Disclaimer: Christie and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage. It has been good and sweet and difficult and humbling. Please don’t despair from the happy picture, there are many times it has been ugly. The statement below is what I have been convinced of from Scripture. I truly believe that God is able to keep you in your marriage even through extreme difficulty.
Marriage is a picture of Jesus’ covenant-keeping love for His bride. The radicalness of the love of Christ is pictured many ways – Jesus’ death on the cross for hell-bent sinners being number one.
The prophet Hosea is directed by God to marry a prostitute who then commits adultery, yet Hosea remains with and redeems his bride. This is a picture of God’s love for his adulteress people. In response to repeated adultery God responds with, “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4) and “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow” (Hosea 14:7) Human marriage is meant to be a reflection of the love God has for His people. We traditionally state this level of commitment in our vows when we say, “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health… from this day forward until death do us part.” These words reflect the commit of Christ to his church – “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Reflection on our repeated failure and the unrelenting love of God and understanding that human marriage is meant to reflect this kind of love should enable us to understand God’s statement “I hate divorce.” Marriage is meant to demonstrate the unconditional love of God by showing a love that endures all things. When a couple divorces, it destroys the picture of Christ’s convent-keeping love that loves us despite all our sin – even adultery. Because of this, I do not believe that Matthew 5:32 teaches that adultery is an acceptable reason for divorce. Luke 16:18 says “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” That is the principle. Matthew adds “except on the ground of sexual immorality.” One possible explanation for this is that the one who divorces his wife causes her to commit the sin of adultery except in the case where adultery has already been committed. In that case, of course, the divorce did not cause the adultery, as it had already been committed. Bottom line is that God’s commitment to His people is extreme – enduring every obstacle so too should our commitment be to our spouses.
For the already divorced, it is not the unpardonable sin. It is not only forgivable it is redeemable. God can and does use sinners. His grace is able to cover our failures. He is able to let the light of the Gospel shine through the cracks of our “broken pot” lives. For those struggling, God is able and desiring that your marriage is reconciled to properly reflect His own love. Don’t despair of His grace. The road to which you are called may not be easy, it may even call for a time of separation from your spouse. You may be called to demonstrate how God loves the unlovable, but He is able to strengthen you to that task. Perhaps God may use your steadfast love for your spouse to win their hearts and demonstrate the love of God to those around you.