(Stigma Series 6 of 6)
As I asked people in our community what stigma topics they’d like to read about, the most
popular answer was divorce. Divorce is by no means an easy topic to discuss, and maybe that’s
why I left it for last. But I’d like to start with a disclaimer. This post is not meant to justify or
encourage divorce but to break the stigma around it. It’s evident in scripture that this is
something to steer away from, but we know that the church, in her wisdom, allows separation
in some cases. This blog post is not here to give you a different message. Instead, I’d like to
open your heart and mind to the people who have gone through it and how we can treat them
with the Christian love we’re called to emulate. Because whether we like to admit it or not, it’s
the reality of people in our community, people who are still part of the body of Christ yet are
often treated like they’re not. Below are a few insights and tips for supporting those who have
been divorced or going through one.
Visible and Invisible Divorce
The experience of divorce is one I’d like to see no one go through. That is why I spend so much
time (on this blog and in service) talking about premarital relationships because most of the
time if it’s done right, you can avoid some issues after marriage altogether. But regardless, even
if everything goes perfectly well before marriage, you never know what can happen afterward.
As much as we like to chalk it up to “just work it out” or “just suffer, this is your cross,” it’s not a
cross many can endure. The only way out becomes separation or divorce.
While you see a visibly broken home resulting from divorce, there are probably way more
broken homes you don’t see. So many families have to endure suffering in ways we cannot
imagine (especially the children) due to conflict between the husband and wife. If you’d like to
read one family’s story, please refer to last week’s blog post. Those families are not legally
divorced but rather emotionally divorced and still living under the same roof. To be clear, God
doesn’t like to see any kind of broken home. He wants all families to be united in love, but He is
always there and present, no matter what happens. His love and mercy are never taken away from us.
The number one thing we can do as a community with someone who has gone through a
separation is to show love. Isn’t that what Christ has exemplified to us in the gospels as He
interacted with the Samaritan woman who was married numerous times and everyone else
who was an outcast? Isn’t it the second greatest commandment Christ has given us?
“‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first
and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Notice how He does not give any prerequisites to loving our neighbor. Christ does not add “love
your neighbor only if they are in a loving marriage, are perfect, etc.” He tells us to love them as
ourselves, no ifs, ands, or buts. I’d argue that if we cannot love our neighbor, it’s because we
probably don’t truly love God or even ourselves. So how then can we offer any love to someone
else if we don’t possess it in the first place?
Couples going through a divorce and their children, parents, siblings, and families are already
experiencing a host of heartache. They need you to show them love and empathy. You’d be
surprised how far that can go. Reach out to them with loving and kind messages, and be
understanding if they don’t respond; everyone handles this differently. The other option is to
ice them out and treat them as outcasts, which we certainly don’t want to do. Please don’t be
judgmental or ask any questions if you choose to reach out. Ask how you can be there for them
and their kids. Try to provide edifying resources only if they ask you to; point them to a
therapist, give them a book that can help, or buy them a journal to sort out their feelings.
Do Not Judge
Another commandment we are given is to not judge so that we won’t be judged (Matthew 7:1).
It’s one of those commandments that are easy to read but hard to practice. The last thing we
want is to make assumptions and start judging them, which is the opposite of showing love. I’ve
seen how destructive judgment can be, as I’m sure you have too. Many cannot face it on top of
the hardship they are already going through and choose to leave the church or even the faith.
There is absolutely no need to pour salt on an open wound. When we drive others away from
the church, it is our judgmental thoughts and actions that we’ll have to answer for before God.
Let’s be Christ-like and welcome people in rather than push them out. And that includes their
entire family because just like marriage isn’t just between two people, divorce doesn’t affect
only the couple.
Also, if you have a friend or relative getting into a relationship with someone who is divorced,
it’s not your place to judge or advise against it unless they ask for your input. If they ask for
your involvement, pray for wisdom to guide them correctly, or point them to someone who
can. Same with the divorced person trying to restart their life with someone else, it’s not your
place to judge. Watch your words and looks; sometimes our faces say way more than our
mouths do. Work on internal love that will translate outwardly on your appearance.
Respect Their Privacy
It’s hard enough for the couple going through a divorce to comprehend what happened and
what went wrong. And even more complicated for an outsider to understand the situation. It is
neither our right nor business to know what happened, and it is irrelevant at this point. Please
resist the temptation to want to know everything unless they choose to share that with you; it
is simply none of your business. And if you need a reminder, please read 1 Thessalonians 4:10-
11 “…But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead
a quiet life, to mind your own business…”
Let go of the past, no need to keep reminding them or shaming them about what happened.
They surely don’t need a reminder. They are going through their own battles, trying to move
forward. Unnecessary comments are certainly not going to help them move on, and it will make
them relive things they have worked so hard to heal from.
To Those Who are Divorced
I’m sorry you’ve had to go through all of this. I hope that the church was a place of comfort for
you, but if not, I apologize for any pain, hurt or uncomfortable situations you had to face. I pray
that your love for God surpassed the unkind treatment you might have endured in the church
community. I hope you’ve found your way back to Him and His church or are trying to reenter
it. As hard as it is to ask you, please forgive us and those who have pushed you away. Know that
the devil is trying to deter you from God and having a sacramental and personal relationship
with Him at the core of it. I’m praying for you and asking God to give you all the strength,
healing, and comfort you need.
A Final Note
People who are going through a divorce, or have already separated, need support just as much
as anyone else. They don’t need isolation, judgment, or interrogation. I pray that our
community can be a place of love and a space for healing to divorced people and single parents
because they, too, are beautiful members of the body of Christ. We are all flawed in our own
ways, yet God chose to be incarnate and die for our sins. Let’s remember during this advent
season God’s sacrifice for all of us, and if we just focus on that, we’ll become loving individuals
and a fruitful, welcoming, loving, healing community.