Divorce may be the most broken experience in the fallen world. It certainly ranks high if not the highest. I say this because it is such a reversal of God’s creative intent.
God created oneness, shalom and mutuality between male and female in marriage–it is not good for humans to be alone. Humans are created for community–even when marriage is not chosen, community is still necessary for human beings since we were created as social beings. Community is necessary to fully image the relational community of God’s own life. We cannot be the image of God if we are not also beings-in-relation just as God is being-in-relation.
Divorce is the total deconstruction of this divine intent; it is the opposite of imaging God and living missionally in the world as the iconic representation of God’s life through imaging what is really real (that is, God’s own life). The brokenness of divorce is contrary to the divine intent at so many levels.
But God does not intend for his creation to remain broken or for his people to continue to live in broken conditions that bar them from experiencing his creative intent. God’s redemptive intent entails mending the brokenness–not just in some future reality, but even in the present. A theology that leaves divorced people to a permanent brokenness or even forces them to live in that brokenness by community pressure/threats fails to embrace the redemptive purpose of God in the world.
At one level, God intends to heal the wounds of divorce–not merely in the future, but in the present. Healing does not have to await the new heaven and new earth but can be experienced in the alreadiness of communion with God through his Spirit. The wounds of resentment, guilt, hurt, and shame–among others–can find resolution through the grace of God and his community. The divorced can once again experience shalom.
At another level, God intends to redeem the brokenness by renewing community among the divorced. I understand that this community can be renewed through living in community with the people of God, but I also believe this redemption may come through remarriage. God may renew his original intent among divorced people–it is not good for them to be alone. The joy, initmacy, fellowship, mutuality and relationship of a man and woman is still something God yearns for his creation though he offers relationship in other ways as well for those who so choose or by circumstance find themselves without choice. His creative intent is still operative and it is redemptive for those who have experienced the brokenness of divorce.
I do not intend to engage in any kind of exegetical debate in this post or focus on particular texts. I have previously recommended Rubel Shelly’s book Divorce & Remarriage: A Redemptive Theology for detailed discussions. My concern here is at the macro-level–the flow, tenor and goal of God’s actions in the world.
At bottom, do we embrace a redemptive orientation toward the divorced or do we deny them by our particular constructions of texts, theories, inferences, etc. the redemptive purposes of God for their lives? God does not, I think, intend to leave the divorced with the name “Abandoned” or “Shamed,” but he intends to rename them “Chosen” and “Beloved”–chosen and beloved by the ecclesial community as well as a potential future spouse should they so choose. The redeemed people of God should act redemptively toward broken people, including the divorced.
For those interested, my three sermon series on this topic is available at the Sycamore View Church of Christ website. Look under the September date. The teaching statement by the Sycamore View elders is a good example of a redemptive approach to those who have been hurt by divorce. It is available here.
Thus concludes my short–and all too brief–series on divorce. It is painful to remember and reflect on the topic, but it is so pervasive in our culture and churches that we must address it redemptively as we seek to embody the life of our Redeemer.