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Marriages and Divorces
The following passages are taken from Anne Graham Lotz’s book “God’s Story,” published in 1997.
Equality in Partnership
The Bible clearly teaches there is to be an equality between man and woman, husband and wife. “In the image of God, . . . male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:27—28).
Dominion over everything was given to the woman as well as to the man. The woman was not inferior to the man; nor was the man greater than the woman. Men and women, husbands and wives, were and are equal.
The New Testament reaffirms the principle of equality when it says men and women are “heirs together of the grace of life.”1 And the apostle Paul, whose views of women are often misunderstood, said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”2
One reason for the rise in militant feminism is because our society has ignored this Creation principle. Perhaps only women can understand the humiliation they feel when their worth is based solely on the fact that they satisfy their husband’s sexual needs, produce his children, cook his meals, clean his house, do his laundry, run his errands, supplement his income—--receiving no respect or appreciation for their own gifts, abilities, and personhood. Women should not have to demand equality—--it is their God-given right!
God in His wisdom created man and woman equal in His sight, and this equality is to be reflected in the marriage relationship. Husbands and wives are to give each other respect, appreciation, and understanding as equal partners. If your own heart and marriage are broken, you can begin now to mend them by following the Creator’s directions for equality.
However, the fact that men and women are equal does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that they are the same! God created them male and female3. There is not only an equality but a diversity between men and women.
Diversity in Partnership
Eve was as different from Adam as Adam was different from Eve. But the differences were complementary. Because of the emotional and physical differences, Eve would supply what Adam lacked, and Adam would supply what Eve lacked. Eve would complete Adam as a “helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The same Hebrew word used for “helper” in this instance is used again in Psalm 46:1 when it describes God Himself as being “our refuge and strength, an ever- present help in trouble.” Rather than implying that Eve was somehow less because she was a helper, this term describes her godly characteristic of support for Adam.
The differences between my husband and myself have been the basis for many fights. My husband likes everything in its place while I never even notice when things are a mess. He is very outgoing, able to recall people’s names easily. In contrast, I am almost a recluse and can’t even remember the faces of people I’ve met. He is extremely athletic while I never played a sport in my life.
One day, following weeks of tension and fighting triggered by these differences, we began to make a study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We recognized our own particular spiritual gifts, and they were totally opposite from each other. This led us to recognize other differences, acknowledge those differences by name, learn to accept them in each other, and then grow to appreciate them for the balance they give to our marriage relationship. I cannot adequately convey the blessing this has been, the peace that has resulted, and the love that has increased between us simply because after years of doing it “my way,” we finally followed the Creator wise directions for diversity in our marriage.
Is someone trying to convince you that your marriage is doomed because of incompatibility with your spouse? Because you are so different? Recognize God’s wisdom in creating male and female, two very different human beings. Sometimes very very different! But the differences are meant to be a wonderful complementary balance as we follow the directions that include equality, diversity, and also unity.
Unity in Partnership
Unity between the husband and the wife is expressed in a psychological commitment. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother” (Genesis 2:24).
Much marital brokenness is the result of not understanding the psychological commitment required when the man leaves his family and the woman leaves her family and they establish their own family. For instance, the struggle can be as simple as the wife’s inability to cook as well as the husband’s mother cooks. Without realizing it, husbands may cling to their mothers and find fault with their wives when the wives do not measure up. Or maybe the husband is not the head of his company as the wife’s father was head of his. By comparison, the husband doesn’t seem as important as the wife’s father. A wife may be inwardly critical of her husband because psychologically she’s clinging to her father. This kind of psychological dependency becomes evident when couples face a major problem and one or both of them turn first to their parents for help rather than the spouse. Or maybe it’s the parent who will not let go of a son or daughter, always calling, dropping by, giving unsolicited advice. Making a psychological commitment to our spouses means not only are we to leave, but we are to let go. We are to let go of our parents, and parents are to let go of their children.
