This week's blog entry for the "Opening the Bible" blog at i.ucc focuses on one of the "terror texts" that is so often abused. It covers Jesus' teaching about divorce from Mark 10:2-16. This week's entry is called "Status"
Right in the middle of this week's reading from Mark (10:2-16) I found another of those oft-abused passages of scripture. Why do we use the Bible to cut people down?
On a first reading of this week's passage from Mark 10:2-16, it's easy to think, "Jesus stepped in it now! He took the Pharisee's bait and then even took thinks further. He kicked someone hurting from the pain of divorce when they were down.
And then it's time to dig deeper.
In Palestine at the time Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, Jewish men held all the cards. When it came to divorce, they made the rules. The pharisees debated the rules and when divorce was legal, but the men still were the ones who did the divorcing. Women had no power in the situation. The pharisees brought Jesus a question that was a trap. He couldn't answer it without angering some.
I love the stories where Jesus gets to find the answer that leaves them speechless, however. He asked them what the law of Moses said. Then he answered a different question -- without dealing with the legality of things, (The rules for the "hard-hearted") Jesus talked about the ideal for marriage. He talked about it in equal terms with men and women.
What? Equal terms? That can't be! Jesus lived in a time where women had no power or status. How could he talk about marriage and divorce with men and women on equal terms?
Well, he did. And not only with marriage and divorce, but with children too. He talked about them as being very valuable. Jesus took the trap and showed the pharisees and the disciples that marriage was intended to build up both of the people in the marriage. He showed the pharisees and the disciples that their rules caused trouble when they sought to use them to take power and persecute someone else.
I don't think Jesus ever intended us to take this passage of scripture and shun or chastise people who have suffered through abuse or who have lived through divorce after failed marriages. I do think that Jesus wanted married couples to take their vows seriously and to live their lives loving each other and living at peace with one another.
This passage shows that Jesus considers everyone worthwhile. No one is unimportant. Everyone is valuable. No one is better than another -- and everyone, as God's children, has the same status.