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domestic violence – the escape

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9 

This week the Jersey Domestic Violence Forum delivered to every Jersey address its 12-page tabloid on domestic abuse. Statistically around 1 in 4 women in Jersey experiences domestic abuse in her lifetime, often accompanied by years of psychological abuse.

That statistic is devastating and awful. Threatening behaviour, violence and abuse – in the home – between intimate partners. Abuse of a psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional nature.

Even more horrible is that things haven’t changed much in the past 2000 years. See bold above about life in Judea around AD 30.

Did you spot the domestic abuse? The situation then was that a man could write a bill of divorce and eject his wife from the home “for any cause”. He had to state the “cause” on the “bill of divorce” but it could be “any cause”. Burnt toast? Out you go. Argumentative? Out you go. Of course, the stated reason was not necessarily the real reason. The real reason might be the young thing in the office...... Out went the wife.

What was Jesus’ view about “divorce for any cause”? Being a man, did he agree? No – and he said so.

But men don’t give up that easily. The argument was that the Law – God’s Law, in fact – was on their side: Moses – the Moses who received from Almighty God the 10 Commandments - allowed a man to send his wife onto the street as long as he gave the reason - any reason - in writing. So that’s that. That’s got to be right.

No. Jesus points out two things. First “your hardness of heart”; yes, yours. Second, “I say to you ...”; yes, not Moses words, Jesus’ words.

So what? This incident’s greatest importance could easily be missed unless one notices its context in the biographies of Jesus written by Matthew, Mark and Luke. In all three biographies the incident is sandwiched between two powerful statements of Jesus. The first statement is this: From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Jesus is willing to suffer and to be killed – for others.

In between is “your hardness of heart”. The contrast between us men and Jesus is stark. The “heart” (kardia in the original Greek) does not merely mean (as now) the emotions; it means the whole being of a person.  Hardness.

The Pharisees wanted everything their way. So do men in Jersey who covertly – domestically – demonstrate their hardness towards the one they used to love. But Jesus Christ is concerned about them. About the abusers. When they see Jesus – this perfect man who gives himself for others – they may long to be different – to escape – from themselves.

For those in particular Jesus said that he must suffer and must be delivered over and be killed. For them he must rise again – with his unfailing promise, of new life from hard hearted death.

A second time it’s recorded:  And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.

‘A man’s heart is what he is.' (R B Kuiper, Pastor, 1886-1966)
‘The heart of man is like a musical instrument and may be played upon by the Holy Spirit, by an evil spirit or by the spirit of man himself.' (A W Tozer, Pastor, 1897-1963)
Richard Syvret

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