ONE FLESH, PART II

One Flesh Part II

When you take those vows, God himself gets involved. To put it another way, it’s not just your marriage, it is God’s marriage: he is part of it; Jesus said so right here. So when you make decisions about marriage, you are not just deciding about your own life. Something bigger than yourself, bigger than your personal happiness or fulfilment is going on here.

If we take Jesus at his word, and trust him, we may have to learn that his blessings are found differently than we want, but we will receive grace and joy through them, nonetheless.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 66

 

Matthew #66 Matthew 19:1-12

Let’s revisit what Jesus said about divorce and marriage in Matthew 19:1-12:

1When Jesus had finished this instruction, He departed from Galilee and went to the region of Judea across the Jordan.2Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.3Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds? ”

4“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,”5and He also said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

7“Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away? ”

8He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning.9And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10His disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry! ”

11But He told them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to.12For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matt 19:1-12, HCSB)

Last week we considered what this means for divorce, and what to do in various situations involving divorce. But I want to move off of that topic now, because the real point here is not divorce, but marriage. In marriage God creates a one-flesh entity in the spiritual realm. We looked briefly at this last week, but I want to revisit it in depth now. So, to reiterate what Jesus said: First, marriage is part of God’s original plan and intention at creation. To put it plainly: God created marriage, and he has purposes for it. Second, marriage is made for “male and female.” If you don’t like it, don’t get angry at me – I am merely repeating Jesus’ words. Third, Jesus says that in marriage, God somehow mystically joins the man and the woman into one entity. The book of Genesis calls this “one flesh,” and so does Jesus. Finally, Jesus says that since God created marriage, and somehow joins the man and woman together into this one-flesh entity, that human beings should not undo it.

There is a lot here, so I’ll just jump in. Jesus claims that God established marriage at the same time he created human beings. From a logical standpoint, if this is true, we should find that virtually every culture in the history of the world has some sort of idea of marriage. In fact, this is exactly what we find. Some cultures have allowed men to have more than one wife at the same time, some tiny fraction have allowed women to have more than one husband at the same time. But every single culture in the world has some idea that men and women should be joined together in a lasting agreement, and that this joining is the basis for having children and creating stable families. It is only extremely recently that this idea has been questioned, and only then in one set of cultures that derives from Europe – what we might call “Western Culture.” In most cultures of the world even still, people believe that children should be born to married parents, and that marriage is an important thing that should be honored, and not looked upon casually. In short, history bears witness to Jesus’ claim that marriage is universal to human beings.

Now, I want us to take a close look at this business that in marriage, God creates a “one-flesh entity.” First, we cannot escape the fact that sex (between a married couple) is central to this idea. If you go back and read Genesis chapter two, there is no doubt that this was part of what it meant to become “one flesh.” Paul takes this for granted when he is writing about sexual morality in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. Jesus also makes it clear here, because he says the one thing that destroys this “one fleshness” between husband and wife, is sexual immorality.

Sex is God’s gift to seal and strengthen the one-flesh entity that He calls marriage. It isn’t just a bodily function, like eating or sleeping. It has the power to create and strengthen a spiritual union. That is what it is made to do. That’s why the bible talks so much about sexual issues. This all means two things: that sex belongs only in marriage, and also that sex does belong in marriage – in other words it should be a part of every marriage. It is powerful thing that can help your one-flesh union with your spouse if you make use of it in marriage. It can tear your marriage apart if you ignore it, or take it outside of marriage.

But the one-flesh unity is more than just sex. As I have said, Jesus describes it as a spiritual union. My wife Kari and I are not just individuals any more: we are part of something that God has got involved in; something bigger than just ourselves. This is tremendously important for Christians to remember. When you take those vows, God himself gets involved. To put it another way, it’s not just your marriage, it is God’s marriage: he is part of it; Jesus said so right here. So when you make decisions about marriage, you are not just deciding about your own life. Something bigger than yourself, bigger than your personal happiness or fulfilment is going on here.

