Chapter 7:10-16 (ESV) - To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Question to consider: Why should a Christian stay married to an unbelieving spouse?
The rest of Paul’s commentary to the Corinthians on marriage dealt with its sanctity. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He reminded the Pharisees that marriage dated all the way back to the beginning before sin entered the world and that in His goodness, God set a covenant between the man and woman to become one flesh. Divorce was only a remedy given to Moses to deal with the hardness of people’s hearts, but since it was God who joined people together in marriage, the rending of such a union should only be done in death.
The idea of a covenant is lost on people today, and many are so caught up in their personal needs and happiness that they are willing to break their vows when faced with difficult times or circumstances. Outside of the covenant we have with God in receiving the righteousness of Christ, marriage is the only other covenant we enter into today. This covenant is not merely a legal contract but a spiritual one in which both the husband and wife make vows to each other and to God. The wedding party and those who attend the wedding are not only witnesses of the covenant but are responsible to help the couple keep their vows.
When people turn the wedding into a day reserved for the bride, they actually cheapen the ceremony, and I have to wonder how serious the couple will be to keep their vows. Paul takes it so seriously, that he even advised that someone who became a believer in Christ after marriage should stay married to their unbelieving spouse if the unbelieving spouse chose to stay in the marriage. Paul’s hope was that in staying in the relationship, the unbelieving spouse may be won over by the demonstration of Christ’s love in their lives. I’ve been a witness to this, and what a wonderful outcome it is when this happens.
Dear heavenly father, we ask that You help us to understand the nature of our covenant with You and each other in marriage. May we help those in our churches and families keep their marital vows and be an example to our children of what sacrificial love looks like. Amen.