From there he went to the area of Judea across the Jordan. A crowd of people, as was so often the case, went along, and he, as he so often did, taught them. Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, "Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?"
Jesus said, "What did Moses command?"
They answered, "Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her."
Jesus said, "Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways. In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."
When they were back home, the disciples brought it up again. Jesus gave it to them straight: "A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery."
The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.
So, what do we do with this passage? There is a lot here and probably a lot that can be said. But, this is a knee jerk devotional. So, here’s what hits me as I respond in the moment: Jesus wants families whole.
Whether it’s divorce or trying to keep children from Jesus, it seems that the picture here is one of wholeness. Sure, there are all kinds of theological issues that we could dive into. I could write about divorce or the blessing of children and the reception of the kingdom like a child. But, what really stands out to me is the issue of wholeness in the family.
The family unit was much bigger in Jesus’ day. It wasn’t just spouses and a child or two. The households that most of these people lived in were inclusive of the broader family, what we might call the “extended family.” So when divorce happened the impacts were bigger than just one household.
When we place this alongside the welcoming of the children by Jesus we see a picture of inclusion and wholeness in the family unit.
The way the disciples responded to the children feels very much like how many churches treat families and children today. It is rare in many churches for families to worship together. The regular experience is for families to walk in the front door and not engage with one another for a couple of hours. The children and the adults have totally different experiences. To be a good member is to send your children to their respective parts of the church while you do your adult thing.
We have created a specific class of ministers for every life stage. As a result, Sundays are very segregated times of the week.
Why are we so apt split everyone apart? What is it about our way of looking at the family that our inclination is to “divide and conquer”? It seems that if we are going to follow the way of Jesus we may need to rethink our approach and try to help knit family structures back together.
What if Sunday was a time where we intentionally sought to re-unite families? Could time with our congregations be even sweeter with kids running around and being loud and being squirrelly? What if parents knew that their kids were watching them worship and that if they didn’t lives of integrity during the week their kids would know? What if kids were challenged to be worshiper instead of catered and condescended to?
We need to be significantly more intentional about building and creating wholeness within our congregations. It appears that this is something that mattered to Jesus. It needs to matter to us as well.