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A Special Message to Divorced People from a Pastor

By October 23, 2008October 14th, 2009Christians, Church, Culture, Marriage

Has a divorce in your past kept you out of church? 


“Not one person from that church has ever called me in three years.”  That was the response from the man I ran into at a store recently.  “I’ll never set foot in that church again”, the man concluded.  Sadly I’m not sure he’s setting foot in any church these days. 


Little would need to be said to convince people that divorce is a major problem in our society.  There are now more people in families that have experienced divorce than there are families never touched by divorce.  If the church today wants to reach families for Christ it must learn how to minister to divorced people. 


There are no easy answers. As a pastor who has experienced the pain of divorce personally, I feel it is imperative that we continue to teach Biblical truths and never allow our culture to dictate our teachings. (I realize there are plenty who feel a divorced person can’t be a pastor, and for that I would just say we disagree.) On the other hand, we must live within our culture and find ways to reach the people within the context of that culture.  In my counseling of people who have experienced divorce, I have learned there are a few things which are imperative for people who want to be accepted into the church following divorce. 


Don’t Be Plagued by Divorce.  Most divorced people feel that they are no longer welcome in the church. Many times this feeling is self-induced, but often it is a result of attitudes within the church.  Divorced people tell me they are often made to feel dirty in the church, rather than being ministered to with God’s grace as any other person would be.  The Bible is clear that God hates divorce, not because He hates divorced people, but because divorce hurts the people God loves.  Church is the place where hurting people belong!  You should feel welcomed into the church following divorce.  Don’t allow bad representations of who Christ is by other Christians to keep you from worshipping God. 


Find a Church of Grace.  I would never encourage someone to attend a church that doesn’t teach God’s Truth. God’s Truth, however, is that His grace is available for all.  There are churches that apply God’s grace to divorced people, while maintaining their allegiance to the truth of God’s Word.  Don’t be scared away from church by the legalistic and unloving attitudes of a few misguided Christians.


Be willing to learn from your mistakes.  Ask for help in discovering the mistakes you made in your marriage and the things that led to its breakup.  In every situation, each spouse contributed some part to the breakup.  Be willing to humble yourself and admit your part. 


Allow your hurts to help others.  One of the greatest needs in the church today is for people who are willing to be real and vulnerable before other people.  All of us can learn from the mistakes of others.  If you have been hurt by the pains of divorce, your experiences are valuable to others and to the church.   My divorce has “scarred” me in some people’s eyes permanently, but I know God has used my experience to minister to hundreds of others.


Prepare for future marriages.  When my sons each turned 16 years old they spent about 40 hours in driver’s training.  In most churches today they will be blessed if he gets ten percent of that time in counseling before marriage.  Before you consider remarrying, invest some time in premarital counseling.  If free counseling isn’t available, be willing to invest financially in professional counseling. A great marriage is worth the investment.


Find your strength in God:  Divorce is hard on everyone involved, but the recovery is much faster if the person is growing spiritually.  Even though you have been hurt by divorce, God still has a plan for your life.  It is with His strength that you will be able to recover from the pain of divorce.


As a person who watches statistics, I have wondered if one of the reasons church attendance nationally is declining is that we aren’t reaching the divorced people of society; one of the largest segments of the American population.  If you have been hurt by words and actions of people in the church because of your divorce, or if you feel unwelcome in the church, as a pastor speaking on behalf of the church, please accept my apology.  The Jesus I know from the Bible would surely not want you to be further wounded by the church He gave His life for and would welcome you to His church! 


The church should not embrace divorce, but it should certainly love and embrace the people who are being hurt by divorce and offer solutions to hopefully change the culture away from divorce.  That will never occur if the subject of divorce is taboo in our churches.  Certainly Jesus would have hated divorce.  His father does. I have often told people that I understand God’s Word when He says “I hate divorce” better than most people.  Divorce injures the people God loves so much.  I have the idea, however, that if Jesus lived in our culture He would have contacted the man who had been missing from church these past three years.  My question for the church today is this: Shouldn’t we do likewise?


