On a recent rerun of “Seventh Heaven” the theme was politics and voting. It was not particularly interesting to me (my mind wanders when people discuss politics), but the reason I kept watching was that it made me laugh. All through the show, when the parents talked, the kids’ eyes glazed over and the only thing they (and we) heard was “Blah blah blah blah blah.”
I got to thinking that obviously that is what many of us hear when we discuss Matthew 19:9. We surely cannot be listening to one another, as we all have our own distinct beliefs.
Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
It occurred to me the evening I watched the “Seventh Heaven” episode that, with all our varied opinions, we cannot agree on much of anything at all about this verse. Here is what I imagine is only a partial list of things we do not agree on:
1. Who the “you” is that Jesus is talking to—Jews of Jesus’ day or us or both.
2. When this was to go into effect or if it was already in effect and had been in effect for thousands of years.
3. What “put away” is.
4. Whether it matters who does the putting away.
5. Whether the fornication has to occur before the divorce (or putting away) takes place.
6. What fornication is.
7. What adultery is.
8. Whether the “except” distributes to the second part of the sentence.
9. Whether adultery is a one-time act or continuing.
10. What law is being referred to.
11. Whether “whosoever” in the second part refers even to the one who put the woman away.
12. Whether the death of the ex-spouse frees the put-away fornicator to marry again.
13. Whether an innocent put-away may later mentally put away an ex-spouse who has married again.
14. Whether the applicable civil laws are binding, per Romans 13:1.
15. Whether a never-married person who marries one “not eligible” for marriage may marry again once he gets out of his “adulterous” relationship.
16. Whether this is a fellowship issue.
17. Whether this is a congregational issue.
18. Whether remedial requirements for “living in adultery” demand divorce or just separate bedrooms.
19. Whether the two people Jesus is referring to are truly divorced or still married to each other.
20. Whether a woman may ever put away a man.
21. Whether the man could have taken the second wife if he had been willing to keep the first also.
22. Whether Matthew 19:9b actually exists.
23. Whether the put-away fornicator is “dead,” bound, or still married.
From a text containing only thirty-three words I have listed twenty-three items that we dispute among ourselves. And, as I said, I am guessing that if we tried harder we could come up with even more.
I am not a mathematician (and probably could not even play one on TV); but I wonder, if we got to mixing up all these twenty-three items, how many views we would have. As we know, two people might agree on ten of these but disagree on the other ten. Or two people might agree on four or eight or twelve or sixteen of the issues and disagree on however many are left. Two other people might agree on four, eight, twelve, or sixteen different issues than the first two people agree on. I reckon we could have millions, maybe trillions, of opinions on this one verse that is made up of thirty-three little words. It makes my poor little head hurt to think about it.
So I will stop thinking about it for a while. But before I hush I would like to say that, seeing as how good, honest, God-fearing people like us Christians cannot seem to get it together regarding our beliefs about divorce and remarriage, maybe it would behoove us to try not to be judgmental and condemning and act like our way is the way that is right and cannot be wrong. Think about it: considering the many views we have among us, do we really even know if our own spouse agrees with us on every divorce/remarriage situation? It may just be that when we open our mouths to espouse our doctrine, all our listeners are hearing is “Blah blah blah blah blah.”