Category: (4) Marital Problems


The Bible is silent on the issue of spousal abuse as a reason for divorce, although it is obvious that God expects us to love one another and to submit to one another in love (John 13:34; Ephesians 5:21). Physical violence against a spouse is immoral and should not be tolerated by anyone. No one should remain in an unsafe environment, whether it involves a family member, friend, employer, caregiver, or stranger. Physical abuse is also against the law, and the authorities should be the first ones contacted if this occurs.

A spouse who is being abused should seek a safe place. If there are children involved, they should be protected and removed from the situation immediately. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that separation (not divorce) in this instance would be wrong. Although friends and family may suggest divorce, unless there is infidelity involved, the Bible only allows for separation.

The Bible gives two acceptable reasons for divorce: the first is abandonment of a Christian by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15), and the second is adultery (Matthew 5:32). Although God allows divorce in these circumstances, He does not command it. It is far better, in the case of infidelity, for two Bible-believing Christians to reconcile, extending the forgiveness and love that God freely gives us. However, in abusive situations, the circumstances are far different. While reconciliation with an abusive partner would be wonderful, it depends completely on the abuser proving his or her reliability, which could take years—if it happens at all—never on the abused party.

Once a separation has been enforced, the abuser has the responsibility to seek help. First and foremost, he should seek God. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks” (Matthew 7:8). No one has more power to heal individuals and relationships than God. He must be the Lord of our lives, the Master of our assets, and the Head of our households. Psychological aid and legal limitations on an abuser are also appropriate and important to his or her process of change.

If it is determined that the abuser has truly changed, the relationship may be resumed, but with much caution. Both husband and wife must commit themselves to God and then develop a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (John 17:3). This commitment to God should be accompanied by intensive counseling from a trusted and well-equipped pastor or believing licensed counselor, first individually, then as a couple, and finally for the entire family to help heal the trauma all have endured. Change is possible for people who truly repent and humbly surrender to the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

There are a number of “red flags” to look for before entering a permanent relationship. Unfortunately, these indicators may not be visible until after a marriage takes place, since many abusers are highly skilled at hiding their true natures. However, a short list to look out for includes irrational jealousy, the need to be in control, a quick temper, cruelty toward animals, attempts to isolate the other person from his or her friends and family, drug or alcohol abuse, and disrespect for boundaries, privacy, personal space, or moral values. If you believe you may be entering a relationship with someone who evinces these qualities, please seek the advice of someone familiar with abusive situations such as a counselor or trusted friend.

If you are in an abusive situation right now, whether the abuser is a spouse, parent, child, caretaker, teacher, relative, or anyone else in your life, please know that God never wants you to remain in a physically or psychologically damaging situation. Find someone who will help you develop a plan to leave the situation safely, and involve government authorities immediately. God has put these resources at our disposal, and we have a responsibility to use them.

The Bible does not use the term “verbal abuse,” but it has much to say about the power of our words. Succinctly stated, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).

Verbal abuse is one weapon in the arsenal of emotional abuse. While the tactics of abuse are many, the ultimate goal is to gain control over someone in order to establish dominance in a relationship. Verbal abuse is not the occasional flare after a bad day or temporary lack of verbal self-control in the midst of a tense moment. It constitutes psychological violence. Verbal abuse is a habitual sin that seldom goes away on its own and can potentially escalate into physical abuse.

Overt verbal abuse could include angry outbursts, screaming, swearing, ridicule, name calling, blaming, accusation, criticism, threats, orders, mockery, manipulation, coercion, put-downs, shaming, word twisting, rewriting history, and attacking personal character. Covert verbal abuse is more subtle and cloaks hidden aggression. It feigns concern and has the effect of brainwashing, leaving the victim confused, off balance, and questioning his or her value and abilities.

Over the long term, any kind of abuse can leave the victim feeling uncertain, unable to make decisions, and drained of any sense of personhood or value. The victim begins to accept the blame and believe the crushing words that are convincingly and repeatedly thrown at him.

