In the marital cases in which one party is a Christian and the other is not, would a voluntary separation be advisable?

Hello J,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

Concerning separation in marital cases in which one party is a Christian and the other is not, Paul wrote:

“10   And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

11   But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

12   But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

13   And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

14   For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

15   But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

16   For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

17   But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches” (1 Corinthians 7:10-17).

Christ gave instruction about the unbreakable and sacred nature of the marriage tie (Matt. 19:4–6, 9). And Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, deals with cases concerning which no explicit teaching was given by Jesus, hence the expression, “speak I, not the Lord.”

There might be instances in which a non-Christian wife would be so antagonistic to the gospel, and so violent in her opposition, that she would seek separation from her Christian husband. In such cases the husband could not prevent the separation. If, on the contrary, the unbelieving wife desired to remain with her believing husband, he is not at liberty to seek a separation.

The marriage vow is sacred, and cannot be set aside by any change in the religious beliefs of either party. The only effect of the conversion of one party should be to make him or her more tender, kind, loving, and loyal than before. A marriage to an unbeliever is to be regarded as binding on a believer so long as the unbeliever does not voluntarily seek separation from his believing companion and enter into another marriage.

In the same manner as the Christian husband is not at liberty to divorce his unbelieving wife merely on the ground of religious differences, so the Christian wife may not divorce her unbelieving husband for that reason. The two are by the marriage tie one flesh and are indissolubly united (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5, 6; Eph. 5:31).

In His service,

The BibleAsk Team

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