Matthew 19:1-15 Read the New Testament in a Year: Acts 26:1-18 Jesus’ teaching on relationships is of vital importance for your own life and for society. In this passage, he sets out God’s tracks for family life. Importance of marriage The Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce, but he replies by speaking about marriage. He goes back to the creation account. Jesus quotes from Genesis 2:24, stating, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Matthew 19:5). This verse from Genesis is seen as the blueprint verse for marriage – not only in the Old Testament and by Paul (Ephesians 5:31) but also by Jesus himself.Marriage involves the public act of making a lifelong commitment to your partner that takes priority even over your parental relationships. It involves being ‘united’ with one’s partner – the Hebrew word means literally ‘glued’ together – not just physically and biologically but emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually. This is the Christian context of the ‘one-flesh’ union. The biblical doctrine of marriage is the most exciting and positive one that exists. It is also the most romantic view. It sets before us God’s perfect plan. Concession of divorce The Pharisees persist with their questions about divorce. They speak of Moses’ command (Matthew 19:7). Jesus replies by saying Moses permitted it ‘because your hearts were hard’ (v.8) and robustly confronts those men who (in a society in which women had far fewer rights) used the provision of the law to walk away from their wives (v.9). Moses’ provision for divorce reminds us of God’s grace and compassion in situations where we fall short of his ideals. But Jesus is saying that divorce is never ideal. Many of those who have experienced the pain of a broken marriage will identify with Job’s description of his suffering in today’s Old Testament passage. We need to do all we can to guard marriages (ours and others) and do all we can to comfort those who have been divorced (not by casting blame like Eliphaz). Calling to singleness Jesus speaks of three types of singleness. First, genetic – ‘they were born that way’ (v.12a) and ‘never give marriage a thought’. Second, there is involuntary singleness (v.12b) – those who ‘never get asked – or accepted’. Third, there is voluntary singleness – those who ‘decide not to get married for kingdom reasons’ (v.12c). Singleness can be temporary or permanent, but it is never regarded in the New Testament as second best. Both marriage and singleness are high callings and, according to the New Testament, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Priority of children The words of Jesus challenged the attitude of many of his contemporaries towards children. In ancient societies children were often kept on the periphery of society – to use an old-fashioned British saying, they were to be ‘seen but not heard’. God’s tracks are very different. Jesus places his hands on the little children and prays for them (v.13a). When the disciples feel that Jesus should not be distracted by them, Jesus replies, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ (v.14). He demonstrates the high priority children should have in our lives. As parents it is very important to prioritise our children and not to see them as distracting us from our work or ministry. As a church, we need to see that our children and youth have priority in terms of resources and facilities because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them as much as anyone else. They are not only the future of the church, they are the church.]]>