Please accept my invitation today to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ!

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Max says:

    My true struggle is this… I was preparing to serve in the ministry and entered seminary. However, during the first year of my studies my marriage imploded.. I had to leave seminary, pursue another career path and left with a huge void in the purpose of my life. I am basically ostracized by many old friends and colleagues. This was only made worse when I remarried. I lead my children through the grace of God but it is difficult when they ask me why I don't return to ministry and I have to explain to them why I cannot serve any longer. My understanding does not follow most people's when it comes to Paul's mandate regarding leaders in the church. I do not feel his intention was to label divorcees as unusable. Why is it that God forgives and cast our sins as far as the east is from the west but man can make sure where to find the sins and make sure to remind people of each one?

  • Josh says:

    Thank you so much for posting this message, however, there is one statement that concerns me, you said “In every situation, each spouse contributed some part to the breakup."

    I think that statement is not only presumptuous but also very judgmental. It sounds like something one of Job’s friends would say. “You MUST have caused the dilemma you are in!” Sometimes we do cause the dilemma we are in but sometimes we do not, including divorce. We would never say that ALL car accidents are caused by ALL the cars involved in the crash.

    Using an Old Testament story as an example, your statement would lead us to believe that Hosea contributed to the brokenness of his relationship with his wife. However we are never led to believe that at all, in fact just the opposite is true. What an amazing example of enduring love he showed his wife in spite of her rebellion and sin.

    The bottom line in divorce is that someone feels they’re not getting their “needs” met. Are you saying since one spouse feels they are not getting their needs met and wants out of the marriage then their spouse must be partially responsible? I would agree with that on the surface, however we can’t make the dangerous assumption that “needs” are NEVER motivated by sin. I’m sure Hosea’s wife felt her needs were not getting met and that is why she left her husband but I don’t think we would say she was justified knowing the sin that was in her life.

    I agree that you should ask God for help in discovering how you could have contributed in part to the breakup, to learn from your mistakes but it’s possible that God may reveal that although not perfect, you did nothing to contribute to the breakup of your marriage and that it's just part of living in a fallen world. It takes TWO to make a good marriage but only ONE to break one up.

    Thank you for using your gifts for His glory but I hope you will reconsider that one statement and edit it accordingly. Not only does it over generalize the causes of divorce but it could even perpetuate the reasoning for more divorce because it lowers the criteria for divorce.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Josh and I certainly see your point. I offer my opinion in the most humble of ways, having personally been on the side where I thought I had done nothing to deserve what I was receiving. I stand by my statement, however, in that there are no perfect people nor no perfect marriages and we all have areas upon which we can improve. For me it was several years after a painful divorce that God revealed to me ways I could have been a better husband. One way was in the pride I had in being such a good husband. There is nothing I have ever wanted than to be a great husband and father….and…not trying to be arrogant…I'm a pretty good one, but I recognize more all the time how desperately dependent I am upon Christ in order to serve my wife and children. That was my intent behind the message.

      BTW, I just finished a series on Job. I'd welcome you to check it out:… I agree with your take on the book.

  • Aaron says:

    I can worship God at home a lot easier and better than at churches!
    Professional counseling? Do you have any idea what they teach these days!
    You can not apologice for everyone.
    The reason church attendance is declining is not just divorce people being treated different, disabled people are, elderly, people who are not what most think pretty is, and then there is the people who can not or do not spend the money for the fashion show every Sunday.
    I have been to your church and seen it there to! Yes, if you are young enough or meet other unwritten laws you can get by with wearing jeans or Walmart clothes and no make up, but not if you are not pretty enough.
    No follow up from your church at all to me.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I\’m very sorry you were offended in our church. Yes you can worship God at home. I do hope you have real people in your life when you need them. You\’ve obviously been hurt in life. You don\’t have to believe it but I do care.

