The book of Ezra ends with the list of men who inappropriately married foreign women. These allegiances were cause for concern because they exposed Israel to the ungodly, pagan practices of those living in the land.  In their zeal for renewal in the pursuit of righteousness, they called for separation from the unbelieving spouses.

In my 30 years in the ministry, I’ve counseled both men and women who’ve read this passage and saw in it biblical grounds for divorce. Like those in Ezra’s list, they argue, we should never have married in the first place, so it’s God’s will that we dissolve the marriage.

The Jews in Ezra’s time feared that the pagan spouse would pollute the holiness of the believing spouse. In the New Testament, however, Paul tells us that the presence of a believing spouse gives hope for the salvation of the non-believing one. He instructs us in 1 Corinthians 7:12 and following, “if any brother has a wife who does not believe… let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe… let her not divorce him.” Paul focuses on the positive influence of the believing spouse rather than the negative influence of the unbelieving spouse. The unbelievers in these marriages are “sanctified” according to Paul. That means they are in a special situation in which salvation is available to them.

Jesus charges us to be a positive influence in a negative world, shining the light of a joyful, righteous life for all to see!

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”  Revelation 2:4 (NLT)