Forty to 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, according to research by the American Psychological Association. To help married couples avoid becoming a divorce statistic, Harvest Christian Fellowship church Pastor Greg Laurie is offering up some sage advice.
In Sunday's sermon titled How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage, part of his sermon series Home Sweet Home, Laurie shared biblical principles and life experiences based on his 42-year marriage to wife, Cathe, in a straight-talking conversation on marriage.
"After we say, 'I do,' there's a lot more to be done, and if you think you're done, you're finished," Laurie told Harvest congregants. The pastor likened marriages to gardens, saying that as a garden that is neglected becomes overgrown with weeds, so too neglected marriages suffer a similar fate. " … When we see marriages start to unravel, it isn't usually overnight, it's over a period of time when there is neglect … if you neglect your marriage, it will slowly but surely die."
The pastor identified four potential threats to a marriage, quoting from Solomon 2:15: "'It's the little foxes that spoil the vines,' explaining that little things left unaddressed in a marriage can develop into bigger issues that have a disastrous impact.
Laurie then listed four threats to marriage for couples to watch out for:
The Harvest pastor said that selfishness is the number one threat. "We go into a marriage honestly thinking that it's all about us, and that person is going to meet all of our needs, and we never stop and think, 'maybe the problem is me.'" Laurie said the reason for arguments between couples is often "because you want your own way, and you fight for it deep inside of yourself."
He added that sin and selfishness resulted after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and pointed out that God said, as a result of their sin, Eve would desire to have control over Adam and Adam would be inclined to rule over Eve.
"You can effectively say the battle of the sexes began in the Garden," said Laurie. "Women have a sinful inclination to control men, men have a sinful inclination to control women, and neither of those is God's original plan."
2. Breakdown in Communication
The pastor explained that when a husband and wife communicate, different things are heard by the other person. When in conflict, Laurie advised, "You have to learn how to disagree agreeably, and ultimately find some kind of solution and resolution, and I believe the guy should be the one that takes point in that. … Never let it get elevated to shouting and screaming."
He reminded congregants about the proverb: "Let not the sun go down on your wrath," and shared the wise philosophy to "fight to resolve, not to win. If you go into the disagreement to win, you've already lost."
"Think of how many marriages would still be together today if this one sin was not committed," Laurie said, citing statistics that indicate 40 to 50 percent of all married men have had extra-marital affairs, and that 70 percent of all married men under 40 expect to have an affair. Statistics on married women were not promising either. In 1953, 26 percent of wives had affairs on husbands who had already cheated. Today, that number has risen to 41 percent, the pastor said.
"This (adultery) is destroying the fabric of the family," Laurie said, noting the Bible's warning that adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
"This is the most serious threat against marriage today," Laurie said, speaking from Matthew 19:7-9.
While the pastor noted that most divorces he had seen could have been avoided, he did highlight two reasons in Scripture that are grounds for divorce:
Sexual Immorality. "Every effort should be made, even if adultery has taken place, to restore the marriage and examine the steps that led to the sin and apply some preventative measures, because immorality is not only grounds for divorce — it's also grounds for forgiveness."
Desertion. Laurie indicated that a Christian woman who marries a man who isn't a believer should not divorce her husband to marry a more appealing Christian man. Also, if a non-believing man has abandoned his wife and even begun a relationship with another woman, the abandoned wife ultimately has a "release clause," Laurie said, explaining that God has called believers to peace and that there are biblical grounds for divorce.
The pastor made it clear, however, that he does not encourage divorce, and believes that most can be avoided. He also implored believers to take a stand for their marriages, and to periodically take an inventory, asking: "Am I loving my wife as Christ loves the Church? Am I respecting my husband and submitting to his servant leadership? Am I denying myself by putting the needs of my mate above my own?"