Nothing makes me feel quite as content as the sound and sight of a running creek or stream. Lakes are beautiful and rivers majestic, but there’s nothing like a wee brook for intimate beauty. Water is, in the Bible, symbolic of the Holy Spirit. That’s one reason it fascinates me. As a running brook is healthier than a stagnant pond, the Holy Spirit is meant to flow through us. If we don’t share the living water with others, it becomes in us a stagnant pool that provides neither life nor beauty.
This little seasonal brooklet is running out of our pond. It looks as though the past eight years of brutal drought may be over. Praise God! We need never suffer a drought of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus paid the ultimate price to place rivers of living water within the spirit of every Christ follower.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul continues his advice to the Corinthian church concerning marriage. Click on the link and read the passage, then let me know what you think of my commentary. Got any additional points? Corrections? Differences of opinion? Feel free to speak up–I’d love to hear from you.
Paul warns the Corinthians not to leave their spouses, and then goes on to say . . . but if you do, don’t remarry. Keep yourself available for a possible reconciliation. This is a hard truth for us today in the United States and most of the western world. I’ve been divorced, and many of my readers will have been as well. It’s not a thing any of us sets out to do in life and not a goal of anyone’s to have a failed marriage.
God is forgiving, and He has called us to peace. While we should make every effort to make our marriages work, He does not expect either male or female to stay in an abusive marriage if there is any possible way of escape. I knew a lady once who used to come to church bruised and swollen. Once her arm was newly broken. She had been told it was her duty to stay with her husband though he regularly beat her up. Paul doesn’t cover this sort of situation specifically and neither did Jesus–perhaps because it seemed obvious to them. Not every woman is able to escape an abusive marriage: for example, wives of Muslim men in countries where Islam is politically powerful. In a situation like this, which is basically slavery, I believe God will give grace just as He does in a situation of persecution. But God has called us to peace. I strongly believe that in cases of extreme abuse, whether physical or emotional or both, the abused spouse has an absolute duty to run away if possible and to take the children along with him/her.
That said, under normal circumstances husbands and wives need to stay together. Having “lost the spark” or not being “in love” anymore is not a reason to divorce. That spark is a short-lived thing if you fail to cultivate it and everyone has days, weeks, or even longer periods when he or she doesn’t feel “in love”. This is only a commentary on 1 Corinthians, so I’m not going to go into ways to get that “spark” back into your marriage. There are many good Christian books on the subject. I will only say: accept your spouse as he/she is. Do not attempt to change him or her. You can’t do it, and the change is far more likely to come if you restrict yourself to respectfully asking for the treatment or consideration you would like to have (always assuming you are, in fact, giving that same consideration already.)
Paul gives further instruction in the case of mixed faith marriages–that if the non-Christian is willing to continue the marriage, the Christian must stay. If the unbeliever wishes to leave the relationship, the Christian spouse must not try to prevent it. The idea of the believing spouse sanctifying the unbelieving spouse and the children is in contrast to the Old Testament where Jews married to non-Jewish wives were required to put away both wife and children. (Ezra 10) In the New Covenant, the believing husband or wife sanctifies (or sets apart for special favor) the unbelieving spouse and also the children. I found this concept puzzling. My best take on this is that the spouse of a believer is more likely to become a believer himself, as are the children. The believer has an obligation, so much as it depends on him, to exercise a loving, patient, and holy influence over his family. Not to demand or nag, but simply to be there and be salt and light to them and demonstrate the love of God.
Should the unbeliever wish to depart, however, the believer is not to use any means, legal or emotional, to force him/her to remain in the marriage. God has called us to peace. We have no guarantee that our continued influence will save our spouse.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re in a marriage with an unbeliever. It can be hard, but as I said before; love him/her, pray for him, make every effort to draw closer to God yourself. As you do these things, your spouse will see in you a true picture of the love of God. In time–the right time–he or she is likely to answer the tender and patient call of our mighty Savior.
Grace and Peace,