Our culture suffers from a number of extremely powerful, extremely common, delusions about love and marriage. We believe that love is a feeling. We believe that this feeling of love cannot be resisted, nor (so we believe) can it be created where it is not already felt. We believe that love is about feeling complete and fulfilled with another person. We believe that the point of love and marriage is our own personal fulfillment and happiness. We believe that out there somewhere is “the one.” By this, we mean “the one person who was made for me, who will bring me that feeling of love and fulfillment.” Some people don’t get married for fear that they may not yet have found “the one.” Others get divorced, sure that they married “the wrong one.” Sometimes, the only reason couples stay together is that they are afraid of ending up alone, but they go through a lifetime doubting whether they married the right person.

Since Western culture has come to believe such things, marriages are no longer honored or valued, and divorce rates have risen to around 50%, while unwed parenthood has also risen dramatically. The result is children who do not have the emotional stability and security that comes with being in a home where both parents are married to each other. The result of that has been increased emotional distress, increased drug use, increased violent crime, and increased poverty. I am not making this up. Long term studies on divorce and parenthood have proved these things since at least the 1990s. Once again, I am not trying to make anyone who is divorced feel badly, and of course there are exceptions – obviously, not all children of divorce turn to drugs etc.. I am merely trying to make the case that perhaps Jesus knew what he was saying when he said “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” Our culture is falling apart in all kinds of ways, and the failure of marriage has a lot to do with it.

Let me point out something that 99% of Christians today seem to miss when they read this passage. When Jesus tells these people that marriage is a one-flesh entity created by God, something that should not be separated once joined, he is talking to people who are in arranged marriages. Very, very few people in the time of Jesus chose their own spouses. Even those few who had the opportunity usually made the choice mostly based upon financial considerations and social pressures, not love or attraction. I think it would be quite safe to say that fewer than 1% of the people at that time married “for love.” That’s correct: They didn’t even get to choose their own spouses, they never even got to seek “the one,” and yet Jesus says: “God has joined you together into a one-flesh entity; don’t separate it.” Let me put it this way “the one” for you is the one you are married to right now.

This is tremendously important. Marriage isn’t all about you. God has bigger things in mind. Frequently, God uses our marriages (if we let him) to help us grow, and growing is usually a painful process. If we let it, marriage can teach us true unselfishness. It can show us how to love someone even when they don’t deserve our love. It can teach us to serve another without reward. In marriage, we can learn patience, and self-sacrifice, and compassion and forgiveness, and communication, and endurance. In marriage we develop character.

There can be a lot of fun and reward in marriage, too. But the things I’ve just mentioned usually come with struggle, effort and sometimes pain. Both the fun and fulfilling, and also the struggle and pain, are part of God’s one-flesh plan.

For many centuries, people knew that even in arranged marriages, love could grow – even what we might call “romantic love.” There is song from the classic musical, “Fiddler On the Roof.” In it, the main character, Tevya, sings a song asking his wife, “Do you love me?” They were in an arranged marriage, and had never even met before their wedding day. The conclusion of this sweet song is that they learned to love each other.

I don’t care if you are in an arranged marriage, or if you made a mistake finding the “the one,” or even if you actually found “the one”: you still must learn to love each other, and you can learn to love each other. Part of God’s plan for your marriage is to make you more holy and loving, and this absolutely means that at times, you will be made also uncomfortable. But there is also great reward in learning to love your spouse, and building on the foundation of God’s one-flesh unity.

Now, when the disciples hear Jesus’ words, and realize everything this means, their response is:

10His disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry! ”

11But He told them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to.12For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matt 19:1-12, HCSB)

I want to make sure and clarify something. When Jesus says “Not everyone can accept this saying” he means the statement “It is better not to marry.” I think this becomes obvious by what he says next, which is to discuss people who do not marry. The word “eunuch” here refers to a man who has been castrated – that is, his testicles have been removed. Some ancient cultures did this to certain boys because it made them unable to reproduce. They were sometimes used to guard important women (because there was no danger of rape or an affair). Eunuchs were also sometimes used as government officials, because they would not have a conflict of interest between their family and their duties.

