It is no secret that the issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage stands as one of the greatest challenges of our day. Families are being destroyed and lives irreparably damaged because of divorce. Churches are being torn apart by disputations regarding God’s will in terms of marriage and divorce. Evangelism is greatly hampered because of the proliferation of second and even third and fourth marriages. We all know of people who have experienced this distress, and their numbers are growing.
In the midst of all of this distress, there is one plain lesson that we should all accept, apply to our lives, and aggressively promote:
If you are married, do not divorce. If you are not married, if and when you do marry, commit to that person for life, and be sure that the person you are marrying is committing for life.
If this sounds a lot like “what God has joined let not man separate,” (Matthew 19:6), there is good reason for that. This is God’s real lesson for us regarding marriage and divorce.
Far too many people get married in order to satisfy their own desires and for no other reason. They enter the marriage relationship with completely selfish mentalities. They will remain in the relationship as long as they are getting what they want out of it and they are happy. When difficulties come and the “happiness” is gone, so are they.
Conflict and difficulty are inevitable in almost any relationship, especially in the marriage relationship (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:28). We humans naturally seek to avoid conflict or to escape from it. If we believe that divorce is an option, we are more likely to take that option than if we do not even consider it as a possibility. This is why husbands and wives should not allow themselves to think that divorce is an option in their relationship (cf. Philippians 4:8). If divorce is not an option, they will force themselves to work through their problems, and this honors the Lord!
Marriage is never about oneself; instead, it features two becoming one (Matthew 19:6). For that to work, the man must love his wife sacrificially– as Christ loved the church (cf. Ephesians 5:25-27). The wife must respect her husband and submit to him as the church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:23-24, 33).
These are tall orders, and marriage should therefore not be entered into lightly. Too many people think with their passions and not on the basis of sober consideration and end up making terrible decisions in choosing a spouse that will haunt them for the rest of their lives!
That is why it is so important for us to “remember our Creator in the days of our youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). While there is never a guarantee in marriage– it is always a risk– it is always better to find someone who loves the Lord more than they love you and who are willing to grow and develop together with you in the Lord (cf. 2 Peter 3:18)!
We cannot expect society to clean up its act on its own. We must reflect Christ’s will for marriage in our own marriages– the changes must start with the church. Let us strongly proclaim the need for those who are married to stay married and for those who seek to marry to commit to their spouses for life!
Ethan R. Longhenry