Should Christians Separate? Part 1 of 3
With Kimberly Holmes
Does the Bible Approve Of Separation? Can I Do It?
(0:00) I’ve been doing some research lately on a question that I get all of the time. Why do Christians separate? Should Christian separate? It’s a question that actually kind of boggles my mind, and I’ll explain why. The reason that this question boggles my mind is because I don’t think that there’s any difference between Christians separating and people who aren’t Christians separating, but I’ll get more into that in just a minute. But what I really think is that when people are looking for the answer to this question, “Should Christian separate?” they’re looking for a deeper reason behind it. From what I’ve researched and read, I believe that there are three questions behind this question that are actually going on in these kinds of scenarios.
(1:04) The first is that someone’s looking for a reason to separate. They’re a Christian and they’re seeing if there’s something in the Bible or something about God that can make them feel better, or approve of the reasons they want to separate from their spouse.
(1:23) Number two is someone is looking for reasons to not separate. Maybe they have a husband or a wife that wants to leave, and want to try and find some kind of scripture, or some kind of verse to convince their spouse to stay and not separate.
(1:43) And then the third question behind the question: Is separation an “okay” alternative to divorce? We know that the Bible says to not divorce. We know how God feels about that, but what about separation? Could this be a loophole that we’re kind of looking for here?
So let’s dive in to one of each of those three areas. That’s where we’re going to start.
If You’re Looking For Reasons In The Bible…
(2:05) So the first one is for the people who are looking for approval for separation. The question they’re really asking is, “Can I separate from my husband…Can I separate from my wife and ultimately God be okay with that? Are there reasons in the Bible? Are there reasons in the Bible that God would approve separation?”
If we’re going to look at just science and research and we look at how separation affects marriages, there is no difference in how separation would affect a Christian marriage versus a non-Christian marriage. It’s the same.
Overall, separation is never something, that we at Marriage Helper, would approve of, that we would recommend for people to do unless someone is physically or emotionally unsafe. If they’re being abused, then across the board, Christian, non-Christian, whatever that might be across the board, get to safety even if that means separation.
We would recommend that. Even though I can’t tell you a specific bible verse per se that says “you should separate from your husband or wife if they are hurting you, being harmful to you physically or emotionally,” I’m telling you that you should do it.
But, make sure that you’re not just using a “fight” that you had as a reason to say, “Well, I’m unsafe emotionally. Therefore, I should separate.”
Be real about this, be honest.
But overall, the people who are saying, “Well, should we separate?” They use typically one of three arguments when they’re looking for approval for separation.
Argument 1: Adultery
(3:43) One of the scriptures people use when they’re looking for approval for separation is in Matthew 19 where it says the following:
“Some Pharisees came to test Jesus and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ Jesus replied, ‘Haven’t you read 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 there are no longer two, but they’re one. 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 fornication, and marries another woman commits adultery.’ “
And so people look at that and they take that verse where Jesus says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for fornication, or except for sexual immorality,” as some versions of the Bible read, and marries another woman, commits adultery. People say, “Well, that’s my reason. That’s my loophole to be able to get out of the marriage because Jesus said so. Jesus said it was my right to be able to leave.” And while it might be a “right,” and while Jesus might give an example there, we can go deeper into that text, which I’m not going to do right now, but we can go deeper in it to mean what fornication means and how it’s not necessarily just something sexual, but it could mean many different things.
(5:29) But let’s back up and talk about how, right before that, Jesus was saying it’s not something that was initially the heart of God (and it’s not even currently the heart of God for people to divorce or for people to separate). Because God’s heart is for unification. It is for redeeming that which has been broken, redeeming that which has been hurt.
I mean, if you want to start picking and choosing versus just like this, then you can pretty much get the Bible to approve anything that you believe and anything you want to happen. But- if we’re really going to take everything in context, if we’re really going to see the heart of God and the heart of the story of scripture, many times throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, God refers to His people as His lovers and that He is our lover.
So many times the imagery that God gives is that we are the adulterous people. We’re the ones who have committed a sin against God by following other loves, by committing adultery against Him. Yet, over and over and over, God continues to pursue us. That’s what the heart of God is. So if you want to use a verse like that to say, “That’s my reason, that my husband had an affair. My wife had an affair. Therefore, I just need to leave the relationship.” Look at what God did. Every single time that we committed adultery against God, He continued to pursue us.
Yes, there were consequences.
Yes, there was behavior that had to change.
But ultimately, the unconditional love of God was: “I will take you back. I will take you back. I will take you back,” and that is what the heart of God is.
Argument 2: Lack Of Sexual Fulfillment
1 Corinthians 7:4
(7:18) So then the next argument becomes, “Well, what about if my husband or my wife isn’t fulfilling me sexually?” In First Corinthians chapter seven verse four it reads:
“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body that yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then, come together again so Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Some people look at this and they say, “Well, my husband or my wife is not fulfilling me sexually. We did not consent to not having an affair. I feel rejected sexually. What am I to do about that?”
