As my day working in an elementary school goes along, I hear kids talking to each other. They chat in the halls coming in for the day, they talk in the gym as they await the opening bell, they talk at lunch and at recess… Sometimes I overhear snippets of what they share with each other as they pass me. What kids say is at turns funny, silly, or heartbreaking. This essay is about one particular phrase I overhear that just breaks my heart.
We all know that nuclear family depicted in The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, for example, have expanded to include all manner of blended configurations. Divorce is rampant. People marry and divorce for all kinds of reasons, and some don’t even try to stick it out. If a set of parents stay together over the course of a child’s life, that is the miracle now. Divorce is a violent act.
Kids chatting with each other will say, if they have parents that are divorced and one or both spouses have remarried, for example,
My real mom is getting a new job
My real dad doesn’t live with us
They distinguish the step-parent from the original parent with that heartbreaking word “real.” Kids know. It’s true that nothing can ever, ever replace the real parent. I’m not talking about foster-child cases or adoption, though the lack of the biological parent in a child’s life will also leave wounds, but different ones than divorce. I do not mean to disrespect any step-parents. I know you work hard to provide a loving home for your blended family. It’s just that, the fact is, there is only one real mom, only one real dad. Divorce affects the children tremendously.
As for divorce being a violent act, I don’t mean that people act violently after a divorce because they are in turmoil. I mean that it’s a violent act because divorce itself is a violent act. In the secular world we know that divorces at best are almost always emotion-filled, bitter experiences. At worst, they are war. And it IS a war, in the flesh on earth, for booty (furniture) and for territory (house) and for captives (children.) It’s also a spiritual war in the celestial realms to directly attack one of the most important foundations Jesus laid down: the family. Let’s look at the language the Bible uses:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
Cleave is to adhere, cling, or stick fast. If you use wood glue and then after it dries, if you want to separate the two pieces that you made into one, you have to tear it apart by force, and they never come apart cleanly. There are splits in the wood, pits, damage.
The oft-used phrase during marriage vows, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” comes from Matthew 19:6 NIV. The World English Translation puts it this way: “So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.” Tear apart. We see in Genesis that the man and woman (not man-man nor woman-woman) who are to be married cleave, stick, become ONE flesh. Splitting that apart causes damage because to separate something that has become one, into two, is violent. It requires tearing, pulling, splitting, cutting.
Marriage is a covenant between three people: man, woman, God. A covenant is an eternal promise, a sacred thing. God discusses it here, “You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (Malachi 2:14). Satan hates any and all Godly covenants. Therefore marriage and the family become prime targets for satan’s evil will to be done
So why is divorce so violent? Satan is behind it. God said: “I hate divorce…” (Malachi 2:16). What God loves, satan hates. What God hates, satan loves.
In Matthew 19, Jesus states that God ordained the institution of marriage, and He has decreed that in every marriage, the husband and wife are to become one for life. Divorce destroys the marriage and thus breaks asunder a union God Himself has established (Mark 10:9). “I hate divorce,” says the Lord (Mal. 2:16). Jesus’ teaching on divorce is clear. He restricted divorce under most circumstances, and He forbade the remarriage of those who divorce on improper grounds, calling such remarriage adultery (Matthew 5:32). … So God’s utter hatred of divorce is very clear in Scripture. Nonetheless, there are two extraordinary cases in which Scripture teaches that God does permit divorced people to remarry.
Those cases are if the spouse commits adultery and if the unbelieving spouse abandons the believer. (1 Corinthians 7:14). That’s it. God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16).
When two people are united, they become one flesh. Ripping apart one flesh back into two is painful and creates wounds, deep wounds. It seems strange in my 58 years of life I’ve watched divorce go from a stigma whispered about to an almost respectable sin, as Jerry Bridges had termed the so-called lighter sins, such as gossip or worry.
We Christians talk a lot about homosexuality, and also hammer on about pre-marital sex. But divorce is an event that occurs under the umbrella of sins, too. So many casually divorced people sit in the pews, remarried to boot, with few words said about this sin. If a believing spouse has divorced for a reason not listed above, he is in sin. If a spouse has remarried after a spiritually illegal divorce, he remains in sin.
Someday, children will not describe their family as having ‘a real mother’ or ‘a real father’. Divorce is a sin. It is also a violent act that directly contradicts the standards for moral behavior Jesus set forth.
If your marriage is on the rocks, Jesus can heal it. He ordained it, He witnessed it, and He keeps you in His fold. As His sheep, He has already regenerated your heart once from pagan to Christian. He can help you two get back on track and re-ignite your covenant love for one another. Here is a page of testimonies and resources of couples who had been on the brink of divorce, but who are thriving as a united couple now.