Don’t Settle for Less

Posted: March 30, 2014 in Mark

Mark 10:1-16, “Don’t Settle for Less”

Third-world flea markets can be entertaining.  You can walk through the market and see all kinds of brand-name merchandise for 1/10th the price of what you would find in the USA…but if you look closely, you find that it’s not really brand-name at all.  A logo sticker might be shoved on it, but that’s as close at it comes.  It’s certainly not the ideal, or the real thing.  You might like the idea of buying Nike shoes for $10, but it’s just a swoosh logo & not much more.  It’s settling for less.  Kids often do the same thing with purchases.  When I was a kid, money burned a hole in my pocket, and it was tough to save up to buy something really nice – I often was willing to settle for something less, even though it wasn’t ideal.

What is bad enough in purchases is far worse when it comes to relationships.  Sadly, people are often willing to settle for less than what God would desire for them in their families.  God has a high standard that He sets for marriages and children, because God has a high value that He places on marriage and children.  Yet we often don’t value them nearly high enough.  As a result, people settle for less & they get far less as a result.

What’s true of our culture was also true of the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day.  Marriage was viewed as disposable, and children were viewed as distractions.  Jesus was confronted with both issues at the beginning of Mark 10.  The Pharisees come testing Jesus, looking to push the boundaries of the exceptions in marriage.  They brought the question of the culture to Him, which had degraded marriage into a pure legal transaction, leaving out the work of God.  They missed His ideal standard, and settled for something far less.  On the heels of that came the disciples, who missed the boat (yet again) regarding Jesus’ heart for the humble.  They got in the way of children receiving a blessing from Jesus when they should have been the ones encouraging the children to come to Jesus.  Likewise, they had settled for less than God’s best.

What is it that we look for?  Do we look for the minimum by which we can get by – or are we looking for the most of how God might be glorified in whatever situation in which we find ourselves?

Mark 10:1–16
1 Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again.

  1. Mark immediately sets the scene.  Jesus had been in Galilee again, specifically Capernaum, upon returning from the Mount of Transfiguration in the north.  Now He continues to proceed south, headed first to the “region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan.”  This was primarily known as Perea, and was ruled by Herod Antipas: the man who had jailed and killed John the Baptist.  Considering that John was imprisoned for speaking out against the illegitimate marriage of Herod, it brings a bit more intrigue to the question posed by the Pharisees.
    1. Of course, ultimately Jesus had bigger fish to fry.  The Pharisees attempt to distract Jesus, but Mark shows Jesus with a focus upon His mission.  He is headed to the cross, and nothing will stop or distract Him from it.
  2. Notice the presence of the multitudes.  Back at Ch 9:30, Mark made the specific point that Jesus had passed through Galilee in secret.  At that time, He didn’t want anyone to know His presence.  He had much to teach His disciples about His coming betrayal, death, and resurrection, and He required their undivided attention.  (Too bad they didn’t do a better job of listening!  They were too consumed with the idea of future glory for themselves to give thought to the very real sufferings of their King on their behalf.)  Yet now the ‘alone’ time is done (for a bit) and Jesus allows His presence to be known to the multitudes.  The crowds “gathered to Him again,” and “He taught them.”  Shows three things:
    1. Jesus was fully in control of His surroundings.  If He wanted to be secret, He would be secret.  If He wanted to be public, then He was.  No circumstance was chance happenstance with Him.  It was that way in His ministry, and it was that way in His arrest, suffering, and passion.  No one could so a single thing to Jesus that He did not allow.  He was (and is) perfectly sovereign.
    2. Jesus had a healing and miracle ministry, but that wasn’t His primary ministry.  Teaching was.  This is what “He was accustomed” to doing.  Mark records the least amount of teaching content from Jesus, but Mark records scores of teaching instances from Him.  It seems that every time we turn around, Jesus is teaching again.  (If Jesus placed that much priority upon teaching the word of God, what does that say our priority ought to be within our churches today?)
    3. Everything that is about to follow from the Pharisees takes place within a public setting.  When the Pharisees test Jesus, it is not so that they could honestly assess Him among their own group of peers, evaluating His claims as the Messiah.  They do all of this in the open public square in front of the crowds.  They have a goal in mind: they want to implant doubt about Jesus in the minds of the people.  And one of the best ways of doing that is to get Jesus to publicly trap Himself in His own words. 

