Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
This morning I’m going to muse somewhat about a series of conversations I’ve been involved in over the past couple of years. All I can guarantee is that my thoughts will be incomplete, my reasoning flawed, and my scholarship limited. But my heart, I promise, is open and compassionate and committed to learning truth.
DIVORCE: The subject is divorce. The particular idea I want to discuss is the oft-quoted thought that, “God hates divorce.”
The idea that “God hates divorce” is – typically – introduced into conversation as a kind of discussion circuit-breaker. It’s along the lines of, “Well, God hates divorce so there’s really nothing else to say.” Or it’s used as a bludgeon, “You can’t leave a marriage, because we all know that God hates divorce.” Or as a manipulation, “If you were living as a faithful Christian you would reconcile, because God hates divorce.” Or to justify, “I may have acted improperly, but being in favor of the divorce puts you at odds with God. So now I’m the one being wronged, because God hates divorce.”
- I guess the real question, so far as I’m concerned, is this: Are we talking about legalism on God’s part? Or is there something a little deeper in the equation that gets God all fired up?
- Another important question is the following: What is divorce? Is it the ‘piece of paper’ that ends the marriage? Or is divorce the whole ball of wax, the long-term disintegration of a faithful, committed relationship..?
FOR THE RECORD: I’d like to go on record as saying that I believe the majority of divorces are avoidable and unnecessary. I believe that, yes, the dissolution of a marriage does break God’s heart. I believe that reconciliation is almost always a possibility. And I believe that the restoration of a broken relationships is a beautiful testimony.
This viewpoint is predicated on the understanding that marriage is a relationship that requires the hard work of ongoing maintenance, and that it is well worth the effort. Marriage is also an equal partnership, where the heavy-lifting of:
- applied kindness,
- deliberate care,
- constant affirmation,
- mutual submission,
- self-giving love,
- the application of creativity,
- and a boatload of other intentional effort is shared in equal measure.
THE IMPERATIVE OF LOVE: But I believe that what God hates more than anything, and especially more than the legal punctuation mark at the end of it all, are relationships that fail to honor and to care for that which God loves above all else – and that is one-another.
I honestly feel that, in many cases, the legal conclusion is simply a formal recognition of what has already happened. I’m not sure that the piece of legal paper is what really burns God up.
At the end is really the wrong time to be saying, “God hates divorce.” How about saying it earlier, and saying it like this…
- God hates my cutting remarks,
- God hates the way I disrespect her feelings,
- God hates the ease with which I lie,
- God hates the way I spend time with pornography but neglect the marriage,
- God hates the neglect,
- God hates the way I cut him off in mid-sentence,
- God hates the way I ignore her needs,
- God hates the way I turn away from him when he wants to embrace me,
- God hates the way I come home drunk and yell at her,
- God hates the way I dominate our leisure time,
- God hates the way I intimidate her physically when I’m angry,
- God hates the way I turn cold rather than share my concerns,
- God hates the way I belittle his ideas,
- God hates the way I scorn her values,
- God hates the way I discredit his best efforts,
- God hates the way I fail to consult her regarding decisions,
- God hates the way I have to be right in every little disagreement…..
That’s what God hates.
THE SAD CONCLUSION: By the time one of you has left and the other one brings up the “Well, God hates divorce” thing, well, all God has left to hate is the punctuation mark that divorce is at the end of a – long, long – sentence.
But I still don’t think “God hates” so much as that “God hurts.” God is broken by our pain, and God is so deeply wounded by our failure to love.
God’s invitation is to love, to love eloquently and to love in the transformational power of knowing that we are forgiven and free.
Saying “God hates divorce” is not going to stop the conclusion of what has often been a long, run-on, sentence. But saying “God is teaching me how to love with the self-giving, other-affirming, sacrificial faithfulness of Jesus…” Well that, good Christmas people, is the only road to the possibility of reconciliation.
The Jesus kind of love is not a stick to wave at or over others; it is an invitation to life-charged transformation and peace.