1 Corinthians 13:4-8
PASSAGE: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
QUESTION: I’m in love with a man who tells me his marriage is no longer viable. We have reunited after 22 years to find that we are still in love with each other. He is conflicted with Bible scripture that says a man must stay by his wife and love her no matter what. However, in the last 3-5 years she has emasculated him, turned his oldest son, age 17, against him. She demeans him in every way possible. He says they share no love and generally feels neglected and hates his life. He feels he must stay in that marriage and endure it all because of what the Bible says and what he believes is therefore God’s instruction of him. I’ve told him that I believe Jesus said it is the love in the relationship that we must honor, and that when that disappears, you follow the love wherever it is. I provided him with the Corinthians verse above. Is there anything in the Bible that would make him feel less conflicted about leaving that painful, unhealthy marriage and to honor his own heart?
COMMENT: First of all, this passage (from the well-known chapter on love) does not refer specifically to marriage. Paul is writing about love as the energy of all of life, the underpinning of every relationship—marriage, family, friendship, etc.
The biblical passage most commonly cited by those who believe every marriage must be maintained is Matthew 19:6: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder.” The question here, I think, is whether God has, in fact, joined every marriage. I would say no. There are marriages that are entered into for reasons that are not related to the divine power of love. There are marriages in which God—understood as our individual spiritual guidance and support—is choosing to lovingly dissolve the marital commitment so that both individuals can continue on the individual paths that they are called to explore. The idea that God has joined together every couple who choose to marry seems inconsistent with our spiritual path and purpose.
And it is our own spiritual guidance that makes that distinction for us. We can’t make it for someone else, however much and however sincerely we may wish we could. Your friend is not here to obey the Bible; he’s here to obey his own sense of spiritual guidance. As with every choice and challenge, there is a loving answer and a fear-based answer. We can only know the difference for ourselves and support in prayer those others who are called to the same discernment.