Christian divorce can be confusing for everyone. Fellow Christians don’t know what to say and church staff can be lost as to how to help. This means opportunities to support healing may be missed. This series of 4 posts dispels myths about divorce and intends to inspire the church and its members to reach out to those who hurt from divorce with understanding, compassion and the redemptive love of God. This is part 3 of the series.
For David it is subtle. People at his church don’t come right out and say anything but they are more aloof. Consequently, David feels treated differently and he’s sure it’s because of his divorce. He already feels like a failure and now he feels perceived as a second-rate Christian.
For Sarah it is much more direct. The words stab at her heart. Because she is divorced she can no longer serve in certain areas of the church. She isn’t worthy enough anymore. Furthermore, a woman in her women’s group told her that had she been a better wife, her husband wouldn’t have left her. Sarah knew it wasn’t true but it still left her feeling looked down on by her Christian family.
Do we or others in our church do these things? Or, do we knowingly or unwittingly make the divorced and divorcing feel like they are damaged goods?
Two Things Can Happen in a Christian Divorce
1. The Discrimination is Real
Discrimination against those who are divorced, or in the process of divorce, can be direct or subtle. Divorce somehow becomes an unforgivable sin in the eyes of some people. The belief that because God hates divorce, divorced people are forever marked as less than in the ranks of believers, goes against the grace of God. If you’re confused about this let me let me remind you of what Paul said,
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39 NIV
Surely, this must also include divorce. And, if God still loves and values the divorced, shouldn’t we?
2. The Discrimination is Perceived
Based on those I’ve heard from over my years working in divorce ministry, one thing I’ve heard repeatedly is, “My church doesn’t know how to help me.” This often is true. I think that well-intended, goodhearted church people and church staff members often simply don’t know what to say or how to help. Caring people who don’t know what to say or do tend to avoid the topic of divorce all together.
Even good Christians can find it hard to be around those who are in pain, especially if they don’t have any skills for handling it. Avoiding dealing with the divorced or divorcing can result in a sense of isolation and judgement on the part of those who are divorced or divorcing. It’s a sad paradox but not one without a cure.
4 Steps to A Better Way
As the church we are to live out the directive in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are to “encourage one another and build each other up….”
- Listen without judgement. God is close to the brokenhearted and few things can leave a person as brokenhearted as divorce. Listening is a huge gift of love and it can also increase our understanding of the pain and challenges faced by a person whose marriage has ended.
- Pray with and for the divorced and divorcing. Prayer is healing. Shared prayer is powerful.
- Be intentional. Become aware of how you and your church can intentionally work to serve the needs of those who are struggling to cope with divorce. Set a plan in action.
- Offer healing guidance and support. Having a church-based divorce support group isn’t hard and can make a world of difference. To best serve, choose a group curriculum that goes beyond support and also walks your participants through a cohesive, life-changing, and prayerful healing process.
Your Church Can Make a Difference
That divorced people are second-rate Christians is complete myth. The grace of God alone is the source of our salvation. By re-framing our thoughts about divorced and divorcing people, your church can draw these people closer to the healing power of Christ. You can lift them up from the pit and be a tool that helps God turn their ashes into beauty. You will be both a blessing and blessed.
NOTE: Names in this article are fictitious but represent typical stories.
Other Topics in this Series on Myths:
- Try and You Can always Fix Your Marriage
- Pray, God Will Definitely Save Your Marriage
- Accepting Divorce Shows a Lack of Faith
Revised from original publication on October 16, 2018
Disclaimer: Posts are for spiritual and life encouragement and informational purposes only. The content is not a substitute for professional counseling or therapy. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own discretion and risk. This website does not advocate divorce. However, divorce is a reality in our society. Our goal is to bring faith-based hope, and encouragement to those whose lives are touched by its unsettling effects. Life strategies are for personal reflection and consideration. This website does not recommend or endorse any specific products mentioned on the site.
Series Topic: Myths about Christian Divorce