There are times when the bible confuses me. When the “do this and do that” seem to revert to The Law and lawyers and sub-clauses. Whilst at the same time being a place of the “new covenant”. The place and document of grace, of “having paid the price” and of “you are forgiven before.”
“Jesus said to the crowds, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” ‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 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.” Matthew 5:27-32
I give you Exhibit 5:27-32 m’lud. Another piece of draconian legislation. I put it to you, members of the jury, that this “Jesus Son of God”, far from releasing mankind from the burden of The Law through his death and resurrection, I put it to you that this “Jesus” simply saddled mankind with evermore demanding standards of behaviour – as in these verses. I put it to you that if mankind is ever to enjoy the fruits of “eternal life” it is ONLY at the cost of its ever increasing sacrifice and ever more demanding obligations TO “The Law”.
The notes for this morning admitted “these are difficult verses …” So why could I hear God Soft Hands Jesus chuckling merrily in the background?
“Paul – you ever been ten-pin bowling?” A few times Lord.
“And how many “goes” do you get to knock down all the pins?” Two balls.
“And how often do you clear the rack? How many strikes do you get?” Well, Lord – on the Wii at home – all the time. I am the “The Strike King” at home!! But in a proper lane with a proper ball – almost never.
“OK. So here we are in Matthew and reading 5-6 verses. Here we are looking only at marriage and long-term relationship and divorce. One pin out of ten. How many times do you go one-pin bowling?” Never – I wouldn’t waste my time and money doing that!
“So why get all frazzled over one “pin” in these verses? What about the other nine? Why not look at the whole rather than the parts? Why not embrace the whole rather than pick the whole apart? What fun is it to be saddled with “difficult verses” on “difficult issues” when you have the whole “ten-pin rack” in front of you?”
And so I stand back a little.
Do not commit murder? Don’t get angry in the first place. Do not break an oath? Do not make an oath in the first place! Eye for an eye? Go the extra mile without being asked. Love your neighbour/hate your enemy? Love everyone including your enemies. Tithing and giving? In private. Praying and showing off in public? Why would you want to do that. Wealth and possessions? Think about what that will give you long-term. Worry, worry, worry? Look around at what lives and breathes – I care for you in the same way as each petal on each flower. And so the list goes on. All the “ten pins” stacked and racked. And then here comes Jesus and “that” sermon …
Strike. Strike. Strike. Time after time after time. Strike. Strike. Strike.
And back to “divorce” – these “difficult verses …”?
If in my life and living I have the whole “rack of pins” in place – divorce becomes irrelevant! So does murder. So does so much of what we do and then prayer for forgiveness. The whole list of sins. The whole insidiousness of sinning. The need for Jesus to have those nails crudely bashed through those innocent limbs. The torture of those innocent internal organs all compressing slowly. Squeezing out innocent sacred life. Shedding innocent sacred blood.
All because we prefer to look at our own personal “rack” – and pick out the ones we do not like – see each one individually – see the ones we don’t like as an unnecessary addition. And then justify it like this …
Divorce? Well that is simply because we are incompatible. She gets angry with me. I get angry with her. She demands recompense for every slip I make. So I demand the same of her. And when I am needy she tells me to fix myself. So I do the same to her. And she always worries about so much stupid stuff. So I have to worry about the important stuff she never thinks about. And we both want nice things – but she refuses to go out and earn enough to make that happen. So we have a house full of stuff on credit. And that is just one more thing to worry about. I rue the day everyone said we were a perfect match. I rue the day I thought that to! What did I ever see in her! We need to live separate lives to get our lives back again. I want a divorce. Then I can be happy again!
And I look at Jesus. As I write these words He is not chuckling anymore. I see a wet tear in His eye. A soft sad look on His face.
“Give me a hug, Paul. I could do with a great big hug just now.”