But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife. Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.) Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?1 Corinthians 7:10-16
The basic principle of marriage in Christ is leave and cleave. Leave your father and your mother and cleave (stick to your spouse) and don’t separate. He has just suggested that singles don’t get married. But to the married he says stick with the choice and the commitment you have made. A wife must not leave her husband. That was the rule of the day. All would have nodded their heads at that one. It was unthinkable that a woman would leave her husband; but never considered bad for a husband to leave his wife. In fact that could happen easily. Women in those times had no rights at all. All would have agreed with the idea of the woman not being allowed to leave her husband. She was his possession. But Paul adds to the usual, the unusual – the Christian husband must not leave his wife. That a man should not be allowed to caste off his wife would have been a shock. It was fine for a man to cast off his wife but not a woman to cast off her husband. Unheard of!
Paul again reemphasises the point a verse later in saying again a husband is not to leave his wife and a wife is not to leave her husband. It is reciprocal. Notice something else that is shocking, especially in this age when divorce is often treated as the unforgivable sin. If she does leave him, let her remain single. While it is true that divorce is not the Lord’s plan sometimes it does not go according to plan. Note Isaiah 49:15 “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” How can a woman forget the child she bore? In all normal circumstances it ought not to be. But sometimes things are not what they ought to be. Even if that were possible! The same is true in the case of divorce. It ought not to be. It is certainly not God’s plan. But sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t work as it ought even though it is God’s pattern and God’s plan. Let’s not treat divorcees as modern day lepers. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin but an already married couple should try their utmost not to part. And if that is not possible . . .
There is another aspect or theme to these verses which we will look at tomorrow – the matter of the joining together of the believer and the unbeliever. Ponder on that for a while in the light of what Paul writes.
One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in love again.Judith Viorst
The commitment of two people to one another has become difficult and rare. Yet, by its scarcity, the beauty and value of this exchange have only been enhanced.Robert Sexton
More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.Doug Larson