Handling an unworkable marriage

The matter of handling the seemingly unworkable marital problems cannot be applicable to nonbelievers. The courts of law are equipped with sufficient law provisions, facilitated through divorce proceedings. The poisoned environment continues unabated. Better solutions are found outside the law courts.

The Apostle Paul’s recommendation is that Converts should remain in the state in which they were, at the point of conversion. If engaged in marriage, divorce is not recommended. If not married, the recommendation is to avoid complicating one’s Christian calling when dabbling in marital problems.

Christianity leaves no room for divided attention. One is better off, unmarried than engaging in marriage. The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 7 clarifies matters, concerning marital disputations. Can a Christian come to a conclusion that one’s marriage would have become unworkable?

Jesus stated that it is impossible to terminate a marriage, except in death. Arguments have been proffered that some marriages cannot be sustainable. Jesus insinuated that under normal circumstances, it is impossible to terminate a marriage. The institution of marriage holds no divorce provision.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”  “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19:3-12 NIV).

The abnormal environment normalizes the abnormal. Divorce cases are classified among abnormal misdemeanours, thereby, intoxicating survival conditions. A husband and wife are one in marriage, making their separation impossible. The thermometry of a good nation is measured by the level of divorce cases in that environment.

The more divorce cases there would be, in an environment, the more toxic the nation would be. Jesus is the standard for healthful living conditions. When desiring to pursue normal lives, Jesus’ words hold workable standards, for healthful living conditions. All other formulae are unworkable.

The sexual appetite was designed for properly constituted marriages. The package of sexual enjoyment includes the responsibility, of embracing the codification of sanctity in marital conditions. The first time a person engages in sex, one would have committed him/herself to marriage.

Such a sexual engagement could be committed by school children, doing so without realizing the responsibility that goes with it. That kind of sexual activity is termed, fornication; carried out by young people out of mischief. Such youths do so, without realizing the responsibility involved.

The law of cause and effect brings consequences, regardless of immaturity and ignorance. Others get caught up in child pregnancy, yet others may not be impregnated. They would have violated their chastity, yet without any marriage to talk about.

When traditionally getting married, yet, having had experience in fornication, the intended marriage becomes void. That is if the person marrying such a woman would be Christian. When allowing that marriage to proceed, disregarding Jesus’ teaching, the couple would be committing adultery.

Such a union lacks the dignity of being classified as a marriage. It requires termination at the point of discovering the breach. What should then happen to the naive youths, having ignorantly experimented with sex? Their primary sexual conduct would have spiritually validated their commitment to marriage.

Spiritually, it becomes impossible to marry a different spouse, other than the defiled fornicator. Such individuals are cleared, only in the event that the other fornicator dies. But, even death does not absolve the survivor from confessing before marrying the other person.

Otherwise, the solution would be to connect with the childhood fornicator and be united in marriage. Their first sexual engagement in fornication would have sanctified their marriage. Any other hobnobbing in sexual activities, whether with married people or not, would be adultery; which would be abominable to God.

This is what was intended by Jesus when stating:  “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9). The Authorized King James Version renders it accurately, “except for reason of fornication.” In short, adultery cannot be used by Christians, as justification for divorcing one’s spouse.

This is not a treatise to regulate people’s marital behaviours, but a clarification for those desiring to be Christians. Otherwise, stories of divorce and infidelity continue to sour, in Zimbabwe. This presentation is just for those desiring to obtain inner peace when abiding by Jesus’ instructions.

Does this mean Christians cannot marry non-virgin? The answer cannot be in the affirmative. Conditions ought to be clarified before marital engagement. Others may have been raped when young, typical of the war of liberation in Zimbabwe. Still, others may have been widowed or bearing some other mitigating circumstances that can be considered.

The most important factor is honesty, in communication. Very few people have not been involved in childhood folly. However, when discussing matters of marriage, what is advisable is openness. Let the other person be given the right to decide whether to put up with such past evil conducts or not.

Forgiving one another remains the only workable provision in Christianity. Through Jesus, all past sins are forgiven but couples are expected to also forgive one another. Engagement in marriage requires a clean heart. Embarrassing things of the past need divulging, with a clear program of dissociation with them. That provides the only way intended marriages can be successful.

