The phrase, “God hates divorce” has kept many women (and men) in marriages filled with emotional, verbal and even physical violence.
Domestic violence victims are constantly asking me if God expects them to remain where they are being abused and/or battered. Let’s take a closer look at the source of “God hates divorce.”
In the Old Testament, located in the second chapter of Malachi, we will find where God personally addresses this very topic. We have, perhaps for millennia, taken a portion of this scripture and used it for instruction and direction, advising married couples that, with the exception of adultery, divorce is out of the question. It is a breaking of the marriage covenant, and “God hates divorce.” With so many coming to me regarding this issue, I simply must step up and address it. I’m quite sure it will not be construed by all as correct or acceptable, and I honor your right to disagree. But, having extensive personal experience in both ministry and domestic violence, I’d like to share my view point on this topic.
The scripture in Malachi is a message from God to husbands. There’s been a lot of whining and “wailing” over His lack of favor, and a question of “Why?” The answer is clearly given. The prophet Malachi explains, “It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.”
Then God steps in to say, “I hate divorce . . . and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence . . . So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” (Malachi 2:14-16 NIV)
Another translation admonishes to “not deal treacherously with the wife of your youth.” For me, it is very clear the scripture is God expressing His take on domestic/intimate partner abuse and/or violence. Adultery is the manner in which faith is broken through physical intimacy outside the bonds of marriage. Spousal abuse (verbal, emotional or physical) is a means by which marital bonds are broken spiritually—breaking faith.
This puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of husbands. I do not believe God’s intent is to exclude women from this admonition. We are to keep the faith of the marriage covenant, as well, not dealing treacherously with our spouse.
There are many other scriptures that give us the direction we are to take in our relationships.
Love your neighbor as yourself: Stop to realize we are told to love ourselves. How can we properly and truly love others if we do not have love within ourselves for ourselves? The disciples pursue the question with the Christ, “Who is my neighbor?” He pretty much told them it is not the person living on either side of you, or across the street. The human race is one great collection of neighbors. Battering your wife is beating your neighbor.
I suppose the passage I’d most suggest as a template for a proper relationship is found in First Corinthians, Chapter 13. Read any translation you like. It will tell you what real love should look like, feel like and be like. I gave my daughter and son-in-law a framed calligraphy of the chapter. They have it on the wall of their bedroom.
Does God hate divorce? Yes, He most certainly does, and said so with His own mouth. Does He deplore spousal abuse and domestic violence? Every bit as much as he hates divorce. For the record I despise divorce, almost as much as I abhor domestic violence. So, where do we draw the line?
That leaves us with these questions:
Has faith in my marriage been broken?
Do I stay or do I go?
What would God have me do?
Carolyn actively works toward victim support and recovery in the areas of domestic violence and sexual abuse. She was a victim of spousal abuse and violence, and molestation as a child. For many years she remained in domestic violence, constantly hearing, and telling herself, “God hates divorce.” On Easter Sunday 1985, she made the choice to break free from the abuse.