The little envelope symbol illuminated to notify me that I had a direct message. The content of that message, from someone I do not know, was a Biblical scripture, along with the words: “God hates divorce!”
For “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:16
This is not the first such message I have received, and I doubt it will be the last.
What is the message here? Do you hate divorced people? Does God hate divorced people?
Apparently, the fact that I operate publicly as a person who writes about marital problems and divorce makes me somewhat of a target for select religious individuals and organizations who see me as the face for something they despise. Because these folks are not able to direct their comments and criticism to each divorced person individually, I am a sort of mailbox for the religiously passionate who want me to be sure to know that I—and the rest of us who have divorced—am likely doomed to an unpleasant afterlife.
Dear God (and those who send me scripture on His behalf):
I hate divorce too! But, then again, God already knew that.
You see, God and I are not strangers. I did not come to be a divorced person through a life of moral bankruptcy. I have attended church my entire life, and consider myself to be a faithful follower. The fact that I am a religious person doesn’t mean that I am perfect; but, God already knew that too. The obvious fact here is that all of us have faults. All of us have made mistakes. All of us have sinned.
One thing that I picked up along the way in my years of religious participation is that there is an entire laundry list of things that God is not a fan of:
- Tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)
- Gambling (Proverbs 13:11)
- Wearing mixed fibers (Deuteronomy 22:11)
- Boiling a kid goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 34:26)
- Hypocrisy (1 John 4:20)
- Gossip (Psalm 101:5)
- Lying (Proverbs 12:22)
- Jealousy (James 3:14-15)
The list goes on...and on.
All of us, including God, have lists of pet peeves and things that we know are wrong; whether they are an affront to personal beliefs, the laws of the land, or a divine being. I don’t agree with prostitution, theft, murder, or kidnapping. I could probably spend the rest of the day naming off behaviors and decisions that are either offensive, show poor judgment, or are regrettable.
Among those things is divorce.
Some of the previously discussed offenses are introduced in the Bible to inform or offer protection. The wearing of mixed fibers, for instance, was brought up as a means of setting standards for consumers to ensure the availability of quality goods. You’re not going to hell if you wear a cotton-poly blend shirt! The boiling of a kid goat in mother’s milk was a reference to animal cruelty, and also a way to discuss the natural order of things. The mother’s milk is designed to nurture the child, not to perform a ritual, or to be used as part of some bizarre recipe.
All of the aforementioned sins and disliked actions are behaviors, not people.
Although the Bible provides a vast list of “do’s and don’ts,” the attention is not focused on hating or rejecting the people who do wrong, but on learning from, correcting, and avoiding bad behaviors. Yes, there are rules and there are laws, and we should do our very best to follow them; but, we are weak and flawed humans, and we will make mistakes. We are not instructed to shame, harm, or punish those who make mistakes, but instead are told to accept, love, and forgive misdeeds.
I’m afraid that all of our social media inboxes would be filling up with messages of condemnation if all of our mistakes were opened up for criticism and finger wagging—including the inboxes of those sending out Bible verses and “God hates divorce” messages. So, I guess we’re all in trouble if the zealots decide to target every one of us who has ever told a lie, cussed, shared a rumor, or coveted another’s property.
As I recall, Jesus himself was known to openly associate (to the horror of the establishment) with criminals, lepers, prostitutes, and others that the rest of society looked down on. He was willing to look past, and forgive, these behaviors and separate behavior from person.
You might do a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, seek forgiveness, and do better next time.
The fact that I write and attempt to educate others about divorce is not my personal endorsement of the practice. It’s not as though I’m saying “Hey, everybody! Divorce is fun and you really should do it!” This isn’t the new stuffed crust pizza or vacation destination. Divorce is an emotionally devastating, frustrating, life-changing event that is horrible for anyone who has to endure it. I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, yet I understand that sometimes it is necessary.
The act of reaching out to divorced people to offer love, support, understanding, a safe place to share, and education about relevant topics is what I feel I have been called to do because I know how hard it is to walk in those shoes. No one should have to do it alone. It is regrettable that anyone has to do it, just as it is regrettable that anyone should ever have to suffer the loss of a loved one, go through the pain of disease, or be mistreated and oppressed in any way.
Additionally, as much of my mission is dedicated to divorce prevention as it is to being a support to those who do choose divorce.
If just one married person is able to wake up and do something different to save their marriage, or one divorced person feels a little better about the direction his or her life is headed because of some advice that I shared, then I have been successful.
No one walking this earth, including me, can definitively state that they know exactly what to expect from this life or the one to follow. You believe what you believe; I believe what I believe. I don’t feel that it’s my place or role to condemn what someone else does in their life, and I am certain that every single one of us has committed something from the “don’t” list. I choose to let the judicial system address earthly infractions, and for God to be the judge of His laws.
It’s not my place to tell you whether or not you should get a divorce. You are the only one who knows your situation and what it is to live your life. I took comfort in my personal belief that the God I believe in wants His people to be happy. I don’t think I was placed on this earth for the purpose of misery, to be abused, or to have no options to improve the quality of my life. When events in my life turned to the possibility of divorce, I wrestled with the decision, in part, because I didn’t want to defy my religious beliefs; but, I was comforted in thinking that I was meant to be happy, safe, and loved. I also relied on the notion that all can be forgiven, which is also part of religious teachings.
So, no, I refuse to accept that God hates divorced people. Like me, I’m sure that God would prefer for all of us to have strong and successful marriages that didn’t conclude in divorce. I also have an inkling that God would also prefer that more of us were simply there for one another in tough times, like divorce, instead of so quick to judge each other in His name. This world would be a lot more bearable for all of us if we did love one another, help one another, and leave the hatred at the door.