“God Hates Divorce!” the pastor screams from the pulpit. Instantaneously, anyone who’s ever been divorced, knows someone who’s been divorced, has been contemplating divorce or has ever wanted to get a divorce (most couples) instantly feels a huge wave of guilt and shame. That, of course, is the MO of the IFB pastor and staff – to subjugate their congregation with guilt and shaming tactics so as to control and manipulate. This issue is no different. If you’ve been divorced and you hear the pastor say this, in that moment you’ve somehow become a little lower than an adulterer on the IFB’s sin hierarchy. Those who haven’t been divorced, instantly feel a swell of pride and superiority and begin to look down on the divorced as tainted and sinful. The pity then begins as those who have been divorced are made to feel inferior and unworthy.
What the IFB doesn’t realize is that the passage quoted (Malachi 2:16) is a picture of Israel’s unfaithfulness from years before. Once again we see how the IFB pulls a verse of scripture out of context and twists it to fit an agenda – actually, not even one verse in this instance, but one phrase. It’s an agenda of control, coercion and manipulation. As the pastor stands up there aligned with the non-divorced oozing an ever increasing pious and smug sense of self righteousness, the divorced are forced to hang their heads in shame.
What if I told you, however, that God is divorced? I bet the IFB pastor that stands behind the pulpit on Sunday morning shouting about how damaged and sinful the divorced are has also conveniently left out that God is divorced! Oh they will briefly mention, albeit with a lower tone of voice and a degraded vocal inflection, that Jesus did agree to provide for divorce in the case of adultery and abandonment (see Matthew 5), but then they will raise their voice again and shout that “God hates divorce!”. They will NEVER mention, though, that God is divorced.
Don’t believe me? I have no doubt that a few IFB pastors and apologists will castigate me for this. Well, look it up! Jeremiah 3 tells the story of Judah’s and Israel’s unfaithfulness. We know that the church, the body of believers, is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5, 2 Corinthians 11). Before Christ’s atoning work on the cross, Israel, God’s chosen people, were considered the bride of God. God was “married” to Israel as His chosen people. Jeremiah 3 tells us that Israel was unfaithful to God, worshiping idols and other gods. This was not a sexual adultery, but rather a turning away from God, an emotional abandonment and neglect. This, by the way, indicates that adultery can be more than just sexual unfaithfulness. Adultery is a blatant disregard for the well being of the spouse. A spouse can be emotionally unfaithful (neglectful and abusive), just like Israel was in Jeremiah 3. This expands the grounds of divorce from physical adultery to emotional unfaithfulness.
The kicker is that one of the mandates of an Independent Fundamental Baptist pastor is to not be divorced. In order to be an IFB pastor, one must be male and never have been divorced. As Mark Lowry brilliantly points out in the above video that God can’t even pastor a Baptist church. This means that in reality, whether they realize it or not, the IFB pastor who stands up there behind the pulpit shouting with smug sense of self importance that divorced people are to be condemned, that he, being non-divorces is better that God! How arrogant is that!
God’s divorce with Israel wasn’t something that God actually wanted or desired! It was a necessary evil, but God did it. That is what Malachi 2:16 is referring to – it’s a reminder that, although God hates divorce, He condones and even participates in it when necessary. Just because God hates divorce doesn’t mean that there aren’t grounds for divorce nor does it mean that divorce is a sin (and even in the cases where it is a sin it’s not any worse of a sin than other sins). The IFB has no business teaching that divorced people are worse than others. There is absolutely no scriptural support for treating divorce as if it were the plague. There are times when a marriage can’t be (and some that shouldn’t be) salvaged – especially in the case of abuse. In IFB circles, divorce has become a narrative of brokenness and sinfulness. To communicate that message to people and to use scripture to justify that message is pure spiritual abuse.