Marriage is a life-long, exclusive, covenant relationship between one man and one woman instituted by God1. He designed it to provide mutual companionship through life's joys and difficulties, to create stability for raising and nurturing children, and to give cohesiveness to society in general. Strong marriages produce stable and healthy families. Marriage is not to be entered into lightly nor carelessly dissolved2. Even spouses who separate remain married until the day a civil court issues a Divorce Decree and should refrain from dating or engaging in any other activity that is inconsistent with being married.
However, we recognize that many married couples struggle with serious conflict that causes them great distress and harm. Under some circumstances, God permits a believer to seek a divorce. We believe divorce is permissible when a spouse has been sexually involved with a person outside the marriage3 or when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage4. Even when divorce is permissible, however, it is never required.5 An offended spouse may choose to imitate God’s love by offering their spouse the same grace and mercy God has extended to them. 6We believe God is more than able to bring healing and reconciliation to any marriage.
The Bible is clear that people and relationships are God's top priorities. He favors forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration of the marriage, even if grounds for divorce exist7. Even if full reconciliation and restoration do not occur, God wants spouses to see their part in the conflict and to take steps to live at peace8. This is for their good and is important for both current and future relationships.
Married couples cannot effectively address relational issues and remain genuinely open to healing and reconciliation if they are asked to try to resolve financial and other family issues at the same time. For this reason, we follow a two-step approach when we mediate marital disputes and conflicts. The first step focuses on relational issues, during which spouses are encouraged to, among other things, recognize and accept responsibility for their individual contributions to their situation and are urged to take unilateral steps toward reconciliation9. The conduct, attitudes and issues that produced conflict are discussed, as are the importance of confession and forgiveness in the lives of Christians who have committed themselves to one another in marriage. If full reconciliation does not occur, we move to the second step which focuses on the resolution of outstanding family and financial issues, including those related to support, property and children. Because we follow this two-step approach in marriage cases, all marriage mediations with PeacePoint involve at least two mediation meetings.
This two-step approach allows couples to effectively prepare for and mediate all aspects of their situation. By focusing on relational issues during the first step, the second step can sometimes be eliminated entirely. Even when it is necessary to move to the second step, couples who have worked to address their relational issues first are better able to resolve any remaining issues in a cooperative, non-adversarial manner10.
Arbitration If Needed
If reconciliation is not possible and separation is unavoidable, there are important issues that must be resolved. A mediated agreement is the always the best way to resolve those issues. If agreement cannot be reached on all of the issues, however, there needs to be a means of deciding those issues that is fair and just and to the extent possible, promotes security and stability. Civil court is the option the world provides. The Bible is clear, however, that Christians are not to take each other into court11. The Biblical alternative is arbitration ("private court") inside the church. To insure a just and binding resolution of all the important issues, we strongly encourage couples to commit not only to mediation but also to arbitration to the extent agreement is not reached.How We Help with Marriage Conflict (PDF)
1 Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:16.2 Malachi 2:163 Matthew 5:31-3241 Corinthians 7:12-165 Hosea 3:16Ephesians 5:1-27Luke 17:3-4.8Matthew 7:3-59 Matthew 5:23-2410 Philippians 2:1-5111 Corinthians 6:1-8