DOES GOD HATE DIVORCED PEOPLE?
By Jen Grice
“God hates divorce!” As an author of a couple of books for divorced women, I often hear this. People email that statement to me when they learn that I support Christian women during their divorce and after. I don’t ever tell a woman she should divorce, but I offer it as an option when abuse and/or adultery has already destroyed the marriage beyond repair. I have empathy and compassion for divorced people because I am one. But more importantly, I don’t believe that God hates divorced people.
I think loving people should include loving divorced people as well. But most times, divorced people don’t feel this love because they feel looked down upon and condemned. And they are labeled as sinners or adulterers for being divorced or remarrying after divorce. It feels like divorce is the only life choice that has no redemption in many ways, which is just not true!
The “God hates divorce” statement is extremely harmful when Christians use it as a weapon to keep abused women (and men) in toxic marriages. Their intentions might be to save marriages, but the words only damage already hurting people. I don’t think that’s what God intended when He made those statements in the Bible. Furthermore, maybe fallible humans misinterpreted God’s statements, and now we use it as God’s word to punish divorced people.
Interpreting Malachi 2:16
Many translations of Malachi 2:16 state that God hates divorce. I believe this is true, but there are better interpretations. The New International Version states, “‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
In Old Testament times, men were expected to protect and provide for their wives. Husbands were to “cover” their wives as symbolized in Ruth 3:9 and Ezekiel 16:8. The cover that Ruth asked Boaz to give her represented her need for earthly protection. She was vulnerable as many women were; they didn’t have the abilities and opportunities we have today. Divorce laws were created to protect women rather than condemn or enslave them.
Furthermore, Malachi wrote this text as a warning to the priests of Israel – not to divorce people. The priests were exhibiting poor leadership by allowing people (men) to divorce their wives to marry women from foreign lands. God was threatening to rebuke the priests for conducting and allowing these marriages to occur when they should have been the ones doing the rebuking.
Today, we often use Malachi 2:16 as a way to force people to stay in their marriage even if that marriage is abusive or adulterous. Christians now rebuke the divorcees. Instead of reprimanding, I believe we should use the verse to remind newlyweds and married people to protect their spouses from violence, especially in their homes. Abuse and adultery are sins that every spouse should be protected from. And divorce because of abuse or betrayal is often the biggest heartbreak a person could experience. Entire families suffer because of divorce. This is why God hates divorce; He hates that it destroys His beloved children. We should not add more grief to their grief by making them feel like sinners and adulterers when divorce was never their choice in the first place.
Divorce Is Not a Sin
Let’s start by defining sin. Merriam-Webster defines sin as a “transgression of the law of God; a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God.” Dictionary.com defines sin as “any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.”
I honestly don’t see how divorce fits into these definitions of sin. Abuse of any kind, adultery, and abandonment is a sin that causes divorce. But divorce is often the rescue plan that a victim of abuse or adultery needs to begin to heal and become whole again.
During my divorce Isaiah 54:6, which reads, “‘The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God” kept coming up in my life to remind me that God was calling me back to Him. The sin that I had committed was putting my husband at the center of my life and not God. God was jealous for me and knew I would be healthier committed to Him and not my unfaithful husband. Although people may want to convince divorced people, they are not estranged from God. God does not demand that divorced people repent of the “sin of divorce,” especially if they are not the ones who abused their partner or committed adultery. It always takes two people to keep a marriage together and healthy, but it only takes one person to destroy it.
God’s Love For His People
All humans have fallen short of God’s standards. No one person is immune to sin. Only Jesus could measure up to perfection on earth as it was created to be in the Garden. Even in the fallen world, with all imperfect people, God still loves. Through the blood of Jesus, every person has been given freedom from the consequences of this sinful world. Through knowing this unconditional love, we, too, can love others.
Even people who’ve never experienced divorce can have empathy and compassion for someone who has been through a divorce. I’ve made mistakes, and you’ve made mistakes. Neither of our mistakes is weighted any differently in heaven. I’ve felt pain and betrayal, and I’m sure you’ve felt some of that too. Our shared life experiences make us all human. And if God can love all humans equally, so can we.
How to Embrace Divorced People
Embracing any person is as easy as understanding them and loving them as Jesus did. It’s that simple. But we make it harder when we try to direct their paths, something only the Holy Spirit should be doing. You can plant seeds of encouragement, but only the Spirit can make those seeds grow.
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard someone tell a divorced woman that she should be dating or that she shouldn’t be dating. Christians say things like you cannot remarry after divorce or you will be an adulterous woman. These same women come to me asking my opinion on what they can and cannot do. But it’s not up to me to decide. I believe any person should have a relationship with God while walking with the Holy Spirit, who will direct their path.
I believe if someone is willing to stay inside of God’s will for their life, then whatever decisions are made along the way will be part of God’s plan for their life. This may even include some missteps as she learns to decipher her human desires from God’s desires. And honestly, God wants to give everyone the desires of their heart, it’s just knowing when it is God doing the giving or us doing the taking.
When we allow a person to walk their own path and love them right where they are on their healing journey, we are saying to them that we accept them. In doing this, we are saying, I am placing this person in God’s hands to work things out for His good. I may have all the wisdom from walking my own path, but they need to gain that wisdom from walking their own. After that, you can pray for this person as they navigate their healing and restoration journey.