A Divorcé’s Perspective
If you read my previous post on The Biblical Im/permissibility of Divorce, but haven’t followed the ensuing discussion in the comments section, you’re missing out on some of the best dialogue and level-headed engagement with Scripture that’s taken place on this blog in quite some time. Thanks for that, friends.
Last week I received an e-mail from a friend, who is a divorcé, about my post that was very insightful, warmly affirming, and also charitably critical, and I’d like to post it here (with permission from the author) as a needed warning to all of us, and also as a beautiful example of a humble rejoinder. Without attempting an excuse for the warranted criticism this person offers me personally, I will say that the post I wrote was ridiculously long and for that reason I said as little as possible while still trying adequately to cover the topic. That said, the author is entirely correct in saying that I should have been more careful to “couple [my teaching] with a reminder of grace, forgiveness, and the universality of sin.” I should not have taken these things for granted.
Here is the e-mail in full:
Bryan (not Brian):
Excellent blog post about marriage. I appreciate your intellectual and spiritual honesty, as always.
I’d like to give you some perspective from a person who has been remarried.
We come to our marriages from tumultuous, unbelieving pasts, where the damage from our broken relationships is baggage that we do our best to learn from and that we hope to use to build humility when we see someone else’s relationship in shambles. Most of us understand intimately how much God’s heart must break when we’re unfaithful to him.
What we learn very, very quickly in the faith community is that true grace from anyone other than Christ is mostly a myth. We learn that when it comes out that we’ve been remarried, we’re met with raised eyebrows and “Oh, I see…,” and suddenly we’re not quite as invited to the conversations as we used to be. There is a reason that just about every divorced person I know stays very, very quiet about it: once you talk about it, ostracism follows swiftly.
For some reason, when someone comes to the church with a drug background, or a history of crime, or just a past filled with the everyday “uninteresting” (but no less sinful) mistakes, the people of the church are glad to look beyond that. They will celebrate the repentance of that person and claim a spiritual victory. Yet, people tend not to extend that same grace, freedom, and unity to people with a divorce in their background, regardless of the person’s genuine repentance. There is a real “us vs. them” line in the church that can be extremely discouraging and frustrating to those of us who—like any sinner—are repentant and want to continue moving forward in spiritual maturity.
I absolutely relish your teaching on divorce—and wholly agree with it—but I would suggest that from a pastoral, practical view, you couple it with a reminder of grace, forgiveness, and the universality of sin. Set by itself your teaching has the potential to be unintentionally hurtful to people who do bring the sin of divorce to the table.
Thanks for being a rock-star pastor.
[name removed by consent of the author and I]