Sunday, March 4, 2018

When to Depart from a Spouse

As a Christian, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of going through two failed marriages. My first wife left me after we’d been married only a few weeks. She then initiated an adulterous relationship with a close friend of mine before filing for divorce. Soon I had believers giving me conflicting advice. One minister told me if my ex-wife ever wanted to reconcile, I had to take her back. Another man suggested she was never officially my wife because of her being previously divorced.

My second marriage lasted a little longer but still had an acrimonious ending. My new wife became verbally abusive and tried controlling various aspects of our relationship including what we did in the bedroom. Since she wouldn’t agree to counsel, I separated from her but remained open to reconciling. That wasn’t possible since it was basically “her way or no way.” She eventually emailed me claiming to have remarried but never sent divorce papers. I had to file myself to be free from what became an ungodly union.

Christians will differ on if and when to depart from a spouse. One situation that shouldn’t be debatable is when physical abuse happens. God never intended for one marriage partner to be a punching bag for the other. Verbal abuse should also never be tolerated. If your spouse repeatedly insults and threatens you, a separation might be necessary to protect your sanity. God has called us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15).

The guidelines Jesus gave in dealing with a sinning brother (or sister) in Matthew 18 can apply to the marital relationship…

15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 
16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 
17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Let me clarify this isn’t an endorsement to immediately separate and get a divorce if your spouse won’t receive correction. Every marital situation is different and requires much prayer. God may instruct you to be patient and extend grace to your mate. I read one testimony of a modern-day Hosea that stood in the gap for his wife who was unfaithful (and even married somebody else for a season) but eventually returned to her husband. On the other hand, a separation can serve as a wake-up call to an unrepentant spouse. 

God desires every marriage He puts together to succeed and glorify Him. However, both parties must be willing to do their part for the relationship to work.

“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” - Amos 3:3

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