I am a child of divorced parents, so divorce and remarriage is part of my story. My first “remarriage” occurred when I was six years old. Others when I was eight, ten, I think twelve, and for sure sixteen. My dad’s multiple failed relationships stemmed from the impact of his upbringing. Although his parents kept their marriage intact, they scarred their children with marital, emotional, and even mental brokenness. His story was a tragic extension of their story for decades of his adulthood.
My dad’s story is just one of the 850,000 backstories of divorce that unfold each year. In every divorce there are at least three backstories: his, hers and theirs. That’s one important reason to leave judgments about other people’s broken marriages to God. He has given His followers a better way to engage the divorced and hurting people He brings into our lives.
When my dad made his way to Nacogdoches and Grace Bible Church, he was embraced by people who understood that they, like my dad, were broken – not in the same way, but broken nevertheless. Sin breaks all of us. The ones who have grieved over their own failings and struggles, rarely make a spectacle of someone else’s brokenness. Instead of judgment, these Christ-followers reach out. Several GBC men reached out to my dad, taking the time to draw him into a circle of friendship and acceptance. I’m not talking about the kind of inclusion that pities the wayward, that casts them some misguided support, or that magnanimously “hates the sin but loves the sinner”—rather the kind of acceptance that grows out of the knowledge of our own brokeness and need.
Jesus has assigned us the sacred role He himself occupied — to be a friend of sinners. The role is pretty simple, really. We offer another wounded, broken person the kind of friendship Jesus offered us: unconditional, extravagant, genuine, eager, and inclusive. In a nutshell, we live out the beauty of the Gospel, loving people just where they are, just as He loved us. It’s also the kind of friendship God often sends to pave the way for the redemptive work only His Spirit can carry out.
It paved the way in my dad’s life as nothing else had done. Decades of judgement and rejection by others were gradually replaced by friendships that offered authentic acceptance and living illustrations of God’s love. My dad had failed at marriage several times. He knew all too well the consequences. What he didn’t know was that God was waiting to receive him, restore him, and enjoy a relationship with him. God used loving, ordinary, broken men to point the way forward, and my dad embraced his new life in Christ.
Yes, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). And Jesus does not mince words about the consequences of breaking the covenant of marriage. (Matthew 5:31-32) Yet, those words are not disconnected from His example of love and acceptance. He tells His disciples: “‘Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34).’” Both His command and our motivation are clear.
Written by Kim Wier