A husband must be willing to let his wife leave the marriage, if she chooses to do so. The civil law of the USA requires it and the Word of God condones it. Though it breaks his heart, he must allow it and not attempt to force, restrict or intimidate her.
This is particularly true if the husband is a godly man, endeavoring to follow the leadership of God in his life and fulfill his calling from the Most High. Truly, she cannot be held against her will to the satisfaction of the marriage. As some wise scholar has said, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. The civil law does not allow physical restraint and neither does moral conscience. A contractual commitment is insufficient to hold her, for the law allows many exceptions to the contract. If her desire is contrary to the contract, she will find a loophole. If a husband’s love and commitment is not enough to hold her, then his authority will not be sufficient either. The only other power available, to keep the wife in the marriage is her commitment to God’s command and her covenant with Him. If faithfulness to God and His design for her as a godly woman and wife in the marriage is not sufficient motivation, then there is no hope for maintaining the marriage to a godly husband. The only option is for the husband to compromise his walk with God. Her rebellion then, in effect destroys the marriage anyway, by destroying the husband as a man of God, for he cannot compromise God’s calling and leading and still remain godly. This is a repeat of what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 “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.” A Biblical marriage is above all, a covenant between a man and a woman that incorporates the commands, design and standards of God. After all, He created people and He created marriage, it then follows that He sets the rules for how a marriage operates. God permits a wife to leave her husband, but He only permits her to leave, not to divorce or remarry. She is to remain celibate and married, but separate. God’s desire is that she never leave her husband, but gives her some room to exercise her own will, even if it is in opposition to God’s will. A woman that is married to a godly husband has absolutely no grounds for leaving her husband. Her own stubborn will is the only permitted reason and it reveals a rebellion against God, more than against her husband. 1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” For a woman to rebel against her “godly husband” is rebellion against God’s established order and God Himself.
A woman that is married to an ungodly husband, whether he is a believer or not, is bound by the same commands as a woman married to a godly husband. She is however, justified in separation when there is fear of abuse and danger, both physical and mental, to her or her children. The requirements of being celibate and separate, but still married are in force. The only justification for her remarrying is also in 1 Corinthians 7:15 “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.” If the unsaved (unbelieving husband) leaves her or abandons her, she is free to remarry. It is recommended that she still remain separate and celibate for a time of personal healing and the possible repentance of her husband, before moving on to another marriage. If not, the possibility of damaging future family relations is imminent.
Is a wife’s love or lack thereof sufficient proof for sustaining the marriage relationship? From a biblical perspective, I would have to say, no. Based upon two passages of scripture that are representative of the entire Bible’s position, we see the basis for the real issues regarding a wife staying or departing a marriage. One of these is Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Also, Ephesians 5:32-33 “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” In light of this passage we see that the wife’s primary responsibility in the marriage, is as a supporter (helper, Genesis 2:18). She is instructed here to submit (willfully place one’s self under the leadership and protection of another) to her own husband and the spirit in which she is to submit is “reverence”. If a wife will not revere her husband, she is not revering God. If she will not revere God, she cannot revere her husband as a godly wife. The relationship of the wife to a godly husband is to be a rubber stamp replica of her relationship to God. The second passage is Titus 2:3-5 “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Contrary to popular opinion, love is taught, rather than caught. Older women are to teach the younger wives to “love their husbands and to be obedient to their own husbands”. I conclude therefore, that the love of a wife is not as important in sustaining a marriage, as is her compliance to her husband’s leadership and assuming her God designed role as a supporter in marriage. Love will accompany both the husband and wife in God’s design, but is not pre-requisite for the wife’s responsibility.
Conclusion: 1. The wife of an ungodly husband may leave her husband if she and/or her children are in danger from him. 2. The wife of an ungodly husband is permitted to leave her husband as a choice, by her desire, but such is not the will of God and will have eternal as well as temporal consequences, which will include the loss of leadership and protection. 3. The wife of an unbelieving husband that is rejected or abandoned by him is free to remarry a godly man, only. 4. The wife of a godly husband is permitted to leave her husband as a choice, by her desire, but such is not the will of God and will have eternal as well as temporal consequences, which will include the loss of leadership, protection from the husband, but possibly also from God. It is unreasonable to ask God to provide in another way, what He has already provided by a godly husband. 5. God has never recorded in scripture, instructions justifying a wife to leave or divorce a godly husband. He has however, permitted her to exercise her self-will with sure consequences. In doing so, she is under obligation to not break the marriage bond by establishing relations with another man. Such separation is to be temporary, for the purpose of repentance on either party’s part and healing of the soul. 6. For a godly husband to attempt to force his wife to remain against her will thwarts the power of the Holy Spirit to work in her heart. His task is to be consistent in his walk with God and to love his wife with all his heart, as he loves God. It is the epitome of the husband’s role to love his wife, with the love of God.