We are to leave our own fathers and mothers and be united to each other, becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The unity in marriage is to be expressed in a physical commitment between man and wife. Marriage unites husband and wife together as closely as Adam and Eve were united before they became separate individuals.4
Some people may consider the intimate side of marriage as some how being “unspiritual.” But if you stop to think about it, the first person who ever had a sexual thought was God. Love expressed in marriage in a mutually respectful sexual relationship is God’s idea, and it is pure, holy, and pleasing to Him.
Dr. Ed Wheat, a prominent marriage counselor, has pointed out that if the physical side of marriage deteriorates, every other aspect of marriage will soon be affected.5 When God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28), He seemed to be saying, “Make sex a priority in your marriage,” not only for the procreation of the race but also in order to maintain the intimate physical unity with each other we were created for.
The commitment between a specific man and woman that we call marriage is not only psychological and physical, but it is to be permanent. This is implied when God said, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.”6 We are committed for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
Many people go into the marriage commitment with an exit sign hanging over it. They get married with the idea that they will remain committed to their marriage only if things get better, if the financial situation eases, if the spouse gets healthier, if the spouse loses weight and looks younger. Even within the church, some couples seem to get married with the idea that “if this doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce.” No, you can’t! Not from God’s perspective.
When Jesus was asked about divorce, He was reluctant to answer. Instead, He referred directly to these verses in Genesis as God’s Creation principles for marriage. When He was pressured to answer, He acknowledged divorce was granted by Moses in accordance with God’s law because of the hardness of man’s heart. Then He gave the only specific basis for divorce in God’s sight, which is adultery.7
If your spouse has committed adultery; the unity of your relationship has been broken in a unique way, and divorce is a biblical option. However, forgiveness is also an option. Peter said, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother [or husband, or wife] when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”8 In other words, Jesus was saying, “Peter, as many times as the person sins or as many times as the memory of the sin returns to haunt you, you can choose to forgive. Forgiveness has no limits.”
What limits have you placed on your forgiveness? It’s frightening to see all of the divorces taking place today within the church when we realize God does not recognize divorce unless it takes place on biblical grounds. A person can obtain a piece of paper that says he or she is legally divorced in the eyes of the state, but that piece of paper is totally irrelevant if God does not recognize it.
When a person who has divorced without biblical grounds remarries, Jesus says that person is living in adultery.9 This is exceedingly serious when we learn the Bible also says no adulterer will inherit the kingdom of God.10 One reason divorce is so rejected by God is that it not only breaks God’s Creation principles for marriage, it also mars the reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church, which is a permanent relationship.11 God hates divorce.12
If you have been divorced without biblical grounds to do so and you have since remarried, what can you do? It’s impossible to untangle the relationships you are now involved in. But you can acknowledge your present situation as the sin that it is in God’s sight, confess it to Him, and ask Him to cleanse you through the blood of Jesus. Then commit your present marriage to Him. Choose from this day forth to follow His directions for your marriage. God will cleanse and forgive you and bless you by His grace.13
The first time I publicly taught on the subject of marriage and divorce, a young, newly married couple named Jack and Susan was in the audience.14 I knew something of their story. Each had been married to another. Jack was married to his childhood sweetheart, Susan to a man she had met in college. After the first anniversary of her wedding, Susan met Jack, and they fell in love. Within weeks, both marriages were broken as their relationship intensified. Jack and Susan then married. In answer to many prayers, including those of Jack’s first wife, Susan began attending a Bible study.
Several weeks later, when Jack and Susan sat in the audience and heard what God had to say about what they had done and how they were now living, they were devastated. Rather than rebel, defiantly trying to justify their actions, they broke down before God. They confessed their sin and asked God’s forgiveness. For Susan, the experience was a complete recommitment of her life to the God she had known but had left. Jack was truly born again.
