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. -I Corinthians 7:15, KJV
As I was driving today, God brought to mind this verse from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is the abandonment exception given in addition to the adultery/sexual infidelity exception for divorce found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. Something jumped out to me as I meditated on this verse.
It says NOTHING about asking the Christian spouse why the unbelieving spouse left!
All this verse instructs Christian spouses to do is to allow the unbelieving spouse to go. They are told that they are not in bondage in such cases of abandonment. They are to let the non-Christian spouse leave in peace. (Personally, I think it is ridiculous to argue that “not under bondage” means anything except free from the bonds of marriage and ergo, free to remarry a believing spouse.)
Back to the insight.
I love how consistent God is. He places the choice squarely upon the one making the decision–i.e. the abandoning, unbelieving spouse.
Let me explain: the Apostle Paul does not call for an investigation of the remaining, faithful spouse (i.e. to see if he was a “bad” husband or if she was a “bad” wife “causing” the abandonment) because God understands the remaining spouse did not make the decision to leave the marriage. A decision to leave a marriage, like a decision to commit adultery, is made by the one leaving (or cheating).* This is the consistent message found here:
We are only responsible for our own choices and actions.
Now, I believe we all can grow as better friends, family, and partners. Good therapy and spiritual counseling can help us in that regard. However, that is beside the point in this verse. It does not say that the believing spouse is free only if he/she has proven that they were not the cause of the abandonment through, say, their poor spousal skills.
All it says is that they are to let the unbelieving spouse depart in peace, and as such, they are free from their marital bonds.
It is an unqualified statement.
Perhaps, Christian leaders (we) ought to be more careful than to add our own “qualifications” to the freedom God gives to those who find themselves watching an unbelieving spouse walk away?
God has set them free.
Who are we to put them back in chains?
*I write this piece especially for those who have experienced abandonment on top of the trauma of adultery discovery. Sometimes, faithful spouse are not even given a choice about the divorce. They are just treated with contempt and dumped by the wicked, adulterous spouse. My point here is such a faithful spouse is certainly free to remarry as I read Scripture. They are not required to prove their worthiness to do so to anyone. It is good to heal up before making any major life decision–and I would always encourage that first–but the point is the faithful, abandoned spouse is truly free to marry (even if they choose not to do the healing work). Furthermore, to those making the choice to divorce after adultery, I think such a choice is empowering. You are making the choice, and it is for very sound, Biblical reasons–i.e. you will not tolerate adultery in your marriage. My point about it being your choice in that area stands: the divorcing spouse is making the choice (whether faithful or not). However, the faithful spouse has a sound, godly reason to explain why as opposed to an adulterous spouse who can only truthfully point to his/her own sinful heart in making such a choice.