Well, first of all, I wouldn’t start with separation.
I would start with talking to your husband or wife.
You may be saying, “Well, I have done that and it’s not changed anything and it’s only lead to things getting worse. What else can I do?” I would recommend that you go and you see someone to help you maybe through your marriage. A lot of times we look at the problem in our sex life, but we don’t look at what else is going on in our marriage.
Does our spouse feel respected?
Do they feel like I love them in other ways?
Is there something from their past that is inhibiting them or prohibiting them from being able to fully engage in sex? To want to have sex?
Those are the places you should start before leading to, “You’re not fulfilling me the way you’re supposed to, therefore, let’s end this.” Again, if we look through the story of scripture at example, after example, it’s not the heart of God to end a relationship and start over with someone new because there’s difficulty in it. I understand that this could be very difficult, especially with something as much of a biological need as sex. And, especially when we’re married, we have those urges.
Even in First Corinthians it says in order for us to not be tempted, we need to do this with our spouses. And it’s extremely important. But I also know that with the topic of sex, it’s something that’s hard to talk about, especially for Christians.
(9:49) Many Christians grew believing that sex was bad outside of marriage. But then, as soon as they marry, automatically, sex is good. It’s hard to make that switch in a person’s mind. So we recommend some video courses that can help with this specifically: with you and your sex life, how to talk to each other about that, and how to move on from that. You can go to www.sparkyourmarriage.com and learn more about a company (we affiliate with) can help you more with that.
Argument 3: I’m Just Not Happy In My Marriage
But maybe you’re thinking, that’s not my issue either. “I’m just not happy anymore. I don’t feel like I married the right person or I feel maybe that this was just a mistake. We got married too young. We can never seem to get on the same page and I’m not happy.”
You might not like what you’re about to hear, but as Christians, we are not called to be happy. There is no point in the Bible where Jesus or God or anyone has said, “And therefore you will be happy and everything will go exactly your way.” That’s not it. It says that we can get the full measure of joy that God has given us, which is different than happiness.
Joy is a contentedness in what God has put in our lives and the situation that we’re in, but it is not happiness. We’re not always going to feel happy when we feel joyful, or we’re not always going to feel happy when trials are coming our way, or when we’re going through temptations which are going to happen.
God didn’t call us to be happy. God called us to be holy. God called us to do the things that he commanded us to do, even when it doesn’t feel good to us, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. God called us to stay steadfast, to persevere, to be long-suffering. God called us to do all of those things. So, when we start trying to twist the scripture, when we start trying to twist what God has originally called us to, into, “Well, I’m not happy. How can I just be happy?” Then, we start making a mess of a lot of things.
If I want to leave my marriage because I’m not happy, I can, and God respects the fact that I have free will, which is why He’s not going to try and stop me from doing it…
…it’s not going to be living in the plan, purpose, and will that God has for my life when I do that.
God’s will is that I would learn to overcome my emotions in order to seek Him. That I would learn to overcome my unhappiness, to be content with what He’s given me and what He has called me to do. Again, we can take scripture and we can try and twist it, but if we want to look at the context of what God wants for our marriages and wants for our lives, it is to be in His will. To follow his word even when it doesn’t make sense to us.
You may be thinking, “But you don’t know how terrible my marriage is and surely God doesn’t want me to be unhappy for the rest of my life.” And I would agree that God doesn’t want you stuck in a miserable marriage because that also is not going to be honoring to God or to his Kingdom.
He wants you to have a healthy, strong marriage that does amazing things for the glory of God. You might hear that and say, “Well, there’s my out,” that, “If I don’t have that right now, then that’s my out.”
But the truth is you can get it.
No matter what has gone on in your life, no matter what has gone on in your situation, it can happen. I believe it can happen because, at Marriage Helper, we have seen thousands upon thousands of marriages that were broken, that were unhappy- more than unhappy. I mean they were miserable- beyond miserable. There was no hope for that marriage turning around and being made good. Yet, we have seen it be made whole again. We’ve seen marriages that shouldn’t have made it (by any sense of the word) because of how terrible, hard, and full of lies, betrayal, affairs, and unhappiness, restored.
Seemingly hopeless marriages CAN be restored; made whole again.
(14:24) This section focused on the first reason, the first question behind the question I think people are looking for when asking, “Should Christians separate?” If you want to hear the next two sections, you can look for videos two and three [on MarriageHelper.com or YouTube. Until then, be sure to subscribe to our videos and follow our channel [on YouTube] and if you need anything that we can help with at Marriage Helper, you can visit us at www.marriagehelper.com or give us a call at 866-903-0990. Love to hear your feedback. Be sure to comment. We follow the comments, we answer you. We’d love to hear from you.