The old adage “Sticks and stones can break a bone, but words can never hurt me” is not true. Abusive language has a deep, long lasting effect that can “pierce like swords” (Proverbs 12:18).

The Bible contrasts healthy and unhealthy verbal communication. God knows our weaknesses, and has given us His Word to teach us how to use ours in a life giving way.

The words we speak reflect what is going on inside of us. Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Words affect the speaker as well as the receiver. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:6, 9).

Matthew 5:21–22 categorizes verbal abuse as a serious offense with eternal consequences: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt meaning “worthless, empty”] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

God’s heart on the subject of how we use our words is evident in Scripture. There is no question about the seriousness of the effects on the hearer or the speaker of violent, abusive words. When the words of others have hurt us, we can find healing in the true words of God. When we have hurt others with our words, we can find forgiveness in God and should also seek it from those we have harmed. Those who have been victims of serious verbal abuse may need the help of a counselor or pastor in the healing process.

God’s desire is that we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and that we “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29). God intends that our words and our relationships be healthy and life giving. Keep in mind, God created the universe with His Word (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24) and Jesus Himself is called the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). His desire is that we recognize the power our words carry and use them as He would.

The Bible does not specifically use the term child abuse. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon himself. When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Jesus, He rebuked them and welcomed the children to His side, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). Then He took the children in His arms and blessed them (verse 16).

Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. Too many children are the victims of angry beatings and other physical abuse as their parents take out their own anger and frustration on their children. Though some forms of physical discipline may be biblically acceptable, such discipline should never be administered in anger. Paul reminds the Ephesians, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26–27). Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” There is no place for unrighteous or uncontrolled anger in the life of a Christian. Anger should be confessed to God and appropriately handled long before it comes to the point of physical abuse against a child or anyone else.

Sexual abuse or molestation is particularly devastating and is soundly condemned in Scripture. Warnings against sexual sin abound in Scripture. To force sexual acts upon a child is a horrible, evil offense. In addition to committing a sexual sin, the perpetrator is also attacking the innocence of one of the world’s most vulnerable persons. Sexual abuse violates everything about a person from his or her understanding of self to physical boundaries to spiritual connection with God. In a child, these things are so barely established that they are altered for life, and without appropriate help may not ever heal.

Psychological and emotional abuse are also forbidden in Scripture. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children, but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Harsh, unloving verbal discipline, emotional manipulation, or volatile environments alienate children’s minds from their parents and render their instruction and correction useless. Parents can provoke and exasperate their children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that can be as bad as or worse than any physical beating can inflict. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15–19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips, especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children.

It is abundantly clear how God feels about the issue of all forms of child abuse. Anyone who suspects a child is being abused has the obligation to report it to appropriate authorities. Anyone who has been abused or who has abused children can find hope, healing, and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Talking to a pastor or finding a Christian counselor or a support group may be a good place to begin the journey to wholeness.

The word abuse has taken many meanings over time. Immediately, most assume abuse involves anger or some form of physical violence. This is a simplistic and often misleading view of abuse. Anger is an emotion God gave us to alert us to problems. Righteous anger is not sinful and should not be associated with abuse. Anger mishandled can certainly lead to a sinful, abusive response, but it is a sinful heart, not the emotion of anger, that is the root cause of abuse.

The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. We speak of abuse of trust, drugs, institutions, and objects. These forms of abuse are sinful for the same reason that abuse directed at people is sinful. Such mistreatment is motivated by selfishness and results in damage and destruction. People abuse others for a variety of reasons, but selfishness underlies all abuse. We tend to lash out when things do not go our way.

Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because, on the surface, there is no observable evidence of the abuse, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful or destructive. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal attacks, criticism, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, threats, and withheld expressions of love.

Anyone can be an abuser, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Victims of abuse can be ensnared in a cycle that is very difficult to break. Children have no responsibility for abuse suffered in childhood but often carry its effects into adulthood by repeating the patterns. Children need to be protected from abuse. Abusive parents are cursing their children rather than blessing them as they ought (Psalm 112:2; Proverbs 20:7).

