Fidelity Counts

wedding cake
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shelleyp/833463719/">Shelley Panzarella</a>

Malachi 2:10-17

Don’t we have a common ancestor? Aren’t we created by the same God? So why have we abandoned each other? And why are we walking away from our ancestral deal? Judah has been two-faced, and Israel and Jerusalem have acted disgracefully. Judah has violated God’s favorite inner room, and has gone off to marry a stranger outside the faith. May God weed out from among us those who’ve done this, all the while pretending to speak for or make an offering to God.

You should cover the altar of God with your tears, because your offerings are no good here. They have no currency coming from you. “Why?” you ask. Because God knows about you and how you cheated on your wife. She’s your partner. That was the deal. God made her, one and the same spirit. And how will you have decent children if you run around on your wife and can’t control yourself? God hates infidelity. So says God. “It’s as if your very clothes reeked with violence,” God says, “so make sure you’re faithful.”

All your talking is just making God tired. “How?” you ask. By calling evil good and saying God approves of it, and then by asking, “Where’d God go?”

People marrying outside the faith upsets Malachi. People getting divorced for the purpose of getting remarried upsets Malachi more.

Many of the Bible’s writings, both Hebrew and Christian, view fidelity in marriage as symbolic of faithfulness to God. After all, if you can’t be faithful to a real person you’ve promised to share your life with, how can you be faithful to a person you’ll never see face to face this side of eternity? For Malachi, the rampant practice of ditching one’s wife for a trophy represented the “problem with Israel” in that day.

Little has changed. People still decry the divorce rate as a sign of the decadence and godlessness of society.

Malachi, though, identifies something many modern legislators of morality leave out: the real human cost of infidelity. Malachi says that for those cast off, it’s every bit as much an act of violence. In a world that relegated (and still often relegates) women to being property, Malachi affirms that “God made her, one and the same spirit.” In a world where children don’t count – where they were to be seen and not heard, and where they still don’t get a vote or a voice – Malachi asks, how can you expect them to behave when you set such a bad example?

Whether you believe in Malachi’s God or not, faithfulness in human terms still holds deep significance. Infidelity still has real human consequences, for individuals and for the “social fabric” of life. Even if we’re not of Malachi’s religion, we do well to listen to his call to faithfulness.