“It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18)
Surely the prototype of the deepest possible human relationship is the vowed lifelong union of a man and a woman. In uncompromising terms, Jesus affirmed this hard teaching: “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
According to Mark’s gospel, after hearing this teaching from Jesus, the disciples asked privately for more information. Jesus asserted that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery. The parallel version in Matthew has this teaching given publicly, followed by the disciples’ exclaiming, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt. 19:10).
Jesus knows how difficult marriage is. He said that permission to divorce was only given by Moses because of people’s “hardness of heart.” Further, he taught to the disciples, perhaps a bit more gently (again without compromise), “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given” (Matt. 19:11).
One may well ask: What is this relationship that so many people want, in which so many people fail, and which just about everyone acknowledges is very hard, even when successful?
What is this thing that is the object of so much longing, the crucible of so much suffering, and the home of so much joy? According to the lesson from Genesis, the union of male and female is the earliest institution of God for his beloved people. Through this union they could know and enjoy the love God had for them and the deepest possible experience of human connection.
The man whom God had made “not to be alone” could not find satisfying communion with the animals, but rather in one who was “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” — someone like him and likewise made in the image of God, but also one who was mysteriously and eternally different.
This relationship was given in the time before sin. After sin, the gift remained, though under greatly altered circumstances. Vows are now needed for people whose desires are wayward, wills disoriented, and wisdom limited. Marital joy now is matured through trials. Hopes must be tempered by sober, fallen reality.
Jesus spoke with uncompromising authority because in a fallen world these are the conditions necessary for true, deep, godly love.
Look It Up
Compare and contrast Mark 10:2-16 and Matt. 19:1-15.
Think About It
Considering the track record of the human race, both good and bad, what could the psalmist have in mind when he declares that God has made humans “a little lower than God”?