      There are no perfect churches but I would still pray you found one you like better than you did ours. God bless

    • pam lane says:

      Jesus is the "Perfect" one, I'm with you, but, I chose to start letting go of all outside opinions, and let God be God in my life, despite all the foolishness out there. May God bless your heart today and forever more…

  • Kelly says:

    Great post, Ron. My unbelieving husband of 18 yrs divorced me after he was unfaithful for years. Through out our marriage I did everything I could think of to work on our marriage, until in utter helplessness I asked my pastor's wife how to be a good wife in a bad marriage, and she said, "Be a good daughter to the Father". I spent the remaining years of my marriage doing this, as best as I knew how to. When my husband left, I continued to treat him with love and respect, although there were angry moments when the details of the adultery came out. It was all so painful, and I did my best to respond to that pain in a Christ-like manner. I did not do it perfectly, but I wanted to, and never stopped trying. But my husband still wanted a divorce.

    So, when I hear that divorce is a sin, and I am assuming that being divorced means that it is considered my sin as well as his, I wonder, how it that possible, or graceful? I had no choice. My unbelieving husband wanted out (and Scripture says "let him go"), he was adulterous and not about to stop, and at one point I realized that granting him the divorce was my last act of obedience to his leadership as my husband. Was I a perfect wife? Of course not. But I received condemnation and judgment from people in the church, many of whom I had been friends with, and who I knew couldn't stand their mates and routinely spoke harshly to them, complained about them behind their backs, were rude and hurtful to them, things that I tried never to do. To the church, I had sinned by being divorced while the other women who despised their husbands daily were considered "faithful" because their husbands remained with them.

    These attitudes add to the pain, because they clearly give the message that I deserved to be rejected by my husband, having been an imperfect wife. But we are all imperfect spouses. The sin that killed our marriage belonged to my husband. Adultery. Rejection. Abandonment. Deceit. To say divorce is a sin is confusing, in that it lays blame on people, many of whom have no choice in the matter. To cling to a man who doesn't want to be with me, to use legal means to trap him in a marriage that he wants to escape, to force him into a relationship that he doesn't want…is this love?

    I do not believe that I am guilty of the "sin" of divorce. Am I a sinner? Yes, I throw myself on God's mercy daily. But I do not believe that I sinned by allowing my husband to reject me and leave our marriage. I chose to admit my sin and allow God to change me within the context of my marriage, but it made no difference with my husband, because his sin belonged to him and he did what he did because he was wrong. The responsibility for his actions belong to him, solely.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Kelly for sharing your story. Our stories of pain always help others deal with their own pain.

  • Gary says:

    I am divorced. My wife of over 20 years ran off while I was on a mission trip to Costa Rica with one of my daughters. I am an ordained deacon. I have since remarried, years later but, feel like a second class citizen in my church. I can participate in anything open to the general membership. I am totally excluded from anything of service. It really hurts. I am thinking about changing churches and finding a church that will let me serve in some capacity.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Gary, I'm sorry you are subjected to that. In most churches, any other "sin" would be forgiven by now and you could be restored to full service. I don't feel comfortable advising you to leave a church, but I do feel comfortable advising you to follow your heart and go where God leads. More than that, I feel comfortable encouraging you to find a place to serve. If God used men and women like Moses, David, Rahab, and Jacob (and others), he can surely use you and me. Go for it…somewhere!

  • Joy says:

    i have a friend who believes that Christians are forbidden by Christ's teachings from marrying again while their ex-spouse is still alive, as this amounts to adultery. Your thoughts on this please?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Joy, your friend is getting this understanding through Scripture, but I do believe even those that interpret that way should see that there are allowances for issues of adultery, for example, because Jesus said that in Matthew 19. Of course, most of this understanding comes from 1 Cor 7 where Paul is addressing marriage. If one wants to pull out verse 11 alone and apply it liberally, then I would say your friend should live by that verse, but I think Paul is giving an ideal prescription for marriage, one I'm afraid sin and brokenness of the world does not allow most of us to live up to.

