Sunday, August 23, 2015

Divorce and remarriage

Divorce and Remarriage
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

The prevalence of divorce and remarriage in our society has not left the church untouched. Most congregations include members or constituents whose families have undergone restructuring. Nevertheless, some Christians condemn all divorce and remarriage, appealing to Jesus’ statements, such as the one in Mark’s gospel:1
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. (Mark 10:11)
However attractive it may be to have a clear delineation of right and wrong, few issues lend themselves to either-or categories, and any treatment of marital relationships must include other passages in the biblical text that argue for a more nuanced position or that offer more information.2 The parallel account in Matthew, for example, has a more complete transcript of Jesus’ words:3
Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matt 19:9)
In light of the limited information these few passages offer, therefore, it is necessary to conduct a broader survey to understand God’s perspective on the issues of divorce and remarriage.

I. Divorce
A. According to Moses
When God instituted marriage, His intention was that it be permanent. Some Pharisees question Jesus on this matter, and he refers them to Genesis:4
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ [Gen 1:27] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ [Gen 2:24]? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt 19:4-6)
They press him further, and Jesus indicates that God allowed divorce as a concession to man’s sinful nature:5
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matt 19:7-8)
Jesus acknowledges that sin has altered the edenic model of marriage and that the original permanence of the union is subject to revision. The contrast here is between God’s perfect will and His permissive will, between what He approves and what He allows (so also Davies 1997:14).6 On the one hand, God states, “I hate divorce” (Mal 2:16), but, on the other hand, He speaks about divorcing Israel for the nation’s unfaithfulness.7 God recognizes that a marriage might fail because one or both parties undermine it.8 So as not to make a bad situation worse, He provides for the formal dissolution of a marriage contract through the issuing of a “certificate of divorce,” called a get:9

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Woodstock, 1969

WOODSTOCK
Dr. Paul Manuel—2015

In the summer of 1969, a friend and I went to a three-day concert held on a farm in upstate New York near a place called Woodstock. Some of the biggest names in rock music would be playing there. The advertising campaign was very successful, selling 186,000 tickets in advance. Organizers expected that 50,000 might actually show up. When the weekend of the concert arrived, not 50,000 but 400,000 (est.) converged on Woodstock, completely overwhelming the fences and the facilities. The vast majority who came assumed they would be able to get tickets at the gate. They were wrong. The gates were (torn) down when we arrived, but it did not matter—everyone who came got in.

Many people have a similar assumption about entry to heaven, that they will get tickets at the gate or will get in if they just show up. They, too, will be wrong, but in that case, it will matter, because that event will last much longer than three days. As the apostle Paul says, “we will be with the Lord forever” (2 Thess 4:17). Moreover, only those who have made advance arrangements will get in, who have been washed “by the blood of the lamb” (Rev 12:11), because “many are invited but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).

We drove as close as we could to the site but had to park the car on the side of the road behind the many who had arrived before us. We walked with others for several miles, passing countless numbers who were giving up and going home, until we finally reached the place. Because the promoters were not prepared for that many people, there were not enough food stands, first aid stations, and, more importantly, not enough Port-o-potties. To make matters worse, it rained, a lot, turning the entire area to ankle-deep mud.

The concert was already in progress when we arrived, and the sound system was quite good, so we had no trouble finding the stage. It was in a valley, a third to a half mile below the ridge on which we eventually stood. I thought we had encountered a lot of people on our way in, but I was not prepared for what I saw from that ridge. The entire hillside was covered, from one end to the other and from top to bottom, with a seemingly endless mass of humanity. Apparently, the poor accommodations deterred only a relatively few of those who came. The vast majority chose to remain and were seated on the ground—in the mud!—with barely enough space to squeeze between. I had never seen so many people in one place at one time, certainly more than I could count.

When the apostle John sees in his vision of heaven “a great multitude that no one could count” (Rev 7:9), his description may not be an exaggeration. (The advertising for that event will also be quite good.) It will certainly be bigger than Woodstock, and it will have much better accommodations.

We worked our way down the hill looking for a place to sit, but the bodies were packed together so closely that there was barely enough room to walk without stepping on someone. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, we were at the base of the stage, facing a tall wall and looking straight up. We could hear everything just fine but could see nothing, only the wall. At that point, we decided to give up and go home, which meant another trek up the hill and a long walk back to the car. Sitting in the mud was unappealing no matter how good the music.

The next year, Linda and I went to see the documentary film entitled Woodstock. It showed much of what my friend and I did not get to see. The movie theatre experience was quite different, of course, having shelter from the rain, a dry and carpeted floor, food options, comfortable seating, and (perhaps most importantly) bathrooms.

Heaven will have even better accommodations (no mud), including better food options, like “the wedding supper of the lamb” (Rev 19:9), enabling us to sit “at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Matt 8:11).

At the time, I did not realize how important Woodstock would become in American culture. There is even a US postage stamp commemorating the event (02/18/99 Scott #3188b). Some of the performers were very good (if you like rock music), and the entire gathering was amazingly peaceful, perhaps due in part to the prevalence of illegal drugs. Still, there were some not-so-good things as well (e.g., an overdose death). Heaven, though, will be far, far better, with great reason to celebrate and without any not-so-good things. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order…has passed away” (Rev 21:4). Best of all, we will see the greatest headliner of all: God Himself (Rev 22:4). There will also be great music (Heb 12:22; Rev 5:12).