Many of us grew up to hear “God hates divorce” over and over again, we have even developed some kind of dislike for divorced people making others who are in death traps of a marriage hesitant to walk away because they are scared of what people would say, what the Church would do and how the world at large would see them. It is particularly peculiar to Christianity which often and rightly advocates monogamous marriage.
In polygamous cultures, women are disadvantaged, they’ve always been the disadvantaged though. A man who is no longer satisfied with his wife may choose not to divorce her but marry a second one on whom all his attention will be channelled to but women are not permitted to enjoy this kind of luxury. Except on the grounds that they were divorced, they must remain loyal to one man even if it means losing their peace.
In the olden days, what some women usually do is that they run away from abusive relationships and elope with another man. I know many aged women who narrated how they ran away from the homes of their first husbands.
In Christianity and many modern cultures around the world, marriage is monogamous making divorce the only option when it becomes tough and impossible for couples to continue. Because “God hates divorce”, many Christians finds it even harder to dissolve a marriage especially those who are vocal about their faith.
Women are the most abused in the world. There is a high number of unfaithful men in ratio to unfaithful women and statistics has proven this on all grounds. However, most of these women are usually discouraged to separate or walk away leading to either taking laws into their hands or becoming victims of homicide.
This is not a means to paint men in a bad light or to encourage divorce but I think it’s time we start teaching people the truth the way it is. Did God really just said, ” I hate divorce?” Or was there more to that statement? Did God mean that people should stay even if staying means they will have to give their lives for it? Did God mean that there is no way to run away from a spouse’s cruelty?
Divorce as it is came as a result of the hardness of man’s heart. It was never God’s plan for marriage. The Bible makes it clear that God’s plan for marriage is oneness and the reason is so that godliness can be expanded through the ministry of child-birth. Family is very important to God. However, divorce became permissible because, after the fall of man (the corruption of nature), man became stubborn towards living in accordance with God’s design.
Jesus cited this when he said
“Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.” – Matthew 19:8 NLT
Jesus went further to reaffirm God’s concerns about how men are cruel to their wives and use the instrumentalities of divorce to deal with and dump their wives. He continued
“And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” – Matthew 19:9 NLT
When Jesus was talking about divorce, he wasn’t referring to women who leave their marriage because of abuse, he was reaffirming God’s concerns for women who are victims of the cruelties of their husbands. For a better understanding of this let’s go back to the Old Testament to see where God bared it open!
“Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.”
– Malachi 2:14 NLT
Do you see how it started out? When we take marriage vows, God witnessed it and he wants to see us stay faithful to it. God doesn’t want a case where one is faithful to making it work and another isn’t. Unfaithfulness isn’t just about extramarital sex, it includes not loving and honouring your spouse whom you have vowed to love and honour. It continued
“Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.”
– Malachi 2:15 NLT
One of God’s intent for marriage is to raise godly families and only godly union can produce godly children. Broken marriages can lead to broken homes and even more, broken commitments in marriage will cause same harm. God’s desire here is to foster faithfulness between couples especially the men who abuse their wives. It is to this regard that God said
“For I hate divorce! To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty. So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”
– Malachi 2:16
Do you see that? God was only referring to a kind of divorce! Yes, God doesn’t admire any kind of divorce because it isn’t part of his plans for man.
When God said I hate divorce, it was because of His concerns for women who are facing cruelty in the hands of their husbands who use the instrumentality of divorce to deal with their wives wrongly. It was God saying “I hate how you treat your wives and discard them afterwards!”
God wasn’t discouraging anyone from leaving an unrepentant partner who is bent on abusing and threatening them with death! God was not saying “I hate it when you leave a union where your life is under threat and where you have lost your peace!”
Marriage takes two to work and no matter how much you fast and pray for your partner to change, they can only change if they desire to change. There is a difference between someone who is struggling with something and isn’t proud of it and someone who is proudly doing the wrong things without repentance or remorse.
So, next time we quote that “God hates divorce” in a bid to discourage an abused person from walking away, we should understand what God was addressing.
Having said that, understanding that divorce isn’t God’s intentions for us makes it the last resort if we are going through very tough times in our marriage. Personally, the only time I advocate for separation even if it means divorce is when someone’s life is under threat, when peace has been robbed and when someone’s partner is unrepentant about all manner of abuses.
If you are yet to marry, it is important to marry someone who shares the same philosophy with you. Many people started their union on the wrong grounds and in this case, they were divorced even before they began the journey to marriage.
The next big question is: can a divorced person remarry? Is there any biblical ground for remarriage after divorce? I hope to answer that in my next article and this is where Paul’s writings come into play.