The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (John 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. Several passages in the Bible strongly condemn taking advantage of or abusing others (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Everyone is guilty of abuse at some level, because everyone falls short of God’s command to love others sacrificially. Only the love of Jesus in us can truly love others; therefore, real love only exists in those who have accepted Jesus as their savior (Romans 8:10).

Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse (Psalm 147:3). Sadly, many hurting people are waiting for the abuser to come repair the damage he caused. While it is good for the abuser to take responsibility and make amends to those he hurt, it is Jesus who grants peace to those in pain. He is neither unaware nor apathetic to those who suffer, especially children (Mark 10:14-16). That should give us pause, knowing we are accountable for the suffering we cause to others. The Lord Jesus cares for His followers and has laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He will most assuredly comfort, vindicate, and heal them (John 10:11-15).

Believers need to own their abuse of others in order to break the cycle while receiving help to recover from past hurts. A safe place to do that is in pastoral or biblical counseling or in a small group of believers where people can help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-10). The Lord will enable us to do what He called us to do, which is love one another as He loves us.

People offer questions like “I am divorced for such and such a reason. Can I get remarried?” “I have been divorced twice—the first for adultery by my spouse, the second for incompatibility. I am dating a man who has been divorced three times—the first for incompatibility, the second for adultery on his part, the third for adultery on his wife’s part. Can we get married to each other?” Questions like these are very difficult to answer because the Bible does not go into great detail regarding the various scenarios for remarriage after a divorce.

What we can know for sure is that it is God’s plan for a married couple to stay married as long as both spouses are alive (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). The only specific allowance for remarriage after a divorce is for adultery (Matthew 19:9), and even this is debated among Christians. Another possibility is desertion—when an unbelieving spouse leaves a believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). This passage, though, does not specifically address remarriage, only being bound to stay in a marriage. It would also seem that physical, sexual, or severe emotional abuse would be a sufficient cause for divorce and possibly remarriage. The Bible does not specifically teach this, however.

We know two things for sure. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and God is merciful and forgiving. Every divorce is a result of sin, either on the part of one spouse or both. Does God forgive divorce? Absolutely! Divorce is no less forgivable than any other sin. Forgiveness of all sins is available through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7). If God forgives the sin of divorce, does that mean you are free to remarry? Not necessarily. God sometimes calls people to remain single (1 Corinthians 7:7-8). Being single should not be viewed as a curse or punishment, but as an opportunity to serve God wholeheartedly (1 Corinthians 7:32-36). God’s Word does tell us, though, that it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). Perhaps this sometimes applies to remarriage after a divorce.

So, can you or should you get remarried? We cannot answer that question. Ultimately, that is between you, your potential spouse, and, most importantly, God. The only advice we can give is for you to pray to God for wisdom regarding what He would have you do (James 1:5). Pray with an open mind and genuinely ask the Lord to place His desires on your heart (Psalm 37:4). Seek the Lord’s will (Proverbs 3:5-6) and follow His leading.

Malachi 2:16 is the oft-quoted passage that tells how God feels about divorce. “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel.” But this passage says much more than that. If we back up to verse 13, we read, “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

We learn several things from this passage. First, God does not listen to the pleas for blessing from those who have broken the covenant of marriage. First Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (emphasis added). There is a direct correlation between the way a man treats his wife and the effectiveness of his prayers.

God clearly explains His reasons for esteeming marriage so highly. He says it was He who “made them one” (Malachi 2:15). Marriage was God’s idea. If He designed it, then He gets to define it. Any deviation from His design is abhorrent to Him. Marriage is not a contract; it is a covenant. Divorce destroys the whole concept of covenant that is so important to God.

In the Bible, God often provides illustrations to teach spiritual realities. When Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar, it was a picture of the day, hundreds of years later, that the Lord God would offer His only Son on that same mountain (Genesis 22:9; Romans 8:32). When God required blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin, He was painting a picture of the perfect sacrifice He Himself would make on the cross (Hebrews 10:10).

