Evangelist Greg Laurie recently listed tips on how Christian couples can keep their marriages strong, and identified the circumstances in which the Bible says divorce can be permitted.
Laurie, the senior pastor of the California-based multi-site Harvest Christian Fellowship,preached a sermon Sunday, stressing that avoiding divorce starts with recognizing the "threats" that can potentially tear marriages apart.
He identified "selfishness" as one major threat to marriage.
"If you were to sum up in one word what breaks most marriages apart, it would be this: selfishness. I go into the marriage thinking, 'marriage is going to make everything better' or 'this man or this woman is going to solve all of my problems, etc.' We literally think this mate of ours is going to meet all of our needs. ... It's time to look in the mirror," Laurie said.
"Because in time, you might start blaming your mate for all of the problems in your marriage. But look in the mirror, and you might find that the problem is you."
The evangelist, who has been married to his wife, Cathe, since 1974, said marriage is not so much about "finding the right person" but instead "being the right person."
Laurie said selfishness can be found in the Garden of Eden when Eve "ate of the forbidden fruit and gave it to Adam and he also ate" and disobeyed God. And as a result, God said to Eve, "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
"The word used here for 'desire' means to compel, impel, urge or seek control over you. Here's what God is saying: 'as part of the curse, Eve, you are going to try to control the man.' But then to the man, he said, 'you'll have dominion, or you'll rule over her,'" Laurie said.
"It's not positive. It's negative. He is saying, 'and the man will try to dominate the woman.' This is where the battle of the sexes began."
Laurie argued that the "antidote" is to follow the Bible.
In Ephesians 5:25, Laurie said God tells husbands to "love your wife as Christ loves the church, and the husband ought to love his wife as his own body, and He who loves his wife loves himself."
"Notice it's a given there. It's not saying you need to love yourself more. It's assumed that you already love yourself. … So it's just saying love your wife as much as you love yourself. And how do you do that, men? By laying your life down for her, by putting her needs above your own," Laurie advised.
"Philippians 2 says don't be selfish, don't live to make a good impression on others, be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others too. So, it's putting her needs first. But ladies, it's you putting his needs first."
Another threat to Christian marriages, according to Laurie, is "deficient communication."
"Conflicts are going to arise. So, you need, first of all, to learn how to listen. James 1:19 says: 'Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.' But the problem is we do the opposite. We're quick to anger, quick to speak and slow to listen," Laurie warned.
"So, when your wife or your husband has a problem, instead of cutting them off [and] saying, 'I don't want to talk about it.' You need to say, 'alright, tell me what's troubling you.' And even if you think it's utterly ridiculous, hear them out, understand what they're saying."
When Christian couples discuss heavy topics, Laurie said, each person's tone of voice is very important.
"Avoid raising your voice. If you feel rage boiling up inside of you, you need to walk away. … You want to resolve this. Ephesians 4:31 says, 'get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander and all types of evil behavior. Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God through Christ has forgiven you,'" Laurie said.
The third common threat to marriages, Laurie argued, is adultery.
"It's so significant. I mean [it's in] God's top 10 when He says, 'you shall not commit adultery.' It's one of the Ten Commandments, and we all know someone who has fallen into the sin. I'm probably speaking to someone right now that has fallen into it, or maybe your mate was unfaithful to you, or you know of a family that was devastated by adultery," Laurie said.
"Can you imagine how different America would be if we obeyed this one single commandment?"
The pastor advised married Christians to be careful because "sexual temptation" is "everywhere" in modern culture.
"It's a mouse click away. It's a swipe away. It's so accessible. Pornography is a real problem in the culture today," Laurie said. "Revenues from pornography exceed all of those of professional football, baseball, basketball franchises combined. So, it's right there and it damages you."
"Why? Is it bad?" Laurie asked. "Well, No. 1, you damage yourself. Because when you're living in a world of sexual sin, or even fantasizing about it, or constantly thinking about it, you're damaging your own life. You're hurting yourself, and you're actually in a state of sin. And it's been said [in a] quote; 'when adultery walks in, everything worth having walks out.'"
Although he wants Christian marriages to remain strong, Laurie acknowledged there are instances when divorce is permitted by God, according to the Bible.
"Divorce is allowed when sexual immorality takes place," Laurie said, referring to Matthew 19:9. "So, if one of the spouses has been unfaithful sexually, that is technically grounds for divorce."
"[Sexual immorality] also technically is grounds for forgiveness. Every effort should be made to restore a marriage and examine the steps that led to this and then put into play some preventative measures," he continued. "And so, [unfaithfulness] doesn't mean you must divorce. But there is an allowance given in Scripture by Jesus Himself."
"The other reason divorce is allowed is desertion," Laurie said, which means a spouse deserts, abandons or physically leaves their partner permanently.
"If one of the mates says, 'I'm done with this marriage, I don't want to be married to you anymore, I'm walking out and I'm never coming back again,' you are not required to remain in that relationship. You are free later to remarry. Now, you may still attempt reconciliation and try to work it out somehow. But it happens."
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.