In his commentary on Matthew (WJK 1997), Tom Long says “marriage is intended to be a communion between two people that expresses their mutual fidelity, the faithfulness of God. It is intended to be a place of safety, nurture, and honor for persons. In Jesus’ day, the customs and practices of divorce were a direct assault on those values.” Long also says “when a marriage becomes the very arena where people are destroying each other, we should ask how can the safety, nurture, and honor of the marriage partners best be preserved?” One answer is divorce. While painful and tragic, sometimes that answer is healthiest.
Another answer is reconciliation, as Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Whatever you think of Bill and Hillary Clinton as politicians and people, when it comes to repairing a badly damaged marriage, I consider them good role models in the work of reconciliation. Even today, they do not gloss over the pain and anger of that time. She says, “I thought about boiling him in oil!” He admits how stupidly he behaved. She explains that staying in her marriage was the gutsiest thing she’s ever done. They spent a full day every week for a year in individual and couples therapy that involved “painful, painful discussions.” He met regularly with three ministers, and they both say they prayed during this time. She said it took an enormous amount of forgiving, but that “I’m not the easiest person to live with. I’m glad he stuck it out, too.” She says love was really the driving reason. He says they are best friends and that “she’s still the most interesting person I know.”
Thanks be to our loving, forgiving, reconciling, transforming God for working in amazing places—even marriages.
In difficult relationships, what helps you remember that God is always at work for the good of every life?
God, when we fail to love each other, guide us with your grace so that we will be able to see the bigger picture of your hope and love for each of us. Amen.