While they could not unscramble the tangled web of relationships involving former spouses and children nor erase the emotional scars inflicted on others as well as themselves, God graciously helped them to establish a Christian home filled with His blessing. I once asked Susan how she managed to cope. Eyes brimming with tears, she answered, “Anne, every time I look in the mirror, I see sin and guilt. But I choose to live in God’s forgiveness.”
Instead of living in despair or contemplating divorce, would you live in God’s forgiveness? Choose to forgive yourself and the other persons involved, reconciling if they are willing, and committing yourself to live according to the Creator’s directions for marriage.
As I spoke to various women following my Bible class one day I noticed a beautiful woman who hung back from the rest, remaining in the sanctuary as others left. Finally everyone else had gone. I walked over to her and asked if I could help in any way. With a chin lifted defiantly and eyes that flashed with anger, she told me she had just found out her husband was involved in yet another affair. Since their wedding over twenty years previous, he had had one adulterous liaison after another. She despaired, “He’s sick. He’s addicted to the pleasure of having all different kinds of women. I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to divorce him this time.”
My heart ached with compassion for her and with anger toward a man who had taken his marriage vows so lightly that he could repeatedly trample them in the mud of lust and selfishness.
But I looked her in the eye and counseled, “Nancy, you have the biblical right to divorce your husband. He has not only broken his vows but also the mystical, spiritual, and physical bond of unity between the two of you.”15 She looked a little astonished at my agreement with her. Her brow knit as she quietly waited to see if I had anything to add—--which I did. “Nancy, you have the right to divorce Harold, or you have the option to forgive him. Again. And again. As often as he sins, you can forgive him. And while you continually forgive him, pray that the unconditional love and forgiveness you extend will break his wicked heart and his sinful habit and lead him to repentance.”
Nancy left that day without making a decision. Several weeks later I learned she had exercised her option and forgiven Harold. Within a year of her decision, Harold did repent, and God restored their marriage. Their home has been blessed, their own lives are a testimony to God’s power and grace, and both of their children are in full-time Christian service. To God be the glory for Jack and Susan, Nancy and Harold, and all the broken, shattered people who dare to take God at His Word and follow His directions, proving the Creator can mend our brokenness if only we will follow His directions!
“Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”16 Don’t break up what God the Creator has put together in an equal, diverse, unified companionship we call marriage. God is the God of the impossible. It does not matter how bad the condition of your marriage is. Turn it over to God, follow His directions, and He can mend the brokenness.
God has created everyone. Whether you are from Africa, America, or Asia; whether your skin is white or black or brown; whether you speak English or Polish or Spanish; whether your religious affiliation is Baptist or Buddhist or B’Hai; everyone is created by God. The entire human race comes with the Manufacturer’s directions for a pattern to live by, a place to live in, a purpose to live for, and a partner to live with. Isn’t it time you followed directions? (59-66)
1. 1 Peter3:7
2. Galatians 3:28.
3. Genesis 1:27. There is no possibility of a homosexual union in God’s eyes. Homosexuality has never been and never will be an acceptable or alternate “lifestyle.” Homosexuality is sin. Romans 1 describes the homosexual as far away from the Creator’s design yet not beyond God’s grace and redemptive power should the homosexual choose to repent and turn to God.
4. Because of this intimate relationship, adultery is wrong in God’s eyes. Three people cannot become one, as Adam and Eve were one.
5. Dr.Ed Wheat, Love Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.:Zondervan,1980), 59.
6. Matthew 19:6.
7. Matthew 19:9. The apostle Paul seems to say in 1 Corinthians 7:15 that God also permits divorce on the basis of abandonment.
8. Matthew 18:21—22.
9. Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:10—12.
10. 1 Corinthians 6:9.
11. Ephesians 5:25—33.
12. Malachi. 2:16.
13. 1 John l:9.
14. Jack and Susan’s names have been changed.
15. Nancy and Harold’s names have been changed.
16. Matthew 19:6.
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