25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
-Ephesians 5:25-27, KJV
What about that Christian “friend” who tells you to stay in a marriage with a cheater because Christian marriage is “about holiness, not happiness?”
This is a classic example of having a truth and misapplying the truth. A person saying this has either not stopped to think through the situation or is willfully disregarding the heart of the faithful spouse.
I am utterly convinced God designed marriage to help us grow in holiness. Happiness is NOT the primary reason to be married. This passage from Ephesians on marriage makes that clear.
However, the problem with using this theological truth against a faithful spouse choosing to divorce an adulterous spouse is that the application ignores the sin of adultery, which is the opposite of holiness.
Plus, I find it hard to believe we, faithful spouses, seek divorce because we want to be “happy.” “Let’s get abused through adultery and then go through the pain of a divorce” are not the first two things I think of as happiness generators. It is a false choice between holiness and happiness is my point.
The Bible teaches divorce of a cheating spouse is choosing righteousness–i.e. holiness–per the story of Joseph and Marry (see post here).
So, I guess my point is to deny the application in these situations. Yes, God wants holiness from us in marriage. That sometimes means ending a marriage to someone who has decided they prefer adulterous sin over godliness. Happiness has nothing to do with that.
*A version of this post ran previously.
Republished with permission from www.divorceminister.com.