Jun 122013 0 Responses

Does Being a Christian Hurt Your Marriage?

Do Christians divorce more often than non-Christians? If they do, can we fairly conclude that being a Christian is bad for marriage?

In America, divorce is most rampant where more people claim to be Christians. In the Bible belt, the number of divorces is actually higher among those who claim to be Christians than those who claim no religious affiliation. Divorce is lowest in the Northeast where fewer people claim to be Christians and higher in the South where more people say they are believers.

It would be easy to conclude from these facts that being a Christian hurts your marriage.

Yet there is an important distinction. Saying one is a Christian doesn’t make one a Christian. 78% of Americans claim to be Christian, yet far less than that number participate in the basic practices in which one would expect a Christian to practice. While church attendance, giving, praying, reading your Bible, and learning about Jesus does not make one a Christian, those activities are common by-products of someone who has had their lives changed by God’s grace.

An interesting story emerges when we look at the relationship between faith and marriage. Faith is good for marriage and it directly improves the likelihood of a couple staying together. However, the improvement does not happen if someone claims they are a Christian, it occurs when someone actually practices their faith. When there is tangible evidence that a couple is actually Christian, the likelihood of their marriage ending in divorce dramatically decreases.

Of course the rate is still too high. Yet we are fallen people in a fallen world so not every marriage will make it. But more marriages are making it than is commonly portrayed. And many more marriages can make it if we put our faith into practice.

To my knowledge, no study has ever been done, but I would love to see the divorce rate for a couple who follows the common teaching which I give to all couples:

  • keep proper physical boundaries before marriage
  • date for at least one year
  • regularly attend church
  • find a meaningful place of service within church
  • be active participants in a small group Bible study
  • attend pre-marital counseling
  • find an older couple to mentor you after marriage

While I’ve never seen such a study, my anecdotal evidence among friends and those couples I have married would say the evidence is off the charts of how successful those marriages tend to be. None are perfect and some have ended, but I would guess of a success rate of over 90% for those couples who jointly practice their faith before and after marriage.

Do This and Stay Married

A simple take away from these studies is that a wonderful byproduct of being a Christian (in more than just name) is a better marriage.

One of the most effective ways someone can improve their marriage is by being transformed by God’s grace. A natural response to what God is doing in our lives is responding to him in obedience.

More anecdotal evidence, but as a pastor I have noticed the main reason couples leave a church is for marital issues. Those issues may not present themselves at the time they stop participating, but in the weeks and months that follow, they become evident.

By leaving a community of faith, one or both spouses is preparing to leave. Changing churches leads to less questions from long-term friends, fellow church goers and pastors.

If leaving (or switching) churches is a common step toward divorce, could it be that getting more involved as a couple in church is a step toward a healthier marriage? All the evidence seems to say so.

While a married couple can’t follow the common advice given to a couple who is dating. They can follow similar advice:

  • keep proper physical/emotional boundaries with others
  • regularly attend church
  • find a meaningful place of service within the church (preferably together)
  • be active participants in Bible study (both together and separate)
  • attend marriage seminars and retreats
  • find a younger couple to mentor and an older couple to be mentored by

Saying one is a Christian does not help you marriage. It might even hurt it. But actually doing what Jesus said will positively influence your marriage.

What is one step you need to take toward becoming more active in your faith?

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