I didn’t go into much depth in the passages that deal with divorce on wednesday night and maybe I should have, but too often we want to know what the bible says about an issue and apply it or prescribe it to every situation we are confronted with in life. The problem with that mindset is that we often overlook the heart of God’s reasoning behind the response because we only want the answer. Jesus’s response to the pharisee’s question regarding the lawfulness of divorce in Matthew 19 is fascinating in and of itself. But what happens when we read it in light of the story Matthew includes beforehand?
Though the story is separated with Jesus traveling from one place to another, Jesus answers Peter’s question about forgiveness by telling the parable of the unforgiving servant. If you don’t remember this parable, read Matthew 18:21-35 for the whole recap, but the punch in the parable comes in verses 32 and 33, “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’” Jesus is essentially telling Peter, you forgive your brother as many times as he asks for forgiveness. But how do we reconcile this debt that is brought upon us? In this case, the financial debt of one man to another, but what about the emotional debt? or the physical debt? If we are honest, as Tim Keller points out, “No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator. If you have been robbed of money, the opportunity, or happiness, you can either make the wrongdoer pay it back or you can forgive. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.”
In returning to the issue of divorce, there is similar pain and debt that is accrued over time in marriage. It’s not that some marriages have no debt and others have heaps of debt; all marriages accrue pain, hurt, and consequently a debt that has to be paid. So, the cost of forgiveness is so large it’s seemingly impossible to give and “absorb” the debt. If marriage is a representation of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph. 5:22-33), and Christ gave up everything for the church to deliver complete redemption from death and forgiveness of sin, to reconcile us to himself; how selfish then do we have to be to not forgive others and not trust God for the strength and perseverance to love our spouse?
The beauty of the gospel is the cost of the God’s grace. It totally goes against the way we view the world and our relationships. We want marriage to be this painless, effortless, euphoric delight, and when that’s not the case, we run away. But God’s grace, though free, is not cheap nor effortless. Christ endured much pain and great cost, to bring life and the fullness of it to you and me, so that we might know what love til death do us part truly means.