Divorce and the Angry God

So I’m in this state of paradox where I am finishing my book on divorce while simultaneously rewriting my primitive soteriology…(which for those of us who stay out of the big kitchen of theology basically means what I believe about God)…yes  I am rethinking some of the secondary and even primitive concepts about God, who He is, and why Jesus died, as well as contextualizing some of the second tier ideas like hell and wrath and etc…
Pretty heady stuff when you wrap it up in gravy ladle theology terms, but in the words of my heart I am simply coming to terms with concepts that I have never fully thought out but held some sort of belief about.
So what do you believe about God? Did He pour out His wrath on Jesus (as I have held for most of my life in agreement with the *penal substitution model) or was the cross a ransom and covenant event?

I have come to the recent conclusion that God is not mad, never really was for more than a brief moment, His anger last for but a moment but His mercy endures forever…so the idea that the cross is the shock absorber of Gods wrath has slowly been drifting away like a broken toy that I slept with for 50+ years…it seems familiar and strange to get into rest without it, but I have known in my heart that there was something broken about it and just could not put my finger on it.

We can blame Anselm (Bishop of Canterbury), but the truth is we are prone to make God in our own image, short tempered, bitter and unhappy…

Obviously I have been doing some heavy lifting in the research department because suddenly I realized that most of my model about control, anger, relationships, punishment, sin and life, the resurrection, atonement and even hell have all had their foundation in an idea of God that made Him seem angry all the time, ready to punish disobedience at the drop of a hat and frankly no fun to be around…a God who would vomit around sin and would evaporate His Presence anytime we wandered away from the straight and narrow…

Regardless of what you believe about why Jesus died and who killed him, this IS the lifestyle and culture you develop if you hold to the *penal substitution model of the atonement, you can say something different but your behavior will naturally gravitate to a concept of God that is based upon rules and code-books, laws and punishments, control and fear…

The natural outworking of understanding that Jesus diverted the wrath of an angry God at the cross is to move into a relationship of fear and rule keeping because He is after all a consuming fire and cannot look upon sin…and we must stay ever so near the cross which functions like a blood soaked shield that keeps the rays of Gods anger from vaporizing our rebellious souls…bad people no cookie for you!

As I begin to dismantle this idea it occurs to me that a lot of what I have accepted about divorce has come to me through the filter of an angry God model…after all “God hates divorce”..thus Malachi 2 declares to us and we use this verse as the main bully stick to keep people in control when their relationships cannot be controlled…

Anyone who knows my personal journey would never beat me up, for all practical reasons I was “biblically divorced” in every sense of the righteous word…but that did not stop the aftershocks of an angry and now disappointed God from showing up in my head and questioning me when I ached to be married again…

I can tell you this much..I AM NOT MADE TO BE A EUNUCH…I do not want to be, do not like the idea and have no desire to be alone  and its not even mostly about sex, its about reigning in life with a co-regent, its about having someone to share the victory, defeats and adventure with… its about relationship and life and laughing and hanging out doing nothing as well…

I love the idea of growing old with someone, getting to know them until I can make the perfect cup of whatever for them and fluff their pillows just right and instinctively know what color of curtains they would choose…its about intimacy of soul and its what most of us were made for…

Some of us don’t care anymore…and if that’s you make a statement and stay single and clear the pond for the rest of us…I cannot think of anything more fun than getting to know someone on such a level that I can make them laugh anytime they need it…and if that is not in you then may you find peace and quiet with your cats and ministry to the isolated…but isolation is not part of my genes…I do not want to be alone…not with the assignments I have been given.
This drive to reconcile who I am and what I have encountered (divorce) has made me plunge head first into these primitive ideas about God because as I read scripture I find glaring statements about remarriage that make it seem like I must remain single or commit adultery…(Matthew 5 and 19 come to mind) 

Even reading the early church fathers gave me no respite…brutal language that implied a God who would not tolerate remarriage under any circumstance unless the other party was dead…

The tension this created inside me was almost unbearable, here I am a hopeless romantic and love a God who will hate me if I want to remarry…

I know I am painting extremes here, but its important that I communicate what I felt…see what you believe about God isn’t simply information, it is also an emotion, it has the power to liberate or subjugate, it can create freedom or slavery, it can make you powerful or powerless all depending on what it is you believe about the One who made you…

If God is always angry at sin and sinners, then there are no excuses, you must tow the line, and any deviance from the gospel facts whether you knew them or not must incur His displeasure…He’s mad for crying out loud, don’t bother him with this sex drive He put inside you, He expects you to ignore it since He does, and all that talk about romance, what is wrong with you? The world needs saving, your little wants and desires are wasting His time, grow up and get over it, you blew it and no longer qualify for a good life of relationship (for which you were created)…suck it up buddy….

