Have you ever meditated on 1 Corinthians 7:11, which says, “. . . (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife”?
What’s the backstory to this verse? Paul does not mention adultery or abandonment in this text—the two traditional justifications for biblical divorce—so it is safe to infer that biblical grounds for divorce are not in play here. He simply says that the husband is not to divorce and the wife should not marry someone else in the event that she leaves her husband.
Yet, the pain in the marriage was so severe that despite Scripture’s command, the wife wanted to leave and the husband wanted to divorce. Pink and blue had such distasteful exchanges that they wished to bail on the marriage.
But guess what? Paul saw reconciliation as a very promising possibility (“. . . or else be reconciled to her husband”). This means that whatever happened between them in the gray areas could be put behind them and they could move forward as a love and respect team (Ephesians 5:33).
I take the position that too often couples continually and honestly misunderstand each other, which results in disharmony, disillusionment, erroneous inferences, misgivings, and misjudgments. Feeling unloved, she reacts disrespectfully. Feeling disrespected, he reacts unlovingly. They get on the Crazy Cycle. Over time, it wears them out. Getting out of the relationship seems more energizing than staying in it.
Like Paul, I believe reconciliation is absolutely possible for those couples on the Crazy Cycle. Though she appears disrespectful, that wasn’t her intent. Though he appears unloving, that’s not his goal. Both are reacting defensively. Once this is clarified, reconciliation comes. She says, “I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful but feeling that you didn’t love me. Will you forgive me?” He says, “I wasn’t trying to be unloving but feeling that you didn’t respect me. Will you forgive me?”
Obviously, it is best for everyone to have this humble, honest conversation before it leads to separation and divorce—before children are torn, financials split up, and lives upended. But even if not, hurting couples need to realize: the reconciliation that Paul alluded to in 1 Corinthians 7:11 is still possible!
Yes, adultery and abandonment can ruin lives and marriages. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. But an overwhelming amount of Crazy Cycles, separations, and divorces are rooted in honest misunderstandings. You don’t have to choose separation. Will you be the mature one and stop the cycle of unloving and disrespectful words and actions?
Will you believe in reconciliation? Will you pursue reconciliation? Will you look to God to help you bring to past what 1 Corinthians 7:11 optimistically holds out for you?
– Dr. E
- Does Paul’s hope for reconciliation encourage you at all today? Why or why not?
- Can you relate to the sentiment “Getting out of the relationship seems more energizing than staying in it”? How so? If you stayed in the relationship, how did working through the conflict pay off? If you are no longer in that relationship, has your attitude changed toward what was truly the more energizing option to take?
- Is there a marital conflict in your life that needs reconciliation? What is stopping you from seeking that out?
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