Matthew 19:10-12 (NIV) The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Jesus had just shocked His closest followers by opening their eyes to the nature and, as far as God is concerned, the permanence of marriage. Far from being a contract that could be quickly and easily escaped from, God designed marriage to be a permanent covenant relationship between a man and a woman, lasing until the death of one spouse or the other. Divorce was a strictly human invention and, except in the case of proven adultery, totally unacceptable to God.
But that was not the way that divorce was seen in Jesus, day, even by the rigidly upright Pharisees. And it was definitely not the way that the disciples had been taught. Most people were quite relaxed about marriage, because they had been taught that no less than Moses himself had built an escape hatch into it. If it didn’t work out, or if they became disenchanted with the wife of their youth, they could simply give her a properly constructed certificate of divorce and try again.
But Jesus’ adamant view that the only valid reason for divorce was proven adultery, and His clear statement that divorcing for any other reason and remarrying was adultery, caused them to gasp. One of them actually stated, in effect, “If I can’t just get out of an unhappy marriage, it’s probably better to not get married at all!”
But Jesus had a second shock waiting for them. He agreed with the statement! He did not put marriage down (after all, it was God’s idea!), but simply stated that if someone was able to live a solo life, whether they had it compelled on them like natural or man-made eunuchs, or chose it for themselves so that they could serve God and His kingdom wholeheartedly, then they should choose that path, like Jesus Himself (and, later, Paul – cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
It is important, though, to keep both sides of the argument in full view. Nowhere in the Bible does God forbid His people to marry, not even priests (although priests did have more stringent guidelines – see Leviticus 21:13). But those who choose to get married must choose wisely, and not allow themselves to enter into a marriage with an unbeliever, or a marriage with a person that they will later regret. Marriage is a very serious thing in God’s sight, and He intends that each marriage among His people will be a bond for life. But, at the same time, there have always been those who decide to not get married, and instead serve God with their whole life. Both of these life decisions are within God’s will, and both will receive His blessing if they are lived out in accordance with His commands.
Father, it is easiest to see this from one side or the other, and wonder why the other side sees it the way they do, instead of simply being supportive of whichever path that person has chosen regarding whether to marry or not. Help those of us who are married to do marriage like You designed it to be. And bless those of us who have chosen to not marry with a clear sense of Your presence. Amen.