But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife (1 Corinthians 7:10-11, NLT).
I write this post with tears in my eyes, because I have lived this from personal experience. The Lord has been good to me over the years in helping me get through a divorce, and I am a stronger person today because of it. One book which has helped me a great deal is Divorce:God's Will? by Stephen Gola. I pray that my personal experience with separation and eventually divorce will inspire and encourage Christians who are going through this right now.
Christendom is plagued with married couples separating and living single lives while still married. It is not uncommon to find in churches men and women who are in fact married, living separate lives with separate households and lifestyles. All this is done under the mistaken belief that as long as they do not divorce, it is okay. How we have deceived ourselves! God is highly displeased with this type of living arrangement, and it is a great sin upon those who commit this. I can understand in situations where there is spousal abuse or infidelity, but to leave just for selfish reasons or because you cannot get along, is not a good enough reason to separate. If both of you are truly Christians, then selfishness must be laid aside, and the Biblical model for marriage needs to be adhered to, which is based upon love in all it's forms - phileo, agapao, eros, and agape. How can you say you love God when you do not even love your husband or wife? If a person says that they love God and do not love their husband or wife, they have belied the faith, and the truth is not in him/her, for God is love, and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God (1 John 4:7-8).
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20-21, NLT).
God hates separation. He says, For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously (Malachi 2:16). He wants married couples to live as one, not separated. This is counted as treachery in the sight of God, and He is not pleased with these kinds of living arrangements.
Look, the reality of life is this: People get married and sometimes they find out they cannot get along. All efforts should be made however to make the relationship work. If however it is impossible for the relationship to work, such as in abusive relationships, infidelity, neglect, and so on, then one should do the right thing and free the other party from the marriage - so they can be free to love again. Staying married and starting another relationship (while living singly/separated) is not the way to go. Jesus calls that adultery.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matthew 19:9).
Staying married and not allowing for reconciliation is also wrong. You are condemning the other party to a life of singleness because of your refusal to reconcile or free the other person from the marriage. That's what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 7:11, But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. The one who forsakes the marital home must live singly because he/she is still married, even though they have left the home, or must try to 'patch things up' with their spouse. If however you are both unable to 'patch things up' because of hardness of heart, then one should not be held captive in a loveless marriage where God does not reside, but be given the freedom to love again.
Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned (1 Corinthians 7:27-28).
God's appeal to married couples is therefore this: Submit yourselves to each other in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21), and practice the love which is of God. Do not follow after the worldly customs of love for selfish reasons, but practice the love which is of God.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT).
That is the type of love I strive for, by the grace of God.