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Reform Magazine | November 16, 2018

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A good question: Does God hate divorce?

A good question: Does God hate divorce?

‘“I hate divorce,” says the Lord,’ according to Malachi. What does that mean? One question, four answers

 

WALTER HOUSTON
‘Today, divorce means something different from in Malachi’s day’

If we want to settle a question about what the Bible means for our life, it is not enough to ask: ‘What does the Bible say?’ The Bible was written for situations that have vanished, and with assumptions that we may have given up. We must ask: ‘If Bible writers 2,500 or so years ago said this in their situation, what should we say in ours?’

In the case of Malachi 2:16 (‘“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel,’) it is not even clear what the Bible text says. In the original Hebrew, this verse is a difficult text in a difficult passage. Most modern versions say: ‘I hate divorce,’ but there is no ‘I’ in the Hebrew, though there is no question that God is denouncing divorce in the passage. I would uncertainly translate verse 16 as: ‘“If a man hates his wife and divorces her,” says the Lord the God of Israel, “he is concealing abuse,” says the Lord of hosts. So be careful not to be faithless.’ Jesus too criticised divorce, comparing it to adultery.

What we need to understand is that, in ancient Jewish society, only the husband could divorce his wife. Malachi and Jesus both saw men casually using this privilege for their pleasure or advantage. …

Walter Houston is an Old Testament scholar and church minister

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HILARY ROCK-GORMLEY
‘Divorce was her only option, and I do not believe that God would condemn her’

I remember Jane (not her real name) who had instituted divorce proceedings against her husband. Jane’s husband was in prison after being convicted of being part of an internet child pornography ring. She had known nothing until the house was raided early one morning by police, and her husband was arrested. She had two young daughters.

Jane’s husband had not technically committed adultery – the only grounds Jesus gives for divorce (Matthew 19:7-9) – but she could not put her daughters at risk by allowing him to return to the family home. Divorce was her only option, and I do not believe that God would condemn her.

Divorce is an issue in Christian circles, but the real debate is about whether biblical instructions are applicable eternally. The Ten Commandments are clearly universal – applicable across time and cultures. However, how many churches today would follow St Paul’s instructions for women to be ‘fully submissive’? …

Hilary Rock-Gormley is a psychotherapist


ANJUM ANWAR
‘God finds divorce “one of the most hated things”’

Muslims are told that Islam allows divorce, and the Qur’an provides the process for how it should take place. As a Muslim, I understand why God finds divorce ‘one of the most hated things’ and would rather it be avoided as much as possible.

Though divorce is to be the last straw, that does not mean that a couple should avoid legitimate reasons for divorce. If a partner is adulterous, commits apostasy, or there is irretrievable breakdown – to mention a few reasons that divorce may be sought – Islam stresses that one should try to save the marriage, because the ramifications of a broken marriage are felt widely. Marriage in Islam is not just between two people – it is between families and is part of a brickwork that binds two people, two families and two communities. Divorce is seen as damaging relations far wider than the couple breaking up. If a couple fails to resolve differences between themselves, Islam recommends that they involve other family members, or seek some sort of marriage counselling. …

Anjum Anwar is a teacher. She worked as Dialogue Development Officer for Blackburn Cathedral from 2007 to 2016

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TAMALA CEASAR
‘God cries when we cry’

It’s a difficult question but my simple answer is ‘yes’. I’m a Christian divorcee – a title that is somewhat oxymoronic and unacceptable in the Church. When I got married, nine years ago, I looked forward to life with my love, till death do us part. Divorce wasn’t even in my vocab. I even made it a point to reiterate how against it I was to my then spouse, reminding him that my parents were divorcees and I didn’t want to repeat their mistakes. He listened intently, nodding.

I was against divorce, but God detests it. I once heard a pastor say, of what happens when two people have sex out of wedlock: ‘Imagine sticking two pieces of paper together, then ripping it apart. What will happen? You can’t separate the two without getting parts of one on the other.’ I like this analogy and think it’s a great metaphor of divorce also. Tearing of any sort is painful. Like any loving father, God wouldn’t want to see his children in pain. …

Tamala Ceasar is a multimedia journalist, director and filmmaker. Her documentary, The D Word: A personal look at divorce and the Church, can be viewed here


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These are extracts from an article that was published in the November 2018 edition of  Reform

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