If Gods unhappy then the least you can do is be unhappy too!

God hates divorce, says so right there in Malachi (written to Jewish men who were abandoning their wives and sending them away empty handed and destitute much like the Pharisees in Jesus day)…

When I finally began to take off the “wrath of God” lenses that I had been living the bible through a different thought began to emerge in my heart…

The God who hated divorce got divorced in Jeremiah 3 so that through divorce He might destroy the power of divorce and set free forever those who were subject to bondage through the shame and despair of divorce (paraphrasing Romans)…

And the God who divorced Israel is now planning on marrying the Bride of Christ, so unless He kills Israel we might need to rethink our concepts of remarriage and adultery…
What I am trying to say is that the concept of Gods wrath and anger being poured out on Jesus has the potential to color everything in your world and if you are divorced like I am, the power of that model will make you miserable…
But what if the cross was actually God rescuing broken slaves from the marketplace of sin and death?

What if the cross was essentially the great blood cutting of covenant that invites us into intimacy and deep deep fellowship with the greatest Lover in the universe?

What if the primary message of the cross is not “I am angry and sin must be punished” but instead it is “I love you so much I will become vulnerable to your deepest desires and transparent and safe and stretch out my limbs to embrace you with no defense against you, I will make a covenant with you so deep that it will require me to raise you up in a new kind of life that is centered on joy and peace and righteousness that I place inside you because I love you so much I want you right next to me all the time…?

Our puny rules about divorce don’t stand a chance against a God with that kind of love, a God who entered into the death of not only sin, but also the death that divorce brings so He could conquer it and bring the life that went missing…

Remarriage is to small a word…upgrade is what He is after…divorce for a true believer while tragic and painful, when seen in the light of God resurrection power is actually a romantic upgrade…

At least that’s the theory I am now exploring…

A final picture…what if Gods heart is so big that Jesus on the cross is His engagement ring to you? 

What if Gods primary drive to you is relationship and not “fixing” you? I’m not at all suggesting that we are not broken and in need of repair, but I am beginning to entertain the notion that God truly wants us to be powerful in His presence…He’s after a bride, someone who captivates His heart and makes it beat faster, someone whom He would gladly give all things…this sounds more like the New Testament to me…


What if you’ve stolen His heart and He’s crazy about you?



(*Penal Substitution is the name theologians give the idea that the cross was about Jesus taking on the wrath of God because His honor has been insulted and He must punish sin,the cross is essentially “punitive”… my issues with this model is that it splits up the Godhead so that one part is mad=Father, one part is nice=Son and one part is apathetic=Spirit…

Besides that it disallows God ever forgiving sin.. if sin MUST be punished then how can God ever forgive sin, forgiveness and paying for sin are two completely different things one is not like the other and you must choose one because either it is forgiven or it is punished but it can’t be both. 

So the substitution model goes contrary to what the New Covenant is declared to be about in Jeremiah and the Hebrews…the model I am currently embracing and exploring is referred to a the “Ransom theory” or Christus Victor and was held by ALL of the early church fathers until about 1000 AD when Anselm developed his version of the substitution model…)










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12 thoughts on “Divorce and the Angry God

  1. Jesus also talks about when someone is free from a spouse (adultery, spouse remarries, death of spouse). He does not say free except they cannot get married. He just says free. I am also Biblically divorced and I believe that God's nature, and His word say that I am free. Be free in all the ways that Christ has set us free. 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for the comment Gwendolyn (what a lovely name)…The exact reference you are talking about escapes my memory right now, perhaps Paul's use of "free" in 1Cor.7 somewhere?It gets so muddled sometimes, I grew up in KJV and my memory quotes it so often but I have been using the NASB for nearly 20 years so the interaction of translations crashing together makes finding the original verse a challenge.Principally I completely agree, where love exist there is liberty…another way to say that is "options"…love makes us free by giving us choices…fear seeks to control by taking choices away.

  3. Matthew 19, which you mentioned, states that a man who divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery. I believe that the same standard holds for men and women, so if either one divorces and marries someone else they have committed adultery. If they have committed adultery then it is not adultery for the other spouse to marry. The "except for immorality" clause sets them free. I know that sounds too legal, but I think you have already shown that God's nature is grace and redemption, so that only leaves the letter, which I think reflects his nature. And even for those who have committed adultery, such as my exhusband, forgiveness is real and complete. It is not remarriage after a bad situation that is adultery, it is the tossing aside of one spouse for another. I guess my own mindset used the word "free," but even the letter shows that it is not adultery to remarry when the other person is the one who broke the marriage vows.I guess it comes down to Galations for me. The law calls us to specific actions, but the Spirit calls us to a heart behind our actions. It requires more of us, but it also provides more freedom.Blessings,Gwendolyn And thank you. I like my name too.:))PS. I recently found your blog and it has been an encouragement to me.

