The hardhearted person who cannot forgive or live in proper relation to others in Christ's body (18:1-35) will also despise weaker people in society-in Jesus' day, these included wives (19:1-12; compare Mal 2:14-16) and children (Mt 19:13-15). By contrast, Jesus, who is not hardhearted, remains unimpressed by worldly status (vv. 16-22). When we hold grudges against a genuinely repentant spouse and remain hardhearted toward her or him-whether or not we officially cast the person away-we hinder our own communication with God (1 Pet 3:7-12) and ultimately can invite our own damnation (Mt 18:34-35).
It is thus no coincidence that in Matthew Jesus' teaching on marital commitment directly follows his teaching on forgiveness (18:21-35), just as in Mark it follows a discussion of sinning against a "little one" (Mk 9:42-50; compare Mt 18:7-9). The more intimate the relationship, the deeper the wounds of interpersonal friction sear; marriage without forgiveness and reconciliation would be difficult. Some of Jesus' contemporaries for this reason either emotionally neglected or divorced their wives; many of our contemporaries refuse to form close bonds of commitment to begin with. This passage provides a number of essential principles.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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