What’s permanent? At best, I have a couple of decades left to understand what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. Life is brief. What’s beyond?
Nothing, according to some. It’s over when we die. That’s what Sadducees believed back in Jesus’ day. They were aware that others were dying to meet their loved ones in the afterlife, but even in this life relationships are complicated. We lose friends when they break up with us or move away. Even the most treasured and stable relationships end when death takes someone. People remarry. So, what relationships survive into the afterlife?
Continue reading “Can there be a resurrection when our relationships are so messy? (Matthew 22:23-33)”
Have you experienced divorce as an adult, or as a child? In your family, or a friends’ family? It’s heart-rending. Your world is ripped apart. In the time of your deepest need, you find family and friends turning away.
That’s why it’s so confronting when religious people use it to impute guilt and failure. It wasn’t something Jesus raised as part of his kingdom agenda. Judean Pharisees used it to paint Jesus as an idealist out of step with Scripture:
Matthew 19:1-3 (my translation, compare NIV)
1 When Jesus had finished those messages, he left Galilee and went to the parts of Judea in Transjordan. 2 Sizeable crowds followed him, and he took care of their needs there.
3 Pharisees came up and tested him by saying, “On what grounds can a man divorce his wife? For whatever reason he wants?”
As they said, it was the man who held the power in the ancient world. Jewish legal code gave the woman some rights, insisting she receive a formal divorce document rather then being dumped with no status or opportunity. It also banned temporary divorce, so a man couldn’t try someone else and then return.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 proscribed the how of divorce, but not the when. That left the rabbis arguing over the grounds for divorce. Rabbi Hillel supported divorce for any reason, whereas Rabbi Shammai supported divorce only if the marriage was already ruined by adultery. The Pharisees tried to draw Jesus into this debate. They weren’t asking if divorce was okay, since their law was clear about that. The question was when divorce is okay: only when one party has already wrecked the marriage (Shammai’s view), or for any reason (Hillel’s view)?
Instead of arguing the grounds for divorce in Deuteronomy 24, Jesus redirected them to the grounds for marriage in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24:
Continue reading “Can I have a divorce? (Matthew 19:1-12)”
To us, history can feel like a war story. To God, it’s a love story. Not a cheap coming-of-age novel, a fully-fledged romance of love overcoming tragedy. Continue reading “The divine romance (Ephesians 5:31-32)”
The gospel is good news … if it works. We announce Jesus as the Saviour who ends our hostilities and unifies humanity (Ephesians 2:11-17). How is this working out at your place?
Continue reading “At home with the gospel (Ephesians 5:21-33)”
So what’s it like at your place during the lockdown? Too quiet? Too noisy? Bored kids? Angry adults? Binged the whole series already? Missing friends? Missing income?
The goal is to keep safe at home, but home is not a safe place for everyone. Our tensions are stretched by fear. If your place is fine, spare a thought for those who are struggling. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. For men it’s about one third that rate. So, if your church has 200 adults, 33 of them will have experienced partner violence. Know who are they are? How are they doing? Continue reading “Supporting families during lockdown”
Does Jesus really expect me to stay in this difficult marriage?
Open Matthew 5:31-32.
If your life or the life of your children is in danger, get out now. Don’t allow feelings of insecurity to overpower your safety. Don’t let the threats to hold you prisoner. Abuse is the antithesis of Jesus’ kingdom vision. You have your answer. Stop reading, and go now.
But most times when I’m asked about divorce, that’s not the situation. People want to know on what grounds they can get a divorce. Divorce was legal in Jesus’ day, as it is in ours. Problematically, the Torah wasn’t specific about grounds for divorce. Deuteronomy 24 just said that when there was a divorce, the ex-wife should receive a legal certificate to protect her rights. She was then free to marry someone else. As you might expect, this left the door wide open for discussion about acceptable grounds. Continue reading “Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)”