Marriage is a picture of the covenant God has with His people (Hebrews 9:15). A covenant is an unbreakable commitment, and God wants us to understand how serious it is. When we divorce someone with whom we made a covenant, it makes a mockery of the God-created concept of covenant relationship. The Church (those individuals who have received Jesus as Savior and Lord) is presented in Scripture as the “Bride of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-9). We, as His people, are “married” to Him through a covenant that He established. A similar illustration is used in Isaiah 54:5 of God and Israel.

When God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, He created it as a picture of the greatest unity human beings can know (Genesis 2:24). He wanted us to understand the unity we can have with Him through redemption (1 Corinthians 6:17). When a husband or wife chooses to violate that covenant of marriage, it mars the picture of God’s covenant with us.

Malachi 2:15 gives us another reason that God hates divorce. He says He is “seeking godly offspring.” God’s design for the family was that one man and one woman commit themselves to each other for life and rear children to understand the concept of covenant as well. Children reared in a healthy, two-parent home have a far greater likelihood of establishing successful marriages themselves.

When Jesus was asked why the Law permitted divorce, He responded that God had only allowed it “because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). God never intended divorce to be a part of human experience, and it grieves Him when we harden our hearts and break a covenant that He created.

The “exception clause” is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 “except for marital unfaithfulness.” It gives an “exception” for remarriage after a divorce being considered adultery. Matthew 5:32 reads, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Similarly, Matthew 19:9 reads, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” So, what precisely is “marital unfaithfulness,” and why is it an exception to Jesus’ statement that remarriage after a divorce is adultery?

The meaning of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is clear. If a person gets a divorce and then remarries, it is considered adultery unless the exception clause is in effect. The phrase “marital unfaithfulness” is a translation of the Greek word porneia, the word from which we get our modern word “pornography.” The essential meaning of porneia is “sexual perversion.” In Greek literature around the same time as the New Testament, porneia was used to refer to adultery, fornication, prostitution, incest, and idolatry. It is used 25 times in the New Testament, most often translated “fornication.”

The meaning of porneia in the New Testament seems to be the general concept of sexual perversion. Other Greek words are used to refer to specific forms of sexual perversion, such as adultery. With this meaning in mind, according to the exception clause, any participation in sexual perversion/misconduct is an exception to Jesus’ statement that remarriage after a divorce is adultery. If one spouse commits adultery, or any act of sexual perversion, and a divorce results, the “innocent” spouse is free to remarry without it being considered adulterous.

Please understand, though, that the exception clause is not a command for divorce and/or remarriage. Jesus is not saying that if marital unfaithfulness occurs a couple should divorce. Jesus is not saying that if a divorce occurs due to marital unfaithfulness, the innocent spouse should remarry. At most, Jesus is giving allowance for divorce and remarriage to occur. In no sense is Jesus declaring divorce and remarriage to be the best or only option. Repentance, forgiveness, counseling, and restoration are God’s desire for marriages damaged by unfaithfulness. God can and will heal any marriage in which both spouses are committed to Him and willing to follow His Word.

When discussing what the Bible says about divorce, it is important to keep in mind the words of Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce, says the Lord God.” Whatever grounds the Bible possibly gives for divorce, that does not mean God desires a divorce to occur in those instances. Rather than asking “is ______ a grounds for divorce,” often the question should be “is _______ grounds for forgiveness, restoration, and/or counseling?”

The Bible gives two clear grounds for divorce: (1) sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) and (2) abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:15). Even in these two instances, though, divorce is not required or even encouraged. The most that can be said is that sexual immorality and abandonment are grounds (an allowance) for divorce. Confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are always the first steps. Divorce should only be viewed as a last resort.

Are there any grounds for divorce beyond what the Bible explicitly says? Perhaps, but we do not presume upon the Word of God. It is very dangerous to go beyond what the Bible says (1 Corinthians 4:6). The most frequent additional grounds for divorce that people inquire about are spousal abuse (emotional or physical), child abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), addiction to pornography, drug / alcohol use, crime / imprisonment, and mismanagement of finances (such as through a gambling addiction). None of these can be claimed to be explicit biblical grounds for a divorce.

