Covenant Marriages


A few years ago the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant denomination, made news when, concerned about the high rate of divorce among its members, it began promoting a concept called "covenant marriages." Southern Baptist "pastors" were urged to try to persuade couples to sign covenants in which they agreed to seek counseling before filing for divorce.


While I would love to see the divorce rate among all people drop, there are some obvious problems with the approach taken by the Southern Baptist Convention. Virtually all, if not all, of the Baptists (and for that matter people in general) who have divorced in the past have done so despite making a covenant with God and their spouse to remain married as long as "they both should live." When people have been ignoring one promise, does anyone really expect that requiring a second promise will have an appreciable impact on the divorce rate?


More importantly, where is the recognition that God has spoken? Our Lord was quite clear in Matthew 5:31, 32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:1-3, and 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11 that divorce and remarriage with God's approval is only allowed in one narrowly defined circumstance. With many religious leaders and organizations, the Lord's teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage is treated as little more than a suggestion or one option among many. If we are ever to see a real drop in the divorce rate we must create a heightened awareness of God's view of divorce. The God who is called a "consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29) joins men and women in marriage and will not tolerate man's tearing asunder that which He has joined together (Matthew 19:3-6).


Ideally a marriage will be like the children's fairy tales where the bride and groom live happily ever after. In a marriage like that divorce never becomes a consideration, but what is a couple to do when Prince Charming turns back into a frog or the one he thought to be Cinderella turns out to be the ugly step-sister? They pledged themselves to be together "for better or for worse," but never expected it to be this bad. Do they seek counseling and then file for divorce if and when the counselor is unable to help them rekindle the flame? NO!While counsel from a mature Christian can sometimes be of great benefit and I would encourage it for many couples, we must remember that we have made a solemn promise before God. A good counselor may be able to help us, but if the counseling does not accomplish all that we might hope for, if despite counseling our marriage is not all we wish it to be--God still hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).


I don't like to see anyone unhappy, and I feel a genuine sympathy for one who feels "trapped" in a bad marriage, but it can be endured. Those who feel trapped can adopt the spirit of Paul when he wrote, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). The worst marriage will one day be over, but heaven (or hell) is forever.


If caught in a bad marriage, don't let it cost you your soul. Instead, treat it as Paul treated his thorn in the flesh. "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." If caught in a regrettable marriage, seek the help of God that the power of Christ might rest on you and God's grace and strength will see you through this trial.