Summary: The real ideal is to always have two people married who are Christians. But the fact is, all through history you have to deal with the mixed marriage of the Christian and non-Christian.
Mary was branded as a backslider when she divorced her husband of 20 years. Her church asked
her to resign from all her roles, and the outrage pastor demanded-how could you? Mary endured the
pain of criticism as long as she could, and then she moved away. The pastor of her new church
questioned her about her divorce. She burst into tears and sobbed, "No one knows what I went
through. He was a homosexual, and we hadn't had sex for 14 years. I pleaded with him to go for
counseling, but he refused, and would stay away for days with his friend. Finally, I told him you
have 18 months to get counseling. If you don't, I'm going to leave you."
This man was a Sunday School teacher, a board member, and good giver to the church, but 18
months later she left him. They seemed like an ideal couple, but no one knew the reality of the
situation, and so she was condemned as a wicked Christian wife. No one could help her until they
left the level of the ideal, and began to deal with her on the level of the real. That, of course, could
not happen until she shared the real, but she could not do that with people who refused to listen to
the real. The ideal is for two people to get married, and have a lifetime of sharing the joys and
sorrows of life. Adam and Eve had plenty of heartaches with the fall, loss of Eden, and one son
killing the other. We do not have a record of all they endured, or of all they enjoyed, but it was a
lifetime of both together, that is the ideal, even in a fallen world.
Unfortunately, the ideal is not always attained. Even God's people could not maintain the ideal,
and so God permitted divorce for His people. You would think God's people could hold to the ideal,
but it was not so. God is a realist, and He knew there was no point in expecting His people to reach
the ideal when their hearts were hard. God accommodated Himself to man.
He came down to their level of attainment for their sake. It was grace and mercy that
brought Him down to the level of permitting divorce. Men were so determined to leave their wives
for other women that if the law did not permit it unless their wives were dead, they would be tempted
to murder their wives. It was to prevent this worse evil that God permitted divorce. Divorce was the
lesser of two evils, and God is realistic. He will not demand the ideal if it leads to intolerable evil,
for then the ideal is a sham. Better to permit the lesser evil than to promote the greater evil.
This is the principle that guides Paul as he deals with the issue of the Christian and non-Christian
marriage. The ideal is to keep this marriage alive, and hopefully win the non-Christian to the
Christian faith. Paul makes it clear, if the non-Christian wants the marriage, the Christian is to
strive for this ideal, and not get a divorce. The real ideal is to always have two people married who
are Christians. But the fact is, all through history you have to deal with the mixed marriage of the
Christian and non-Christian. This is a lesser level than the ideal, but on this level there are still
ideals to reach, and so the Christian is encouraged to live with the non-Christian and make it work.
But someone will say Paul wrote to these very Corinthians in II Cor. 6:14-15, and warned them
not to marry non-Christians, for what fellowship has light with darkness? Paul is trying to prevent
the problem that leads to so much divorce by warning of the conflict such marriages produce. The
ideal is to avoid the conflict by not falling in love with a non-Christian. But in our present passage,
Paul is dealing with the real, those who have already missed the ideal. They are already in a
marriage with a non-Christian. Does Paul say it is hopeless? Not at all. He says, if the non-
Christian is willing to live with the Christian, the marriage can work. I know of marriages where the
mates are happy, and truly love each other, even though one does not trust in Christ as their Savior.
It is a problem, but people can have good marriages in a less than ideal relationship.
Is it a sin for the Christian to be one with the non-Christian? Not at all. It is a sin not to satisfy
the sexual needs of the non-Christian mate. But if it is wrong to marry a non-Christian, how can it
be right to live with them and meet their sexual needs. We need to see that an act of sin does not