Thursday, October 04, 2012

Christian Marriage (10) Temporary Separation

The marriage covenant should allow for temporary separation. The second ground for divorce is not available if both spouses are Christians. Paul does not condone divorce where both spouses are Christians.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband (1 Cor 7:10-11).
A Christian married to a Christian does not have access to divorce, unless their spouse commits adultery. If they have to separate, they must seek to be reconciled or remain single.

Paul allows a Christian wife to have a spell apart from her husband, if things have turned sour. However, the separated wife must try to reconcile with her Christian husband. She must remain unmarried until they are reconciled. If the Christian husband committed adultery while they are apart, she would be free to remarry. Temporary separation provides an escape for a Christian wife who is being abused by their Christian husbands.

Paul does not seem to offer temporary separation as an option to husbands. In his letter, he is quite specific about what applies to men and what applies to women, so we cannot use an argument from silence. He offers women the option of temporary separation, because they are more vulnerable. Christian men do not get this option, because they often have economic and physical power. This continues the protections for woman provided in the Old Testament.

If the separated Christians cannot be reconciled, they should remain single. If they are walking in the Spirit, they are expected to resolve the issues that would drive them apart.

Divorce represents a failure of love. Christians are required to love each other, as Jesus loved us. That sort of love should be able to overcome most obstacles. The reasons commonly given for Christians divorcing are relatively lame:
  • We have different interests;
  • We are going in different directions;
  • We have become different people to what we were when we married.
These are all things that agape love should be able to overcome. There will be failures of love among Christians, but this should not be taken lightly, as it represents our failure to live out the love of Jesus.

The implication of the letter to the Corinthians is that divorce is allowable for non-Christians, because the Holy Spirit has been shut out of their lives, but it is not an option for Christians. Nevertheless, a few Christians will need a divorce, when hardness of hearts prevents the Holy Spirit from changing their hearts.

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