Those first few hours in the hospital were trying for my husband. My medical team realized I had a brain infection. But it would be weeks if not months to find out if the damage was lasting.
Between the knife-searing migraines, the inability to sit up or even walk was scary. The worst part, I had lost my peripheral vision and the ability to communicate.
As a writer and speaker, words were my life. It was how I earned a living and contributed to our finances. But the scariest part was whether or not Chris would be married to a shell of a woman of who I once was.
We aren’t the first couple to realize the weight of our words when we married. We stood before God, family, and friends to promise to each other and to God, “What God has joined, let no one separate.”
In the months that followed, I regained my sight, walking, and communication. It’s scary to think what the outcome might have been had my doctors not been able to help me. I pitied my husband who took care of me during that time.
He was patient and loving in his long-suffering of helping me recover. But this is the kind of love we promised each other. This is the kind of love that sees the good, the bad, and the ugly and still says, “I love you, before God and others.”
What Does ‘What God Has Joined, Let No One Separate’ Mean?
In Jesus’ time, marriage wasn’t for love although, I’m sure, many couples who married were in love. Marriage for women in those days was for survival. If a woman was not married, she was at the mercy of her father.
And those who did marry were at the mercy of their husbands. It was reasonable in those days for men to say their wives no longer pleased them and they had the right to divorce. Men could divorce if a woman was not sexually appealing, if she cheated, or if she couldn’t produce a male heir.
On one occasion, the Pharisees intended to trip Jesus up in His teachings. They asked Jesus if it is legitimate for a man to divorce his wife.
Jesus fundamentally answered, “No.”
You've likely heard this phrase a lot before. But what exactly does God bring together? And what is a marriage covenant, and how do we define that. Let's explore these two questions in lieu of the statement, "What God has joined, let no man pull asunder" or "let no one separate."
What Has God Brought Together?
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
The Pharisees were looking for a way to divorce their wives because it was allowed under the old law of Moses. Jesus agreed that Moses allowed this, but He also pointed out that the allowance was made due to “hardness of heart” (Matthew 19:8).
He then reiterated that divorce was never God’s original plan. The only time divorce should happen is due to a husband or wife cheating and refuses to repent. Divorce is also acceptable if a spouse is physically abusive. No individual should ever stay in an abusive marriage.
What Is a Marriage Covenant?
In biblical terms, a covenant between God and His people holds great significance. It creates the foundation of how God interacts with people. A covenant marriage is a binding contract said before the Lord and your partner.
It is a lifelong commitment, a joining of two individuals that become one flesh for a lifetime. It cannot be broken and over time the bonds of marriage grow stronger. The idea of sickness and in health, to love and to cherish becomes more meaningful.
This is because the phrase “What God has joined, let no one separate” means a couple’s commitment to each other isn’t dependent on circumstances, it’s dependent on when God chooses to take one of them home.
It means that marriage comes from God, and therefore people should not end a marriage. Other passages that support this verse includes:
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Imagine the imagery of a chord of three strands. A braided chord is much harder to pull apart than a braid made of two. Think of God as the third strand in a relationship.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her (Ephesians 5:25).
The beauty of a covenant marriage is that if done well in keeping Christ at the center, the couple will leave a blueprint for marriage that will last for generations to come.
Both the husband and wife make sacrifices to grow together as they make prayer, Scripture, and love the foundation of their lives.
They find a way to work through differences, to forgive, to respect each other and draw near to each other, forsaking all others to put each other first.
When we commit to a covenant marriage, we are joining together our hearts, our flesh, and our lives in a supernatural way that only God can truly orchestrate.
Christ takes marriage very seriously, and so should we.
For further reading:
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Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.