Divorce and Children
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
So they are no longer two, but one. v9No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together…. “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these..” Mark 10:9,14b
Parts of the Gospel lesson this Sunday touch some very sensitive part of the societal and human psyche at this age. It is about relationship in the most fundamental human level. Family relationship that focus on two sensitive family issues: divorce and of children.
A survey result was released recently revealing the significant and alarming increase of those living together as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage in the Filipino society. The survey showed that the main reason of this is economics. It is the heavy cost of getting married in the church or even a simple legal transaction at the Office of the Civil Registrar. According to the same survey it would cost at least 200,000.00 pesos to be married in the church with all the amenities of reception and coverage or documentation budget. One male interviewed who favoured living-in reasoned that if one choses to leave the spouse it will happen. Thus, no need to have the legal binding as husband and wife. Which I believe is beyond the point and meaning of living together as husband and wife under the law of man or the law of God we call marriage.
In the Christian belief, understanding and practice of the union of man and woman in marriage it is called Holy Matrimony. Holy Matrimony is one of the seven major sacraments of the mainline Christian churches. It means – the sacrament or the ceremony of uniting man and woman as husband and wife in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfil their vows.
While we accept the realities of the times wherein this kind of sacred union as established has been watered-down to conform with societal modes we as Christians and civil people continue to adhere to the good purpose(s) of marriage or the formal, legal and liturgical blessing of that union. It is intended for a life-long union between man and woman. We are all aware of the matter being discussed legally in the highest level that is the Senate of the Republic regarding the dissolution of this human institution which in the church is a Sacrament or a holy union.
Exigiting on the reading in our Gospel this Sunday, the Pharisees were not looking for guidance when they asked Jesus about divorce, they were looking for a means to trap him – and yes a way to circumvent the intention of marriage union as understood at that time. Jesus offered no grounds for divorce, with the possible exception of infidelity. Today many believe divorce is a good way to deal with conflict. Most of us have discovered, however, that interpersonal conflicts follow us wherever we go because they are only evidence of much deeper problems.
For us to understand better the point in the Gospel lesson from the Gospel of Mark let us take the following Biblical scholar observations on divorce:
God’s will for marriage is one mate, one marriage for life. To this Jesus gives an exception, namely, “marital unfaithfulness.” Marital unfaithfulness (Gk. Porneia) includes adultery or any kind of sexual immorality. Therefore, divorce is to be permitted when sexual immorality is involved. The following are important Biblical facts concerning divorce. 1) When Jesus criticizes divorce in vv 7-8, he is not criticizing a separation because of adultery, but a divorce permitted in the Old Testament in those cases where a husband discovered premarital unchastity after the marriage ceremony had taken place. God’s desire in such cases was that the two remain together. However, he permitted divorce due to premarital unchastity because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. 2) In the case of immorality after marriage, the OT law prescribed the dissolving of the marriage by executing both the offending parties (Lev. 20:10). This, of course, would leave the innocent person free to remarry. 3) Under the new covenant the privileges of the believer are no less. Although divorce is a tragedy, marital unfaithfulness is such a cruel sin against one’s mate that Christ states that the innocent party has a proper right to end the marriage by a divorce. He or she is free to remarry another believer. 4) Paul’s treatment of marriage and desertion in 1 Cor 7.12-16 indicates that a marriage also may be dissolved by the desertion of an unbelieving spouse. He further indicates that remarriage by the believer in such cases is not sin.
Taken as it is, I am of conviction that Jesus does not favour divorce because it is an evil remedy of an evil act— though divorce may be inevitable as a result of human failure of submission to a divine will with regards to man and woman union in marriage. And the resultant damage is on children.
As Jesus came to proclaim and establish God’s kingdom in this earthly realm, he used models how such be realized. And he used a child as foundational model of the realization of God’s kingdom. Receiving the kingdom of God like a child means accepting it in a simple, humble, trustful and wholehearted manner so as to turn from sin and receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, and God as your heavenly Father. And such could be directly connected to the divorce issue as part of the familial relationship failure in accordance to the ways of God’s kingdom.
For many of us memories of childhood are full of pains or incidents wherein we are not in control. If we were raised in a family that was out of control, where there has been problem in the relationship with our father and mother – or even neglected as a child, abused or exposed to domestic violence and dysfunctional behaviour, the lesson about divorce and children empowerment is as good as a cup of cold water after a desert trek.
Jesus tells us that in order to enter the Kingdom of God we must become little children, and this involves being powerless, humble, submissive. He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
In any society, children are the most dependent members. They have no inherent power for self-protection – no means to ensure that their lives will be safe, comfortable, or fulfilling. Little children are singularly reliant on the love, care, and nurture of others for their most basic needs. They must cry out even though they may not know exactly what they need. They must trust their lives to someone who is more powerful that they, and, hopefully, they will be heard and lovingly cared for.
Let may offer this prayer for all families and children:
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ shared the life of an earthly family I Nazareth: Bless, we pray, all families in this and every land, and the homes in which your people dwell. Grant to each husband and wife , child, grandchild, and grandparent a growing love for each other that their life may be a sign of Christ’s love in this sinful and broken world; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever. Amen.**