Divorce Discrimination 

If you know me, you may think this is an axe to grind. You can make that judgment call, if you will, but you must admit that there is such a thing as divorce discrimination. You won’t find it in most workplaces or in average daily life, but you will find it in the church. 

Divorce discrimination is normally masked beyond Scripture. The verse in Malachi 2 about God hating divorce is often quoted. Have you ever thought that God hates other things? Is it just divorce? First, let me say that God instituted marriage with the idea that man and woman would stay together until death. However, sin entered the picture. When that happened, God clarified that divorce is not His design but He would make provision for it and grace to cover it. I am not promoting divorce, but I am saying that God gives grace and forgiveness.

As to what God hates, he gives a list in Proverbs 6: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, feet that are swift in running to mischief, the person that sows discord among brethren, etc. Don’t single out one thing because it’s your hobbyhorse!

This divorce discrimination has led many to limit what someone can or cannot do in the church. I know I will have those who disagree with me on this, quoting the “husband of one wife” phrase from I Timothy 3. This is literally translated “a one-woman man.” One can be safe going to the extreme right with this. However, God constantly used throughout Scripture those who would be considered disqualified today…adulterers, prostitutes, liars, thieves, etc.

Now for a few modern examples. Even the most conservative people carry a Scofield Bible, and C. I. Scofield was divorced. Charles Stanley (pastor of FBC Atlanta and founder of In Touch Ministries) is divorced. So is John Hagee and the late John Osteen (father of Joel Osteen and founder of Lakewood Church). God will use those He chooses. 

Be careful in going too far with this divorce issue. There are great people out there who love the Lord and happen to be divorced. They still have something to offer other than their money into your offering plate. We still have gifts and abilities useful for the kingdom work. Feel free to disagree. Disagree or not, God has the final say!


17 thoughts on “Divorce Discrimination 

  1. Well said! Divorce discrimination is a real thing in the Christian world. I’ve been married for some 30 years, but I see it all the time. How quickly we seem to forget that Paul was actually out torturing and stoning Christians and yet God still saw fit to use him. Paul tells us, “For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.“

  2. I believe that there is room for ministry for people who divorce, but divorce does mark one. The expectation for workers in leadership such as elders/pastors is that they rule their own household well. That ability provides support that they are capable of taking care of a church. That is God’s provision for judging whether one should hold the office. Yes, there is forgiveness, but forgiveness doesn’t always remove consequences.

    I know there are divorced preachers, but I suppose those congregations are okay with even in light of the Bible.

  3. This is very interesting Matthew. First of all, I am one of the divorced. So, I have that perspective. I sort of both agree and disagree. I actually go to a pretty conservative MIssionary Baptist church, yet nobody has ever once indicated that I should stop doing anything I do because of that divorce. On an informal basis, I am sort of a leader, in that I have a tendency to see things that need to happen and push, pull and prod people in that direction. I also teach several classes. Nobody has an issue with that. Many of these same people would, however object if I say I suddenly felt called to pastor, as many would say I am disqualified. I also don’t think it is likely I will ever be called to be a Deacon. On that I say, “so what,” as there is nothing that office would allow me to do I don’t already do.

    So, even among my church family, I consider they have forgiven my status and allowed me to move on and it is not held against me.

    On the other hand, divorce is clearly not God’s plan for us, and we should confront it like we would any other open, unrepentant sin among one our members, and not just turn our heads.

    Just my two cents.

      1. We actually have what might be a higher than normal population of divorced members and I really don’t know why. Yet, we are very conservative. All I can say is that if all of the divorced people in our church stopped working, we would really be in a bind.

  4. You’ve touched on a very interesting topic today.

    My father did not approve of me marrying someone who was divorced and his reason was that God does not like divorce.

    My rebuttal to his argument was that God gives everyone a second chance, and so who was he, a mortal man, fallible and far from perfect, to deny someone else a second chance — an ounce of grace — when God so freely gives it? He didn’t have much to say beyond that.

    Later as I began delving into the word on my own, reading from the beginning, I came across the following passage which I saved for future reference and now sheds light on the topic you’ve discussed. Hope you and others find it helpful.

    [Bible notes: God grants divorce]
    Deuteronomy: 24.
    1. When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
    2. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
    3. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;
    4. Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
    [Bible Offline March 12 2016]

  5. Well I’m 3 times divorced and on my 4 th marriage I think with God I have figured this marriage thing out. I have been told I can’t serve but that was one person’s opinion. I had a pastor tell me we can’t put God in a box. Meaning I am to serve where ever God wants me. Just my 3 cents worth.

  6. The Jewish leaders tried to trip Jesus up often. On one occasion He was asked if Moses was correct in allowing divorce. Jesus replied that it was only by the hardness of the hearts of the people that he gave into their demands.

    The Church is bound by the mercy of God through His Son. And mercy will be measured to us as we measure it to others. But, one thing is important to note. Jesus never intended for mercy to be considered affirmation.

    1. Your very last statement is a lot to ponder. It reminds me of what Paul said: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” I never wanted to experience what I did and know that it was never God’s perfect plan. I am thankful that He extends His mercy and forgiveness despite the unfortunate circumstances that led to it. I never want to be a proponent for any sinful lifestyle, but I do want to point people to Christ.

      1. Your pointing people to Christ is the most important purpose in life that any of us can have; as you most wonderfully do.
        And in Christ we find, as Dante said: “In His will is our peace.” Anyone who turns to Christ has a decision to make. To let go and let God. One cannot keep one foot in two camps forever.
        The more our will becomes His will the less grace, of the sort St. Paul speaks of, we will need. And that is the point in Christ’s most challenging request: “Be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.”

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