Stop Saying “God hates Divorce”

It hasn’t been that long ago that someone told me our church’s position on divorce was wrong.  We acknowledge that God permits divorce for habitual, unrepentant, hard-hearted violation of the marriage vows.  Sexual unfaithfulness, failure to love and provide for, desertion, and abuse (a kind of desertion) are, we maintain, biblical grounds for divorce.  In fact, these violations are what destroy the marriage, not the victim who files the legal paperwork.  My caller however, insisted upon her rendition of Malachi 2 – claiming that it says God hates divorce.  What she meant by this, of course, was that God hates ALL divorce and thus divorce is never permissible.  She is wrong.  Very, very wrong.  And her words do great hurt and harm to abuse victims.  Christians need to stop saying “God hates divorce.”

Why?  Because the Bible does not say this!  At least it does not say what people so often want to claim it says when they use their slogan “God hates divorce.” Have you read the English Standard Version for example (emphasis is mine) –

Malachai 2:14-16,  But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (15) Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (16) “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.“

What is lacking?  “God hates divorce.”  Why?  Because the translators realize (and this is certainly not the only Bible translation that does this) that what is obnoxious to God is not ALL divorce. Unjust, wicked, faithless treatment of one’s wife in divorcing her without cause.  That is what God hates, and that is what He describes through Malachi as a man (or woman) “covering his garment with violence.”  Sinful, hateful, treachery in divorce is the evil here, not divorce in itself.  If all divorce were hated by God, He would have to hate Himself because He would be guilty of sin in that He divorced Israel (Jer 3).

Divorce was not God’s original intention for marriage.  The destruction of a marriage is always sinful.  Always.  But that does not mean that God holds an abuse victim guilty if she divorces her abuser.  He condemns the abuser and permits her to go free.

And so, we say again to all Christians – stop saying God hates divorce.  And especially stop saying it to abuse victims.  So often, Christians who say this to victims have absolutely no idea what abuse is.  They don’t know.  And whenever we couple our ignorance with our arrogance, we do great, great harm.



10 thoughts on “Stop Saying “God hates Divorce”

  1. Amy

    Amen, amen, amen!!

    This one piece of scripture was thrown in my face repeatedly for years while I was married to an abusive man, and then continued to be spat at me when, after 20 years, he walked out and I filed for divorce. I even had one elder from my former church rudely ask me, “Well, did he ever hit you???” As if only being physically abused meant anything. I actually told this man, “Yes! He hit me every day with his words and hatefulness!” And at that, this man goes on to repeat the same ol’ mantra, God hates divorce! To which I told him, “God hates a lot of things, but he cares more about His people than a marriage contract!”
    And this man actually retorted back, “God care more about marriages staying intact than what is happening within the marriage!” o.O

    Thank you for speaking the truth and helping abuse victims find freedom from not only abuse, but from the wrongful rhetoric spewed from the church.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cindy burrell

    I’m pretty sure that all of us who are believers and have traveled the dark road of abuse were accustomed to hearing those frightening, damning words. I’m also pretty sure that those words kept us bound to our abusers – terrified of our spouses but even more terrified of being abandoned by God, even while the Spirit whispers of danger and the righteous need to protect ourselves and our children.

    Even in personally experiencing the powerful, loving validation of our Father God, we still feel the stinging judgment of church people. So sad. So wrong. But we must simply live our lives in the light of God’s wondrous grace and provision and stand up for His life-giving truth, to do what we can to dispel the notion that He hates divorce.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No one down here

    Never in a million years would I have ever thought one day to be divorced.

    Did not grow up play pretending divorce.

    Did not ask God pretty please let me get divorced.

    Did not expect to be ravaged by continual abuse and violence. Did not expect to be demoralized day in and out. Did not know that hope could die little by little until its destruction was complete. Did not imagine the pain of the heart materializing with gut-wrenching sobs until breath itself burned up and died.

    Never thought to read the words God hates divorce and have to quench the feelings of guilt at the thought of implied freedom.

    Never expected to encounter filthy lies designed to destroy every good thing God has allowed.

    Divorce. An ugly word for an ugly time. God hates, yes. But the divorce happened long before the lawyer was ever called. The divorce happened within weeks of vowing to cherish until death this person who was already showing himself evil. In those days when I was searching my heart for the secret reasons that he claimed I had for hating him… the divorce was already complete. Just not according to the state.


  4. Debby

    Diane Langberg has such a beautifully crafted article on this. She says that the definiton of divorce means a tearing, a rendering, a wedge. She further says that the actions of an abuser are a tearing, a wedge and that an abuser causes many “mini-divorces” daily. The filing of legal paperwork is an ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that this has happened. It really helped me wrap my brain around it.


  5. where2or3r

    In the same way that a death certificate does not kill someone, but rather, certifies that someone has died, a certificate of divorce does not kill the marriage, but legally certifies that the marriage is dead.

    It seems to me that to hold the “legality of a marriage bond” in greater esteem than God’s moral law is to dishonor and hold in great distain marriage as God’s design and example of Christ and His Bride.


  6. Diana

    I am comforted. I bought Unholy Charade so I can highlight and refer back to stuff, but also downloaded the Kindle version, such was my impatience.

    I was in an abusive marriage for 21 years. I finally left almost eight months ago, only to find a complete lack of support from my former church leaders. These are leaders who knew of horrendous abuse in my marriage, and yet one, when I saw him, physically backed away from me as though I were a contagious disease. The other, my lead pastor, said some separation was one thing, but boy, if I ever actially divorced, (cue ominous tone) “God is forgiving, BUT…”

    A divorce is now in the works. I am getting stronger, and I’m beginning to see the woman God has called me to be, a woman who could never have become what the Lord intended had I stayed in my abusive situation. At last I can thank God for leading me out and tenderly caring for me these past months. I have a wonderful new church. I am stepping into new ministry. The Lord is infusing courage into me. I embrace the His freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

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