The responsibility of chastity seems directed at women more than applicable to men. For instance, the virginity of a woman might be broken by a married man. The Bible is silent about polygamy. However, nothing shows women ever having had two husbands. The considered great men of God are biblically recorded as having been polygamous.

But there is an aspect of good communication among parties involved, which cannot be ignored. Transparency is key, in this regard. The most difficult condition may be where falsehoods are allowed, leading to dishonest marital engagements. Falsehood, justifying the failure to disclose one’s previous sexual conduct, invites the dissolution of that union.

Unfaithful marriages are biblically deemed adulterous. The person concerned has to confront the unresolved previous marital engagement. There is no need to waste time discussing the pros and cons, concerning matters of dishonesty. This matter needs treatment similar to how fornication cases are handled.

In the event of unveiling falsehood after children have been born, the law of the land takes its course. The custody of children requires a condition of not prejudicing those children. Humanly speaking, there are several other considerations, that cause marital incompatibility. But nothing else justifies divorce, except fornication or false declarations before marriage.

Nothing can be more testing than matters of adultery, in Christianity. In the Old Testament, adulterers were stoned to death. “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbour—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10 NIV).

This reveals God’s disapproval of the sin of adultery. The Israelites were governed under God’s strict Laws, so adultery attracted the death penalty. However, due to Jesus’ sacrifice, justice and mercy are considered, even when handling matters as complicated as adultery.

The man might be married to a wife who constantly succumbs to adultery, suggesting demon possession. How are such cases handled in Christianity? Christian calling takes precedence over everything, including marital issues. Confronting such matters through prayer and fasting might produce any of the three results. The first could be motivated by one’s conduct:

“Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:1-4 NIV).

This implies a dignified way of life that attracts conversion to the other person. Christianity, if practised adequately, carries the power of attraction. The adulterous demon might be driven away, leading to the conversion of the affected spouse.

Nothing limits the aspect of forgiveness, in Christianity, as long as the person expresses repentance. Christianity is practised in a sinful world, applicable where forgiveness would be practised. There cannot be any model of Christianity without forgiving other fellow humans.

The second could be a result of communication skills. Confronting the adulterer, through effective communication requires listening, more than arguing. The adulterer needs sufficient time to speak, confessing his/her adulterous conduct. The power of confession can liberate an adulterer.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16 NIV).

The third possibility is an adulterer’s departure. The countenance of a righteous man or woman cannot be borne by an evil person. The person might feel uncomfortable being in the proximity of a righteous man or woman. His/her voluntary departure grants freedom to his/her spouse.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15 NIV).

However, the departure of an unbeliever does not grant freedom for marrying another spouse. As long as the unbelieving spouse is alive, the believer cannot entertain being married to another. Getting married, under those circumstances, would be an adulterous affair.

The Biblical viewpoint is that only death frees one from a marital obligation. One’s spouse might be irrecoverably unable to give up adultery. But he/she remains espoused in marriage, with a believer who does not stop praying for him/her and catering for his/her welfare, where possible.

There are cases of domestic violence, often complicated by the aggrieved spouses, getting attracted to such improper conduct. It takes two to tango. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). This should not be construed as condoning violence, but as ameliorating violent conduct. Christianity bears a responsibility to make a difference.

Humanly speaking, divorce is commonly viewed as a better solution to handling complicated marital problems. But nothing can be further from the truth. All current problems, affecting humanity, today, are a result of multiple divorce cases. Divorce may appear as attractive in handling current problems but creating more for future generations.

Not all marital problems can be easily handled. But, when applying effective communication, one determines the workability of each case. Divorce resolutions start by assuming that the other person is different from one. There is no need to consider the gender or racial background of other people, as being different.

How does one handle insanity? We are our brother’s keepers. Problems get easily handled when each person treats the other as oneself. For instance, a male spouse ought to understand the feelings of women. When using the same consideration, female spouses ought to understand men’s feelings.

The most important lesson to appreciate in Christianity is that one is not a Christian for the purpose of feeling good. But one becomes a Christian to make a difference in an embattled world. There is more sacrifice in Christianity than there can be physical enjoyment in this world.

When surviving, a Christian lives to answer the question: “In all my endeavours, have most people been glad that I lived?” This is different from answering the question: “In all my endeavours, have I been happy that I lived?” The first question addresses altruism, as espousing Christianity. The second portrays self-centeredness, commonly making this earth hell.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com  for $6.99