This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.
[This is the last of three scriptures that relate to Jesus’ teachings about divorce.]
For the last two days I have reviewed the story where the Pharisees challenged Jesus about his interpretation of the Law of Moses regarding divorce. Jesus replied by stating his radical view that a woman’s adultery was the only cause for a man to divorce his wife. The Pharisees argued that the Law allowed a man to divorce a woman for any reason whatsoever as long as he provided her with an emancipation paper proving that she was no longer married. Yesterday Jesus replied that it is God’s intention that husbands should not arbitrarily divorce their wives. He asserted that the Law is merely an attempt to point people toward God’s truth, but the Law itself is not the whole truth. It is required, Jesus said yesterday, because people are so hard to teach (Day 166).
Jesus’ view of divorce was undoubtedly very controversial because it amounted to a serious infringement of masculine freedom and power relative to marital relationships. Jesus already clearly stated his views on divorce on Day 29. Nevertheless, even his own disciples seem to be shocked at this teaching. The Bible says, “His disciples said to him, “If this is how it is between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry.”
In other words, the disciples said that if they can’t dump their wives whenever they want, then they don’t want to get married. They didn’t like the idea that they could no longer trade up to a younger, more beautiful, more fertile, more compliant wife when the old one got run down or disagreeable. I think the men back in those days looked at women very functionally, kind of like we look at cars today. Imagine if Jesus told you that you could only have one car for the rest of your life. Shocking! Impractical! That can’t possibly work! Think of the expense and trouble! What do I do with it if it stops working? Where will I store it? How will I get around? If that’s the case then I’d rather not be bothered with it! I’d rather not drive at all.
It seems to me that Jesus’ reply to the disciples is perhaps even more controversial to many of today’s Christians than his teachings on divorce. He says, “This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.”
By saying that some people are better off single, Jesus is saying that procreation isn’t the most important task of mankind. He says that not everyone can get married and have children, and that’s OK. Despite this statement by Jesus, the presumption in many Christian circles is that it’s God’s will that everyone should be “normal” and marry someone of the opposite sex so they can have loads of kids. They teach that even if you don’t feel this is right for you, you should somehow will yourself into changing so that you conform to the standard because it is our obligation to “focus on the family.” This is fine, but it’s not what Jesus teaches. Jesus teaches that some can’t have conventional, prolific, heterosexual marriages because they are “born that way.”
Of course, it’s hard to look at that phrase in this scripture without thinking of Lady Gaga and her song of the same name. Here’s the chorus:
I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.
Jesus goes on to say that others can’t marry because they were “made what way” by men. I assume this refers to eunuchs, but it could also refer to people who have been so damaged emotionally or physically by others so that they are unable to connect with someone else and marry.
Finally there is the category that Jesus probably falls into – those who do not marry because it might interfere with their ministry. It is on the basis of this scripture that the Roman Catholic Church established its own law prohibiting its priests from marrying. I don’t think Jesus is creating a law here that everyone in ministry should not marry. I think he’s promoting freedom of choice. I think he is saying that marriage is a grave, lifetime commitment, so no one should be forced to marry. I think Jesus says that people should be married only if it’s what they really want to do.
And of course we don’t really know for sure from the scriptures whether or not Jesus was married. Although we assume he never married, the Bible never definitively states that he was not. It seems unlikely to me that he was. He was focused on changing the world so I don’t think he would have made time for it. He was otherwise preoccupied.
So there you have it. Another shocking statement by Jesus. But very encouraging. This statement shows that Jesus is deliberately celebrating our natural diversity when it comes to marriage. It is confirmation that God doesn’t expect us to be spiritual Barbie dolls (see Day 37). Jesus accepts us just the way we are because he knows some of us can’t help ourselves, and then encourages us all to be equally accepting of each other when it comes to love and marriage.
God knows that there are things we just can’t do anything about because that’s the way we were designed, or because that’s what our environment has done to us, or because it interferes with our mission and destiny. Those things that make us different are just part of our journey and we have to work with what we’ve got.
Great. Now we can just relax and stop worrying about other people’s relationships get back to the business of doing the best we can to love God and love one another. And demonstrate kindness to others. Jesus and Gaga seem to agree – “You’re beautiful in your way ‘cause God makes no mistakes, You’re on the right track, baby you were born this way!” Yes, through these words of Jesus we learn that God, like Gaga, loves all his little monsters!!
What does this scripture say to you?