2 The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.

  1. Underline those last two words.  Mark ensures that his readers understand this is a test.  Historically, there’s no doubt that the question asked by the Pharisees was a legitimate issue at the time.  There had been an ongoing theological debate about divorce, with two main schools of rabbinical thought on opposite sides.  One side believed that divorce was wrong in all cases except fornication/adultery.  The other side believed that divorce was valid for any reason – even if your wife burned your breakfast.  Although the debate was real in the Jewish culture (not unlike our own culture today), the theology wasn’t the central issue at hand for the Pharisees.  They had come to test Jesus…they wanted Him to discredit Himself in front of the people by taking either an unpopular position, or an unbiblical one.  They would seem to have Jesus trapped.  Would He try to please the masses who wanted unrestricted divorce, or would He hold to the purity of the Scripture & potentially turn away those who followed Him?  Of course an added bonus was Herod.  If Jesus could teach something that condemned Herod, perhaps Jesus would be imprisoned like John the Baptist.  That way, Herod could deal with Jesus, instead of the Pharisees.  What choice would Jesus make?
    1. To borrow a phrase: the times are coming, and have already arrived, when American Christians are going to be forced to make a similar choice.  We can either go with the whims of culture and agree to all kinds of moral permissiveness that discards the standards of the Bible (including on the issue of marriage), or we can be unpopular and take our stand upon the truth of Scripture.  Knowing that the Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman for life – we can either hold to that truth without compromise, or we can jettison the Scriptures to please our culture.  The choice may be stark, but it is one that must be made.  Neutrality is not an option.
  2. Notice the Pharisees asked for what was legal.  “Is it lawful”  They are looking for the letter of the law.  They are not asking for what is right or wrong.  They do not ask about the foundations of marriage.  They ask for the technicalities.  Like the sad legalists they were, they ask about the minimum and maximum.  “What’s our minimum obligation?  What’s the maximum we can get away with?” … Isn’t that how we so often deal with sin?  Instead of serving God generously with a joyous heart, we look for the minimum we can do. (“But I’ve already gone to church once this month…  But I’ve forgiven that person once already…”)  Or we look for the most that we can get away with. (“It’s not really adultery; it’s just flirting…”  “But no one has gotten hurt (yet)…”)  Beware!  Once we begin to look at sins in terms of legality – in terms of maximums and minimums – that’s when we’ve forgotten about grace!  Our relationship to God is based upon the grace of Jesus Christ; not legalistic technicalities.  If our attempts at legalism were effective in our walk with God, then Jesus would never have died for us and we would ALL be lost!  Our relationship with God is based upon something so much greater – thus so ought to be our response to God.  We do not obey out of legalism; we obey out of love.  Love does not look for the minimums and maximums in obligation.  Love desires to please in abundance.
    1. If you’re asking about the legalistic technicalities in regards to an issue, it’s a warning sign that you’re already off base.

3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”

  1. Jesus responded to the test of the Pharisees with a test of His own. “What did Moses command you?”  IOW – what was already written in the Bible?  The Pharisees knew the Scriptures.  Jesus knew they knew the Scriptures, and they knew that He knew they knew them. 🙂  Thus their question to Jesus wasn’t honest.  They asked about the law, but they already knew the law…they were the nationally recognized experts in it!  With His response, Jesus subtly tells them, “You’re not fooling anyone, and I’m not playing your game.”
    1. BTW – there is not a single thing wrong with honest questions about God.  Many people have good questions, and we should not fear to ask.  The problem comes when people don’t ask honestly.  Many skeptics and atheists today do not ask questions for information; they ask to provoke an argument or to otherwise attempt to trip up Christians.  We need to be prepared to give an answer – we need to be willing (and able) to witness to all – but we also need to be aware of our environment.  Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  We live in a culture increasingly hostile to Christianity, and we need to know it.
  2. What did Jesus do?  He directed the Pharisees back to the Scriptures.  Jesus was obviously aware of the theological debate among the various rabbis.  He was not oblivious to what was happening in the culture.  But all of that was secondary to the word of God.  The standard had already been written, and it was clearly laid out within the pages of the Bible.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”