      Take for example even verse 1, where Paul encourages many to remain single. Perhaps there are many who are married wanting out should have applied that one liberally first, and then they would never gotten to the point of sensing a need for divorce. I think part of the key to this passage is in verse 35, where Paul says "I'm saying this for your own good". I think he is saying all of this "for our good", from verse 1 to the end of the chapter. He is painting the ideal prescription for the marriage life and for life in general, that we not allow anything to keep us from a perfect devotion to Jesus Christ. Sadly, sometimes marriage, most often divorce, troubles in marriage, etc. keep us from that full devotion.

      Is divorce a sin? I think it is. Should it be avoided? Absolutely. God wants an ideal marriage for those who choose that path. Can it be forgiven and the person restored? In my mind, unquestionably yes.

      • Ron I am with you on the verses you write of. I am curious though about your position on verses 16 and 16 " 15If your husband or wife isn't a follower of the Lord and decides to divorce you, then you should agree to it."and on?
        I am divorced but He has blessed me with a replacement 30 years ago. He gave her the grace to see me through drug induced daze, due to pain control, and still lives me as I do her. I don't know how we managed except for God in her life and mine.

        • ronedmondson says:

          Thanks Brian. Not sure if I understand your question, but I agree with Paul's question here. We cannot know if our husband or wife will be saved. Our job, as I see it, is not to be in charge of another's salvation, but we have an obligation to be concerned for one another. I think Paul is offering a reminder here that the way we handle the non-believing spouse may play a part in their decision to follow Christ. That's a great reminder in all our dealings with others.


  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks Vicki for commenting. God hates everything that hurts or injures His people. He wants only the best for us! I wouldn't want a God any other way!

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks Kurt. Yes, I believe He will. Keep the faith! Thanks for being willing to share your pain and triumphs with others. That's what the church is all about!

  • Vicki Doulos York says:

    Bravo, Pastor Ron. I lost so many friends during my divorce. I was slaughtered by certain fellow Christians–including those who knew the abuse I'd suffered–yet God kept me in a bubble of love, and I made it out alive. There are so many people who need to read this article, who need to know that God hates divorce, but He LOVES His sons and daughters! He is gracious beyond our understanding, and He delights in giving second chances. Thank you for this post!

  • Kurt says:

    Ron, I am divorced. Afterward, I experienced a lack of support from friends and my church. Many just pull away. It was such a painful period. The blessing is, the pain caused me to look at how I might change, grow closer to Christ. I found the answer by changing churches… NOT leaving church. I have to tell you … It was in God's plan for me. I have never felt so loved and supported…. and close to Christ. And… Someday… He will introduce me to a pious and honest woman that will with me, give Him thanks and praise.

    Excellent post. Thank you!

  • Lori says:

    Wonderful post. Such a source of pain for so many. Combine the pain with the occasional pastor who preaches that divorce is such a sin and you should work thru it no matter what, and it can literally crush a person for a VERY long time. Because of your life experience, you are able to offer so much to so many….thank you. It is so sad that there are so many local churches that segregate positions from pastors to deacons to youth ministers to even Sunday School Teachers based on whether you have been divorced or not. That is not my definition of God’s grace and love and His forgiveness. Thank you for sharing your life story with us and blessing Grace with Cheryl.

  • Aaron Reed says:

    Ron, nice post. It points out that we are still a long ways away from being the followers God desires. Instead of being a place for healing the hurt, often times the church is a place that people find salt being thrown on their wounds. I long for the day that we quit throwing salt and instead meet the hurting with the words let me show you the love, mercy and hope of my Savior, Jesus. Again, nice post.

  • Cheryl says:

    Awesome post!!! I thank God for the grace He poured out when He brought you into my life!! You allow God to use our pasts hurts to be real and vulnerable to others and I know God uses you in a powerful way for HIS GLORY!