Is Married for Better or Worse Biblical?

By Robin Mullins Senger

Married for better or worse.

Have you or a loved ever been told that? Heard it in a sermon? Maybe it was even in your wedding vows. Guess what… it’s not actually in the Bible as many assume it is.

People often say that God commands us to love unconditionally. The inference is that a spouse has to accept mistreatment no matter the cost to him/her – the whole agape love thing. God doesn’t even do that.

While God does offer unconditional love, He does not offer us unconditional relationship. Consider these Scriptures, and search them out yourself rather than assuming what you’ve always been told is accurate.

1 John 1:5-7 "And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.…"

If we continue in sin, it separates us from relationship with Him. Obviously, He isn’t just looking the other way and pretending everything’s a-ok under a “for better or worse” theology.

Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

God loves us even when we are in darkness, however, our choices determine what kind of relationship we have with Him. Our deliberate sinful choices separate us from Him. No relationship.

Isaiah 59:1-2 "Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."

Jesus distanced Himself from the religious leaders (often our abusers).

Study the Gospels to see what kind of relationship Jesus had with hypocritical religious people. He loved them, but He stood up to them with truth and did not have fellowship with them because they chose to live in darkness. Is your spouse habitually walking in the light (love)? Or does he/she live in darkness (self-serving and unloving)?

God WANTS us to have a relationship with Him, like we desire and expect with our spouse when we say our wedding vows. But He requires us to love Him back (Deuteronomy 6:5). I love the book of Hosea. It shows us that God loves His people and longs for a relationship with her, but the relationship is broken and will remain that way until she repents and is willing to GENUINELY change.

If you are in a toxic abusive marriage and assume God wants you to just suck it up and live with it, I hope that this will inspire you to rethink what you have always believed. Study the Gospels for yourself and look at the ways that Jesus loved unconditionally, yet set up healthy interpersonal boundaries.

His unconditional love did not equal unconditional acceptance.

Pastor Jeff Crippen at A Cry for Justice says this about the better/worse lie:

"The Bible says for better or worse — Now this is rich. I will give $1000 to any of these people who can show me chapter and verse on that one. You see, people take statements made by man and they hear it so often in sermons, and in their laziness they don’t check it out, and pretty soon they elevate it to the Word of God. In addition, “for better or worse” was never meant to mean “you must endure even the most cruel wickedness from your spouse no matter what…To people who lay this cruel garbage on victims, I say go. Just go. Go away and learn what God means when He says He desires mercy, not sacrifice. Close your lips. In the meanwhile, we are done listening to you."