God Still Hates Divorce
By: Deji Yesufu
“God seeks godly offspring. Therefore, take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of your youth. For the God Lord God of Israel says that he hates divorce…” Malachi 2:15-16
The death of gospel musician Osinachi Nwachukwu, reportedly at the hands of her husband, has elicited all kinds of response among Nigerians in the past one week. The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, has taken up the matter – promising justice for Osinachi. I understand that the woman’s husband has been arrested and presently being investigated by the Nigerian police. Most of the virulent response has come from the public – particularly feminists, who continue to postulate their doctrine of “… to hell with all men…”; “… men are not all that…”. Abimbola Adelakun of Punch newspapers adds to these narratives when she wrote “… People routinely shame women’s inability ‘to keep a man’ as if men are a piece of land in Eko Atlantic …” In other words, men are not worth much – a piece of land is much better than keeping a husband.
My article has been elicited by both the death of Osinachi and the article that Adelakun wrote. There is very little for me dispute in Adelakun’s article except that I wish to correct the notion, which the title of her article carries, that God does not hate divorce. Adelakun claims that the position of Malachi 2:16 is not timeless but only relevant for an ancient people – the people of Israel. Our modern liberated world need not submit to such antediluvian notions like submitting to a man in a marriage or keeping the bonds of marriage no matter what might threaten it. To be fair to Adelakun, the Malachi 2 scripture is not a scripture that legitimizes staying in an abusive marriage. In fact, a careful reading of the text, as I have replicated above, shows that God is actually concerned with how men treat their wives in the marriage. One part of the text earlier stated that God is witness of how men treat their wives; then it warns against treacherously dealing with the wife; and finally, it counsels against careless and unthoughtful putting away of the woman. The context of that scripture is an admonition to men not to break their marriage covenant easily. So when a Christian quotes “God hates divorce”, they are not legitimizing bad marriages as feminists tend to claim; rather they are asking married people to treat their spouses well and not abuse them. I understand that a shallow mouthing of “God hates divorce” could be some people’s way of covering abuse in marriage. The scripture however never had such intentions in mind. In the rest of this essay, I will be arguing for viral marriages in spite of so much abuse that goes on in our society.
The words of the Holy Bible, like those that counsel against divorce, are usually words that are directed at God’s covenant people. In the Old Testament these people were the Jews. In the New Testament, those people are the Church. The place of the Christian Church, a godly society, is one that too many people either take for granted or have no idea what it should be. Besides preaching the gospel and helping the saints to walk lives that are honoring to God, the Church is also called to be a place of refuge for God’s people. One of the institutions that need the Church covering the most are marriages. And the job of the minister in the Church does not begin with settling disputes in marriages, it begins long before the marriage is put together. Jesus said what God has put together, let no one put asunder (Matthew 19:6). Tunde Bakare thinks that the flip side of that scripture is that if God has not put a marriage together, the natural tendency is for anything to put it asunder. Most marital challenges never developed within marriage; they started long before the couple were married. And this is where the church comes in.
A Christian Church worth is salt must be concerned with marrying only Christians. In fact, the minister of a church must have discernment to know who and who is a Christian in his congregation. So that the moment such individuals want to get married, he knows what to say about the marriage. Christian ministers must marry genuine born again individuals. It is possible that one part in the relationship is saved, while the other is not. A brief period of counselling these individuals should reveal to the pastor the eternal state of this person’s heart. If they are not Christians, the pastor must stand against the wedding. At least he must ensure that his church has no hand in the union of that couple. It all begins with putting together persons who are possessed of the Holy Spirit; individuals who are have a living conscience; people who can hear God from the Holy Scriptures; and individuals who will submit to God, to the church, to the scriptures and to one another in holy matrimony. The moment a church marries a wolf to a sheep, you should expect that one will devour the other eventually.
After the church has put these two together, the church must take up the responsibility of discipling the couple. Discipling will include teaching the couple the way of Christ and the dictates of a Christian home. A man is taught to love and lead his wife and children. The woman is taught to submit to and obey her husband. Couples must be taught to be truly one in mind, body and finances. Some churches counsel that couples keep a joint account. This is something that I also advocate but this will be impossible if the man is a wolf and the woman is a sheep – or the other way round. It is the process of teaching a couple to live together that many times occasion a minister discerning the state of individual homes. This is where the monster of mega-churches come to play. Where the congregation is too large, a pastor cannot discern the state of peoples’ hearts. When the congregation is small and a minister looks at a woman’s eyes, whether she says it or not, he can tell she is undergoing things in her home. A little period of counseling will reveal what might be happening, and a good church must step in to protect the woman, the sheep, from the man – the wolf. Where there has been constant, unrepentant abuse, the woman must be separated from the man and the man must be put on church discipline. He will remain in that state until the church can discern repentance in him. The woman can then be allowed to return to him. If the abuse continues, the church may, with discretion, bring an end to the marriage and ensure that the woman is well catered for – along with her children. The church must be able to handle such marital disputes and there is no need for God’s people to take themselves before ungodly men to dissolve their marriage.
The situation that led to Osinachi’s death is multifaceted and such things will continue to happen until God’s people commit themselves to following what the Bible commands them. First, our churches must be filled with converted persons. Second, the gospel must be preached in our churches. Our ministers should live out the truth of holy scripture in all of its ramifications. When these are done, God gives the church wisdom to handle situations that come their way. When scripture said that God hates divorce, the Bible did not have unbelievers at heart. The Bible had a community of gospel believing people in heart. It is such a community that loves God and his word. It is such a community that respects the tenets of the Bible. It is such a community where sincere love exists among spouses. Even when there might have been disagreements that had once or twice degenerated to disputes, the church can come in and counsel each parties in the matter. Then the Holy Spirit brings forgiveness and healing to hurting heart. At the close of the day, the suffering woman thanks God that she remained in her marriage, because she sees God change the bullish man into a lamb. God hates divorce because divorce too many times is an easy answer to a more complex situation that involves inherent sin, Satan and the struggle between righteousness and darkness overwhelming a home. A situation which left to remain as it is could lead many times to broken homes and broken children.
The world should not rewrite the Bible’s teaching for us because of one or two situations that may give credence for it. Osinachi’s death is very unfortunate but what killed her is a lot more complex than the Church which has committed itself to obeying God’s command for more 2,000 years and has had little reason to regret it.