This comes from Mark 10: 2-12. It is often used to support the position against same-sex marriage and same-sex rights. Here’s the problem: Jesus used these words not to define who should or should not get married — it was about whether a man may divorce his wife.
Here’s how the Bible explains it:
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 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, no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
It is echoed in Matthew 19: 3-9. There, the Pharisees ask, “May a man divorce his wife for any reason whatever?” The rest of the words are similar as it is in Mark, although there are a few differences. For instance, Jesus says, “Because of your stubbornness Moses let you divorce your wives, but in the beginning it was not this way.”
In both Mark and Matthew, Jesus explains marriage in the context of this question: May a man divorce his wife? Not in the context of the question, who may marry whom? Not in the context of the question, may a man marry another man or may a woman marry another woman?
Simply put, Jesus said: God created a man and woman and made them one flesh in marriage; what God has joined together, no one must separate. In divorce it could also be said about same-sex couples: When they are married, they are joined together and made one flesh, and no one must separate.
In Jesus’ day — in fact, in modern day right up until recently — it was culturally acceptable that only a man and woman could be married. And so the question was only raised and answered in that cultural construct. But that doesn’t mean that cultural constructs cannot change.
Some point out that in Leviticus 18:22 God tells Moses, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman, such a thing is an abomination.” They heed this command above all others as an abomination, but in chapter 18 God gave Moses commands against many kinds of sexual acts, and at verse 29 God calls them all abominations: “Anyone who does any of these abominations…” and at verse 30 God says, “Heed my charge, then, not to defile yourselves by observing the abominable customs that have been observed before you.” Which customs? “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you once lived, nor shall you do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you.” (Levitcus 18: 3)
Throughout these latter chapters are commands from God of what the Israelites may do and not do, from what makes you clean, to what you may eat, to how to treat those who don’t follow these commands, and so on. But people rarely follow these rules anymore — except to exclude same-sex couples from the right of marriage, even in a civil ceremony.
In an earlier article, we read Jesus’ words admonishing the Pharisees for creating difficult rules for the common people to follow while not following those rules themselves. He called them hypocrites. And many of today’s “Christians” act similarly. They are uncomfortable about same-sex relationships so they focus on those words in the Bible above all others, including adultery, bearing false witness, stealing, and the other commandments.
So often “Christians” live by the scripture of the Old Testament, but forget the words of the loving, compassionate Jesus, whom they say they follow. Well, in today’s reading is one line they follow but abuse. Here, Jesus isn’t telling us who may marry. He’s telling us why we may not divorce.