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Sunday, March 11, 2018

“Throw Out the Woman!”

Matt. 19:1-11

The Pharisees come to Jesus with a question about marriage.  However it is not an honest question.  They are trying to trap him which is something they do often (Luke 20:20).  The heart of their question is “Can a man divorce his wife “for any cause?”  Divorce in Jesus’ time was essentially a male prerogative.  The Pharisees’ question is an attempt to draw Jesus into what was an ongoing debate about the grounds for divorce.  The Pharisees’ very question is a trap.  The Bible does not say that a woman can be divorced for any reason.  The clear implication is that divorce is a response to unfaithfulness.  There were Rabbinic schools in Jesus’ day with the broad view that a woman could be divorced for not being a good cook or even because the husband had found someone more attractive!

Jesus will have none of this.  He unmasks the view that women are expendable.  They could be thrown away like a dirty cloth.  Jesus goes back to the story of creation.  Eve was created as a special gift for Adam, “a helper as his partner” (Gen. 2:18).  Jesus makes it clear that it is God who unites a husband and wife.  Therefore no one should dare to separate them including the couple themselves.

Jesus intention here is not to be legalistic.  To those who struggle with failed marriages Jesus’ word always is “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again “(John 8:11).  We live in a world where many forces work against marriage.  These include our present immigration policies that have broken up families and separated husbands and wives for no other reasons than the persons were undocumented.

The perennial question all Christians face is, “Do we live under the authority of the scriptures or the authority of the world?”  Last Sunday, March 4, Grace’s session voted to support the Sanctuary movement in Montclair.  We need to care for the stranger (Deut. 10:17-19; Matt. 25:35).   Any policy which separates husbands and wives unnecessarily violates God’s standard for marriage.  The session has pledged to act within existing laws.  In the words of the Stated Mission of the Montclair Sanctuary Alliance, “We stand publicly against the injustices affecting immigrants and support reforms to promote fairness.”

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Gracious and loving God, whether I am a man or a woman may I be aware of the particular suffering that women have endured throughout history.  Give me the courage and grace to be the voice of those who have no voice.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.