  1. This is not a direct quote, but it’s an apt summary of what was written.  [Deuteronomy 24:1-4]  It would seem to be pretty cut & dry.  If there was a divorce to take place, this is the way that it was to occur.  Just a brief look at the law shows that the context of the commandment was completely different than the context of the debate. (1) People would not divorce for adultery, but for some undefined “uncleanness.”  Adultery was certainly unclean, but in the law, it was a capital offense.  Leviticus 20:10 specified that the people caught in adultery were to be put to death.  It is a far more serious offense to God than what people have later accepted it to be (both then among the Jews, and today).  (2) The whole context of the Deuteronomy passage is protection for the woman who was sent away.  In the ancient Middle Eastern culture, the man had all the rights.  If he divorced his wife, the woman needed protection that would keep her reputation clear.  A bill of divorce would show her freedom as well as her innocence from the charge of adultery.  (3) Overall, the commandment focuses upon the sanctity of marriage.  People were not to treat it casually, wandering in and out of the marriage covenant.  To go from spouse to spouse – from one woman to the next, back to the first, would treat marriage far differently than God intended.  It would treat it far differently from what Jesus models with the Church (which is the ultimate idea), and it would defile the people.  Deuteronomy 24 makes all of this plain.
  2. Yet none of this is what the Pharisees asked about.  They knew the letter of the law, but they were trying to trap Jesus.  They wanted to know how much Jesus would allow the people to abuse the marriage covenant without it being considered sin.  Unfortunately for them, Jesus isn’t taken in by it.  See Jesus’ response…

5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

  1. Jesus will teach the concept of marriage in a moment, but vs. 5 provides the key that destroys the test of the Pharisees.  The commandment in Deuteronomy 24 about divorce was not a command to divorce one another, but a commandment regulating it.  There are many historical distortions of marriage, even in Hebrew history – but the existence of the practices doesn’t mean that God desired them.  The classic example is polygamy.  Many Hebrew men had multiple wives – including the Biblical patriarchs and kings.  Yet although polygamy was allowed to exist, it was never endorsed by God.  God had specifically prohibited kings from multiplying up wives for themselves (Dt 17:17), but they did it anyway.  God knows the “hardness” of the hearts of humans, and that we are bound and determined to engage in sin.  There are certain practices that God allowed among the Hebrews & even regulated among the Hebrews, but that He never endorsed for the Hebrews.  When they did it, they would be settling for less than God’s ideal & desire for them, but that is what they were determined to do.  God never desired divorce among His people, but if they were doing to do it, they needed some measure of protection for those involved.  That was the purpose of the law.  It was never given as a way to try to maximize the reasons for divorce; but to limit the guaranteed damage that would come as a result of divorce.
  2. What was God’s true desire regarding marriage?  We have to look at more than just the legal statutes of the Mosaic covenant – we have to look at the totality of the Scripture.  That takes us all the way back to Genesis.  The Pharisees knew the law, but they didn’t look at the whole writing.  Jesus takes them back to the beginnings.  See vs. 6…

6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.

