A skeptic once commented, “in any marriage more than 10 minutes old there are grounds for divorce.”
Now that isn’t literally true. Yet we understand the impetus behind a comment like that; when we comprehend the nature of indwelling sin and the pervasive temptation to sin most frequently against those to whom we are most closely related, such a sentiment can certainly feel like it is true.
It makes one wonder why he should remain committed to a marriage. Why should he persist in working on repeated problems? Why should she forgive again? Why should either of them continue when sin is so frequent and joys seemingly so far apart?
Scripture offers many reasons to endure in any problematic situation and in difficult marriages in particular. Consider these seven reasons to pursue reconciliation in your marriage (even in the worst of sins):
1. Reconcile because of the oneness of the marriage relationship (Gen. 2:18). God has made married couples one. What does that mean? Jesus (remember, He is a member of the Triune God and knows perfectly well the intent of every word of Scripture) commented on the passage from Genesis and said it meant that no man should separate that union (Mt. 19:6). Since you are one with your spouse, stay one.
2. Reconcile because marriage is a living picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32). When one looks at a marriage, one sees a picture of how Christ relates to the church; to refuse to reconcile, then, gives a lie to Christ’s relationship with His beloved body, the Church. (And beware of dismissing this as unimportant; this is Paul’s primary interpretation/implication of Genesis 2:18).
3. Reconcile because it is a means of sanctification for both parties. Sins and fleshly tendencies are most often revealed in trials and temptations; so the trial of a difficult marriage may be a gracious revelation of where you need even more transformation than your mate. For instance:
- It may reveal how we are living for ourselves and not for each other or Christ (2 Cor. 5:9).
- It may reveal how we have inadequately fulfilled our marital roles (Eph. 5:22-33).
- It may teach us how to love with demanding love in return (Matt. 22:39; 1 Cor. 13). John Piper rightly opines about this passage that we do not need to be loved by others, but we do need to love others.
- It may teach us how to make Christ (and not our mate) their identity (Gal. 2:20).
- It may expose other areas of sin that need transformation (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:5ff).
4. Reconcile because it will teach both parties the cost, extent, and grace of forgiveness (Eph. 4:31-32). This is Jesus’ principle from Luke 7:47. It is easy to say, “I will always forgive you…” but when we forgive the worst kinds of sins in marriage, that statement is proven and gives evidence of the graciousness and truthfulness of our love. And the marriage becomes stronger because of it; we know just how far our love really will go to preserve the marriage.
5. Reconcile because it will teach patience and endurance (Mt. 18:12-14, 21ff; Js. 1:2-4; 5:7-11). We are prone to quitting and giving up to quickly. Having troubles that compel us to learn the lessons of endurance is good for us spiritually (and not just in our marriages).
6. Reconcile because it will teach us to identify with Christ’s suffering (1 Cor. 10:13; Phil. 3:7-14; 1 Pt. 2:19-25; 2 Tim. 3:12).
7. Reconcile for the benefit of the children — modeling for them the joy and hope of reconciliation (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). The statement is often made, “It’s better for the children if we get divorced…” That’s a lie. Lack of reconciliation becomes a provocation to the children to become confused, angry, and bitter. What is best for the children is that when they observe their parents sin against each other that they also observe their parents confess, forgive, and reconcile. So reconciliation then benefits the marriage, the children and home, and the long-term strength of the church of Christ.
Reconciliation is hard work. To reconcile is to work against the flesh. But it is also to work with the Spirit. And it is always good for the individuals involved and the greater body of Christ.