last post, I explored the scriptural idea that Christian marriages should parallel the gospel story, as outlined in Ephesians 5. I'm convinced that this idea only becomes more beautiful as you unravel it in your mind. Think about this parallel coming to fruition. Our marriages can become illustrations of grace and redemption to a world that desperately needs it. Our relationship with our spouse is a witness of Christ in itself. That's powerful.
Despite the wonder and mystery of this grand idea, we have to face the
grim reality that the Bible also reserves a place for divorce under
certain conditions. Our marriage is meant to reflect the love story of
God and His people, but there is an exception. In Matthew 19:9, we learn
that divorce is permissible in the event of sexual
immorality(adultery). How does this play into the idea of the gospel
Before we answer that, I have to reflect
on how this concept in Matthew 19:9 relates to my personal story.
There's no doubt about it -- Hannah has ample grounds to leave me if she
chose to do that. I believe that repentance includes accepting the
price you should pay. I should be alone. I don't deserve the grace I've been granted, and I never could. My failures should carry
the price of separation, but she has chosen to forgive me regardless.
In my observation, it can be easy for transgressors to fall into the
trap of making excuses and statements such as "it was just a one-time
mistake!" or "I've been a good husband... aside from this". Comments
such as these do not indicate deep, thorough repentance. Instead, they
demonstrate that the tendrils of pride are wrapped around your heart,
defending yourself from the depth of your own guilt.
If these attitudes exist in the wake of an affair, they must be
uprooted. For healing to occur, we must freely and willingly accept the
potential cost of our errors. But back to the question at hand: if God
commands us to reflect His gospel of love in our marriages, why does He
permit divorce in the case of adultery? Unfortunately, I think this is a
question with no clear answer, but there are a few possibilities we can
First of all, God refers to His people as
the Bride on several occasions throughout scripture. He is preparing
his Bride, and as Ephesians 5 states, He desires to present her as
spotless, righteous, and without blemish. He sacrifices Himself to
accomplish this, but the Bride must accept this in order for
redemption to occur. Repentance is the key to renewed purity. Just like
in our marriages, a calloused spouse who feels justified in their
affair creates an obstacle to recovery by their attitude. Living in
denial, making excuses and concealing the facts do not display a broken
spirit. In the aftermath of infidelity, the heart posture of the one
who's strayed has a tremendous influence on the marriage's trajectory,
and this seems to be true in the spiritual as well.
Perhaps God has permitted this exception of divorce because He
understands our sorrows, and He comprehends the profound challenge of
recovering after adultery. After all, God understands the feeling of
rejection. In The Bible, we see that God makes concessions for mankind
over and over, and maybe this is one of them. Though He does not prefer
for a marriage to be dissolved, He concedes out of compassion for the
human experience. This concession speaks to the severity of damage that
an affair can do.
Although there is no clear answer
to why God permits divorce, we know that He wants to demonstrate His
forgiveness towards us in all circumstances. We've learned that God
considers His people to be His Bride, and a curious thing happens in the
book of Hosea. God commands one of His prophets to marry and bear
children with a prostitute as a symbol of His people's unfaithfulness
and His commitment to them anyway. Wrap your mind around that -- God
sees us as the unfaithful spouse, and He embraces us. Furthermore, He
didn't wait for us to confess before He decided to suffer for
redemption's sake. He took the first step, wanting us even when we don't
want Him. On the cross, Christ was pursuing his Bride despite the fact
that she had already rejected Him. She wasn't sorry yet; she had not
accepted her guilt. That's heavy.
So, whether it's
in a successful marriage or the turbulence of relational misery, the
fingerprint of God's grace can be seen. God sees us as the Bride, and
even in our moments of calloused wandering, He desires us. By reflecting
on how divorce fits into the gospel parallel, we can learn more about
His love for us.
Lastly, I want you to know that,
even if your marriage has been marred by transgressions as grave as
unfaithfulness, you can still reflect the gospel through your
relationship. God does not command us to have perfect relationships, He
desires redeemed relationships. Even in our willingness to forgive one
another, we can reflect the love of Christ to the world around us.
You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We urge you to subscribe via e-mail and consider sharing this blog on social media if you support our message of hope!