  1. Before we get too far, please note that Jesus believed and taught the Genesis creation account.  The two quotes that Jesus gives are from Genesis 1&2.  For all of the debate that rages today about the origins of the universe, not a single person today was alive on the day that the world came into existence.  The only person who was, was God – and the same Word of God through Whom all creation was made, affirms the exact same teaching given to us in the opening pages of the Bible.  Jesus was there, because Jesus did the work.  He believed Genesis 1-2, and that ought to weigh heavily in favor of the account! 
  2. Notice something else here: Jesus does not teach divorce, but marriage.  The Pharisees had asked about what the law technically allowed them to do in divorce.  Jesus flips the question on its head.  It’s not about maximizing divorce, but maximizing marriage.  It’s not what God permitted the people to do because of their hardness of heart; it’s what God intended the people to do from the very beginning.  The theological debate had focused on the fringe, trying to make the extreme exceptions the norm.  Jesus takes them back to the norm.  What is the ideal of marriage?  What is it to which we ought to want to strive?  Divorce is often the easy way out of a hard problem.  There is no doubt that marriages can be difficult – if for no other reason, because it involves two sinful human beings.  All people make mistakes – some people are just difficult or stubborn – some people are bound and determined to sin.  Some marriages were made hastily & people don’t know what to do – other marriages are neglected due to kids or careers…the list can go on & on.  Marriage can be hard.  For some people, divorce is simply the easiest & quickest solution.  They ask, “How can I make this go away?” and they come up with divorce.  It’s quick, it’s legal, and it’s relatively easy to get (though it’s never as easy as what people believe it to be).  It’s far harder to try to work your way through the problems and to strive for God’s ideal.  That takes work & prayer & humility…and for some people, it’s more than they are willing to do.  They want something quick & easy, so they go for divorce.  God doesn’t always want us to choose what is easy; He wants us to choose what is right.  His ways are not always the easiest, but they are always the best. 
    1. Of course, we need to hasten to add that sometimes marriages do fail.  Sometimes a spouse has sought the Lord in prayer, and done everything possible to hold up his/her end of the Biblical ideal.  Divorce for these people was not the easy option; it was the very last thing they desired to do.  They know that God hates divorce, and they hated to engage in it.  Please know that this is not what is addressed in this passage.  Sometimes there are extreme circumstances that allow for divorce – those are the very things that were provided for the Hebrews in Deuteronomy 24.  In Jesus’ response, He is not responding to the extremes; He is responding to the test of the Pharisees.  They were asking about the debate that maximized divorce.  Jesus wanted them to maximize marriage.  He answers in general terms to address the whole; not the exceptions.  The problem in the divorce debate was that people were trying to make the exceptions the rule, and thus they missed God’s point about marriage completely.
  3. In regards to the ideal of marriage, first Jesus shows how people were made & then He shows what marriage makes them to be.  How were they made?  “Male and female.”  In Genesis 1, we are given an overview of the 6 Days of Creation, which culminates in the creation of humans.  At that point we read that “God created man in His own image: in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27).  That’s the overview.  Genesis 2 gives us the in-depth detail account of how God actually made man, forming him from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7), and how He created the woman out of the rib of the man (Gen 2:22-23).  Jesus references both accounts in His description of marriage.  They were designed as two & formed as two.  However someone reads Genesis 1, there is no doubt that God designed “male and female” to be “male and female.”  They are one type of being (human), but they are distinctly different from one another.  One is not better than the other; they are just different.  God made man, and God made woman, and He has an intent for them in relationship to one another.
  4. That’s how they were made – what does marriage make them to be?  They WERE two; they are NOW one.  In regards to creation, God separated Eve out of Adam physically, but brought them back together in a spiritual covenant relationship.  God is the One that brought the woman to the man (Gen 2:22), and Adam was so blown away that in response he speaks in poetic verse.  That’s when the declaration comes in Genesis 2:24 (quoted by Jesus) that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  “One flesh” is not a simple euphemism for sexual reproduction; it’s a description of the union that God makes between husband and wife.  Two are joined as one.  One was made physically into two, and now the two are made spiritually into one.  Marriage is ultimately a work of God, and through it, God joins two people together in such a way as they might be physically attached to one another.
  5. It’s in light of all of this that we start to see why divorce is so harmful.  If God makes two people into one, what happens when divorce takes place?  Amputation.  It’s like ripping a person in two, spiritually speaking.  There are times amputation is medically necessary, but it is always a last resort, and there are always lasting effects.  It’s no different with divorce.  Divorce may seem (by some) to be the easy option, but there are always lasting effects, and there is always some harm that takes place…even in the rare exceptions when it seems to be the only option left.

9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  1. Here’s the point.  Marriage is not a simple legal arrangement; it is a Divine work and institution.  Anyone can form a contract, but only God can form a marriage.  God is the One who joins man & woman together in holy matrimony, and humans don’t have the right to separate what only God has the right to join.  (Along these lines, humans do not have the right to redefine what it is God has already defined.  God gave the institution of marriage at creation, and we have no jurisdiction to rework what God has given.)  The debate among the Jews had gotten the whole thing wrong.  They were looking for what exceptions were allowed, and Jesus shows them that they were debating matters that weren’t up to them to decide.  It’s like toddlers trying to decide for their parents where they’ll eventually go to school – it’s not up to them; that’s not their decision.  Likewise with the question of what is marriage and when divorce is allowed.  That’s the jurisdiction and decision of God; not man.
  2. Many times the issue is that we’re too ready to rush in with man’s intervention.  When things go wrong in a marriage, too many people are quick to simply throw in the towel & declare things to be over & done.  If marriage truly is an institution of God, it only makes logical sense to try things God’s way & see what happens.  Give God time to do His work!  You won’t ever know what miracles God might work in your life if you don’t have faith to wait for them.

