I’m going through a divorce and find that my Christian friends are shunning me. The divorce is not what I wanted. I tried to save my marriage but my wife has made it very clear to me that she will not do anything to meet me even part of the way. Still, some in our circle of friends hold me responsible and are telling me about judgement, shame, how my Christian witness will be ruined…while other friends say they are supportive but have excluded me from church and Christmas gatherings. How should I respond to them? Do I confront them? Try to start a new life?
I am truly sorry to hear about your marriage situation and the painful response from some of your friends. In answering your questions, I must first clarify that I don’t know the full situation and imagine there are two sides to the story of which I only have yours. I’m sure there are a number of important details leading up to the divorce, so I want to be careful not to assume the worst regarding your wife.
That being said, Jesus gave only one “exception clause” as a legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage on the part of the innocent party, that being sexual infidelity on their spouse’s part (see Matt. 19:3-9). Paul taught for married believers to remain with their unbelieving spouses for the purpose of having a godly influence on their lives (1 Cor. 7:12-16).
However, being the realist he was, Paul also states in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 (ESV), “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”
Thus, Paul recognized extenuating circumstances where divorce without remarriage was necessary. I believe these situations could include such things as abusive relationships, addiction issues, emotional disconnection, chronic lying, and fiscal irresponsibility, etc.
Okay, so again I don’t know your precise situation, but I can confidently say that without proof of sexual infidelity, remarriage is definitely out of the question. However, divorce itself is not the unforgivable sin! Sometimes it is a necessary action in order to remove oneself from a toxic and unbearable marriage that is destroying one’s self-esteem and sense of physical and/or emotional safety and security.
If your reasons for pursuing a divorce are legitimate, it’s sad that you are being unfairly shunned and excluded from church and holiday gatherings. I can only imagine how much it must hurt you to be treated in this way. I have found that when the chips are down, you typically discover who your true friends are.
Maybe it’s time to find some new friends and a new church family where you will be loved and accepted, rather than being unfairly criticized and judged. It may be an uphill battle trying to persuade certain individuals to change their minds regarding your actions if their minds are already made up. I suggest that you try talking to them to explain your reasons, but understand they may not see your perspective or agree with you.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to live your life the best way you know how and, like the apostle Paul declared, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12b). Your main goal ought to be to please God to the best of your ability. There are many divorced Christians who have great hearts and perform many good works in the kingdom of God.
Hold your head up with dignity and continue serving Christ, no matter the circumstances!