Hi, this is pastor Ken and this is my Monday Marriage Message. God Hates Divorce…But He Loves Divorcees
If I heard my mom say it once, I heard her say it a thousand times, “Ken, you can go to hell for lying just like you can for cheating”. What was mom saying? She was telling me what God’s word tells all of us, one sin is no worse than another because any sin means we have missed the mark. Romans 3:23 says it clearly; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Mom was right. All sin, any sin, makes me intolerable to God…except for the atoning blood of Jesus! In this way all sin is equal. Another equalizer of all sin is its opposite. What is the opposite of a lie? Holiness. What is the opposite of cheating? Holiness. What is the opposite of fornication or adultery? Holiness. What is the opposite of divorce? Holiness. The opposite of any sin is holiness. God hates all of it, lies, cheating, adultery, fornication…divorce. The opposite of all sin is the same thing and in that way all sin is equally detrimental to our spiritual condition. Make no mistake, I am in no way trying to minimize or normalize sin. I illustrate this so that no one would misunderstand and believe that their divorce makes the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ inaccessible to them.
All sin is the same, but not all sin has the same natural consequences. The natural consequences of some sins are much more difficult to remedy than others. Malachi 2:16 says “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.” God does indeed say that He hates divorce. Why is this? He says it is because it covers one’s garment with violence. The picture being painted is one of a murder scene. God is saying that His hatred for divorce is because it kills something (a marriage) he has created. Beyond that, it murders something He cared so much for that He invested a portion of His Own Spirit into it. God hates divorce because it kills something He loves…in the same way you would say you hated anything that took the life of someone you love. Because of His great love for our marriages, He warns us against anything that might lead to its downfall. So He tells us to heed our spirit and not treat our spouses treacherously, or in ways that harm them; physically, emotionally and or spiritually.
John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world (everyone, even divorced people) that He sent His Only Son and that any of us who put our faith in Him (Jesus) we will live eternally (in God’s presence). The very next verse goes on to say that Jesus did not come to condemn the world (even divorced people) but instead, offer a way to be saved from our sin. So if you are divorced you might be taking issue with me that divorce doesn’t equate to sin. In certain cases, I would agree. God’s word does make for some very limited specific allowances for situations that are beyond a person’s ability to navigate. However, the entirety of God’s word always points to reconciliation as the best course of action whenever possible. Jerimiah 3 indicates this may include leaving the door open to later reconciliation even if it seems unlikely in the present. In that passage God says He remains married to the backslider, hoping for a future homecoming.
I define sin as anything that goes against God’s best for us. Divorce fits that category. Matthew 19:6-8 reads as follows: “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” This scripture records for us a conversation between Jesus and some Pharisees. They were trying to get Jesus to tell them if they could divorce for any reason (like we allow in America today). They were trying to twist the scripture to say that divorce was a viable option when a marriage wasn’t pleasing to them anymore. Jesus pointed out several truths here:
- Marriage is a God thing – not simply an agreement between two people enforceable only until one or both of them want to deem it null and void.
- God knows that divorce happens, but He never sees it as the best option – ever.
- Divorce wasn’t even a thing until marriage had been in existence for nearly 2600 years. Many of those had been incredibly long marriages, Adam lived to be 930 years old (Gen 5:5) and we can assume most if not all of those married to Eve (we don’t know who died first). The average length of marriages in America is eight years – we have some catching up to do!
- Divorce is a result of hard hearts. Tough words to wrestle with, but Jesus said them. He is who we must take issue with if we don’t like how they fit.
I am not making these points to condemn; if I were, the words would be self-condemnation for both my wife Lynn and myself. Perhaps that is what gives us the legitimacy to be able to speak to them. My only intent is to point out that divorce is a huge deal that never solves a problem and really only serves to create a new set of its own. Our stories are different. We divorced for different reasons. We are blessed to have been led to one another years later, but we both know and admit freely that our divorces were not acts of selflessness. They were the actions of selfish hearts who wanted to be free to someday marry someone else who would treat us the way we felt we deserved to be treated.
Why include this incredibly difficult entry in a podcast about love and marriage? I include it because 40% of all marriages in America today are re-marriages for one or both participants. This is clearly outside the design and because of its prevalence must be addressed in any serious podcast on marriage. The good news is, God recognizes subsequent marriages, and wants to bless them fully. In John 4:16-17 while speaking with the woman at the well, Jesus recognized each of her 5 marriages as valid marriages. God wants us to see the current marriage we are in as the only marriage we have, and to work hard to make it a successful one, till death do us part. As I said before, the consequences of seeking something that is not God’s best for us (such as divorce) will have to be dealt with. There are some nuances unique to remarriage that have to be navigated carefully if they are to be successful. The average duration of subsequent marriages today is 4 years – just over half of the success rate of all marriages. Second marriages end in divorce 60% of the time while that rate climbs to 73% for third marriages. Statistically speaking, we NEED God’s blessing on our re-marriages.
So, what to do? If one or both of you are formerly divorced forget that title and live like what you are…married. Work at your marriage with all you have. Learn from this podcast and other resources like it, how to ensure that this marriage is the covenant experience that reaps all of the blessings God desires for marriage. Don’t deal treacherously with one another, which leads to the death of marriage, rather as God’s word says, recognize you get to choose the direction you send your marriage in. Proverbs 18:21 says: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Ephesians 4:29 states: Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Additionally, Proverbs 15:4 says: A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Marriage is important to God. He says He is watching to see how we treat this treasure He has given to us. Proverbs 19:4 says that land is what an earthly father leaves his children, but our marriage is our inheritance from the Lord. I believe all of this to be true whether you are in your first, or a subsequent marriage. Hard hearts have always been the leading cause of divorce throughout history…Jesus said so. Heard hearts are the leading cause of oneness increasing. Speak life into your marriage, look at it as your only marriage that matters, because God sees it that way. Pray like it all depends on God…and work like it all depends on you.
Questions to Answer:
- This entry may have been a tough pill to swallow, what are your thoughts about divorce and hard hearts?
- If you are among the remarried, what nuances do you see in your marriage that require special navigation?
- How do you wish you could navigate the difficulties for greater success going forward?
- If this is your first marriage, what things do you feel you should do to ensure success the first time?
Actions to Take:
- If need be, pray for forgiveness for a hard heart (present or past) and ask God to soften it so that He can mold it as He desires.
- Discuss actions the two of you can take that eliminate divorce as a possibility.
- Make a plan to begin speaking words of life into your marriage daily, don’t go to bed tonight until you have both done so for this day.
So now, speaking life into your marriage, giving it all of the care God who loves it so much, desires you to…Go Be Awesome!