10 In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. 11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

  1. It’s no wonder the disciples had questions about this.  After all, this was a debate that raged among the people at the time.  Jesus had shut down the trap of the Pharisees, but the disciples (like everyone else) would want to know all of the exceptions to the rule.  Jesus had laid down the standard, but the question always comes up, “But what about ___?  What about ____?”  We’re looking for the loopholes, trying to find the exception for ourselves, no matter what the standard might be for everyone else.
  2. Jesus makes it just as clear to the disciples as He did to the Pharisees.  They weren’t to be looking for the exceptions; they were to be striving for the ideal.  Stop looking for the easy way out, and start looking for God’s desire.  God’s desire is that marriage should last for life…period.  He made male and female, and joined them together – forever.  They were not to be separated and joined to others.  In the eyes of the culture, that might be legally acceptable, but in the eyes of God it was adultery.  The disciples (and all of Jesus’ followers) needed to stop trying to look for the legalistic exceptions, and start looking at things from God’s point of view.
  3. ARE there exceptions given in the Bible?  Yes.  The parallel account in Matthew lists sexual immorality – Paul gives the reason of spousal abandonment.  The Bible has more to say on marriage and divorce than these few verses here – it would be wrong to take Jesus out of context and attempt to claim that ANY remarriage among Christians is adultery.  There are Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage.  There are exceptions to the general rule – but the whole point is that they are to be rare exceptions.  As Jesus was basically telling the disciples (and the Pharisees), we need to stop looking for the exceptions & start looking for God’s desire.

13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

  1. We aren’t told the exact timeframe on this.  Both Matthew and Mark show the events taking place after the failed trap from the Pharisees, but it could have been days later for all we know.  Topically, however, this is a natural follow-up to Jesus’ teaching about marriage (and no doubt why Matthew and Mark have it following so closely).  Jesus had taught openly among the multitudes when He responded to the Pharisees – He had taught the disciples privately in a house when they asked their follow-up questions – now He seems to be in public again as people bring their children to Jesus, asking for a blessing.  It was a common practice of the day to have respected people speak blessings over children, and apparently people brought their kids to Jesus for the same thing.
  2. The problem was that the disciples didn’t see the children as a blessing, but a burden.  They actually “rebuked those who brought them” – presumably the parents.  Remember that the disciples had recently been rebuked by Jesus for being a potential stumbling block.  There had been a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus, and John bragged about getting the man to stop because he hadn’t been following the disciples.  Jesus told John not to forbid him because the man wasn’t working against Jesus at all, but actually seemed to have faith.  The little ones who believed in Jesus were not to be made to stumble; they were not to be forbidden from coming to Jesus. It would be better for a millstone to be hung around a person’s neck & be tossed into the sea, rather than stumble a little one of faith.  Jesus had even used a literal child as a visual aid to show that the person who receives a little child in His name receives Jesus Himself.  It was clear the disciples of Jesus were to bring people to Jesus; not stumble people away from Him.  Yet that is exactly what they were doing…to little children, no less!  They saw children as a distraction away from the ministry of Jesus, and Jesus saw it quite the opposite.

14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

  1. Other translations describe Jesus as being “indignant,” which is accurate.  To use a cruder term, the disciples ticked Jesus off.  The very disciples who had just been told to receive children were forbidding children.  The very disciples who were just warned not to stumble people from Jesus were stumbling blocks.  Talk about missing the point!  They were doing precisely the opposite of what Jesus had clearly told them to do.  Children were being forbidden from Jesus, and it seems that Jesus was about to get the millstone ready for a few of His disciples.
  2. Jesus believed this so strongly that He commanded the disciples both positively and negatively. LET the children come, and DO NOT forbid them.  There’s no ambiguity there.  Let anyone who want to come, come.  Anyone who wants to receive of Jesus is invited to freely come – especially the children.  And don’t get in their way.  Be sure not to trip them up or forbid them from coming.  Jesus wants them to have every opportunity to receive of Him, because as they do, they receive of “the kingdom of God.
    1. Jesus still wants children to have every opportunity to receive of the kingdom.  What opportunities will they have?  Only as much as their parents and other adults give them.  If parents do not share their faith with their children, they are restricting their children from Jesus.  If parents do not give their kids opportunities to learn of Jesus through the Bible (at home, in church, etc.) where else will they learn it?  WE control what comes to our kids.  We dare not forbid them from Jesus simply because we are too lazy to take them to Him.

