I have known couples who claim they no longer love their partner and want out of their marriage. I have known men and women who have lost the love of their spouse and seek to find love with another while still in a marriage with the former. Among the unbelievers of the world, such actions are expected. When God is not the true foundation of one’s marriage, anything might result in a divorce.
Unfortunately, I have seen professing Christian couples in the same situations. Christians who claim to love Jesus and are married to a spouse who also professes love for Christ claim they have lost the love of their partner. They seek ways out of their marriage. Sometimes the marriage is ended by an adulterous act.
I believe one of the key problems in such relationships is that the two individuals do not fully understand what love truly is in marriage. This article is addressed primarily to married couples who profess to be Christians. So, if you are not a follower of my Lord, you will likely dismiss what I have to say as the thoughts of some old, bigoted, man. So be it.
Marital love is a diverse subject. I do not profess to be an expert, but my wife and I are approaching our forty-sixth anniversary. Therefore, I believe I have some experience in this matter. The characteristic of this invisible fixture of marriage takes many different forms. Love begins as an attraction then transforms into a friendship, a companionship. Subsequent to marriage (in accordance with God’s counsel), marital love becomes primarily sexual love. It continues to metamorphose as the marriage endures the passing years and as children are born. But, there is one aspect of marital love that must never change or replaced. It is that attribute which permits for a long, happy, loving marriage: forgiveness.
True marital love is a forgiving love.
Be honest, Christian reader. Each spouse sins in their marriage. In fact, we sin every day if not every hour. And, some of those sins are against our spouse. From a human perspective, our sins range in seriousness from telling a little white lie (perhaps to conceal a surprise party) to adultery. From God’s perspective, every sinful act, no matter how important it may seem to us, will be judged, found guilty, and punished by our Creator. God does not like liars any more than He likes adulterers. Scripture abundantly and clearly teaches we are sinners and stand condemned.
But Christian husband or wife, remember why you are a believer. First, it is because God the Father chose you to be given to God the Son. Second, His Son willingly came to earth, lived, then died in your place on the cross to pay the penalty of your sin. Third, God the Spirit changed your heart and mind, enabling you to repent of your sin, believe in Christ, and receive full forgiveness for all your sins. As Scripture teaches, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Now, if God can forgive you of your sins, Christian, how can you fail to follow the example of your Master and not forgive the sin of your spouse? What type of Christian are you? Does your moral standard exceed that of Jesus? Are you somehow more perfect than He who forgave you? I suggest you carefully read Luke 7:41-50 and Matthew 18:23-35.
Let me answer some anticipated questions.
1. “What if I forgive my spouse and they commit the same sin against me?”
Have you never repeated your forgiven sin? Did God forgive your sin only the first time you committed it, or did He do so every time you commit it? Are you superior to God? Jesus said we are to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22) and He didn’t mean only 490 times.
2. “Didn’t Jesus permit divorce in the case of adultery? Well, my spouse committed adultery, humiliated me, and I want a divorce.”
We can debate the alleged passage on the certificate of divorce. However, let us save that argument for another day and accept the idea that Christ does permit divorce in the event of adultery. Then I have three thoughts to share. First, He permits it; He does NOT command it. Second, He has called on us to grant forgiveness “seventy times seven”. Third, most likely your wedding vows (made to each other AND to God) included the words “until death do we part”. Nothing was said about divorce. To obtain a divorce is to abandon the vow you made before God. The Bible does not speak well of one who breaks his vow (Deuteronomy 23:21).
3. “What is one spouse is physically abusing the other?”
Certainly, no one should permit their partner to physically harm them. Flee from them. Seek a restraining order. More importantly, pray for them because anyone who behaves in such a manner is likely not a true believer in Christ. They need salvation.
In today’s world, it appears commonplace for marriage partners to tire of one another and find reasons to divorce. But, when Christians divorce, they bring harm not only to themselves and their families, but also to their testimony of faith. Ephesians chapter five teaches our marriage is a visible illustration of Christ and His bride, the church. Christ forgives His bride every minute of every day. Praise God, He never divorces us! Foremost in the loving relationship between Christ and His church is forgiveness. The same should be true of our relationship.
Christian readers: if you have sinned in your marriage, seek God’s forgiveness, seek your partner’s forgiveness, and turn from that sin. If you are the partner sinned against, forgive your partner when asked and pray with them, for them, and for your marriage. Begin rebuilding your marriage on the basis of that forgiveness. Ultimately, doing so is best for you, your family, and your witness for Jesus.
True marital love is a forgiving love.