Forever an Outcast?
I am divorced, and I will forever be branded with the scarlet letter “D”. Within the Christian community, this is a hard one because it’s not a black and white situation like we wish it could be. Yes, the Bible makes it clear, divorce is only “excusable” in the case of infidelity. But, when did a union become more important than an individual? God hates divorce, yes, but He also hates the mistreatment of those who bare His image (all humans, ya’ll).
Divorce Always Happens Because of Sin, But is Not Always a Sin Itself
Each situation is different. In many situations, though, one person remains hard-hearted. I’m not specifically speaking of the individual who may have pursued the divorce either, it isn’t always that person whose heart is hard.
I did not personally pursue my divorce. Instead, I pursued reconciliation. I prayed for it, I worked on myself, and reconciliation just did not happen. I can wallow in this or I can accept it as a grace from God. Did God cause the divorce? No, but He didn’t stop it, and I am grateful for that. If He wouldn’t have let us make our own decisions, I may still be living in the darkness of confusion and abuse. Could He have redeemed the situation and the marriage? Absolutely, but it takes two willing hearts.
The problem with many within the church is that they treat both people as if they had hard hearts. Accountability is necessary for each one of us, but why is it that so often the person seeking accountability, the one with the soft heart, is the one that is often looked down upon? They are the ones trying to place themselves in the body for guidance, comfort, and godly wisdom to the question, “What now?”. I was met with tremendous grace from much of the body, but not by everyone. Yet, from what I can see, the hard-hearted is being praised for having divorced, moved on, and moved in with someone he isn’t married to (not by the pastors or leaders of my church, but by other “Christians”). I understand that the people involved in both looking down on me and praising sin are not walking in God’s truth in these specific instances. But I am choosing to speak on it because I feel like we need to meet the divorced in a completely different way then we have been. I’m not asking anyone to excuse sin. I’m just saying, as a divorced person within the Christian community, I feel as though I am somewhat of an outcast. Those who “place me on the outside” would never say that to my face, but they definitely have things to say about it (and I do sometimes get to hear about it). There are people who stay away because being in relationship with me costs them too much.
Bringing Grace and Truth Into Every Broken Situation
As Christians, we need to bring a balance of grace and truth to these situations. I am not without accountability, and I don’t want to be. But, are we afraid to bring accountability into the lives of those who do whatever they want “in the name of Jesus”? So many just want to stay out of it if it is going to be hard for them. Sometimes it is our duty to remain silent, but we can’t forget to restore each other gently.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Get Involved, It Affects The Body You Belong To
The pastors and leaders of my church handled my specific situation biblically, and they did it well. I have nothing against them or the way they tried to help me handle things. I’m referring to Christian friends. Not the far away Christians, but the brothers close by. The friends that are “close” to the couple, to the individuals. This is not the time to take a step back and “mind your own business”. This is the time to step up and prove your friendship. This is the time to hold accountable. This is the time to look at the soft-hearted one and say, “I know you did everything God called you to, and I am here”. This is the time to say, “I am here, and I won’t keep my mouth shut if you need tough love”. This is what real Christlike love looks like in the midst of divorce.
Not All Divorce is Created Equal
And what about those who pursued the divorce? Not out of sin, but out of protection from the hard-hearted? If the full effort was put forth by one, and the other spouse is still willfully living in sin, should we shun the spouse that did everything they could to biblically keep it together?
Can we promise to do better, and meet these wounded where they are, and promise to take them in like the widows they feel like? The grief of an unwanted divorce is oftentimes equivalent to that of a death of a loved one. The one main difference is that they are grieving someone that is still alive. They do oftentimes have to continue to have interactions or run-in’s with this person, and yet everything they once had and knew of this person is gone. The Bible calls us to take care of the orphans and widows, but so often we run away from those who are divorced because we see them as a plague instead of those grieving death. The death of someone they once knew. The death of a family they once had. The death of future hopes and dreams with that person and family. The death of a past. So many things to be grieved, and yet, it is treated nothing like a death. No wonder so many quickly seek solace inside of another relationship (which statistics show often ends up in ruin as well). How do we help hold accountable, give grace, and biblically support those in need, the ones that the Christian community often turn their backs on or goes silent towards?
Let’s Stop Letting The Enemy Use Divorce as a Tool For Continued Destruction
We need to speak up. We need to love them well, which is sometimes holding accountable and sometimes holding their hand. We need to reach out to see what needs have to be met. Do they just need an ear to hear, a mouth to pray and guide, arms to hug, and a hand of (biblical) support? Do they need somewhere to stay for a time? Do they need help finding a job? Do they need help with meals and childcare? If you don’t know the answer to any of these, I would say pay attention, and then ask them. Be specific. Can I make you a meal? Can I take you to coffee? Can I watch the kids while you go job hunting? Can I talk to you? Can I listen?
Care for the wounded. Care for the body because you are part of the same body. When one part doesn’t function correctly, the rest have to work overtime to compensate for the brokenness (which doesn’t do much but exhaust us). We need to step out in faith to help each other through grief and loss, sin and pain, confusion and healing.
Divorce is a plague in and of itself, but the divorced are not (not even the hard-hearted and the sinful divorcers). Each situation and each person in every marriage is different. How is God calling you to love the divorced of His body? It’s time to stop sitting around in silence, watching marriages and lives fall apart without doing something about it.
If you are going through a painful divorce, trying to heal from one, or walking with a friend who is, reach out. You can comment below, email, or connect with me on social media.
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