I attend a very conservative church where the Bible is preached as the literal, inerrant word of God. I also am very connected to our local homeschooling community, which also is ultra-conservative. I run a business that mainly draws conservative Christian families.
So when I filed for divorce, I began to be concerned about judgment. I felt the need to explain my situation–to prove that I had Biblical grounds and that I had done everything possible to save my marriage.
There are those in the Church who believe that a person should stay married no matter what. If a woman is being abused, if children are being harmed, if there is constant deception, manipulation, and betrayal. No matter what. They would say that, unless there has been proven physical adultery with another person, and that the offender isn’t repentant, there are no grounds. Really???
In my case, I think a proven affair is more reconcilable than what my STBX was into. I’m not going to share the details, but, trust me, it’s disgusting. But what’s worse is that he lies to me constantly. And he manipulates me. A marriage should be based on trust, but his lies and manipulation have destroyed that trust.
I was counseled initially to file for legal separation instead of divorce. I wasn’t enthusiastic about this option, but, because two out of three of the church leaders I counseled with advised this, I did it. I do believe that was the correct thing to do at the time, but things became clearer after I had filed.
Interestingly, legal separation is also referred to as a “limited divorce.” I don’t think that legal separation is any holier than divorce, as some seem to think. One of the leaders with whom I counseled was in disagreement with legal separation. He said that, since we were physically separated, we really were not following God’s plan for marriage. He believed we should reconcile or get divorced.
Though I was counseled by some that I should stay separated for as long as necessary, I question the Biblical basis of this advice. Nowhere in Scripture can I find anything about marital separation. It doesn’t seem to be addressed, except in Mark 10:9 and Matthew 19:6. Those verses say that, what God has joined, man must not separate.
However, when I made my discovery five months ago, it was clear to me that we needed to separate. I do believe God gives us wisdom and reveals the path to us. Sometimes it’s obvious because it’s clearly laid out in Scripture. But other times, He guides us in other ways, such as common sense or a specific leading by the Holy Spirit. (Of course, this guidance will never contradict Scripture.) I believe it is obvious that my STBX has some issues that make it apparent that our family doesn’t need to live with him. Furthermore, he is doing things that concern me when it comes to my children’s safety. And he has completely and irrevocably shattered the trust that is necessary for a healthy marriage. Biblically, he has committed adultery, even if there has been no third party involvement. He continually sought out women to look at who would arouse him sexually. This qualifies as adultery, according to Matthew 5:27-28.
Now to my main point:
As a conservative Christian who associates with many conservative Christians, I feel like I need to be careful how I present my situation, because I fear that I will be judged. I feel the need to justify and explain. I worry that people are secretly judging me. I anticipate that, through the years, I will find myself being tempted to explain my situation.
Since I found out some really sick behaviors of my STBX, two of the three church leaders with whom I consulted affirmed my decision to divorce. That helps me feel assured. But since I’m not going to share the details with most people, I fear that people will judge.
Why does the church do this? Why do we focus on sins and perceived sins? We should be focusing on people, not on their sins.
Take the whole Duck Dynasty thing for example. Christians were affirming Phil’s right to free speech. Sure, I agree with his right to free speech. But I question the line of thinking that his comments were helpful. Do you think any homosexuals were won to Christ because of what he said? I doubt it.
If Christians focus on talking non-Christians out of committing certain sins, isn’t that Pharisaical? If we target homosexuality, divorce, or any other perceived sin, aren’t we missing the point? The point is that we can’t live holy lives apart from putting our trust in Christ. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue and preach Biblical application. Of course we should. But when we separate that from love, we will not be effective.
Churches should reach out to hurting people, rather than simply pointing out their sinfulness or perceived sinfulness because of certain circumstances of their lives.
The truth is that we often don’t know the circumstances behind a divorce, and we often don’t know the details that drive many decisions people make. Perhaps they made the best choices they could, given their situations. Divorce is a rejection, even for the one who files. In my case, I was the one who filed, but he was the one who divorced me emotionally, spiritually, and, in some ways, physically. I’m just making it official.
Divorce is rejection. As the church, should we add our rejection to it? Or should we be an instrument of healing? I think the answer is clear, and I hope that my own pain will be used for God’s glory in bringing about healing to those devastated by divorce.