In the church of Rome in the first century, some of the Christians were Jews who had come to believe in Jesus Christ. To explain to the Jews how they were dead to the law, the Apostle Paul used the example of a woman married to a man. It appears that the first century Christians understood the law of marriage, so the Apostle Paul used it as an example. Romans 7:1-3 “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” We are told that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives; if she marries another man while her husband lives, she shall be called an adulteress. If her husband dies, she is no longer bound; in that case, if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
Jesus was asked about marriage in Matthew 19:3-6 “The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’” Jesus quoted from the marriage law given in Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” But then Jesus adds “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” By faith we understand that God joins a man and a woman together in marriage. God’s intent is that man should not separate what He has joined together.
Divorce is very common today in America and many other countries, even among those calling themselves Christians. There are many reasons why a divorce occurs. I believe that one of the causes of divorce is a lack of commitment. For some, the lack of commitment is evident by the mindset going into marriage that if it doesn’t work out, they can get a divorce and try again. For others the lack of commitment is evident by one or both of the married partners giving up and not forgiving when the going gets tough. And for still others, the lack of commitment is evident when they find someone that they feel better meets their needs. We should understand that the commitment needs to be for life, regardless of whether the marriage appears to “work out”, the going gets tough, or someone else comes along that seems to be more attractive.
I submit that a second reason that divorce is common is that husbands don’t love their wives as they should. Husbands are commanded to love their wives. Ephesians 5:25-33 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Many men are often selfish and think of themselves. Christian husbands need to obey the command “husbands, love your wives”. This is not a love where the husband necessarily feels amorous towards his wife. This is a commanded love where the husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. How much did Christ love the church? He gave His life for the church. The writer of Ephesians also said “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.” I believe that when a husband truly loves his wife and the wife sees that her husband loves her that much, the vast majority of marital problems can be solved. What woman can resist a man that truly loves her?
Interestingly enough, in Ephesians, the wife is not commanded to love her husband. She instead is commanded to respect her husband. Instead of respect, some translations use the word honor or reverence. Why the difference in the commands to the husband versus the wife? I believe that husbands often lack love for their wives and wives often lack respect for their husbands. Similarly, I believe the husband has a great need to be respected by his wife and the wife has a great need to be loved by her husband. I don’t want to leave the wrong impression. Wives are elsewhere admonished to love their husbands. In Paul’s instruction to Titus concerning the older women, we read in Titus 2:4 “That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children.”
For those of us who are married, let us renew our commitment to our spouse for life. As husbands, let us love our wives, and as wives, let us respect our husbands. For those who are not married, realize the commitment you need to make when you do marry.