15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

  1. Children were not a distraction away from Jesus; they were an example to everyone of how to respond to Jesus.  Do you want to “enter” the “kingdom of God”?  Then you better pay close attention to how children respond to Jesus!  Otherwise, you’ll never even see the kingdom. 
  2. That all begs the question: how does someone “receive the kingdom of God as a little child”?  The most common answer is to have childlike faith…to openly and willingly trust the Lord without question or doubt.  (Not child-ISH faith, but child-LIKE faith…)  Interestingly, the word “faith” is never used by Jesus in any of the synoptic gospels about this.  There’s little doubt that faith is required, but the way we often view childlike faith may need to change a bit.  Faith is not needed to earn the kingdom, but to “receive” the kingdom.  The idea that we would trust God like a little child does not so much speak of the things we DO in our faith, but what we RECEIVE in faith.  The whole point in turning the children away was that they were a distraction.  Children can’t do much of anything, so they were a burden, meant to be kept out of sight until they could be valuable to others.  All they can do is receive what is given to them.  That is Jesus’ point.  If you want to enter the kingdom, you have to receive it.  You can’t earn it, even by trying to gin up enough faith.  You have to humble yourself to receive what can only be given to you by God through Jesus Christ.  Faith does not acquire the kingdom; faith is necessary to receive the gift of the kingdom.  THAT is child-like faith.

16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

  1. Jesus didn’t just talk about the importance of children to Him; He took the time to follow through & demonstrate it.  He embraced the children, and took time to bless each one. 
    1. People (including children) are never a distraction from ministry; they are the ministry.
    2. Jesus took time with the children, and He takes time with us.  Aren’t you glad you aren’t viewed by God as a distraction away from Him?
  2. BTW – notice that Jesus “blessed” the children; He didn’t baptize them.  Many church traditions use this passage to justify infant baptism, but that’s not what happens here, nor is it the point.  Jesus commands baptism for those who believe, but the gospels never show Jesus personally baptizing anyone.  Nor does the Bible ever show someone getting baptized who had not individually come to faith.  No doubt that can take place at a young age, but infants (as Luke describes them) can only receive blessing; not baptism. 

Conclusion:
So what are you looking for?  When it comes to marriage and family, are you looking for the least – or the ideal?  Do you want the exceptions or the exceptional?  The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with technicalities – the disciples tried to keep people away from receiving Jesus’ blessing – Jesus wasn’t going to have any of that. 

In the area of family, God has a wonderful plan that He holds up as the standard: blessed marriages and blessed children.  God Himself gave marriage, and like everything else at the time of creation, it was good – only to be brought down later on by the sins of mankind.  God considers children a blessing; not a burden – and His clear desire for them is for them to have every opportunity to know Him at an early age.

In the area of theology, we see the work of God.  What God sets as the standard, man is not to subvert.  Why live in the realm of exceptions, looking for the minimums & the maximums we’re obligated to, when we can live in the abundance of God what truly desires for us?  THAT is a relationship of grace.  THAT is one in which we trust God with child-like faith, waiting upon Him to receive what He offers through Christ.

Too many Christians are willing to settle for less than God’s best.  They think it’s the easy way, but it’s not.  God’s best is found in trusting Him by faith.  We look to the promises of God’s word, and we hold to it…period.

Maybe this is a difficult message for you today because you’ve been through the pain of divorce.  Every divorce is painful, whether Biblically justified or not.  Remember first that there is healing and comfort in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus responded sternly to the test of the Pharisees, but He gave His blessing and grace to the children who were brought to Him.  He can bring healing and blessing to you as well.  Second, remember that divorce is not the unforgiveable sin.  Even if you had an unbiblical divorce, and reconciliation is no longer a possibility, there is forgiveness in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

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