In his book Every Second Counts, six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong laments that he did not work as hard on his marriage as he did on his racing career: “All I knew was that in trying to do everything, we’d forgotten to do the most important thing,” he writes. “We forgot to be married. People warn you that marriage is hard work, but you don’t listen. You talk about the pretty bridesmaids’ dresses, but you don’t talk about what happens next; about how difficult it will be to stay or to rebuild.”
Armstrong is not alone in his sad discovery. Recent surveys indicate that nearly half of all marriages today will end in divorce. In addition to the obvious toll such a trend takes on the partners in the relationship, there is a tremendous cost to the children of couples who seek divorce.
While many Christians are concerned today that recent efforts to legalize gay marriages undermine the family, not enough is said about the threat to the institution of marriage posed by the prevalence of divorce among heterosexuals. Jesus recognized the danger and came to restore marriage and the family to God’s original intent through His teaching.
Some of the rabbis of Jesus’ day taught that a husband could divorce his wife for any reason. Others believed that immorality was the only ground for divorce. A woman who was sent away by her husband could not challenge the divorce and was often reduced to poverty. According to Jesus, God’s intent is that marriage last for a lifetime. A divorce, while valid in the civil court, may not necessarily be valid in the eyes of God.
Jesus showed a similar concern for children. Although Scripture taught that children were a blessing from the Lord, they did not enjoy much status in Jesus’ day. It was not uncommon for unwanted children to be abandoned. Christ’s disciples showed little interest in the children being brought to Jesus for blessing and even seemed to regard them as something of a nuisance. Jesus indicated that children were welcome in the kingdom. He was as eager to bless them as their parents were to have them blessed.