There’s a dirty little secret among some Christians that I didn’t realize until I began down the path of ending my marriage. It took nearly a year, actually, for me to fully see it. Then, even longer to comprehend that the brotherhood and sisterhood I love so deeply could be so hurtful about something that causes so much pain.
There is a deep-held belief by some believers in the church that those who divorce will not be forgiven by God. Not only that, but that they are forever held in this sin of divorce, and then held captive in a single state for the rest of their lives because remarrying another is considered adultery. They don’t have to know your specific situation in order to come to this conclusion. In fact, they probably won’t even ask.
It surfaced in social media groups I was a part of. Someone would mention divorce and a stream of Bible verses condemning them would follow.
It surfaced in my friendships as I talked to other divorced moms and how they were singled out by people with hateful emails detailing how they would go to hell for committing adultery if they ever remarried.
But, before any of these things, it reminded me of a moment from early adulthood. A moment in college where someone I was close to (a seminary student) told me that my own mother was going to hell for adultery because she remarried after her divorce. He’d never met my mother, or knew anything behind the reason for her divorce. And, I wasn’t a believer at the time. You can imagine how close that brought me to God.
And so, a sour seed was planted in my heart that resurfaced as I realized that others (still) felt that way today. And because I believe that God forgives all sin of those who turn to him—no matter what—I couldn’t fathom this line of thinking:
Are the divorced unforgiveable?
I’ve been looking for answers on this because my single goal in life is to stay in the will of God. And, I fully believe that in some marriages, God calls people out of the marriage. Not all marriages, but some. Because we all know that marriages are often not what they seem from the outside. They can be full of sinful behavior that can only be escaped through divorce. And for an innocent in the marriage to suffer through a life of sin is not what God intends for anyone.
And there are only three people that will ever know the full truth of a marriage—the husband, the wife, and God.
Besides that, there are only three people whose business it is: the husband, the wife, and God.
And so I wonder if these people who are quick to condemn, realize the pain that their victims are going through. And, not only that, but the additional pain they are causing–and the slippery slope they are walking as they lead another away from God based on their own self-righteousness.
For those of you who have never suffered through a divorce, let me let you in on a little secret: the physical pain of being ripped apart from someone you once loved deeply is literally a tearing of the flesh from when two became one. And it feels like it. Physically, mentally, emotionally. To then have an outsider pour insults on the wound usually has no other effect than to turn that person away from God–in shame.
But, sweet friend, in the midst of that pain–when someone tries to fill you with shame, God is there too, offering to remove it. He still holds his hand toward the wretch that you may feel you are, and offers forgiveness and hope.
What Jesus doesn’t offer, is shame.
Just like he didn’t shame the Samaritan woman in John 4:
When Jesus asked her for a drink of water from the well, he told her “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Intrigued, she asked him for the water, to which he replied, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
I imagine her lowering her head here as she said, “I have no husband.”
But Jesus, in his great love and graciousness, said “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
He didn’t belittle her. He didn’t shame her. And, most importantly, he didn’t then tell her that his offer of living water no longer applied to her. Instead, his acceptance of her led her to go out and tell others. She was so effective, that the Bible says that many came to believe in Jesus because of her testimony.
Because that’s who Jesus is and what he can do in your life.
He is the God of the broken, of the wretch, of the sinner.
He is the God of the liar, the thief, the murderer.
He is the God of the depraved, the gluttonous, and the immoral.
He is the God who forgives a known criminal hanging on a cross beside him, just moments before death strikes.
Because Jesus didn’t come to this world to save those of us who lived perfect lives, following every rule written in the Bible. He didn’t come to save those of us who know him and know that we will make it into heaven because we do what he says. He didn’t come to save those of us who have sinned in the past but will never make that mistake again in the future.
He came to this world to save the shamed.
Those who have fallen so far from perfect that they know—they know—that the only hope that they have in being a part of his life is to turn over every ounce of that broken life to him. In the midst of our sins to turn to him—tell him we simply aren’t good enough, and we know it—and then ask him to love us anyway.
And he not only loves us, but sets us free. Free to live shame-lessly for him. And that is a beautiful balm to an already broken heart.
Because shame works against his greatest desires for you—to be in a close relationship with him, and to tell others about him too.
So, move on from your past—whatever that may be—knowing that you are forgiven. Completely. That you are to allow him to lift that burden from your life, so that you can go out and tell others what he’s done for you. I pray that you become so effective, that many will come to believe in Jesus because of your testimony. Because of the truth you live that nothing can hold you away from him.
Even after you sin again.
Even after you hurt others.
Even after your divorce.
Jesus shame-lessly forgave it all.
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