Before we deal with divorce, I want to talk about the last part of this passage of Scripture. How a believing brother or sister sanctifies, or makes holy, their unbelieving spouse and how they MIGHT save them.
Since you, as a Christian, are a temple of the living God, you influence those around you by the love of God that resides in you (Romans 5). Because of that influence they have a better chance of turning to God and receiving the grace, mercy, and salvation found in Jesus Christ. They MIGHT be (Vs. 16) saved through your witness.
Should the unbelieving spouse choose to leave, then they have broken covenant and contract and the believing spouse is not bound. But, keep in mind that you are to do your best to keep the mixed marriage together in the hopes that your witness will be used by God to bring the unbeliever to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.
As far as an unbeliever being made holy or sanctified by the believing spouse, first understand, it is not like they are saved through you. Rather, it is that God set the family unit apart for His use because of the believing spouse; because of their faith, justification, redemption, and salvation. While you are all, as a family, being set apart (being made holy) for His use; you alone are sanctified and Holy now. The unbelieving spouse and children have to choose God over the world. Your influence in the moment is part of their sanctification and the calling and drawing of God. But you have to allow God to use you. You have to be obedient to the Spirit and The Word, not your emotions.
As far as it depends on you, we as Christians, are to live at peace with everyone. So don’t fight an unbelieving spouse who wishes to divorce. But also, don’t encourage or foster a climate that advances or contributes to divorce. That all being said we are told in 2 Corinthians not to be unequally yoked. That is, we are not to enter into a marriage, business, or partnership with an unbeliever.
In Malachi 2:16 the opening words either refer to a man who “hates and divorces,” or to God Himself “hating divorce.” This is reflected in how it is translated in your bibles. Either way, the implication of the verse is clear: God, in no sense, approves of divorce. Having said that, I have always taught and believed that there were only 3 ways God allowed a marriage to end. First, in 1 Corinthians 7, which we just discussed.
Second, when the unbelieving spouse leaves or abandons the other, then there is unfaithfulness, or until death do us part. Why? Because the Husband and wife are one flesh and what God has joined together no one should separate. But, I have found that there is one more, which we will get to next week.
As we talked about last week, dexual relations are an integral part of the marital bond: “the two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31). Therefore, any breaking of that bond by sexual relations outside of that marriage, is a legitimate reason to divorce. But, divorce is not the first thing we should jump to; Christian marriage is a lifelong commitment, “What God has joined together let no one separate,” reconciliation, forgiveness, and a seeking to bring harmony, peace, and restoration should always be our first thought and action.
However, in our culture today many see divorce as a positive solution to a troubled marriage. Harvard sociologist Armand Nicholi III concluded, “Divorce is not a solution, but an exchange of problems.” It is the exchange of one set of problems for another.
Remember what I said last week about not being as unselfish as we would like to think we are… dishes, grass, cooking, cars to be maintained, who does what? It is now up to you to take the opportunities given in marriage to become a better selfless you. At the same time you will also be given the opportunities to encourage your spouse to become their best self.
It is no longer all about you; it is a partnership of mutual self-giving for the purpose of spiritual and moral growth that produces the oneness that God intended for marriage, “And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh,” it is that eternal triangle.
In the covenant of marriage, husbands and wives are to imitate the spiritual closeness and love that Christ has for His Bride, the Church. The Bible says they must submit, “to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
According to the best data that we now have, 71.8% of first time marriages are still intact. In other words, rounding up, 72% of people are still married to their first spouse! Of the 28% that are no longer married, some of those ended in widowhood, leaving the divorce rate around 20 to 25% for first time marriages. That blows a big hole in the 50% of all marriages end in divorce… Also the rate of divorce among the Church is not the same as those outside of God’s Church.
A Harvard study said that couples who read the Bible together regularly, pray together regularly, and attend church together regularly have a divorce rate of 1 in 1287, less than one-tenth of 1%! That percentage rate changes dramatically with less time invested together in prayer, bible study, and with little or no involvement in a local church. It seems the more involvement with God and His Church the less likely it is that there will be divorce.
“In fact, every study that has been done has found that those who act on their faith (believers) by attending worship services, praying with their spouse and so on are happier and closer in their marriage and/or have a significantly lower divorce rate.”The Good News About Marriage, pg. 131
- Are you a witness of God’s Love and mercy within your family?
- Are you obedient/faithful to God in your marriage?
- How are you encouraging your spouse to be their best self?
- Do you pray with them or do Bible Study with them?
- How have you encouraged your spouse or someone in your family today ?
- In the past week?
- The past month?