Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ However I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Mathew 5, 27 – 30
"Marble, stone and iron breaks, but not our love; everything, everything passes, but we are faithful to each other". This song by Drafi Deutscher inspired Germany in 1965. Even in the US, the album made it into the charts under the title "Marble Breaks and Iron bends."
Broken marriages are high on the hit list of human problems. Some love breaks, then and now. In the shop window of a textile shop I saw quality tea towels, made in Germany. Underlined by the claim: "They may last longer than some marriage." You could laugh about it, if the end of a great love would not be so terribly sad.
The divorce rate in Germany is in the middle ranks on a worldwide scale. 36% of all marriages are currently getting divorced. After six years, many married couples break-up. Most divorces are filed by women (51%). For some couples, a divorce seems to be the ultima ratio, the solution to their crisis. This is certainly related to the fact as well, that today a divorce is no longer condemned socially. For many people, a divorce is no longer a conscience decision. More important are questions such as future financial support and pension entitlements….
Jesus protects women. With a tremendous sharpness, Jesus takes the male society to task. Jesus warns against breaking their marriages. The break starts in your head, he says. Begins with longings. Begins with imagination.
With his almost grotesque images of self-mutilation, Jesus shows how important the fidelity versus the spouse is in his eyes. And what consequences unfaithfulness has. The two pictures of the eye-tearing and hand-chipping want to convey one message: God wants faithfulness! Towards the partner. To him and to his commandments. That has top priority. God wants the spouses to be responsible to each other for a lifetime. That they hold firm to each other, especially in difficult times. God wants faithfulness to one another because he is faithful to us (see Hosea 2:19-20). With his two images, Jesus paints a clear picture to men. For them to hold firm to their marriage under all circumstances. The love to the wife, the responsibility for children weighs heavily in the eyes of God. Because marriage is not a human invention, it is a gift from God. God himself in his act of creation associates man and woman in love to each other (Gen. 1, 27).
Marriage is not a "joke or a game", as it was known to the reformer Martin Luther (1483 - 1546): He is quoted in saying "In the first year, everything is probably delicious, happy and funny. You spend this time laughing and loving. But then, when all sorts of distress and misery are found, it is necessary that one takes comfort in knowing that it is God's will to live in this state."
"Distress and misery" can come through angry and hurtful quarrels. Sharp words, righteousness create a poisonous marital climate. To be able to communicate on an equal footing and to keep up the conversation, some couples must first spent time in learning to cope. Handling money is another source of tension. Also questions of parenting, dealing with parents and in-laws can lead to quarrels. Last but not least, the question of sexual needs is a major marital issue. Are the different needs respected? Can difficulties be discussed with empathy and openness?
And once again I would like to quote Martin Luther: 'If the husband does not forgive his wife (and the other way round) and the wife does not have good words for her husband (and the other way round), then love will soon diminish. At some point, one starts fanning one another or makes everything melt and spoil”
Jesus directs our eyes to the heart. This is where adultery begins. There the alienation starts. We should therefore pay attention to our heart. Men and women. To work on the problems so that the fire of love does not extinguish. Also, to seek help from outside if you can´t handle it alone.
I like to quote Jean Gibson, where I found the phrase: "Marriage is an unconditional commitment to a relationship with a faulty person." A good bet! Especially if you understand yourself and not just the other person as a human being with all kind of mistakes. This perspective also reminds me at the same time of God's love and loyalty to me and my spouse. Through Jesus Christ, God accepts us unconditionally. He loves us both, two faulty people. God makes a commitment with us, makes a covenant with us. He remains true to us! This is what he says in his Word (2 Timothy 2:13): "If we are not faithful, he will still remain faithful, because he cannot deny himself."
"Take this golden ring from me," sang Drafi Deutscher some years ago. Wedding rings have always symbolized loyalty and love. The wedding ring should always remind me of this covenant. The covenant of life, signed in front of God and with a person as flawed as myself. Martin Luther compared marriage to a garden. He says: "Marriage is God's most beloved spice and rose garden, in which the most beautiful roses and cloves are growing: these are the dear “children of men”, made in the image of God."
I wish you a blessed time. And watch out for weeds in your marriage garden!