by Kristen Rosser ~ aka:KR Wordgazer
Part 1 of this FAQ addressed ideas for helping your marriage when following the teachings of Quiverfull does not work as you had understood it was supposed to. But the Bible does not teach that being a Christian is a formula, or that your actions will guarantee the response of someone else. Each person has his or her own choices to make, and ultimately, they are that person’s choices alone. You cannot force your husband to do the right thing, and this brings us to the very difficult question asked at the end of Part 1:
But what if my husband is completely unrepentant and refuses to change behaviors that, if I am honest with myself, I must admit are harming my children, our marriage and myself? Is there anything I can do then?
The Bible regards marriage as a solemn contract, or covenant. A covenant is a kind of treaty between two parties, characterized by promises that need to be kept. When a covenant has been violated– when one of the parties breaks the covenant promises so frequently, callously or heinously that the wronged party must consider it irrevocably broken– there are ways for the one who has been wronged to end the covenant. Marriage is no different. In Jeremiah 3, Israel’s covenant with God is pictured as a marriage contract. God had kept His covenant promises, but Israel had continually broken them without repentance or any attempt to right the wrongs. In verse 8 God says, “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce. . . .” God describes Himself here as the wronged party in a marriage covenant. The promises of the covenant had been broken beyond repair– not by God, but by Israel. God’s divorce of Israel did not break the covenant; it merely acknowledged that the covenant had been broken. But God nevertheless described Himself as getting a divorce. Since God would never sin, it could not have been wrong for Him to get a divorce– because He was not the one who broke the covenant. Covenant-breaking is a wrong that we must avoid; but when the other party has irretrievably broken the covenant, the wronged party is not obligated to pretend that the covenant is intact. It is up to the wronged party to decide when enough is enough. Forgiveness is important, but forgiveness alone will not restore a broken covenant. The party who broke the covenant must repent and bear the fruit of repentance, showing a real desire to change his ways and beginning to honor the covenant again. Israel refused to do so in Jeremiah 3, and the Bible gives us a picture of God finally deciding that enough was enough, and withdrawing from His covenant with Israel.
But doesn’t God say, “I hate divorce” in the Book of Malachi? And didn’t Jesus say, “what God has joined together, let not man separate’”?
We will examine more closely what Jesus said shortly, after examining the shared understandings He and His audience would have been working under, that we today may be missing (see the FAQ “Quiverfull and the Bible” for more about original intent and shared understandings between the author and audience of biblical texts). As for Malachi 3:11-16, here is what it says: “Judah hath dealt treacherously. . . and hath married the daughter of a strange god. . . Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously; yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. . . Therefore take heed your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away, for one covereth violence with his garment. . .”
God was angry because in this case, the divorce itself was a breaking of the marriage covenant, for the women who were being divorced had done no wrong. Instead, it was the men divorcing their wives without cause who were doing wrong, committing treachery against the covenant by marrying other women. It was the breaking of the covenant that God hated, for He looked at it as tantamount to committing violence and then covering it over. When the marriage covenant has not been broken, then divorce itself breaks the covenant and is therefore wrong. But in the case where the covenant is already broken, divorce could not be wrong, or God would not have spoken of Himself as initiating a divorce.