Sunday, August 14, 2011
God set a rainbow in the clouds for a sign to all humanity of a covenant between us and God. It is a thing of great beauty. All the colors of the spectrum are present in the rainbow. Many of us see it as a sign that God's love is inclusive in ever widening circles of compassion.
Speaking of God's love and human love, there is a teaching of Jesus about marriage that is certainly provocative. It is this:
"Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’
His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’" ~Matthew 19
This is one of the most interesting passages in the Gospels. Jesus teaches his disciples about marriage and divorce, and suddenly he veers off into a totally unrelated subject about eunuchs. What in the world does that have to do with marriage? Or does it?
We can only imagine. Whatever Jesus is teaching, we do know this; not everyone can accept it. This passage cannot be easily dismissed. Eunuchs are common in the ancient Near Eastern world. The practice of castration for any number of reasons is widespread.
But what of the ones who are born "that way"? And what of the ones born that way who love others born "that way". Explain that to me.
Here it is now in black and white. Explain to me why Jesus goes to these lengths to embrace those "born that way"? Why, when he is teaching about marriage does he say that this teaching is so difficult for humanity to accept?
The fact is Jesus reaches out to all the outcasts; and specifically those distanced from the Temple by the Levitical Law code; such as prostitutes, lame, blind, tax collectors, and other unclean sorts. Leviticus specifically distances maimed sorts like eunuchs. Jesus contradicts that law code by his very life and in this particular teaching, by indicating that eunuchs can make themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. How remarkable!
Dare we say that Jesus is teaching us something about eunuchs we don't want to hear? Jesus didn't shy away from confrontation and controversy. So when he finds himself besieged by biblical literalists who press him for his thoughts on marriage, he describes an ethic of uncompromisingly high standards.
Then the disciples are bewildered and wonder why anyone should marry at all if these impossible standards are set in a manner that is so uncompromising.
Then, in an instant we find Jesus teaching something else difficult to accept.
Marriage is a covenantal relationship. Many heterosexual folks establish such relationships; some don't. Many gay folks have covenantal relationships that last a lifetime, some don't. Here is a controversy for you; when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, do you suppose he died for those who love one another in fulfillment of Jesus' own command of whatever orientation?
The rainbow is a very beautiful thing. It is a sign of a covenant between God and his people. Jesus expects God's people to keep that covenant with God by keeping a covenant with one another. In this provocative scripture do you see what I see? Another rainbow in the clouds where all people may keep the covenant they make with one another!
Blessings on us one and all,