Marriage and the Problem of Brokenness -- Part 1
The need for companionship and community is deeply rooted in our human nature. It is, one might say, a reflection of being created in the image of God. In the first creation story, a poetic statement of God’s creative activity, we hear God say to God’s self: “Let us create humankind in our image,” and so “in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). The use of the plural here invites speculation, and theological speculation isn’t the point here – but it does invite us to consider within the oneness that is God there is a plurality of existence – a community within the one. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is one way of expressing this sense of plurality within the oneness of God.
The Genesis story begins with two stories of God’s creation of humanity as male and female. These stories speak of community and companionship. But then the story takes a dark turn. In Genesis 3, brokenness enters the picture. The relationship between God and humanity is damaged, but so is the relationship between human beings. The truth that is embedded in this story is that all human relationships are affected by this sense of brokenness or fragmentation. This includes the most intimate of human relationships – that of marriage and family. We can even destroy the things meant to bring us joy and happiness. Yes, we are hardhearted people who betray those we love most.
Why is humanity broken? Why do we sabotage our lives and the lives of others? The bible calls this brokenness sin. Like a virus that eats away at our inner being, sin eats away at us, slowly working its curse of death within us. Every aspect of human life is vulnerable to this malignancy of the human spirit. It is no secret that many marriages today are in distress. High divorce rates along with the decision of many not to marry, underlines the despair many have about marriage. Divorce, then, is an expression of this brokenness. While we seem to be feeling it with greater intensity today, divorce is nothing new.
Cheryl and I have been married for more than thirty years. By some standards that is a long time, though I know couples who have been married for sixty or more years. But whether a couple has been married five years or fifty years, it is unlikely that any couple has managed to live together without experiencing a few bumps along the way. I wish I could say that Cheryl and I have never argued or disagreed, that we had never hurt each other or disappointed the other. Unfortunately, I cannot make that claim. On too many occasions sin has crept in and disrupted our lives. Cheryl and I love each other and we are committed to our marriage, but this doesn't mean we are not capable of sabotaging God's gift to us. Of course we aren't alone in this, but it wasn't supposed to be this way.
In Genesis 2 God looks at the man and realizes that it is not good for the man to be alone. Relief comes for the man only after God creates from the man, a "helper fit for him," someone who was "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone." And God saw that it was good. But then sin crept in and wiped out the harmony. It didn't take long for the honeymoon to end.
This issue of brokenness came before Jesus as he headed toward Jerusalem. Pharisees came and asked his opinion on divorce. Is it allowed, the asked? Now, they already knew the answer to that question, but they wanted to draw him into a debate over the grounds for divorce. The Pharisees were divided into two groups, some took a strict position but others were more lenient. They wanted to know on which side Jesus stood. His answer would alienate at least one party of the Pharisees, but Jesus didn't fall into the trap. Instead of answering their question, he turned the conversation to God's ideal for marriage. He acknowledged that Moses had allowed divorce, but this was because of the hardness of their hearts. So, while divorce was allowed, it wasn't supposed to be this way. In the new realm, as Jesus lays it out in Mark 10, there is no room for divorce. If one divorces and remarries, one commits adultery. Matthew may offer an exception -- adultery. Paul might provide an exception (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Part 1 of 2 parts of chapter of Marriage Study Guide.