Yesterday’s gospel, Mark 10:2-16, explains what Christ expects of us in relationships. He is baited by the question if it is lawful to divorce one’s wife, and throws it right back at his interrogator. Sure, Moses said you could divorce your wife, but if you want to be a follower of Jesus, then understand that the marriage bond cannot be broken, because it is made by God.
This is a hard lesson, especially in our disposable society. We’ve grown accustomed to tossing things out if they’re broken, we don’t like the color, or they don’t meet our expectations – this goes for marriage, too.
Marriage is a difficult relationship. Once the rings are exchanged and the last of the cake eaten, the thank you cards sent to guests, the hard work begins. We are with the same person every day and night, seeing the best and the worst; our patience is tested and tears are shed, but so do we laugh and celebrate just as much, delight in each other’s company. It’s when the going gets tough and we hit bumps along our journeys that we sometimes say “This isn’t fun anymore – this isn’t what I signed up for!”
But it is…
You can say this about our relationship with Christ.
Once we rise up from the waters of baptism we are in a new relationship with God, we are in a marriage of sorts. We must expect that there will be hard times to be Christian as well as joyous moments. The sweet baby Jesus in the manger, the loving, gentle shepherd of Christmas cards are real, but so is the Christ who is a hard-edged prophet and teacher that expects us to take the good with the bad, move away from what is comfortable some times in order to serve one another and love another and truly live out the Gospel.
Sometimes being welcoming and loving is the most difficult thing we can do. Jesus tells us that we must welcome ‘the little children,’ both literally and figuratively. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I don’t want to be bothered by anyone, but I find myself pushing past the unwillingness to act. It isn’t easy at all. But it’s what Christ calls me to do.
But back to the issue of marriage. This exhortation and Paul’s comment from Ephesians about wives being submissive to their husbands has been a green light for some to condone abuse.
Does Christ want us to stay in damaging, toxic relationships?
I don’t believe so. Sometimes you have to walk away when nothing, absolutely nothing, works and the wounds get deeper and the damage spreads. Then you can say that you did all you could and move on and start a new life.
What we are asked to do as Christians and children of God is to simply love. Not romantic love, but the love that is born of belief in Christ’s message and ministry, the need to follow him, and most importantly, the unconditional love of God, and the respect and mutuality of common good an ground.
That is a marriage that can last.