I saw it again this morning on social media: Another “Christian celebrity” spinning their divorce announcement as a loving deed inspired by altruistic motivation for their “dear friend.” I don’t buy it. Divorce is not altruistic (“unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of [your spouse]).” This loving facade is nothing less than a lie straight from the pit of hell.
It is never “healthier and more respectful for us to choose this as the end of our journey as a married couple.” It is not “with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision.”
How can I be so sure? And who am I to judge? I only qualify to speak into their decision as a fellow follower of Jesus. As such, I recognize a major discrepancy between an “altruistic” social media announcement of this nature and God’s revelation of His design for marriage.
Divorce Is Not Unselfish, Christian Celebrity
Marriage is not a commodity. It’s not like an outfit you try on, parade in front of the mirror, and then say: “This one makes me look good; I’ll take him.” It’s not something you discard when it’s no longer “your style.”
Marriage is about so much more than your self-expression. It doesn’t exist to spotlight you (“Oh, she likes jocks; she must be sporty too”); marriage was designed to spotlight another relationship entirely.
Your marriage is a “miniature” designed by God to showcase to the world what His relationship with His church is like,
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31—32, emphasis added).
What does a positive announcement about divorce say about Christ? God would never leave us out of His great love for us. We tell a lie about Him when we claim to do just that.
I understand that this is hard for us to stomach in our materialistic, individualistic society. Our culture is one in which we choose a house, a career, a car because of how it allows us to express ourselves. “This yellow Volkswagon Beetle fits my personality,” so I purchase it as a means of self-expression. Several years later, I trade it in for another when I become more of a Hyundai Tucson type.
Marriage isn’t like that. Marriage isn’t just another way we express ourselves, like choosing an outfit or buying a car that “fits” us.
Divorce Is Not Altruistic . . . And Marriage Is Not Yours To Break
When Jesus walked this earth, the religious leaders of His day asked Him if He thought the law allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus responded with a question of His own, pointing them back to God’s inauguration of marriage in Genesis 2:24,
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:3-6, emphasis added).
Marriage is an irreversible act. At least, that’s how God intended it from the beginning (Matt. 19:8). It is God’s doing, not ours. It is His creation and design. And as such, it is a union that is not ours to break, as John Piper points out in this interview.
Marriage is an indissoluble union intended only to be severed upon death (Rom. 7:2). As Genesis 2:24 clearly spells out, it is a call to a new:
- Priority and family (“leave father and mother”)
- Love (“hold fast”)
- Identity (“become one flesh”).
This mirrors Christ’s relationship with the church, as He calls us to a lasting:
- Priority and family (the family of God)
- Love (cherished by and cherishing Jesus)
- Identity (“in Christ”).
Divorce Is Not Loving, Christian Celebrity; It Is Tragic
Upon entering the marriage covenant, a man and a woman become “one.” That doesn’t mean she now likes heavy metal music and he now loves the beach. Both individuals maintain their personhood. But a fundamental change takes place in God’s eyes. They are no longer two, but one flesh. There is a “shared wholeness” (Jay Adams).
When he hurts, she hurts, and when she succeeds, he succeeds. They complement and complete one another. God has joined them together and created “one flesh” where there used to be two. That doesn’t mean the process of working out this “one-flesh” relationship in everyday life won’t be hard. It doesn’t mean there won’t be need for counseling and possibly even separation for a time.
But to divorce one’s spouse is not to love them; it is to tear one’s own flesh in pieces. It is barbaric and utterly opposed to the relationship between Christ and the church that it is designed to reflect.
Divorce is to be mourned, not celebrated. It is to be repented of, not boasted of as a deed of honor. Divorce is for the hardhearted, not the follower of Christ (Matt. 19:8).
So maybe, Christian celebrity, rather than spinning your divorce as an altruistic act, you can call it what it really is: tragic. I mourn for you, for your husband, for your children, and for your many followers who believe you when you imply that this act is love at its finest. My husband and I are praying that you will soon see this too and be reunited with your husband—something that would be a truly selfless act.
Do You Think Divorce Can Be Loving?
Have you, too, noticed this trend of people claiming their divorce is an altruistic act? Do you think divorce can be loving? Why or why not? Please feel free to push back if you disagree with me; I want to hear your perspective.
Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate Christian communicator.