Alternate Title: Just Because You Shouldn't, Doesn't Mean It's Sin
As a person recovering from dysfunction and divorce I have spent many years trying to understand marriage from God's perspective.
If you look at the Word it can be very easy to build a case for a very rigid legalistic perspective on marriage and divorce. I know first hand, because that's exactly what happened to me. Alternatively if you solely focus on Jesus and His grace then it can be very easy to choose to believe the extreme opposite of a rigid and legalistic view of marriage and divorce. Now most people would then start to argue one is right and the other is wrong. And then vice versa.
But what if I told you neither are right?
Neither of those perspectives are right because neither of them are about God. Neither of them holds God above marriage and divorce. They both make marriage and divorce to be more important than God.
- The first makes laws and rules more important than God.
- The second makes grace more important than God.
I can relate to this because I held the laws and rules of marriage and divorce as being more important and more powerful than God in my heart and in my mind.
Marriage is powerful, important, the bedrock of society. And it should be held as holy and sacred and protected at all costs.
And nothing Jesus said changes anything about marriage from the old testament. However marriage is just that. It's marriage. It's important. But it's not as important as Jesus. It's not as important as God the Father. It's not as important as salvation. It's not as important as love.
I'll say it again
Marriage is not as important as love
What did Jesus tell us were the most important commandments?
- Love the Lord with all your heart
- Love others (which also means love yourself!)
Do you notice that marriage and divorce are not listed there? (insert the screams of the legalists here)
Love God and Love people.
Brings up some questions...
Is telling someone to stay with an abusive spouse loving that victim?
Is telling someone to marry someone they don't love just because they got pregnant, loving that person?
Is telling someone to not get a divorce, even though they love someone else, loving that person?
Is telling someone they have to fight to keep their marriage, while their spouse is cheating on them, loving that person?
Is telling someone to stay in a marriage they regret shortly afterwards loving that person?
The answer to all those questions is no. You are not loving that person if you say any of those things. Your heart is hard if you say those things to someone. You are loving marriage more than God and the person, if you tell someone those things.
You see two things can be true at the same time:
- God holds marriage as sacred. And wants us to protect our marriages, fight for our marriages and not get divorce if possible.
- God is ok with divorce. He created divorce through Moses because us humans are messy, complicated and make mistakes.
Lemme put it more simply
Divorce is not a sin
Now if you had said this to me years ago I would have (wrongly) railed against you. Because I had firmly secured "divorce" in the "sin" category even though God never once says divorce is sin. Not a once. He specifically granted us divorce after all! He cannot grant us sin, he's Holy and perfect!
Divorce is not sin, it's just divorce. Divorce does impact people, especially when the marriage has been long. Especially when there are children from the marriage. And that is why marriage is so important. Because it impacts people and their lives.
But people can often confuse things. If marriage is good then divorce has to be bad right? Incorrect.
Divorce can be good, divorce can be loving
Yes I said it. All you legalists out there can start screaming at me. It's fine. I've been on this journey of learning God's ways of marriage and understanding divorce for almost 20 years. You are free to disagree with me. But my divorce was the one of the best things in my life.
If I had stayed married I would have settled, I would have been miserable, and the woman I was married to would have been miserable, and our child would have been miserable, and that misery would have been taught and passed down to our child's own marriage. Welcome to generational curses kinda stuff. Welcome to passing dysfunction down to your children, ruining their lives. And if you willingly pass dysfunction down to your children because you're too proud to get a divorce, then you're broken and selfish.
And on top of all of us being miserable and perpetuating dysfunction I would have kept her from being happy and being with the person God really intended for her. And that would have been my fault for pridefully gripping onto the "marriage" more than loving her as a person by letting her go.
Who of you would tell someone being abused they need to stay with their abuser?
Who of you would tell your daughter "I'm sorry you realized you married the wrong guy after the wedding. You just need to suck it up and be unhappy the rest of your life. You got married, so you need to accept the rules of marriage over love."
Who of you would tell your son "Sorry to hear your wife loves someone else son. You're going to have a miserable life and marriage because she doesn't love you. But marriage is sacred after all, and you married her. So well, sucks to be you but you cannot divorce her!"
Are either of those adult children being loved by their parents by hearing those words? No, they are not.
Now marriage is complex. And there is grace and mercy and healing available often times. But many times healing is not possible (or in my case healing the marriage would have been the worst outcome because it would have kept both of us from the person God had planned for us later in life, The Lord knew we'd marry the wrong persons ahead of time and planned ahead of even that). Because human beings are human beings! Life is complicated and messy. Emotions and hearts are complicated. Hearts do not follow rules. They follow love.
Some people find their spouse on the first try. Some people don't find the spouse God planned until their 2nd marriage. While others find them on their 3rd or 4th marriage. There's no one way being better than the other. Because who cares in the end how many times you've been married. As long as you end on the right one. None of those are surprises to the Lord. He knew thousands of years in advance how many tries it will take each of us. He still loves us and guides us forward. God plays chess backwards after all.
Which is why God allows for divorce. Because messy situations happen. That doesn't mean God wants divorce. It just means he allows for it because loving people is more important than loving marriage.
Loving people is more important than loving marriage
If one of the two people in a marriage is unable to love, unable to be emotionally faithful, unable to be physically faithful, unable to stop hurting the other person then divorce needs to happen. Otherwise it's a toxic sh__ show of pain and misery and that will impact the family, friends and coworkers of everyone around them for decades in terrible ways.
The pain on everyone in the community from a miserable marriage can be worse than the pain of divorce.
Most people have run into this kind of situation. Those people who are absolutely miserable in their marriage such that they are miserable to everyone around them.
Think about it. What would happen if that miserable person got their head out of their a__ and said to their spouse "This isn't healthy, this is toxic. This is ruining our lives, our testimony, our witness to Christ by staying married. We need to get a divorce and let God heal us and prosper us. I don't love you. If I continue to stay with you I am not loving you, I am deceiving you."
Perspective is different isn't it? Different from "marriage is forever, no matter what.".
You see God loves us. He made marriage for a purpose. It's important. But if his child comes to him for bread to eat, He doesn't give them a stone. He gives them love. He gives them grace. He gives them mercy. And in marriage. Divorce can be love. Divorce can be an act of love to the other person in the marriage.
Lying is however a sin
Imagine finding out years into a marriage that your spouse didn't love you like you thought. Imagine finding out they had loved someone else your entire marriage. You would feel they lied to you. Because they lived a lie and because they did lie when they let you believe they only loved you.
Would you like to be married to someone who's in love with someone else? If you do you're effectively a slaver. Because you love control more than you love human beings. You want to keep your prize, or your current life situation more than you care about another human beings existence, heart, and well being.
We're allowed to make mistakes. More importantly God gives us grace and mercy to move past them!