• What God has joined…

    A conversation on singleness and marriage (Matthew 19:1-12)
    by John Buchanan, Chapel Hill, Hamilton

    CHANGES

    3000 years ago, around the time of David the King of Israel, marriage was held in high esteem. God’s command to be fruitful and multiply1 was taken seriously and marriage was the right way to go about it. If you were not married by the age of 20 (unless you were a student of law), then you were seen to be breaking God’s command. The plan was simple: get a mate and create.

    In contrast to marriage, women were held in low esteem. Women were chattels; a woman was the possession of her father and then of her husband and she had no legal rights. Divorce was allowed, but only for men.

    Go forward a thousand years to when Jesus walked the land of Palestine. The old ways were changing, as echoed in Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce2. In the old days, it was OK for a man to divorce his wife.

    Not any more, says Jesus. The status of marriage has been elevated. Later he went on to say: …from the beginning “God made them male and female.” And (Jesus went on to say), “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together3.

    The status of marriage has been elevated. There is also a change in the status of women, as per Paul’s pastoral counsel: The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife4.

    Married couples are indebted to one another sexually. To whom does the wife’s body belong? It belongs to her and also to her husband. Roman and Jewish men would have questioned this. “Of course my wife’s body belongs to me. But what do you mean, it also belongs to her?”

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