MDR in the Mission of God 4 – The Ideal
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18-25 ESV)
Studying this subject is not easy, but it is easier to study it than to study it and share the fruits of your study with others. It is even more dangerous to teach it. Homer Hailey, a brilliant exegete, evangelist, and servant of the kingdom, was disfellowshipped because he wrote a little book entitled, “The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come To God” in which he concluded that men and women who had remarried after a divorce were not required to separate or divorce before becoming Christians. The teaching Hailey opposed is one of the bizarre dangers that comes from the warning I offered at the end of the last blog. Read Holy Scripture as a law code, and you are forced to demand a divorce as repentance for divorce.
The text I’ve been allowing to guide my study of the MDR literature in Scripture is Divorce and Remarriage, A Redemptive Theology by Rubel Shelly. I’ve been torn throughout this series by two competing drives. First, the drive to “come clean” and admit that I’ve been working through Rubel’s lectures and book, because I’ve felt like a plagiarist. Second, though, is the fear that his name alone will cause some of my most influential readers to turn away. But enough of that. If Rubel’s right on this, he is right regardless of what his name is — and most of the people who need to know the truth of God’s grace towards mankind have never heard of Rubel Shelly anyway. I hope you’ll keep reading.
I began talking about the difficulties of studying this subject for a reason — there is one danger in particular on my mind. Anyone who argues against the “traditional” (in scare-quotes because the tradition is relatively young) MDR stance is invariably accused of undermining marriage, devaluing marriage, and approving any and all divorce. It is the Christian version of the extreme ad hominem attack known as “Reaching for Hitler.” The first person in a debate who mentions Hitler or the Nazis or the Holocaust automatically loses — who can defend themselves once they’ve been painted with the Nazi brush? Likewise, I believe those people who scream “marriage-destroyers,” instead of treating with the evidence offered, should automatically lose.
DIVORCE is a destruction of God’s ideal. God’s dream for us is to live in a relationship of love much like the Father’s relationship with Jesus and the Spirit. Man and Woman are created to be partners of equal strength (ezer kenegdo, “helper fit for him” in the ESV) an unbreakable pair who love and support and energize and protect and strengthen one another from the day they covenant themselves together to the day they die.
“From the opening lines of Scripture, we are expected to understand that the relationship we call marriage is something more than a phenomenon of natural human social evolution. It exists by the purpose and activity of God. YHWH called the original human pair into a relationship of intimacy, but the text itself does not use the words of later exegetes and expositors. Where, for example, are words such as ‘permanent,’ ‘inviolable,’ or even ‘sacred’? In fact, the balance of the book of Genesis reflects nothing we would usually consider legal meaterial about either contracting a marriage or terminating one.”
Jesus points back to the Genesis model, but he does not erase everything that comes between. He “claims that the divine ideal was inherent in the original pair — monogamy, no possibility for a ‘romantic triangle,’ no mention of divorce, one man and one woman with eyes for each other only.” This is the dream of God for you and me – the perfect life. Perfect, complete and fulfilling and beautiful holiness has always been God’s will for his beloved creation.
Scripture, though, deals more practically than idealistically with divorce. Torah, in particular, pays far more attention to legal issues than to romantic ideals. But never forget — the direction toward which those legal statements point is always the Jesus Road — the radically compassionate and holy life that reflects the glory of God to the world.
in HIS love,