Psalm 119:145-176; Exod. 7:8-24; 2 Cor. 2:14-3:6; Mark 10:1-16
Jesus heightens the moral commands on all fronts. Hatred is the gateway to murder. Ogling is the gateway to adultery. Insults are the slippery slope to hellfire. Over and over again, He says that your interior moral compass needs a work-over, that simply not harming people isn’t enough to be “good.” It’s fairly easy not to murder: it’s far harder not to despise. Avoiding adultery means control over your zipper: but Jesus says to control your thoughts. Much, much harder.
And He does the same with divorce. All three synoptic Gospels record this statement, albeit it slightly differently. Mark seems to say that the person who files the papers is the culprit, Matthew says you can file papers only after adultery, and Luke simply says all divorce is illicit, period full stop. So, let’s start with the obvious: those signs on the highway that simply label all divorce as an abomination are, at best, not telling the whole truth. Matthew, again, gives a specific exception, and Mark a different one. And let’s not even get into the Torah, which He came not to abolish but to fulfill and which simply permits divorce without any moral judgment at all.
So, what are we to do with this complicated set of apparently mutually-incompatible teaching? I think it probably is best resolved by looking once again at Jesus’ consistent focus on the internal motivation, the habits of the heart. Just like I’m not supposed to despise my neighbor, so I’m supposed to do everything in my power to keep my marriage healthy and whole. “We grew apart…he’s not the man I married…we don’t communicate” are real problems, but I think Jesus is saying that we need to focus not on the problems of the marriage or the flaws of our spouse, but on our own interior moral compass. To ask myself how I’m living the virtues, to practice my patience, exercise more forgiveness, be more gentle and generous. To make sure that I’ve put my 110% effort into my marriage and not just my career. And in this stressful, anxious time? To make it 220%. Because in ten months, after millions of people have been cooped up in close quarters for a month or more, there are going to be a lot of christenings–and a lot of divorces. Try building a christening marriage by working on your own internal moral compass, even if you’re too old to have a baby, because the other option isn’t where any of us want to be next New Year’s.