Statistics are funny things. It seems everyone who wants to sway public opinion will use statistics to bolster their argument. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing, but apparently I’ve lived to that age in life where the old saying “figures don’t lie, but liars figure” strikes me as an important reminder in our polarized age!
What a strange way to begin a devotional!
I will say though that it seems the statistics on the state of relationships in this society paint a dismal picture. People are waiting longer to get married and many times these marriages fail. The epidemic of loneliness in a growing technological age of connectedness seems counter intuitive. And yet, loneliness grows. Where have we lost the ability to form meaningful connections with each other?
Look at our lesson today in Mark 10:2-12:
At that time, the Pharisees came up to Jesus and in order to test him, asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. 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. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Relationships are difficult. They’ve always been difficult. And the fundamental reason relationships are difficult is the foundational wound of our seperation from God! That first, fundamental, relationship is all too often neglected and that very neglect wounds every other relationship I have! It leads to chaos and delusion.
Just look at the chaos in society now. The very confusion of society concerning marriage and relationships, the growing desperation to form “tribes” out of shared behaviors, the threat of the epidemic of loneliness, and the surprising secular desire to redefine marriage are all symptoms of the human need for relationships and our inexhaustible ability to mess them up!
But Jesus gets to the heart of the matter when He confronts the Pharisees with their addiction to justifying their behavior by rule keeping. He uses their own Mosaic law to confront them with their misunderstand of the very purpose of relationships. And he uses marriage to do it.
The purpose of marriage, the very icon St. Paul uses to describe Christ and His Church, is that the “two” would become “one flesh.” Jesus insists that the binary creation of male and female is part of the mystery of marriage that reveals important lessons for the very purpose of our relationships. The gift of marriage is meant to teach us of the nature of the relationship God wants to build with us. And this relationship is based on an intimate communion that is ever growing, deepening, and life changing. It isn’t about our convenience, or happiness, but the power of a healthy relationship to form us into being like Jesus Christ.
This is the standard for healthy relationships: Does this communion make me more like Jesus Christ? Does this relationship foster my growing relationship with God? Careful, you may use this to say that since my relationship isn’t doing this, it should be discarded. But that would miss the point! It is the very STRUGGLE to make relationships, even when it’s hard, that invites me to deeper communion with God!
Today, are you able to build relationships in your life? What about friendships? Are you experiencing the hunger for communion AND the fear of being known? God’s desire for you is to know Him well so that you can know others in relationship. Start with that primary relationship first and you’re on your way to being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. Visit the Ancient Faith Store during this season of giving and get the book “A Faith Encouraged” or the video series “A Journey to Fullness.” They make wonderful gifts AND you support Faith Encouraged Ministries at the same time! Thanks!