The thought of being a divorced Christian is scary, right? The term itself comes with a lot of stigma, and can make the divorcee feel like they’re wearing a scarlet letter. They may feel miserable in their church because they no longer seem to fit in. They don’t always mesh well with the singles, and the married couples they once bonded with can’t connect to them like they used to. Everyone around them has their happy little families, while their world is crumbling around them.
There are the well-meaning Christians who tell divorced Christians that they have failed Christ through getting a divorce, and that if they choose to remarry they are sure to end up forever in hell. The only option is to pray and do whatever is possible to reconcile with their ex-spouse. This only makes the divorced person feel worse and even further from God.
Can God ever forgive someone who got a divorce? Is it possible that a God-fearing relationship could one day fall apart? The divorced Christian, or those thinking about getting a divorce, has so many questions and few answers.
Christians as a whole have a lot of misconceptions about what the Bible really says about divorce, and what God really thinks about it.
Misconception: True Christians Don’t Get Divorced
Many people assume that divorce just means the couple had a lack of faith or trust in God. If the couple had only worked harder, their marriage would have survived eventually. Marriage are not exempt from destruction of this world even if both parties are dedicated Christians.
In reality, people who go through a divorce aren’t worse or less spiritual than anyone else. We have all been in relationships that have broken apart and hurt other people. A marriage that falls apart should not be subjected to judgement by others. Instead, it should serve as a reminder that there is brokenness in the world as a whole but by the grace of God great things can come out of that hurt. New life can be given through God.
Misconception: God Hates Divorce
When people say this, you may cringe knowing you have been through a divorce or are thinking of one because it comes off like an unpardonable sin. However we have to be honest, God does hate divorce. Many cite Malachi 2:16 which says “’For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord, the God of Israel. ‘To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”
However, if you put that verse into context of the rest of scripture you begin to understand things clearer. The context of that verse is of the unfaithful spouse who hurts their partner deeply. It’s about being cruel to your spouse, and God hates the actions that often lead to divorce. Many Christians have come to the conclusion that God hates divorce because of the incredible, horrible pain and suffering that it causes to His children. It is far less about divorce being a sin and more about God empathizing with us.
What the Bible Says About Divorce
God will do whatever He can to help save marriages, and keep them sacred and whole. However there are times when relationships break. The Bible itself says there are reasons why Christians can obtain a divorce. When adultery has taken place, a divorce can be obtained because adultery severs a marriage and a divorce is just the formal acknowledgement of that indiscretion.
The apostle Paul added to the teachings of Jesus what is called the "Pauline privilege." According to this concept, Paul taught that if an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, the believer is not bound to the marriage relationship, but is free to remarry" (1 Corinthians 7:15). Many Christians also believe in “constructive desertion” which is when one spouse brutalizes his partner that it becomes impossible to live with them any longer. The situation is the equivalent of desertion, and divorce and remarriage are permissible.
If someone chooses to get a divorce, it is not our place to judge. Their choice is between them and God. Instead of judging, we need to remember that God is the redeemer of all things. Throughout scripture, we are given many promises of hope. In John 11, Jesus proclaims that He is the resurrection and the life; He can take someone from the death of divorce and breathe new life into them. God will take the broken mess of a heart and bring it back to life after the pain.
While divorce isn’t want anyone wants, including God, it does not mean that it’s a terrible sin that Christians should be harassed for. Getting a divorce is OK in certain situations, and God recognizes that. He sees the pain and the broken mess their divorced heart is in and will do what is necessary to show them that they are still fully loved by God.