Matthew / chapter 19 (read the chapter)
The next time you crack an egg into a bowl, take time to notice the distinctiveness of the yolk and the white. If you wanted, you could even separate them into two bowls. (Many a delicious recipe begins that way.) Now, what if I asked you to whisk the yolk and the white together and then separate them again? You would tell me that’s impossible. Once those two things have become one, it is impossible to separate them.
The same thing is true of marriage. Really.
The Pharisees came to Jesus with an interesting question that makes me think they viewed marriage in their culture quite a bit as we have come to view it in ours: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (vs 3)
In the early days of Israel’s history, God had allowed divorce in certain cases “because of the hardness of your hearts,” Jesus said (vs 8), but the Israelites had taken that concession and expanded it to include such petty things as divorcing your wife because she burnt your toast.
The Pharisees hoped to trap Jesus with their question. If He answered that it was lawful to divorce a woman for any reason, then He would appear to make light of Mosaic law. But if He answered that it was unlawful to divorce a woman for any reason, He would lose favor with the people (who had come to love their quickie divorces).
But, when He answered them, instead of talking about divorce, Jesus talked about marriage: “‘Surely you have read in the Scriptures: When God made the world, “he made them male and female.” And God said, “So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one.” So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.’” (vs 4-6)
In describing how God designed marriage, I think Jesus was trying to point out that divorce is impossible. That is not to say that it can’t be done—it is done every day! But even if the legal ties may be cut and the possessions apportioned to either party, it is truly impossible to separate what God has merged. Once you’ve been married, there is no way to go back to the person you were before marriage. There is no way to totally extract yourself from the marriage covenant, just as there is no way to separate a yolk and a white that have been whisked. Your spouse will always be a part of you in some way, because when God makes two people one, they are one!
The disciples certainly understood the gravity of what Jesus was saying, because their response was, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” (vs 10) The idea that marriage requires such a commitment was, apparently, a little overwhelming for them. They realized that God doesn’t look on marriage with the same frivolity and instability that we do. God looks on marriage as a binding covenant—symbolic of the covenant He has made with each one of us.
And God takes His word seriously. He doesn’t say, “I’ll love you forever,” and then file for divorce. Ever.
God is in the merger business. What He has designed in the marriage covenant (when done according to His plan) is the most beautiful, wonderful, and mysterious thing possible—taking two separate individuals with different backgrounds, different outlooks on life, different feelings, different everything . . . and then merging them, uniting them in one spirit through a commitment to love.
God is a master merger. What He joins together can be divided (as it unfortunately so often is nowadays), but it can never be separated.