One Flesh

A pastor once told me that he hates to see couples separate because separation leads to divorce.

The basis of this claim rested on physical intimacy. How could a couple be one flesh if the husband is denied regular, physical intimacy–his “due” or “debt” (according to 1 Corinthians 7:3-5). I beg to differ. In cases of mistreatment, the individual who is unloving, unkind and entitled is at the root of separation and divorce. Somehow, the burden of separation and divorce has fallen on women and I’m struggling to see it from a biblical perspective.

Biblically, we know that men are called to imitate and reflect Christ in relationship to their wives.

In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with Israel, and He fulfilled His covenant. He provided for, protected, and graced them with blessing. They turned away and ran to idols, but as in the account of Hosea, He pursued them after a period of time.

In Jeremiah 3, God declares that He sent Israel away–giving her a certificate of divorce:

Yet I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a certificate of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and prostituted herself also. And because of the thoughtlessness of her prostitution, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. (Jeremiah 3:7-9)

In Malachi, God chastises the priests who mask treachery toward their wives with an appearance of righteousness–i.e. religious robes:

And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and sighing, because He no longer gives attention to the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your marriage companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And why the one? He was seeking a godly offspring. Be careful then about your spirit, and see that none of you deals treacherously against the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with violence,” says the Lord of armies. “So be careful about your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:13-16)

The weight of divorce is on the husband–God dealt faithfully with Israel and provided a new, better covenant. The priests of Malachi’s day used divorce as a weapon, dealing treacherously against faithful wives.

Tying together Old and New Testaments is this statement:

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

So when a man or church elevates roles–adding to and subtracting from God’s Word–who separates the marriage? The individual who fails to love, honor and cherish in a way that leads a wife to lovingly submit to her husband as unto the Lord.

I submit that it is the unfaithful man that is most often responsible for damage done in marriage. By the way, the idea of “one flesh” is almost always synonymous with physical intimacy (i.e. sex). But flesh is also a reference to Jesus physical body (John 1:14, 1 John 4:2,3). We cannot function and live in a God-honoring away apart from our body. It is my experience that the human body spends a significant amount of time doing things that are not sexual in nature. If that is the only purpose of the human body, God’s Word would be much shorter. But that is a sliver of the life of a human body–or it’s intended to be.

In the same way, physical intimacy is a fraction of the purpose and design for living as “one flesh.” Together, individuals are called to do, or live out, the many one anothers in Scripture. God sets it up before addressing marriage in Ephesians 5 by writing,

But sexual immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness or foolish talk, or vulgar joking, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, which amounts to an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:3-5)

When that kind of thinking and behavior is brought into a marriage, it is defiled.

Instead,

So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father; and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21).

When that is the case, there is joy in life, joy in serving, working, speaking, and living together. In this context, then, a wife submits to the husband she trusts. He is seeking her best. He is seeking to serve, honor, love, and follow God first.

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