We now bring to a conclusion our discussion on the subject of marriage and divorce. In summary form we would remind each other of the duties we have within the marriage relationship in order that we may serve God properly.
What we consider here is the positive aspect of the problem of separation and divorce. There are many heartbreaking problems that are involved in marital difficulties. Let’s begin on a positive note.
Christian young people should realize that they have the only power by which marriage can truly succeed and this is love. Paul explains it this way, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord,” I Cor. 7:39. Marriage in the Lord means marriage in the sphere of Jesus Christ. This Paul further explains in Eph. 5 where he describes our relationship with Christ as that of marriage. When we are united to Christ by faith, we are married to Him. This constitutes the proper sphere for human marriage. By this union with Christ, a Christian husband and Christian wife have the power of love, God’s love, which enables them to consummate their own marriage to the full extent which God intended by creation.
We suggest that young people consider this seriously during courtship. At the wedding you stand before God and vow before many witnesses that you take to yourself your lawful husband or wife for life. You promise to live together within the bonds of marriage faithfully and understand that only God has the right to terminate this marriage by death. How can you vow to live your whole life with someone who is a virtual stranger to you? Even though you may have dated each other for years, you still are strangers in many ways. The answer is this: you both are one in Christ, and this union with Christ will enable both of you to keep your vow. I would shudder if I had to vow before God to marry someone for life, if that someone were not one with me in the faith of Jesus Christ. How trustful and confident we can be when we are one in the Lord and therefore have the basis upon which to pledge our love to someone for the rest of our earthly lives.
This should have primary consideration in your marriage plans. It happens all too often that young people become engaged to be married and have not even resolved this most important question for their marriage: can we be married in the Lord, or not? This must be settled early in courtship in order that when you become engaged, which is a promise to become married, you can do that without any reservations.
If Christian young people take this to heart, they have the God provided deterrent for problems of separation and divorce. Marriage without the love of God in Jesus Christ has no foundation. With that love of Christ, nothing can possibly shake it or separate the ones who love each other in the Lord.
It would be humanly impossible for two individuals such as a husband and wife not to have differences. A young couple beginning their marriage must expect them. Every now and then we come into contact with a tender young bride whose imaginary balloon has burst because her husband said something harsh to her. Suddenly her “idol” has appeared human, and that’s more than she can take. Or you have the same thing with a husband: he has built such a mental image of his future wife that there cannot possibly be anything but utopian bliss as he sees it. Then she sits across the table at breakfast, sullen and bedecked with curlers, and the poor fellow realizes that his wife is like any other woman. Young lovers soon come to earth and begin to face the realities of married life together. More and more differences appear, and sometimes little annoyances become great chasms of separation.
How must we handle these differences?
First, one’s attitude is of paramount importance. A Christian may not enter marriage with the attitude of trial and error. The unbeliever marries a person and says beforehand: we will try to make a go of it, we can always get a divorce if worst comes to worst. This attitude is forbidden a child of God. Little wonder that many marriages fail with, such a weak approach. We, rather, begin marriage with the assertion before God that we will work out differences. Christian young people must realize that forsaking one’s spouse is not an alternative for them. They promise to work out differences with God’s blessing. Both must resolve that differences may not separate them; they have to learn to deal with them in love and resolve them.
Secondly, the resolution of differences is only in the way of facing them. All too often a young husband or wife does the “slow burn” and tries to put up with something the spouse does which makes them angry. This is sure to lead to trouble. Such avoidance of is builds pressure until the escape valve blows; and that often has dire consequence, whether in verbal or physical violence. It is amazing how little differences have ways of contributing to such a crucial breakdown.
Little differences have to be talked out on a daily basis. If a couple learns to express their disappointments with each other, they help each other overcome them. This is the basic principle of love; it seeks to remove anything that divides and encourages all that which unites. In a Christian marriage there has to be much confessing and forgiving of one another. Young married couples do well to learn this early in marriage.
