The Church and failing marriages
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. - Matthew 19:6
There was a time when the word 'divorce' was hardly used in the church. These days, many marriages fall apart with at least one of the partners seeking the escape route - divorce. Pastors and counsellors often urge church members to mend fences and try to put their marriages back together.
There have been instances where women with abusive husbands have been encouraged to stay in the union all in the name of 'keeping the marriage together' under the instruction that God hates divorces.
Family and Religion reached out to Joseph Emmanuel, youth counsellor and gospel singer within the Church of God of Prophecy.
Emmanuel, stressing the importance of marriage said it is a serious affair and whether Christian or not, it should never be entered into without serious consideration.
"The most important thing before marriage is prayer and allowing the Lord to have his way. No doubt, all Christians pray and ask God to have His way, but how many actually allow him to?" he said.
According to him, some people are too focused on what they want and so ignore God's messages.
"Too many people rush into marriage because of a feeling of love. In my experience, one person can love many people in their lifetime. As such, marriages need more than just love. Couples should get to know each other well and be willing to openly communicate with each other about flaws and areas for improvement," he said.
Acknowledging that even after all the 'right ingredients' are applied, things can still fall apart, Emmanuel said that before throwing in the towel the parties must remember that marriage is a sacred institution from God.
"Since marriage is so sacred, any attempts to end it must be based on the Bible. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 that sexual immorality is supposed to be the only reason a marriage should end. One must be careful, however, by ensuring every attempt is made to reconcile the union," he said.
"If the individual has left and is not willing to return and commit to the marriage, then divorce seems practical. However, some marriages end regardless of whether there was any immorality. It is my belief that two adults can choose to behave and support each other or they can each choose to be stubborn," said Emmanuel.
He noted that some marriages fall apart because one or both parties stubbornly hold on to their 'right' and refuse to compromise.
"The reality is, saving the marriage really is not about who is right or who is wrong. Relationships often require meeting each other half way and sometimes agreeing to disagree is also another compromise," said Emmanuel.
He said that another factor which is of key importance in saving a marriage is good communication.
"Couples must listen to each other and be able to put themselves in each other's shoes. Too many times I have heard one individual say that their spouse does not listen to them. It is funny that in all these cases, the accused spouse is hearing that accusation for the first time," he said.
Emmanuel said that in the case of domestic abuse against one partner and other life-threatening conditions, one should not think twice about fleeing for their lives.
Many marriages have been dissolved because partners believed they "deserve to find happiness with someone else". Emmanuel said some people will look for reasons to end a marriage and may refuse to change.
"We must be careful, however, as the Bible cautioned, what God has joined together, let not man rip apart. That said, if an individual tried their best to save their marriage and it did not work, and especially if the other party has moved on with their life and is showing no interest at reconciling, then nothing is wrong with that individual seeking happiness," said Emmanuel.
While some denominations have no issue with members remarrying, others are dead set against it.
Emmanuel said there has always been a serious theological debate about remarriage and different congregations have different views.
"If a marriage was destroyed by sexual immorality, and reconciliation is not an option, then that person is free to remarry (implied in Matthew 19:9). Additionally, in cases of domestic violence and/or abuse, I personally believe that person can remarry," he said.