Sunday, April 13, 2008
What God Has Joined...
In Matthew 19, the Pharisees test Jesus by posing an insincere question about divorce. Jesus responds by taking the discussion back to the beginning. He explains that the husband and wife have become "one flesh", and includes this admonition: "What God has joined together, let man not separate." (19:6).
This passage is often quoted in wedding ceremonies, and appropriately so. What better occasion to recall these words of Christ?
In a marriage, which person is more important, more necessary? The husband, or the wife? Obviously, this is a foolish question. Neither is more important than the other. The two are equally important, and both are necessary for the marriage to exist.
The concept of God joining two complementary parts together is not limited to marriage alone. There are many facets of the Christian life that include equally important elements joined together to form a complete picture. Too often, Christians gravitate toward one or the other, depending on personality, preference, or upbringing. But, to do so is just as short-sighted and limiting as trying to determine whether a husband or wife is more important to a marriage.
Just a few examples:
Love/Deeds: I Corinthians 13:1-3 reminds the Christian that all the godly deeds in the world are null and void if not performed in love.
Faith/Deeds: James 2:14-26 issues powerful instruction, detailing how faith is dead without good deeds resulting from it.
How easy it is to fall to either extreme: feeling confident in the depth of our faith, while pretty much keeping it to ourselves, or working like crazy "for God", without nurturing in our hearts the love that God has for those we serve.
Knowledge/Zeal: Proverbs 19:2 states that zeal without knowledge is not good; it causes us to "miss the way". How often do we find a Christian who excels in knowledge, but has lost enthusiasm for Christ? Or, one who is very enthusiastic, yet lacking in knowledge of the Word? Which is better? Can one be better than the other? They must be blended!
Grace/Obedience: Ephesians 2:8 makes clear that we are saved by the grace of God through Christ, and specifically reminds us that we are not saved by our works. We also read in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that God will punish those who do not obey the gospel of Christ. Our salvation comes by grace, but obedience is a necessary element to receive that grace.
Spirit/Understanding: I Corinthians 14:15 contributes wise counsel to the ongoing discussion about worship. Which is more important? To worship with the spirit? Or to understand what we are doing? According to Paul, both! These elements go together, and should not be separated. Yet, how many discussions of worship have we had in which Christians have camped on either end of this spectrum?
Every Christian must strive to be in submission to the will of God in every aspect of life. The focus should be on understanding and putting into practice the full message of the scriptures, not just the parts that match our personality or way of thinking. In fact, things that are challenging to us deserve that much more attention and prayer, so that we may become fully equipped to serve Him.
What God has joined, let man not separate.