Some of Jesus’ teachings make us squirm uncomfortably, as they seem to restrict our freedom and our perennial desire to pursue happiness as we see it. Lifelong marriage to one spouse is a perfect example.
These words–which Jesus spoke with authority and which are contrary even to Mosaic law–have caused debates, divisions, and schisms within the Church. They have also caused pain to many people who, having failed in their marriage, attempted to rebuild their emotional lives and now feel excluded or rejected by the Church because they are denied communion.
It is not easy to understand this teaching. How can God claim that a marital union is forever if we, who are so vulnerable, so fragile and so prone to evil are often unable to be faithful to our lifelong commitments? Can there ever be a lifelong union? And what if we make a mistake?
Many, of course, defend the possibility of dissolving a marriage, arguing that love is fickle and that no affection can endure over decades because of man’s inherent limitations. Why does God want marriage to be forever and always with the same person? Doesn’t he know us? Doesn’t he know what we are made of?
It is precisely within the argument for denying the indissolubility of marriage that we find its best defense. God knows what we are made of and that is precisely why he believes in us. "He made us, and we are his." He is fully aware of all the things of which we are capable, but which sin has gradually concealed from our intellect. We are sinners and he knows that very well, but we are also redeemed beings and that redemption is what allows him to make us into new creatures.
We are made for love and equipped for it. Love is not just a human possibility, but a metaphysical obligation. Anyone who does not love has lost his humanity and the meaning of who he is.
But to believe in the indissolubility of marriage, we must first believe in fidelity, and to believe in fidelity, we must believe in love, and to believe in love, we must first believe in God. It is just as you read it. We cannot believe in true love if we do not believe in God.
For love to be eternal and lifelong, we need to believe that there is a God who is love; because the words "forever" (infinity), "always" (eternity), perfection, and transcendence are linked to the Creator. That is, when we lose the notion of God, the concept of authentic love disappears.
Nobody believes in human love as much as God, who knows how we are and has deigned to grant all generations the opportunity to learn from him, as our best teacher. He proposes a model of an earthly trinity in which the experience of love can be lived in this life and the next.
The "death of God," as Nietzsche proclaimed it, was the death of human love, since one cannot be understood without the other.
So what should be our reference point to understand what we are offering when we give our lives to someone else? To deny God is to deny eternity, and with it, the resurrection. In that case, we could be condemned to nothingness or to an eternity of reincarnations.
If we reduce love to purely physiological mechanisms, we leave ourselves exposed to the fickleness of the flesh, which always wants to indulge itself and justifies itself by whatever means possible.
Only when we understand that God exists, that "he is love" and that he has loved us with an everlasting love, only then can we live the experience of self-giving and surrender, of the "yes" forever without the fear of having made a mistake, but mostly without leaving that "yes" at the mercy of the instincts that each day ask for more and more.
Human love is linked to God. Unbelief and atheism are the denial of "eternal love." and if there is no such thing as eternal love, then we are doomed to live longing for what is not possible. Meaninglessness would be all that’s left.
Juan Ávila Estrada writes for Aleteia.org/es. This article is translated and reprinted with permission of Aleteia.org/es. All rights reserved.