1Co 7:10-13 “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 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. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.”
As in previous verses of this chapter in First Corinthians, Paul is very careful to distinguish what he says according to the command of God and what he believes to be right in his own heart. From the beginning, God’s intent was for the union between His man and woman to be a lasting one. God’s man, Adam, understood this when he testified “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Gen 2:24).”
From a literal sense, we come to understand from an early age (think falling and “skinning” your knees) what the result of losing even a small portion of our flesh is. There is pain, often accompanied by tears, and scars to remember the situation by. As we mature, we realize that there is even greater pain and emotional scarring that can occur with the loss of flesh (such as the amputation of a limb). What many never stop to consider until it is too late is the very real pain and scarring that occurs when wither the husband or the wife violates this principle of being one flesh.
We know from experience that there are times when a brother or sister is not able to prevent a divorce from happening. Unfaithfulness in the marriage or unbelief in the truth of Jesus Christ can become an insurmountable hurdle, although it does not have to be. In the case of the Corinthian brethren, the matter seemed to center more on the culture of the time: one spouse was converted to the truth of Jesus Christ while the other was not.
Paul first called their attention to the Lord’s command. The wife is not to leave her husband, and the husband is not to send his wife away. They are one flesh before God. As such, they should seek to be reconciled to each other, and here Paul shares his conviction on the matter of an unbelieving spouse.
Paul was never prone to just pulling ideas out of the air. It is safe to think that there were brothers in Corinth who had been delivered to an understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ while their wives were not. Also there were sisters there who had come to an understanding of this same blessed truth whose husbands had not. Paul’s admonishment was that this alone was not grounds for one to leave the other. As long as the unbelieving spouse was content in the union without requiring the believing spouse to forsake the truth, it was good for them to remain together.
The matter here is simple. Just because we have opposing ideas is not reason to go our separate ways. As long as the unbeliever (in the truth of Jesus Christ) is not determined to be a hindrance to the believer, let them dwell together in peace. God is, after all, still the God of both (since He is the God of the universe and all that is in it). God does not require man’s belief in order to be God.
May we have the grace of God to walk boldly in our belief while dwelling peaceably with those who do not believe!