This great subject came up on another thread, so I wanted to copy it as it’s own post.
…I have a question. I am getting a divorce from an abusive marriage. The thing is that I have been a youth leader for many years and there were several times when I had to talk to the christian girls (often members of our church) who decided to marry non-chrisitan men… Now, as I am divorcing from a chrisitan marriage I hear it in my head all the time “How could you tell all these girls not to marry non-christian but GOOD men when your own christian marriage is falling apart?” I was praying about it but this just doesnt go away, especially that this last friend of mine has a much better marriage than mine. This steals my peace of mind. And these thoughts come to me again and again.
This is a great question and there are actually two parts to the answer.
I think as Christians who end up divorcing, one of the things we all have to deal with is condemnation. We usually get a bucket-load of it put on us by others, but then there is the even greater pile we put on ourselves.
There are a variety of reasons. One is just that Satan is the accuser of the brethren and he will try any trick he can to put a believer into a defeated position. And if we are feeling condemned we ARE in a defeated position. Satan comes for nothing but to kill, steal, and destroy – and he will use condemnation to do it.
The idea that your friend who married an unbeliever has a better marriage than your Christian marriage is straight out of Satan’s bag of tricks. There are too many variables in that judgment to be able to make such a definitive statement. God’s Word is still true – a believer must not marry an unbeliever because it puts us in a spiritually adulterous position. There are no two ways about it. Whether the fruit of that has yet been manifested in your friend’s life isn’t the test of truth.
We also condemn ourselves. We have a paradigm of belief regarding what Christians “do” and “don’t do.” And divorce is definitely on the “don’t do” list. So even if we land in a situation where divorce is the only option, our hearts will condemn us because we are violating the “don’t” list.
I John 3:20-22 is very helpful with this. It says that if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things – He sees the whole picture. And if our hearts do not condemn us (the position we can be in before God – because Rom 8:1 there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh) then we have confidence and boldness toward God and our prayers will be answered.
The truth is that our acceptance before God is based on Jesus’ sacrifice – not on anything we do or do not do. God does not look at us with displeasure, anger, or judgment – He sees only Christ’s sacrifice and it is more than enough. The same grace that provided our eternal salvation is the grace that provides for all of our todays, too. (That’s the subject for a much more in-depth study.)
And God’s grace is not only enough, but if we are attempting to add to it or “do” for God by our “works” – even after salvation – we are stepping outside the bounds of His grace (of which condemnation is a sure sign) and are cursing ourselves (Gal. 1:8-9). God isn’t cursing us – we are cursing ourselves. That’s what condemnation is!
Another factor that enters into your question is the qualification of a Christian vs non-Christian marriage. God tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. But who is an unbeliever? Unfortuately, church teaching on this subject is woefully lacking. We accept anyone who has “prayed the prayer” and says/does the right things as being a Christian. That is foolish and dangerous.
The Word describes a godly union –
A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Then — and only then are they one flesh. Anyone who puts asunder that union has committed adultery. Putting asunder happens a long time before a legal document is handed down by the courts! And the person who has “put asunder” that union is the one who is at fault.
Also the Word says that a man who does not provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever. Among other things, this points back to the definition of a godly union. If a man (or woman) puts asunder s/he has demonstrated that they are an unbeliever – regardless of what they may say they have prayed or whether they go to church and serve regularly and “do” all the “good Christian” things. An abuser most definitely puts asunder – an abuser puts his/her spouse away in every action they take toward their spouse. There is no union, no cleaving, no one-flesh.
And the Word has a process of how a Christian should be able to take this offense to the church, in Matthew 18. Ideally, the church would ultimately judge an abuser as an unbeliever and put them out of fellowship. This doesn’t happen in today’s church, but it is what the Word says is supposed to happen (I Cor. 5 – an abuser is a railer, even if no other of these applies).
Once someone has been judged an unbeliever by Biblical standards the guidelines of I Cor. 7 apply, and a believing spouse is not required to remain with an unbelieving spouse who isn’t “pleased” to dwell with them. An abuser isn’t pleased with anything! It doesn’t matter if that person refuses to remove him/herself from under the same roof. They are not being pleased to dwell with their spouse. There is no peace there. And the believing spouse is NOT bound to remain in that marriage.
So, this is what the Word says. You weren’t in a Christian marriage. You were unequally yoked to an unbeliever – though you didn’t know it.
You have no condemnation. And you can use the truth of the Word to stand up to those voices – whether external or internal. That, in turn, gives you boldness and confidence with God.