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Overview: This is Myth 19 of 27 Myths about divorce that aren't likely to be true of committed Christians who love God and take their faith seriously. These messages make us worry if we're pleasing God. They make us second-guess ourselves when we try to get ourselves and our children to safety. Many of us have heard these messages all our lives and wanted to avoid doing wrong. So although these myths may be true for people who are selfish or immature, they aren't true for a person who invested their heart and soul into the relationship, when the other person didn't.  See all the myths on one page. See the next myth.

MYTH: Your divorce will shatter the image of Christ and the church.

TRUTH: No human being is powerful enough to shatter the image of Christ and the church. Abuse and betrayal dishonor Christ, not life-saving divorces.


Nowhere in the Bible does it say a divorce will shatter the image of Christ and the Church. No human being is powerful enough to do that, because image of Christ and the Church is eternal and holy. And, as we saw in the prior myth, the Bible allows divorce in certain circumstances. In fact, even God divorced his own people. In Jeremiah 3:8, God explains he had “given her [Israel] a certificate of divorce,” because of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

Is the image of Jesus Christ and his Church so fragile that it will be damaged if a Christian files for divorce?

What sort of weird theology is that? And what does it even mean? There are many big sins out there: molesting children, murder, rape, or genocide. Does divorce have some magical power that hurts God more than that? Where does it say that in the Bible?

I would suggest—

Jesus is more powerful
than life and death,
wind and waves, disease
and all powers in heaven and earth.
Your divorce can't destroy him.

 

Can Jesus forgive everything but divorce?

Is divorce the one thing that nullifies God’s redemptive work on earth? How is that possible? To me, it seems unlikely, especially since God himself is a divorcee and because the Bible allows divorce for multiple reasons. 

The statement "divorce shatters the image of Christ and the Church" diverts attention from the real problem: the destructive sinful behavior of the spouse in the marriage. To accuse a faithful spouse of hurting Jesus is a diversion, a gaslighting tactic called sin-leveling, that makes Jesus the real victim, and dismisses your injuries as trivial.

Another way of minimizing and excusing bad behavior, especially toward women, is to tell abused wives they are expecting too much from their husband—that even kind behavior is too much to expect.  For example, they might say, "Stop making an idol out of your husband. He isn't going to be perfect and he isn't supposed to meet your every need. Only Jesus can do that."

Messages like this tell an abused wife she cannot expect to be loved or treated with respect, though Ephesians 5:25-30 tells husbands six times they must love their wives, stating that the quality of that love must be at an equal level to how they care for themselves. This gaslighting message demands that the wife minimize and silence the pain she experiences, and tells her to "suck it up" and accept her husband's sin with an air of piety and martyrdom.

"Sin-leveling" turns the tables and makes the victim into the bad guy, so now the pastor or Christian friend does not have to look at the behavior of the spouse or the victim's pain. Instead of showing care or get involved to straighten out your spouse, they can minimize your injuries and say: “The hurt done to you is nothing compared to what you are doing to Christ and the Church by divorcing.”

Pastors and teachers who say this are simply incapable of accepting the truth that some Christians are very unsafe people. They are too destructive to be in our churches (or in our homes 24/7!). The apostle Paul wasn't in denial about destructive Christians; he said we must have nothing to do with them (2 Timothy 3:1-5):

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

 

Notice how many times Paul calls men to love their wives!

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or  any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (NIV)

This passage calls husbands to imitate Christ’s example. (By the way, notice that nowhere do these verses say that divorce harms Christ and the Church.)

The husband is called to feed, care for, love, and give himself up for his wife as Christ does the Church. Does this ring any bells? If you've read Chapter 6 on biblical reasons for divorce in The Life-Saving Divorce, you remember that Paul is repeating the biblical Law of Moses in Exodus 21:10-11, about the basic standards of care for a wife. If this standard was broken, the innocent spouse had the option of leaving. An injured spouse was free to divorce and remarry someone who would care for them.

Notice that in this passage, Paul says nothing about the husband exercising authority over his wife; just the opposite, in fact. In this passage, he tells the husband to “give himself up” for her. He's supposed to put up with all manner of inconvenience for her sake.

Divorcing doesn’t dishonor the Lord! Chronic treachery, abuse, and mistreatment of a spouse does. When one spouse withholds food, care, and love, while benefitting at the expense of the other, they violate God’s desire for Oneness in a loving marriage. We are to imitate Christ’s example, and that example is all about giving and caring and Oneness. We’re supposed to be a team, a partnership.

As Rebecca VanDoodewaard writes:

“While God created marriage, loves marriage, and says that it is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church, Jesus didn’t die to save marriage. He died to save people.” [1]

If anyone tries to use this myth on you, reply —

Why doesn't a sin-filled, adultery-filled, child porn-filled, abuse-filled marriage "shatter the image of Christ and the Church"?

 


Footnotes:

1   Rebecca VanDoodewaard, “A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce,” Gentle Reformation (7/20/17), accessed 6/6/19, https://gentlereformation.com/2017/07/20/a-high-view-of-marriage-includes-divorce/.

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