Those were some of the hardest words I’ve had to speak to a person. I looked him in the eyes when I said it. The words were brutally honest. I didn’t enjoy it. I communicated the warning with a broken heart that day, and with tears I spoke to him about his soul. I told him, over coffee, “I fear you will die and go to hell.”
What brought on this sobering warning? The warning emerged from a conversation regarding marriage. We met to talk about his marriage and his desire to pursue a divorce from his wife. He had recently moved out and was requesting a divorce. As we talked, he provided me with the details regarding his desire for a divorce. The man’s wife had been faithful to him. She had kept her marriage vows. He had no reason to justify his divorce other than one primary goal—happiness.
As we talked, he articulated his desire to pursue happiness outside of marriage. His desire was to live life without any strings attached. He wanted to pursue life on his own agenda without his wife, without the constant responsibilities of married life. In short, he said, “I want to be happy.” In his mind, happiness was not a possibility within the context of his marriage. In order to pursue his idea of happiness, he was willing to divorce his wife.
After spending time sharing the gospel with this particular man, I moved on to explain how the gospel is put on display in a faithful marriage commitment between a husband and his wife. It’s the duty of a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). I explained how Christ keeps His covenant with the church based on His unconditional love rather than perceived good or potential good that the church could somehow offer to God.
It’s through the covenant keeping marriage commitment that the gospel is put on display without words. If we’ve ever been given a command to preach the gospel without words, it’s within the marriage covenant. In a land saturated by no-fault divorces, the church of Jesus Christ puts on display the doctrine of Christianity through marriage faithfulness. When the sanctity of marriage is upheld among God’s people, the echo of the gospel is heard and the beauty of the gospel sparkles in the world.
As we sat next to a large window at a high top table over coffee, I said, “Can I be honest with you?” He agreed. At that point, I felt that I needed to warn him about the danger of his soul. I said, “If I’m completely honest with you, I believe that you might follow through with this divorce. If you do, I think you just might achieve your goals. You might reach a place of happiness apart from your wife and achieve satisfaction in the remaining years of your life. You might enjoy it—however temporal it might be. The problem is, when you close your eyes for the last time, you will open them in eternity—in a place called hell.” He looked shocked. I said, “I fear you will die and go to hell.” As he looked at me with an intense glare, I went on to say, “When you close your eyes for the last time, you will never be happy again.”
As sweat started to bead up on his forehead, he assured me of the sincerity of his Christian profession. He talked about praying to God and asking for salvation at one point in his life. He explained how he had been baptized as a follower of Christ. At that point in the conversation, I pointed to the contradiction between his decision to put his wife away and the gospel call of Christians to uphold the sanctity of marriage.
It suddenly became awkwardly quiet. He was visibly nervous. At that point, there was no room for small talk. I could tell he was anxious to go. I pointed him in the direction of two resources—a short book on marriage and the book of Ephesians. He promised me that he would read the books and then call me to discuss it. To this very day, I have never heard back from him. When we walked to our cars on that warm sunny afternoon, it was the last time that I’ve seen or spoken to him.
Today, I fear that he’s much closer to hell than he was on that day during our coffee conversation. It’s one thing to claim to be a Christian and a completely different thing to live out Christian doctrine. James warned, “faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26). Jesus once told an unconverted lawyer that he was not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). How many people are in hell today who were close, but not close enough? How many husbands have professed faith in Jesus and failed to love their closest neighbor? The divorce statistics among professing Christians should not mirror the world’s divorce statistics. John Piper has accurately stated:
The wonder of marriage is woven into the wonder of the gospel of the cross of Christ, and the message of the cross is foolishness to the natural man, and so the meaning of marriage is foolishness to the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14). 
Can I be brutally honest with you today? If you’re a Christian who’s planning your divorce, you could be planning the biggest mistake of your life. Why not run to God today and plead for Him to restore your marriage? Divorce is not commanded. Divorce is a decision. Why not choose to keep your marriage vows and work passionately to restore your marriage for the glory of God?
- John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 29.