QUESTION: I am divorced. I am also a Christian. My divorce happened through a series of unfortunate events and was not my first choice. Recently, someone ridiculed me for being divorced. He quoted the scripture, “God hates divorce,” and acted like I was on God's hate list. Is there grace for me?
ANSWER: Yes! The scripture quoted is Malachi 2:16 (New American Standard Bible). In context, this verse is directed to men and references a sin against women or wives. The King James Version actually reads, “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away.” In the cultural context, the person who decided upon divorce was the husband because the wife did not have the right to divorce her husband. This is the reason God says he hates “putting away.” The person who was “put away” was the woman. When God spoke these words, it was meant as a mandate to men not to divorce their wives. In the context, God's hating divorce was related to what it did to women; too many times it forced them into destitution.
When we jump forward in scripture to John 4, we find Christ encountering the woman at the well. This is a famous passage where Jesus deals with love and kindness to a woman divorced five times and living with a man. Again, in that cultural context, this woman was not the self-chosen harlot so many people have painted her to be. Rather, she was a victim of a legal system that gave her no rights in choosing to be divorced. Five men had thrown her away, leaving her at the mercy of the streets. Like many women in her situation, she found herself with few options: live with a man or become a prostitute. And Jesus showed her respect and mercy.
Too many times when we read these passages, we have a tendency to put our 21st Century spin on the situations and assume that women had all the rights women have gained in our American culture. The truth is, they had almost no rights and were wholly dependent upon their husbands. While there were a few women who somehow transcended these cultural constraints, the vast majority did not. They had no careers to fall back on. God's statement of hating divorce in these cultural examples is a strong statement of his hating the mistreatment of women.
However, I do believe on a universal plain that God hates divorce for all times and all generations because of the havoc it plays with the lives of those affected by it. In today's culture, there are women who walk away from their husbands and families and file for divorce and emotionally brutalize the ones they pledged to love the most. Divorce is devastating, no matter who files.
With all that said, even though scripture does say that God hates divorce, never does it say that God hates divorced people. I'm dreadfully sorry for the set of circumstances that lead to your divorce. God hates the divorce that happened to you because of the pain and suffering it caused you. But He does not hate you! He loves you, and He always will. Never doubt His grace and mercy (Psalm 103:8-18).
The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit www.debrawhitesmith.com. Got a problem? E-mail Debra at email@example.com