Vol.XVII No.II Pg.7
April 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

A woman writes, "My husband is not a Christian, and he is about the bitterest person I've ever contacted... has never asked me to leave, but I can assure you he doesnt act pleased one bit. She wants comments on 1 Cor. 7:11 and 18.


I am extremely grieved by domestic problems, and have great sympathy for both parties where unhappiness and bitter frustration seem their lot. In the case of young couples, immaturity is often the culprit. Middle-age couples may find it difficult to get "over the hump" of departed children, the frustration of unskilled labor pay now that strength ebbs, or one or both may have become careless in personal habits --- having forgotten the need to continue cultivation of their "first love." Now, what if one is a Christian and the other is not??

First, we must insist that the "Christian" act like one: "rendering due benevolence" (1 Cor. 7:3-5); "in subjection" or "nourishing and cherishing" (Eph. 5:22-29); adorned inwardly with "a meek and quiet spirit" or "giving honor" (1 Pet. 3:1-7). Even those antagonistic to "the word" may be won by such conduct as this. The chronically "bitter" person is angry or displeased with self, and only "takes it out" on others. That does not make such easier to live with, but we way help the partner to better understand what is taking place. The "Christian" partner will "suffer long" "is not easily provoked" etc., (1 Cor. 13:4-7). No one said it was easy!!

1 Cor. 7: emphasizes marriage as the proper sphere for the God-given sexual urge (v. 1-9). It is a permanent relationship (v.10; Matt. 19:5-8) and separation, even for service to God, must be with caution, and limited, lest we give Satan advantage (v. 5; Matt. 5:32).

"Pleased to dwell with" (v. 12-13) means only "consents" to dwell with. If the unbelieving husband or wife is willing to continue dwelling with the believing partner, let it be so. Let not the believer initiate a separation — and that includes "nagging" it into being — though that party takes no legal action. Many a golden (50 yr) marriage exists only after toughing it through some hard times; and many a broken marriage leaves two people wishing they had tried harder.

"But if the unbelieving depart —" the believer who did not want it that way — who tried to prevent it from taking place — is not held accountable for failure to keep the marriage obligations but even this "freedom" is undesirable. Expositor's note: Two considerations make against it: Peace is better for a Christian than disruption (15b); and there is the possibility of saving the unbeliever by remaining with him, or her (16).

It is my conviction that if the one who puts away an innocent party, then forms a new union, the innocent party comes under the exception made in Matt. 5:32; 19:9. These are not "divorce laws" however; their nature as "exception" shows clearly that the sanctity and permanence of marriage is being emphasized Semantics and sophistry can not change that!!