Week of June 11, 2018
(The following message is based on the Sunday message at Grace Church Bethlehem and is intended for use in small groups or for personal reflection)
On May 29th the New York Times ran an article by Roni Caryn Rabin titled, “Put a Ring on It? Millennials In No Hurry to the Altar.” No doubt about it, cultural attitudes and practices regarding marriage are rapidly changing. Still, the most recent Match.com survey of single adults in America reports that 70% of those surveyed want a “serious relationship.” This kind of language raises more questions as to what a “serious relationship” is and whether it is expected that something else will follow. Navigating the journey from adolescence to single adulthood to marriage has probably never been more complex. The rules of the game seem to be constantly changing. Further, in the midst of this cultural context the church has a very specific story to tell about what God intends for the relationship between man and woman. This story is not as widely accepted as it used to be, and while we can’t do much to make it popular, we can make it plain.
Scripture text(s): Matthew 19:1-6
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 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?” 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 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’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
For discussion / personal reflection:
1. The Pharisees were seeking to ‘test’ Jesus with a question about divorce. Today, what other issues might they have asked about to test or trap Jesus in the way he answered?
2. A trend is widely observed that marriage is no longer a “launch” into a full adult life. Rather, adulthood is being defined more by an established career, financial stability and the completion of advanced education. Marriage, if it happens at all, is a ‘capstone’ or culmination of adult identity. What positive and negative aspects can you see in this trend?
3. See the parallel version of this story in Mark 10:1-9. Some scholars suggest that the questions of the Pharisees were significant because of the background of Mark 6:14-29. Why would this story of John the Baptist be connected to the Pharisees questioning of Jesus?
4. The question asked by the Pharisees, and the answer given by Jesus reflect two very different approached to the subject of marriage. How would you describe these different approaches?
5. Pastor / author John Piper has stated that Marriage is “God’s design, God’s doing, and God’s display.” Discuss these three phrases and what they mean.
6. Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees was shocking even to his own followers. See Matthew 19:10. It seems that the church has made the mistake of (a) remaining silent regarding God’s plan for marriage, or (b) shouting in angry rebuttal to the changing culture. If Jesus’ words are the church’s message regarding marriage, how do we communicate it in a way that is compelling?
Merciful God, you have told us that you will never leave us or forsake us. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever and you keep your promises to your people. Even in our wandering and rejection of you, you pursue us with a relentless and steadfast love. Grant us grace to model your faithfulness in our own relationships. Help us as we seek to live out what God intends for marriage, and help to tell this story with boldness and gentleness, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.