One other thing, if this sort of communication is difficult, and a young couple realizes that they are not doing this properly, it is best to get help through counseling. As a minister, one of the greatest frustrations in dealing with marriage problems, is that the minister is contacted as a last resort, out of a spirit of desperation. By then communication is often so broken down that picking up the pieces is terribly difficult. If a young couple feel that they are drifting apart because of differences, and they are not able to handle them, it is best to seek counsel from one’s minister immediately.
Often times differences present themselves as opportunities for a couple really to get to know each other better. If the spirit is that of love and the guide is that of Christ and His Word, such differences provide an opportunity for a husband and wife to do some soul searching and praying for God’s guidance. All marriages cannot be on the same spiritual plane. There are some children of God who are thoroughly content in the blessings God gives them through their marriage. There are other children of God who seem to have a difficult time of it. The reasons may be as varied as the people involved. One thing we must avoid is being satisfied with the status quo, when a little more effort might bring the marriage to a higher plane. According to Ephesians 5, we are to make our marriage more Christ-like every day. By doing this, divorce will be out of the question.
Sometimes, all the effort in the world cannot save a marriage. It may be because of one of the marriage partners, most often it is because of both. What then?
As we have pointed out in former articles, divorce, as it is legally understood in our land, is out of the question for a Christian. Marriage is a lifelong union, ended only by death. Adultery is the only ground for a separation granted by law. The Scriptural reason for this is love. If a husband or wife is sinned against by his or her spouse, love seeks repentance and forgiveness. Divorce closes the door to such forgiveness. Separation impresses upon the guilty one that adultery is a serious sin and makes love within marriage impossible unless it is repented of and forgiven.
In our day of easy divorce, the guilty spouse often times breaks the marriage bond permanently by remarrying another person. Even this does not free the obedient child of God. Such an one continues to pray for the one who is walking in sin and waits upon the Lord to lead him to see the error of his way and, if possible, that they can be forgiven and received back within the marriage relationship. While waiting, which is agonizingly lonely and a trying time, the faithful child of God has this assurance that being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 19:12, he is in the will of God, and God will give grace to sustain in every need. What is impossible with men is possible with God.
The problem of separation is not limited however to adultery alone. What happens if a married couple have difficulties which seem to make living together impossible. There is constant fighting, tension, and maybe even threatening of life. Should they separate?
The answer is that such a separation is in place provided that it is used as a means to heal the breech. It is not right for one to run away from his or her husband or wife because living with them is difficult. Parents should not encourage children to come home and live with daddy and mommy once again. The only reason someone may leave his spouse temporarily, is that it will help them resolve differences and clear the air so that they can communicate without fear for life and safety.
This, too, must be brief if at all possible. Paul’s warning concerning incontinency of a husband or wife who refrain from sexual relationship in order to pray and meditate, I Cor. 7:5, would certainly apply here as well. Satan would like to use such a situation to lead such marriage partners into greater sin and perhaps even adultery. Separation should never be taken lightly, but only with a deep conviction that this is the only way to heal a marriage. It places a great deal of responsibility on the part of the husband or wife who. leaves the home to live somewhere else.
From an earthly point of view, marriages last only while we live here. Death terminates the legal aspect of marriage, so that one is freed to marry another upon the death of one’s spouse. This is proper, for such a relationship serves the purpose of God while His people still live on the earth. There is no need of marriage in heaven; we will be like the angels in glory who neither marry nor are given in marriage, Matt. 22:30. Our fellowship in heaven will not be of the earth earthy, but will consist of the glorious fellowship we have with God in Jesus Christ.
From this point of view the future of the child of God is most blessed. Our marriage to Christ makes our earthly marriage to a husband or wife most precious. Yet, when this earthly life is over, that relationship ceases to exist. It vanishes away with all the things of the earth. That is not disappointment. In its place, we will have the privilege to enjoy the perfect marriage of Christ and His church. We will then enter into the glory of heaven as the perfect bride of Christ, adorned with our white marriage dress, made ready as the bride for her husband, Revelation 19.
God grant that our marriages prepare us for this eternal marriage.