“For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”
Do you know what the most common thing that someone in the midst of divorce hears from those of us in the Christian Community is? I think you probably do, after all it’s in the title of this blog post. “God hates divorce.” Do you know what the last thing a person in the middle of a divorce wants to hear? You guessed it. “God hates divorce.” Why is that? Well, people who are going through a divorce can usually be bundled into one of three groups. Let’s look at them one at a time.
The first group is those who don’t believe and therefore couldn’t care less what the Bible or God says about anything. To them you are a judgmental hypocrite. Well, not you specifically but Christians in general or any religious person. They just don’t want to hear anything you/we/they have to say.
The second group is those who feel, rightly or wrongly, that the divorce is all the other person’s fault and that they are not responsible for any of it. These people, whether they are believers or not, feel that they are blameless and perceive any advice about divorce as being given to the wrong person. They especially don’t want to hear that God hates divorce as it feels like they are being attacked for some thing that is not at all their fault.
The last group are believers who feel as if they failed. They somehow managed to screw up so bad that they couldn’t do anything to save the marriage. They blame themselves, even if they really could do nothing to stop the destruction of their marriage. These people probably already know that God hates divorce and are already beating themselves up for failing Him. Some may even blame Him for not keeping them from marrying when He knew ahead of time what the end result would be.
The bottom line is this: telling someone that God hates divorce is the equivalent of passing judgment on them. Whether you mean to or not, it is telling someone that they are a lesser person than you are because God specifically singled out what they are going through and declared his hatred for it. Telling them that getting remarried to someone else is adultery is also judgmental. Jesus told us not to judge. So how can we justify doing what we are told not to do in order to tell someone that they shouldn’t be doing what they are? That’s the same as singers Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams protesting laws that protect peoples’ right to withhold their services from customers, if providing the service conflicts with their personal beliefs by withholding their services from customers in the states where these laws were enacted. Because the laws conflict with their personal beliefs. It all seems extremely hypocritical to me.
Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.
Perhaps we would be better off looking at why God hates divorce. In the above passage we find that God divorced Israel for adultery. They had gone off and worshiped other gods and had broken the covenant between them and the Lord. So he ended the covenant effectively divorcing Israel from Himself. God hates divorce and yet he’s gone through one. Perhaps, like me, He hates it for that exact reason. He knows, first hand, the suffering that comes with it. He’s experienced it.
Now, we know we are all sinners. Each of us has broken our vows. We have all been unfaithful to God. We have all been divorced from our Lord. This is the truth that we in the Christian Community seem to miss. We think we’re being good followers of Christ when we remind people that God hates divorce, but in reality we’re missing the big picture.
When someone we know is going through a divorce,we need to be there for them. Love them. Help them. Invite them to dinner, to church or to Bible Study. This will go a lot farther then telling them that they are responsible for fixing their broken marriage because God doesn’t like their situation. What they need is love, not judgment. Help, not ridicule. Fellowship, not isolation. We need to worry less about appearing to condone the situation and more about being the loving reflection of Christ that we are called to be.
The main reason I attend the church I do is that not one single person in that church ever once told me that God hates divorce (except the pastor in the context of counseling rather than as judgment), not even those people who knew both my then wife and I. They all made me feel welcome at a time when I was angry at myself and God. They loved me unconditionally when I really needed it, and I thank God for the lot of them.