Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Our Lord Jesus spoke of the relationship between husband and wife in this way, “They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matt. 19:6). By quoting Gen. 2:24, Jesus reminds us that God joined man and woman indissolubly together since the beginning; marriage has always been meant to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman.
More than that, the institution of marriage illustrates the principle of two becoming one, pointing like a sign to the same principle present in the spiritual union between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:32). It is a divine institution and a sign of God’s eternal covenant with his people.
Other than being a sign, the institution of marriage also symbolises the relationship between God and His people. Dr Beth Felker Jones, Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, describes:
[Marriage] is an important symbol throughout the Scriptures: God is compared to a husband and God's people to a wife. When, by the grace of God, we're able to keep a marriage together, we get to be symbols—imperfect symbols, but still symbols—of God's faithfulness to his people. Marriages are supposed to last because they are symbols of God's lasting love for us.
The Bible explicitly allows divorce for only two reasons: sexual immorality by one’s spouse (Matt. 19:9) and when the unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage (1 Cor. 7:15). In the former, however, divorce is not mandated or even encouraged. Where possible, forgiveness and reconciliation should first be pursued. There is a third scenario where divorce may be permitted—in cases of marital violence—which is a violation of the one-flesh principle upon which marriage is founded.
If there is any among us who has experienced divorce and struggles with guilt—especially if you have concluded that your divorce was not biblically grounded—take heart that God has promised forgiveness if we are truly repentant (1 John 1:9). We may not be able to unwind time and start over but we can still make restitution, confess and right wrongs with our ex-spouse, children and the larger family.
Marital struggles are real and sometimes overwhelming. But let’s strive to be a Christian community that navigates the tension—treating marriage as what God intends it to be—a lifelong commitment—yet also reaching out to journey with those on the brink.