In recent discussions on another blog, one commentor asked how so many people came to believe they would go to Hell if they divorced their abusive spouse. Below is my response (with minor editing):
Our modern Christian culture has, to a large extent, embraced an unbiblical Divorce Mythology. Note I call it mythology, not theology. The mythology has little biblical basis, but is shored up by lots of biblical references plucked out of context.
It starts with the false assumption that “divorce is sin” and “God hates divorce.” It then goes on to equate divorce with adultery…not the single act of divorce but the ongoing state of remaining divorced. So divorce is falsely seen as an ongoing state of sinful rebellion against God.
Then, it’s neatly capped with a poorly substantiated policy that people who have divorced are disqualified from ever holding church leadership positions. This edict provides a basis for always remembering who has divorced and never letting it go, no matter how much time passes or what other life events transpire.
Put it all together and divorce becomes the one unforgivable sin within many churches. Any other sin can be repented, forgiven, and forgotten. Not so with divorce…it is always remembered and always held against the person.
Add to that the many sermons falsely proclaiming “God hates divorce!” and “Divorce is not an option for a Christian!” And it is easy to acquire the perception that a divorce moves someone from being an object of God’s love to being an object of His wrath. And, in some ways, these unspoken conclusions are even more powerful for being unspoken. If they were voiced, they could be exposed as false. By remaining unspoken conclusions to which the false teachings logically lead, they remain unchallenged and retain their deceptive power.
This Divorce Mythology unnecessarily imprisons many abused spouses in a dangerously toxic marriage. Convinced that divorce would make them an object of God’s wrath, condemned to eternal damnation, they stay in the abusive marriage, endangering the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of themselves and their children.
Similarly, many godly believers who have experienced divorce lead desperate lives of quiet guilt, avoiding church and feeling distant from God, in the belief that they are living under God’s constant disapproval.
I grew up in church, accepting the Divorce Mythology as truth. Although I didn’t see divorce as condemning someone to Hell, I did see it as permanently condemning someone to a sort of second-class Christian status…someone who had failed so horribly and irresponsibly that they could never again be entrusted with anything of importance…whose children were doomed to a second-class high-risk raising…who should never remarry and if they did remarry would almost certainly divorce again…who must never be given any form of responsibility in the church…
I would never have said that someone who had divorced was a second-class Christian. If someone had asked if that’s what I believed I would have said no. I had never even thought it through enough to realize that was my perception. It was simply the overall impression and logical conclusion based on what I had heard preached and the attitudes expressed by others within the church.
But when I first found myself facing divorce, this was how I felt…as though I was facing the very real possibility of permanently losing God’s favor and being condemned to a second-class Christian status.
Thankfully, I had deep enough roots and enough understanding of God’s heart to perceive the falseness of this perspective…to realize that there cannot be any such thing as a second-class Christian…to understand that since we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, not of works, that such a thing is impossible. And as the Holy Spirit continually spoke His love to me, He led me past the divorce mythology to see the complete lack of biblical basis for the myths.
He is such a faithful friend!
In my book, So You are a Believer Who has been through Divorce, I use a myth-buster approach to address the various myths supporting this biblically unsubstantiated mythology. I have also addressed each of the divorce myths in various posts sprinkled throughout this blog. Please feel free to browse, starting with clicking on the links highlighted in blue text within this post.
What life experiences has God used to free you from false perceptions?