Most marriages will have difficulties at one time or another, even among the people of God. If left unchecked these problems can seem unsurmountable and without hope of improvement. How should God’s people respond to troubled marriages?
When Jesus was asked if a man may divorce his wife, He said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). This was consistent with what He said earlier in His ministry: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (5:32). He taught against divorce because it not only violates God’s original intent in marriage (19:4-5), it also promotes immorality. The only exception He made is with those whose mate is sexually unfaithful (19:9). Other than that, the rule is: “A wife is not to depart from her husband…and a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Thus, divorce should not be in our thinking as Christians. Our goal should be to work past our conflicts with our mate because of our life-time commitment to one another. “Till death do us a part” was more than a phrase in our ceremony; it was a promise we made before God and man. “I will be married to you until death separates us” was a binding contract we made with our mate that was based on Scripture (Romans 7:2-3). If we would remember that promise when trouble enters our marriage, and dismiss the thought of abandonment, we will find ways to forgive, appreciate, and be content with one another.
I fear there are “innocent” parties in divorces for sexual immorality that are not so innocent, and have acted in ways to encourage their mate’s infidelity. Not that the guilty party is justified in committing adultery because that is never acceptable (Proverbs 6:30-32). However, some people neglect their mate by being unmerciful, unloving, and unwilling to serve them as God instructs (1 Corinthians 7:2-5), then turn to Jesus’ exception to divorce when infidelity occurs. God is aware of these motives and will judge accordingly (Hebrews 4:13). So, instead of trying to find ways to disguise our unwillingness to serve our mate, we should commit to a higher calling by actually treating them with honor as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Indeed, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3) is a principle that is needed in all of our relationships.
Respect One Another.
Tell your mate you love them on a regular basis and demonstrate the qualities of a loving person (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Take an interest in life from their point of view. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). And “let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). We may not be able to control how our mate treats us, but we can control how we treat them, which is why we should strive to always have a kind and loving disposition. Christians in a congregation were told: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12). If showing respect to others is needed in keeping people together in a group relationship, while learning to love one another, it is definitely needed in the most intimate relationship on earth.
Marriage is one of life’s richest blessings, which is why God gave it to mankind. He said, “It is not good (beneficial) for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [one who balances him—a counterpart who is] suitable and complementary for him” (Genesis 2:18, Amplified Version). I have been blessed to find the meaning of that statement in my own marriage. Life is so much more bearable with a loving and godly companion by my side. But we both must continue to apply ourselves and let God’s will define our behavior if our marriage is to thrive and flourish. Again, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). Thus, let us remove divorce from our thinking, and learn to serve and respect our mate instead. Life is too short to miss the beauty of this special relationship.