Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why I Married a Divorced Woman

Shiela over on To Love, Honor, and Vacuum has a very thoughtful, carefully-considered post entitled, "Why I'm Anti-Divorce and Pro Remarriage." I wouldn't necessarily dot every i or cross every t precisely as she has, but she has the main idea dead-on right: that even though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), he doesn't hate divorce in isolation, as though he just thought up something arbitrary to hate. He hates it for a reason, and that reason--stated in the verse--is because divorce is a form of violence against the person one has married. If he hates it for a reason, then there might be reasons why it would be allowed, if the marriage itself has become a form of violence, if one person has made it clear that he or she is refusing to honor the vows taken when they married. This is precisely what Jesus said: "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Matthew 19:8). God never intended marriage to be temporary, at least within this lifetime, but because people's hearts are hard, it had to be allowed to prevent the worse evil of someone being trapped by a marriage covenant that the other person has no intent to honor.

All of this became very real to me when I began getting to know my wife, Cecile, who had been divorced several months before I met her. The full story is told in my book, Marriage, Family, and the Image of God, but I want to share here, briefly, why a young man who had grown up in the church, was waiting for sex until marriage, and had dedicated his life to pursuing God's purposes, chose to marry a divorced woman.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Not-So-Romantic Tale of Jacob, Rachel and Leah

Those of us who grew up in the church are familiar with the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah. After fleeing for his life from his brother Esau, Jacob comes to his relative Laban in Haran to find a wife, and meets Rachel, Laban's daughter. He falls in love with her at once and makes an arrangement to work for seven years to earn her hand in marriage. At the end of the seven years, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Rachel's older sister Leah instead, and Jacob works another seven years for Rachel. The story is almost always presented as a beautiful love story with a touch of intrigue thrown in. Laban is considered a rotten trickster, Leah his accomplice, Jacob is viewed as receiving a bit of poetic justice after having tricked his brother and his father out of the oldest child's traditional birthright, and Rachel has the role of the hapless heroine, caught in the middle of this mess through no fault of her own. It is often pointed out that "Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her" (Gen. 29:20).

We are told that "Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel" (Gen 29:17-18). Commentators are not agreed on what the "weakness" of Leah's eyes means. Most seem not to believe that it reflects poor eyesight or blindness; the majority seem to believe that her eyes were simply unattractive--possibly blue, which may have been considered a defect in the ancient Middle East. Adam Clarke has an intriguing suggestion: that the "weakness" of Leah's eyes reflects not a negative quality but a positive one--that she did have pretty eyes, but by contrast, Rachel's entire "form and appearance" were attractive, and therefore Jacob gave his love to Rachel. One way or another, it was Rachel's beauty that swayed Jacob. There's nothing wrong with this, in and of itself: many significant women in the Bible are described as being beautiful. But if we look at the respective characters of Leah and Rachel, and the results that came from the two marriages, a picture emerges that is very different from the romantic one usually taught.