  4. As I have explored the teachings of Jesus on divorce I have discovered some aspects that get lost in our western culture, one of the radical things that Jesus introduces here is the idea that MEN can commit adultery, this was a new concept to the Pharisees, the other thing that is apparent in every discource on divorce is that Jesus was elevating the stautus of women back to original design of equality and co-regency.The Pharisees believed this to be an untenable position and thats why they brough him the WOMAN caught in the very act of adultery, (no mantion of the man)…even Jesus's body posture revealed the Fathers intent, he STOOPS DOWN, and leaves her STANDING UP…The Old Testament injunction for adultery was stoning, Jesus introduced the idea that a divorce could serve instead…this passage in Matthew is known as the "exclusion clause" because only in Matthew does he allow it….Our problem is one of translation though…what the actual greek says is:"If you divorce FOR THE REASON so you can remarry….it is adultery…"And the word divorce is not actually used it is the wrod "sending away"…and the question the Pharisess were pursueing was about the legal requirements, it was a test to see if He allowed polygamy and made women possessions rather than equals…Jesus obviously clobbered them in this one…if you want an interesting study go google "Jewish Women in chains"…it will show that what was happening there is still going on and not at all how we have interpetted the scriptures.3:21 PM

  5. I could not find the original article, but read a couple that referred to it and described the practice. It is a very sad practice and I think Jesus' reference to it shows that He sees men and women equally responsible to be faithful and that if they are not, their former spouse is free.It does not bother me at all that the "exclusion clause" is only noted in Matthew. First because it only needs to be in scripture once to be true. And second because the comment in Matthew, and even the current Jewish understanding, seem to point to a cultural understanding that an unfaithful spouse was just cause for divorce and remarriage. Originally for the husband, and Jesus gave rights to wives as well. I think it was a given to them that an unfaithfulness gave the spouse the right to leave and remarry. They thought they could do so for any reason and Jesus just let them know that there is only one reason they can.I see Jesus differentiating between someone who leaves their spouse for another and someone who has a Biblical divorce. One group is committing adultery, the other is not.It only seems to be adultery if a person remarries when they are still married in the eyes of God. If a spouse has done something to end the marriage (not about who files for divorce, but about who breaks the marriage vows) then to remarry is not adultery because the person is not married. Kind of just a basic of the definition of the word. And Jesus made sure that it applied equally to men and women.I hope I don't sound argumentative. I realize we basically agree and I appreciate the information. By the way, is your book published? I would like to read it.

  6. I understand what you are saying, Gwendolyn, I am not in disagreement, I just don't feel this passage is the place where we find that revelation. The Old and New Testaments both allow for divorce and remarriage, a major hurdle though is how the translators imposed a particular bias that reinforced a male dominated culture, much the same challenge that Jesus faced. An interesting example is that passage in Matthew never uses the legal word for divorce while the passage in 1 Cor. 7 does and rather than say "Are you divorced from a wife?" the translators say "loosed"…and bend the translation towards dissolving a pre-nuptial contract rather than the actual legal word for "divorced". I certainly believe that a violation of covenant by intimacy outside of the marriage is definate grounds fro divorce, since the covenant has already been broken, but what I think Jesus is reaching for in this passage is not so much rules and laws about remarriage, as He is establishing the equality of women in the legal arena of marriage. The disciples response gives insight because they we shocked by what Jesus had introduced, we who are the beneficiaries of several hundred years of Judeo/Christian Legal culture often forget that in that culture women were regarded as possessions…think about imposing this kind of "yoke" or teaching in Afghanistan, it will give a better feel for the shock and awe that his teaching created.I am not as concerned in finding who has the legal "right" to divorce in the New Culture as I am in what the new culture of kingdom is supposed to look like…rules reveal what others expect of us, when you remove the rules you discover whats in the heart…and this is what Jesus says is the issue…divorce is always the result of a hard heart, adultery is simply the symptom.And I don't think you are arguing…dialogue requires feedback…or else its simply monologue.Have a blessed evening and morning!

  7. I agree that remarriage is not the main point of Matthew 19, although I think it is there. I like your last paragraph in your latest comment best. We humans often look for rules by which we can say we are doing better than someone else, but God looks at the heart. And loves us even though our hearts are not perfect. We are blessed by a great and loving God! Thanks for the interesting dialogue. A blessed night to you too.

