Traditional Relationships


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, 2 Samuel 14:1-20, Acts 21:1-14, Mark 10:1-16

Time after time, Jesus taught his followers love, mercy, and justice supersede any technically correct but unjust applications of the law. He ate with “unclean” sinners (Mark 2). He violated Sabbath law to heal (Mark 3 and elsewhere) and declared the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. He declared all foods “clean” (Mark 7).  He criticized religious leaders for their hypocrisy (chapter all-of-them). Many felt like he was tossing out the rulebook. Until the Pharisees asked about divorce.

Suddenly Jesus was proposing stricter standards, saying Moses permitted divorce only because his people were stubborn and those who remarried committed adultery. Does this seem like an unexpected turn? Not if we understand that Jesus also calls us to integrity. At the time, a man could divorce his wife regardless of her wishes. After that he owed her nothing, and she could easily find herself begging in the street. Consigning someone to such a fate because someone else caught your eye was the opposite of merciful and just.

While modern divorce does not generally result in such extreme circumstances, it is always unfortunate. Society expects (insists?) divorcing parties to be antagonistic, or even vindictive. Yet as we do in all situations, we have the choice to act with integrity. For ourselves and our children, we should do our best to remember the other person is a beloved child of God, whom we once professed to love as well.

Integrity requires us to approach every potential relationship with respect. People don’t exist just to fulfill our temporary whims, needs, and desires. Before entering relationships, we are wise to be self-aware and transparent about how willing we are to commit. Half-hearted attempts to keep a marriage or friendship alive can be devastating to someone giving it their all and expecting we are doing the same.

Relationships of all kinds can strain and break, but as members of the body of Christ we remain united at some level. Even when we can’t stand each other – maybe especially then – the route of mercy and justice leads us home to wholeness.

Additional Reading:
For more thoughts on today’s reading from Mark, see Flip.
For reflection on today’s passage from Acts, see Horse Sense.

Comfort: You deserve to have healthy relationships. 

Challenge: Be wise about your commitments to people; mean what you say and say what you mean.

Prayer: How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Teach me O LORD to make peace in my home. Amen. (based on Psalm 133:1)

Discussion: Some of us have many relationships of some depth, and others have a few relationships of great depth. Both are fine as long as we are honest about them. Which option are you prone to?

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