Jesus says: “not everyone can live like a eunuch.” He means obviously, not everyone can voluntarily be unmarried and celibate. Jesus mentions three kinds of eunuchs Some, says Jesus, were born that way: meaning some people were born with less of a “drive,” and they can be content without getting married. He may here be also referring to homosexuals, who do not have a strong desire to marry the opposite sex. In any case, he is speaking of them figuratively as “eunuchs.” These people would still have all their “equipment” so to speak. Others, he says, have obviously been made that way by men. These are the typical eunuchs of Jesus’ times, the ones who (in those days) were taken and castrated. Third, he says, some have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. These are people like the apostle Paul, or Jesus himself, who deliberately chose to remain single and celibate so that they could better serve God. When Jesus says “Let anyone accept this who can,” what he means is, if you can go through life celibate, than do so, and use your singleness for the kingdom of God. If you can’t, go ahead and get married. Paul reiterates this very thing in 1 Corinthians 7:

6I say the following as a concession, not as a command.7I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one person in this way and another in that way.8I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am.9But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire. (1Cor 7:6-9, HCSB)

 

25About virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I do give an opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.26Therefore I consider this to be good because of the present distress: It is fine for a man to remain as he is.27Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.28However, if you do get married, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But such people will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. (1Cor 7:25-28, HCSB)

Paul is saying that you have basically two options: You can get married and become one-flesh with your spouse, or you can remain single and celibate (for those who don’t know, “celibate” means “not having sex with anyone). He is basically reiterating what Jesus said in Matthew nineteen.

It used to be that Western Culture recognized the single-celibate lifestyle as legitimate and normal. There was a place in society for the forever-bachelor or the forever-spinster. Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Clara Barton (founder of the Red Cross), Jane Austen, Susan B. Anthony and Florence Nightingale are a few famous women who remained single for a lifetime. Besides Jesus and the apostle Paul, famous “lifelong eunuchs” among men include Beethoven, Thomas Aquinas, Henry David Thoreau, Isaac Newton and both Orville and Wilbur Wright. In recent times, a very wise and insightful Christian thinker and writer was Henri Nouwen. Towards the end of his life, he admitted that he was a homosexual. However, he chose to remain “a eunuch” for the sake of Jesus, and did not regret the choice. As a single man, the time he put into reflection, study and writing was a great blessing for the kingdom of God.

In contrast to the teaching of the bible, I recently read an article on the Huffington Post that described “twelve [different] terms that are related to sexual and romantic identities.” We used to have just people. Then we had “Straight” and “Gay.” Then we went to LGBT. Now, according to the Huffington Post article, we are looking at LGBTALDPZ and several more. If I had read that article fifteen years ago, I would have thought it was humorous satire, something like an Onion piece. However it is not. Unfortunately, there is no way to reconcile this. The bible teaches us to aspire to either lifelong marriage, or lifelong celibacy. Of course there is forgiveness and grace and comfort for us when we fail, there is hope of healing and wholeness when are broken, but we need to remain clear about the standard.

I’ve focused a lot on the negatives here: marriage isn’t about your happiness; if you want to be single then you must also be celibate; we are going against the grain of the culture, and so on. But I am convinced that the Lord gives us these commands because he also has tremendous blessings for us when we live by them. If we take Jesus at his word, and trust him, we may have to learn that his blessings are found differently than we want, but we will receive grace and joy through them, nonetheless.

 

Thanks again for making use of Clear Bible.

I want to remind you again that we are a listener-supported ministry, and that means, first and foremost, that we are supported by your prayers. We need and value your prayers for us.

Please pray that this ministry will continue to be a blessing to those who hear it. Ask God, if it is his will, to touch even more lives with these messages. Ask him to use this ministry in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please also pray for our finances. Pray for us to receive what we need. Please pray for us in this way before you give anything. And then, as you pray, if the Lord leads you to give us a gift, please go ahead and do that. But if he doesn’t want you to give to us, that is absolutely fine. We don’t want you to feel bad about it. We want you to follow Jesus in this matter. But do continue to pray for our finances.

If the Lord does lead you to give, just use the Paypal Donate button on the right hand side of the page. You don’t have to have a Paypal account – you can use a credit card, if you prefer. You can also set up a recurring donation through Paypal. We can make this tax-deductible if you just mention that it want it to be so in the “note” part of the transaction.

You could also send a check to:

New Joy Fellowship

917 Canyon Creek Drive

Lebanon, TN 37087

Just put “Clear Bible” in the memo. Your check will be tax-deductible.

Thank for your prayers, and your support!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s