A short Biblical reflection on the announcement of the engagement of Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, based primarily on Matthew 19.
Matthew 19:3 Some Pharisees came to him to test Jesus. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
Today the media is focusing on the engagement and wedding of Prince Charles to Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles. Reactions to the news is mixed. This includes a statement of support by the Archbishop of Canterbury with the view that what us happening is in accordance with Church of England guidelines 1. I can't imagine a similar response if I approached my area Bishop wanting to marry a couple whose adulterous relationship was responsible for the break up their two marriages.
I would like us to focus on Jesus' teaching in the above passage.
"5`For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Jesus was saying that two people become one in God's sight when they marry. Therefore, divorce doesn't end the marriage in God's sight unless it was due to unfaithfulness of the other spouse, verse 8. The only other way the union can be ended is by death.
To apply this to Prince Charles, Camilla is still married to her husband, Andrew, in God's sight. Therefore, she and Charles will (continue to, presumably? ) commit adultery after they have married.
The Bible is clear about the eternal destiny of those who do not turn from their sin.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
We should, therefore, be concerned about someone who will be outside God's kingdom unless he/she repents. They should be urged to repent by those who in the church who are in a position to advise them. When Jesus failed to condemn the woman caught in adultery ( John 8:11 ) he also told her to leave her life of sin.
A further concern for those who care about the Church of England is that we could be faced with Charles becoming the King and the Supreme Governor of this church. What type of example does this set? Will God judge a church with an adulterer as its head? This misgiving is compounded by Charles' comments about seeing his role as defender of faiths.
It would be nice to be able to say that it is better that the relationship of Charles and Camilla is formalised by their marriage. That it is "the lesser of two evils". This ethical approach was opposed by Jesus when he referred to Moses' permission to divorce. ( Something that was permitted only to safeguard women in a male dominated society ). Jesus stood up for God's ideal that goes back to creation. That marriage should be a life long, loving, exclusive commitment between a man and a woman. Adherence to this will bless individuals and society.
Even Jesus' disciples were shocked by his teaching ( Matthew 19:10 )The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."
Those who have the duty and privilege of understanding and sharing Jesus' teaching should be as uncompromising as he was. People's eternal destiny and the future of the Church of England could be affected if Jesus' teaching is neglected.
Rev'd Jim Pye 10/2/05
Footnote 1 The Archbishop's office released a statement on the marriage plans: "These arrangements have my strong support and are consistent with Church of England guidelines concerning remarriage which the Prince of Wales fully accepts as a committed Anglican and as prospective Supreme Governor of the Church of England."
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: "I am pleased that Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles have decided to take this important step."