The Kingdom of Christ is less about rules and more about the state of the heart. It is possible to keep the rules but with a cynical heart. It is possible to give but without generosity of heart. It is possible to apologise but without contriteness of heart. It is possible to appear to be the finished article but without anything of worth under the surface. So let’s move into a new chapter and into a difficult passage:
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19 v 1-12)
The main central point in this passage is not the divorce or whether we have grounds to do it. It is this, the hardness of the heart breaks everything that was good. The sin is not the divorce, it is the hardness of heart. The threat to marriage is not the grounds for divorce it is the hardness of heart. From the beginning the heart was good but then it hardened and as it did rules were needed and Moses had to write them.
But the key to life is a soft heart.
A soft heart is large and incredibly patient.It is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. A soft heart does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. It does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. It is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. A soft heart joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. It is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. It never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. (TPT 1 Cor 13:4-7)
Can you now imagine the scene if the Pharisees had soft hearts and what their discussions would have been? Can you imagine what kind of questions the Pharisees would bring with soft hearts? Can you imagine all those years ago what Moses would have written if marriage partners had soft hearts? Can you imagine marriages today with soft hearts? Hard hearts kill everything. Divorce happens a long time before the divorce papers. It happens because one or both partners have hard hearts.
If we go to this passage looking for the rules on whether we have grounds for divorce and whether people should remarry etc, then we have missed the whole point. This has always been about the hardness of the heart.
May our prayer today be ‘soften my heart Lord’!