That does not necessarily mean, though, that none of them are grounds for divorce which God would approve of. For example, we cannot imagine that it would be God’s desire for a wife to remain with a husband who physically abuses her and/or their children. In such an instance, the wife should definitely separate herself and the children from the abusive husband. However, even in such a situation, a time of separation with the goal of repentance and restoration should be the ideal, not necessarily immediately beginning divorce proceedings. Please understand, by saying that the above are not biblical grounds for divorce, we are definitely not saying that a man/woman whose spouse is engaging in such activities should remain in the situation. If there is any risk to self or children, separation is a good and appropriate step.

Another way to look at this issue is to differentiate between biblical grounds for divorce and biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. Some interpret the two biblical grounds for divorce mentioned above as the only grounds for remarriage after a divorce, but allow for divorce with no remarriage in other instances. While this is a plausible interpretation, it seems to come too close to presuming upon the Word of God.

In summary, what are the biblical grounds for divorce? The answer is sexual immorality and abandonment. Are there additional grounds for divorce beyond these two? Possibly. Is divorce ever to be treated lightly or employed as the first recourse? Absolutely not. God is capable of changing and reforming any person. God is capable of healing and renewing any marriage. Divorce should only occur in instances of repeated and unrepentant heinous sin.

One thing we know for sure: not being “happy” in marriage is not biblical grounds for divorce. In Mark 10:11-12 Jesus said, “A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery.” Based on the Bible, we see that people don’t have the right to dissolve an unhappy marriage. God intended that marriage be for a lifetime.

Ephesians 5 presents marriage as a picture of the relationship God has with us. This is one reason why God has such an interest in keeping marriages intact. He is the One that established the concept of “until death do us part.” He established this for our own good. Failed marriages and broken homes are devastating to the husband and wife, not to mention the children involved. Financial ruin is only one of the unhappy results of divorce. The family unit is the basic building block of any society, and rampant divorce has a tragic impact on all of the culture.

This is not to say that God wants to force us to remain forever in an unhappy state. He doesn’t ask us to just grit our teeth and suffer through it. When God approaches marital problems, He does so from the perspective of how to fix them, not on how to dissolve the marriage. For example, He does talk about demonic impact in marriages (1 Corinthians 7:5). He states that the couple should be active in the sexual relationship so that Satan cannot tempt them. He encourages husbands to treat their wives with understanding so that their prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). From these accounts we can see that marriage is a spiritual battlefield. This means that it will take work to fight for the relationship, not to fight in the relationship.

God encourages us toward reconciliation. Matthew 18:15-16 encourages open, honest communication that deals with hurts and frustrations caused by sin. It even encourages us to get help to resolve such things. God also encourages us to have our joy in Him (Philippians 4). Joy is a superior experience to happiness. Happiness is temporal and temporary, but joy rises above all circumstances and lasts for eternity. Joy is something you can have regardless of conditions. God gives some very good guidelines for joy, and none of them require a spouse to cooperate. A spouse does not control our capacity to have joy or peace. James 1:3-4 tells us that deep, abiding joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help, and our faith matures and is strengthened. Mere happiness tends to be fleeting and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people. Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. The book of Philippians is a great study in the difference between joy and happiness. Written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, this book uses the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” 16 times and teaches us how to have true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances. In chains and aware that his life was coming to an end, Paul talks about his faith and trust in Christ and how it had changed his whole perspective on suffering.

God has given husbands clear-cut instructions in Ephesians 5:25-28: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.” To wives, His instruction is to respect their husbands (v. 33) and both are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). If both are living up to their biblical responsibilities, there will be joy and happiness in the marriage. What woman wouldn’t respect and submit to a man who loves her the way Christ loves His church? And what man wouldn’t love a woman who respects and submits to him? The unhappiness that is present in too many marriages is a result of one or both parties refusing to submit to God and obey His revealed will for marriage.