  8. I guess looking at the common meaning of the word couldn’t mean anything could it? Adultery is the act of adulterating something. To adulterate something is to dilute it or change it by adding something else. If we adulterate our marriage we won’t have the original relationship we started with, we have added something to it. Even looking at another woman with the desire to possess her adulterates my marriage and I have found that to not be a good thing. Fortunately my wife is one to whom I can remark about another beautiful woman and she understands that I am not disrespecting her or wanting to possess that other woman, She is aware that my vision operates normally and that commenting allows me to notice something and enjoy it properly instead of being ashamed and feeling guilty.

    I see Jesus’ statements about adultery to be just statements of fact and not accusations. If a marriage ends in divorce, instead of living in condemnation (or self-righteousness because it was the OTHER person’s fault) we should examine ourselves and go on in life with the intent to do the best with the situation we find ourselves in and hopefully learn something from the past. Sin is broken relationship with another and a divorce is sin only in that it is one type of broken relationship. We should strive to be in right relationship with others because that is how we show our relationship to God. No one is an island, we live in relationships with others. I think that parsing the scriptures in order to minimize the damage of divorce is not profitable. God has forgiven us as we forgive others (and ourselves). Go on with life, recognize that we cannot undo the past, that we live with our experiences and must do the best we can with the hand we hold and that we are the ones that are responsible for our actions and can’t blame them on anyone else.

    • I appreciate the reply Eric, not sure I was “parsing the scriptures to minimize divorce”…my particular paradigm on divorce was the result of bible believing people giving me a platform of guilt and then treating me to enjoy it by myself, ignoring the fact that I had remained faithful and held fast to covenant commitment and ended up raising our five children later as a single father…even though I had every biblical “right” for the divorce there is an underlying current and prejudice that is unavoidable, even in some of your language it shows up…the immediate “oh he’s divorced, he must have failed (sin) in his relationship (you obviously did not say this, it is quite common though)…which is obviously not always the case since God himself is divorced, did He fail?

      I’m not suggesting this attitude is “taught” as much as implied…and truthfully coming from a Pentecostal background divorce is kind of the kiss of death to a ministry future if thats your cup of tea…

      My point is the underpinnings of our perspectives affect much of the practical ways we approach life and relationships in community because they depend heavily upon our soteriology…what you believe about God informs your behavior…so even something as common as “adultery” takes on a significance that often pushes out the redemptive nature of the resurrection because we are not taking our cues from our inclusion in the cross but instead we are depending upon performance and accepted protocols to define us…Paul gives us a “therefore” moment where we no longer recognize ANYONE from the flesh, not even Jesus…meaning the point of reference has changed.

      Divorce seems to carry an additional significance in our church culture which I do not find echoed in scripture…frankly a lot of what passes as marital teaching is just modified authority models based upon a christian sub-culture that is devoid of life…

      My understanding of covenant has changed quite a bit in the last few years, I no longer approach it as a legal arrangement, instead I see all covenants as a construct to protect life and intimacy on some level…that is why a lustful wandering eye has the power to be classified as adultery…it violates intimacy in another arena…

      A point that has managed to slip through the cracks here is Jesus was modifying Hebrew culture by introducing the idea that MEN could commit adultery…historically a shocking idea in a middle-eastern patriarchal society…

      • Mark, I wasn’t trying to be accusatory, I was more pointing out something that others that may read this blog may find helpful. I cannot speak to your particular church’s way of dealing with divorce and those that are caught in it. I know that our denomination seems to try and ignore it and get on with life, but that’s not the way it was 50 years ago. Perhaps I shouldn’t have commented here, I was just curious who you were after seeing some of your posts on Michael Hardin’s facebook page. I clicked on this subject because it is somewhat of a hot button (and I didn’t see anything on LGBT or scriptural inerrancy) and sometimes those type of things can give a bit of a window into who another person is. Blessings as you continue with your work and who knows, perhaps we will meet sometime face to face and learn to know each other better.

        PS I hope this reply isn’t a duplicate. WordPress threw me out when I tried the first time.

      • Eric, absolutely appreciate all comments, this is more of a dialogue in my mind, I do not feel specially suited to tackle long standing traditions all on my own and just am trying to be part of a chorus of conversation towards it…

        I probably should drift away from using generalized statements like “the church” which seems more to the point, since I am not exactly dealing with a general issue generically…I have no idea who reads my blog or why they would bother, so the comments help me get my bearings at time…and I did not feel like you were accusing, I was simply responding to the comment in explanation…

        Yes I hope to meet you some time, this medium has created a bigger view into a larger land and we all have worthy journeys to share…

        As far as a window into some of the hot button topics that generate more smoke than heat, I am quite undecided on a number of them…which is an improvement for me…

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