhere to the law in a way that harms others, they're not doing God's will - even if they can point to the exact chapter and verse where the law is written.

As Presbyterians, we believe in the total depravity of humankind, so it should be no surprise to us that some people abuse or manipulate their marriage partners. God sees this and weeps. God would NEVER ask a battered woman to stay with her spouse because of her vows, or a verbally abused man to stay with his, or vice versa. Likewise, God would never ask two utterly miserable people to "stick it out" just because of the law. The problem that Jesus is addressing in this verse is the tendency for people (i.e., men) to divorce their wife for any little reason - they didn't like a meal she made, or he found someone else more attractive, or he just got tired of her. This was especially a problem because women were so vulnerable in the patriarchal society that existed in Jesus' time, and they had no say in the matter. The Law is important and must not be taken lightly to suit our whims. However, if the effort to preserve a marriage makes life miserable for someone, it isn't honoring God. It may be adhering to the letter of the Law, but it's not honoring the intention of the Law.

Marriage is a serious and holy commitment. It should not be undertaken lightly, nor should it be abandoned easily. But there are situations where, after a great deal of prayer and discernment, divorce is the more holy and faithful choice. We are human; we make mistakes. We hurt each other, intentionally or not. Jesus gets that more than anyone. And God's kin[g]dom is a place of joy - how can we hope to bring it about if we're forcing each other to remain miserable? 


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