Promise Making, Promise Keeping

This week’s sermon Scripture: Matthew 5: 32-32

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Ok, the Sermon on the Mount is pretty well known, even to the non-religious. But once we get past the Beatitudes, the verses become less familiar. But still not controversial, at least for a few verses. I get it. Murder. bad. Murder in the heart, ok, bad, too. Adultery. bad. Lust in the heart? uh, well Jimmy Carter can tell you how publicly acknowledging that one works.

I then wonder how these verses on divorce would go over today in the public square. With the marriage statistics showing more than 50% of marriages ending in divorce, I imagine that most people would acknowledge that divorce is a bad thing. But not necessarily the worst thing. So Jesus’ words about contributing to adultery by way of divorce would seem like it wouldn’t get many votes on the sentiment meter.

This is where my experience as a destination wedding officiant would help the discussion.  With more than 400 weddings to my officiate credit, I can honestly say that hope reigns supreme.  Most couples are still starry-eyed when they say their vows.  Most still look like they are standing before the most important person in their life. Almost all previously married, then divorced, hope that they have been forgiven and have grown past their former missteps in life and love. Almost all are grateful for a second chance and they act and move as if this present promise is for life.

In my wedding homily I often quote Friedrich Nietzsche when he says that what makes us human is that, “we make promises.”  This, to me, is the core of what makes us noble and marvelously made.  Humans can look at another and say, “I do.”  We can then choose to act and live with that future promise in mind.  Our greatest pains are found when someone who has said, “I do.”  turns and acts out, “I won’t.”

God’s great gift to us in our ability to make promises is also our deep pain when those promises are violated.  It tears at us and separates our identity from its moorings.  For the person who has left the promise, it forces them to re-cast themselves into another person.  For the person violated they, too, must pick up the scraps and look for a new source of hope without scars limiting the range of hope. This is no small feat. Most are in for a rough road with many long nights and difficult days unpacking the rhythm of past relationships and then putting healthy focus on the new life ahead.

The only way to recover from this desperate state is to discover the goodness of God and His powerful promise making and keeping.  He said; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  For many second marrieds, this gift is found in another patient promise maker.  It’s even more helpful if the couple put their focus on the Ultimate,
Benevolent Promise Maker.

2 thoughts on “Promise Making, Promise Keeping

  1. Hi Dan-
    I always find it interesting when things seem so timely and your blog post is helping me process the news I received that my brother has decided to divorce his wife of 25+ years. They have had problems, stemming from his alcoholism, infidelity, etc…all things that he has attempted to work on and she has stuck in there with him (maybe this is one of the problems). I truly hope that both of them are able to move on with their lives and who knows, maybe it is the best thing for both of them. Who knows what God has in store for them…I just hope they find what I feel like I have found. I am grateful that Tom’s and my promise is still enduring. Thanks for the post…
    Linda Eichhorn Laudari

    • Hi Linda. You’ve touched on the complexity of why we make promises and why we want to believe other people’s promises, too. We are complicated and our histories are joyful and sordid. I’m grateful for couples like you and Tom who are so kind and considerate. Blessings.

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