Churches are all over the place when it comes to divorce. Some pastors are sure to get a few amens on the topic so they preach against it every month or so. Others never mention it because the big money people in their church have been married a couple of dozen times. Wherever you or your church fall on that spectrum, there are a few things that you need to remember.
I grew up in a house that was devastated by divorce. I know all about weekend visits and awkward phone calls. I do not write this as someone who read a book about divorce. I write it as someone who has lived it. I hate divorce. And God does too.
But we must be careful with our hatred of divorce. Yes, it is a sin but like most other sins, just because you have been impacted by it does not mean that you are the guilty party.
I’ve heard a lot of women whose husbands have walked out on them describe the anxiety, loneliness and condemnation they have felt walking into a church building. Whether true or not, they have told me, it sometimes feels like every eye in the house is directing its judgmental gaze toward them. Sadly, in many churches such a scenario is all too true.
The same is true for many men. The stereotype for them is that it was their laziness, drunkenness or infidelity that led to the divorce. I know many men who, though far from perfect, made great sacrifices to save their marriage and family. But it didn’t work. And so along with being abandoned by their wives, they get the added joy of being shunned by their church.
When we talk about divorce, we need to use a surgeon’s scalpel rather than a bully’s club. The scalpel can be painful but when used properly it brings healing. The club just knocks people around. We all know about the guy who loved getting drunk and sleeping with strangers more than he loved his own wife. But we must not forget about the hard-working, Godly husband who comes home one day to the surprise of a note from his wife telling him to jump in a lake and to have fun with the child support payments. One of those men needs strong correction and discipline from his church. The other needs love and assurance. They both need grace.
The Church must not follow the example of presidential politicians on the campaign trail. Trump, Clinton, Sanders and the rest can afford to paint with broad brushes on complex issues in order to appeal to the base. We can’t do that. We must speak to and love the individual in a way that is appropriate for the occasion.
There are a lot of broken hearts out there. Some of those wounds have been self-inflicted and others came like a shot from an assassin. But whatever the situation, God’s grace is sufficient. If we are serious about loving our neighbor we will do the hard work that comes with being vehicles of that grace.
We can’t do that if we are content to simply preach to the choir. And we can’t do it if we’re too scared to share the hard things the Bible says about painful issues. But we can do it if we take the time to know someone for who he is rather than who he used to be married to.
Divorce is painful.
I hate it.
So does God.
But God is the Master of bringing beauty from painful things.
May we who carry the name of Christ be used by him in that process.