in september, i started teaching through the sermon on the mount on sunday mornings. back in my twenties, the sermon on the mount changed my life. my understanding of being a serious follower of christ was formed by the radical message of the sermon.
for whatever reason, i have always taken the sermon seriously. i see it as the manifesto of discipleship. the words are not spiritual cliches. they are concrete pictures of what a life of obedience is to look like. understanding and applying the message of the sermon has been a practical goal of my life. i suppose i have failed more often than i have prospered in my attempts to be faithful, but it has only strengthened my belief that the sermon is a blueprint for right living.
when i started this series, i knew we would eventually arrive at the sermon’s teaching on marriage, divorce, adultery, lust, and sexual immorality…
You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body 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 part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
It has been said, `Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:27-32
i made the decision that i am not going to take a 4-5 week detour to teach, specifically, on the topic of marriage and divorce. not because i don’t think its important…but because i want to stay with the flow and context of the sermon. and i want to finish this series sometime before the chargers reach the super bowl.
so the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at the topic of divorce right here. i’ll try to keep it short and to the point each day…taking small chunks of the issue. if you want larger resources on the topic, i’ll give you some of my most respected ones at the end of this discussion.
we all believe something about divorce.
what we believe has been shaped by multiple sources and experiences. if you are a child of divorce, it has affected you. if your parents had a warm, loving, permanent marriage, it has affected you. if your parents had a hostile and antagonistic relationship, it affected you.
if you grew up in the 60’s, your view of marriage and commitment looks different than someone who grew up watching jersey shore. it’s inevitable. and it’s powerful.
and not only do different generations view marriage and divorce differently, they view the bible differently.
forty years ago, the culture i grew up in had a certain respect for the bible and the teaching of jesus that no longer exists today. not that everybody believed the bible or lived with godly values…far from it! the majority of people have always lived with hostility to god. the “way” has always been narrow.
but the culture-specific values of my 1954 american birth and way of life, were built on a foundation of sensitivity and respect for marriage… as they were taught from the bible…or at least from churches that claimed to teach from the bible. it may not have been as rock-solid as the purveyors of traditional christian family values would have us believe, but it was still an environment much different from what we live in today.
but before we jump on the bandwagon that takes us back to the glory days when the christian way of life dominated the american landscape… (if it ever really did. we’ll leave that discussion for a later post. hah!)…let’s at least recognize that the teachings of the bible on marriage and divorce we’re also delivered in very culture-specific environments.
the old testament laws for the nation of israel…and the first century teachings of jesus and the apostles…are couched in a very different world than what we live in. not to mention the 2000 years of church tradition that wields great influence for how we think and behave.
no wonder our relationships are messy. so is our history.