Gaming the system?



Scripture: Mark 10:1 (Jesus) left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them. Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Observation: Here Jesus gets into a war of words with some Pharisees who have come “to test him” (v.2). The Pharisees answer their own question in v.4, so it’s obvious they didn’t ask Jesus about divorce because they didn’t know the law on the subject. Rather, they’re trying to get him into hot water, perhaps with the Roman authorities. As the New Interpreter’s Bible says,

“Viewed in the light of marriages and divorces among members of the Herodian family, as well as the political manipulation of political marriages in Rome, the Pharisees’ question is… dangerous.”

Remember that John the Baptist was put in prison (and eventually executed) for criticizing Herod Antipas  – who had divorced his own wife to marry his brother’s former wife. Since the Pharisees were hard pressed to openly oppose Jesus at this point, they were hopeful of allowing Rome to act as their proxy. But it didn’t really work, at least not at that time.

Application: People of faith have often turned to secular political processes to further their objectives over the centuries – sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Is this a good idea? Well, depends.

If our design is to get government to do our dirty work, as was the case with the Pharisees, the answer is no. But when we use political processes to advocate for those on the margins, to speak for those with no voice at the tables of power, the answer is a resounding yes.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, one of the great gifts of democracy is our freedom to advocate for what we believe. Give us grace to use this freedom wisely. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

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