Even if the unhappiness results from a believer being married to an unbeliever, there is always the possibility the believing wife can lead her unbelieving husband to the Lord by her chaste conduct and kind demeanor. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1). The Bible specifically addresses those who are married to unbelievers in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14: “…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband…”

In the end, we must remember that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). God knows the pain of an unhappy marriage, and He understands fleshly desires, but He has given His Word to us on this matter and He does ask for obedience. Obedience to God always brings joy (Romans 16:19).

Since the need to restore a marriage relationship can be for many different reasons, we will look at underlying principles that the Bible sets forth for relationships in general and then marriage in particular.

The place to start is with the individual one-on-one relationship between a man or woman and the Lord Jesus Christ. As born-again believers, the success of any relationship with others is in direct correlation with the quality of our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are out of fellowship with the Lord due to sin or mental attitudes that are contrary to divine viewpoint, we find that we are out of sorts with ourselves, first, and that spills over to our relationships with others. Therefore, restoring our relationship and fellowship with the Lord through agreeing with His viewpoint and resting in the forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus (1 John 1:9) is the place we must begin.

The above presupposes that one has a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through the new birth. That is being born again unto newness of life in accepting salvation through the gift of eternal life given to us in Christ. If that step has not been taken in an individual’s life, then biblical principles are not the first issue to be addressed; one’s eternal salvation or redemption is. This website has an excellent resource available to help to guide one to repentance and acceptance of the gift of life in Christ.

For the born-again believer, forgiveness is the position and privilege that we have in Christ, and because of that forgiveness we are commanded to forgive others. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). If we are believers, we are forgiven “in Christ,” and “in Christ” we also forgive others. No relationship can be restored without forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice we make based upon the reality of our own forgiven state.

For the marriage relationship, the Bible has given us a very clear model that is opposite to the world’s viewpoint. To restore a marriage relationship once forgiveness has been given and received, applying God’s model will begin to bring the two separate parties into a God-honoring union. This requires a choice on the part of both parties. There is an old saying, “you cannot use what you do not know.” Therefore, to learn God’s model for marriage we must look into God’s Word.

God ordained the first marriage in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve. When sin entered because of their disobedience, that perfect union was destroyed. Subsequently, God told Eve that Adam would be her “head” to rule over her (Genesis 3:16). (Compare 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:5-6.) This “rule” has been overthrown by the modern liberal women’s movement and has brought untold unhappiness to those who believe the “lie.” There is also the human viewpoint that “all are equal.” In a way, that is true. We all have equal access to salvation in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). But to say that all in the world are equal in human opportunity, abilities or even power is naïve. God had a purpose for placing wives under the authority of their husbands. Because of sin, that rule has been both abused and chaffed under, and the result has brought chaos to the home and family. However, God does not let the husband off the hook. The husband is to “love his wife as he loves his own body” (Ephesians 5:28). In fact, the greater part of the responsibility of the marriage model is given to the husband. The woman is to obey her husband as unto the Lord; however, husbands are to love their wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25-29).

There is also a passage in 1 Corinthians 7 that lays down some principles and practical, personal, Spirit-led, advice about marriage from the Apostle Paul. This is all in accordance with the supposition that the individuals are born-again believers. This passage speaks about adultery, fornication, staying single and pure or—in order to avoid the pitfalls of passion and fornication—to marry.

God’s marriage model works, but it takes commitment on the part of both parties to create a relationship with a balance of each individual’s obedience to God and walking in fellowship with the Lord. It does not happen overnight. And, usually, if a marriage relationship has broken down, there are issues that need to be forgiven and put behind in order to move forward, and, again, that takes a choice and a commitment. Unwillingness on the part of either party will mean no restoration. The overriding issue is with each individual’s responsibility before the Lord and then coming together before the Lord. Walking in forgiveness and fellowship would be a wonderful place to start to put the pieces back together again.