Before You Pull the Ripcord on Your Marriage

One of the church’s biggest problems is divorce. I can’t say that I’ve seen any documented statistics, but one of the mantras I’ve heard over the years is that the divorce rate is the same inside and outside the church, with about half of all marriages ending in divorce.

I have my doubts about such claims, as the churches I’ve been a part of throughout my life have had very few divorces. There have been a few but certainly nowhere near fifty percent. Nevertheless, one of the problems I have witnessed has been the speed with which couples want to pull the divorce ripcord.

Jesus allowed divorce in the case of infidelity; he did not command it.

As soon as people encounter trouble, it seems like they begin looking for the door. Or even in the face of significant trouble, such as infidelity, people want to pull the ripcord on their marriages. I remember on one occasion that a young married person was the victim of adultery. He told me, “Jesus commands me to get divorced.” I quickly responded regarding his erroneous opinion.

I told the man that Jesus allowed divorce in the case of infidelity; he did not command it. The gospel makes this clear when Jesus specifically states, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives” (Matt. 19:7). This person was in such a hurry to divorce the cheating spouse that he twisted Christ’s statement.

I understand that sexual infidelity can be devastating to a marriage—it can create havoc to the point where the only solution is divorce. Yet, we should be very circumspect about making such a decision—it’s one that should be made slowly and cautiously. Taking one’s time in such a difficult circumstance will undoubtedly be painful and stressful. But why is it important to wait?

Marriage is a portrait of Christ and the church.

In the end, we have to remember that marriage is a portrait of Christ and the church—the holy bond we share with our bridegroom (Eph. 5:25ff). How often do we sin against Christ? How often do we commit spiritual adultery? How often do we engage in idolatry? Yet, Christ, our faithful bridegroom does not give up on us.

Like Hosea the prophet and his adulterous wife, Gomer, Christ pursues us, hedges us in, and showers us with his longsuffering patience and love until we repent. This is the love that should mark all Christian marriages. We live out Christ’s love for us in our marriages when we forgive when sinned against, even when we are the victim of serious sins, such as adultery.

Pray for Christ’s grace in the midst of marital strife.

There are a host of practical benefits for staying married—the cliché rings true, “Stay together for the sake of the kids.” But all such reasons pale in comparison to the manifestation of the love of Christ and the power of forgiveness even in our marriages—even in the face of gross sins.

We live in a disposable culture—our mountainous garbage dumps and cavernous landfills testify to the speed with which we cast things aside. Marriage should not be one of those disposable things. Marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. Pray for Christ’s grace in the midst of marital strife. Pray that Christ would enable you to forgive your spouse. He has loved you first, so that you can love him and love others, especially your sinful spouse.

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This article by J. V. Fesko is adapted from “A Pastor’s Reflections: Don’t Pull the Trigger Too Fast.” For more helpful content by Dr. Fesko, please visit jvfesko.com.

J. V. Fesko is Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi. He has written numerous books on the Christian faith, including Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on BaptismJustification: Understanding the Classic Reformed DoctrineThe Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights and the newly released commentary, Romans (Lectio Continua).

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