Divorce is like death.

October 20, 2010

In marriage, two become one.  So, what does the one become in divorce?  Not two.


The account of King Solomon and the two mothers in 1 Kings 3 comes to mind: Two women gave birth.  One accidentally smothered her baby in her sleep and switched her dead baby with the other woman’s live baby in the dead of night.  The women came before Solomon with their dispute, each claiming the live baby as her own.  So Solomon suggested cutting the live baby in half, with one half for each mother.  The baby’s true mother cried out, desiring for her baby to live rather than have “justice” served in a manner that would harm her beloved.

To split the baby in half would result in his death.

All that to say, I’m not sure why, but my mind keeps drawing parallels between this splitting image and the realities of divorce.  Maybe the grief, the mourning, and the strong notion of death is the connection?

How do you split “one” without death resulting?


15 Responses to “Divorce is like death.”

  1. Jordan Says:

    I have yet to experience the death of a loved one (a day I’m not looking forward to), but I can say without a doubt that divorce is the most evil, destructive thing I have ever encountered in my life.

    In some ways I think it is worse than death because when someone dies there is at least a finality and the ability to mourn your loss. You know that that person is never coming back, and if they were a Christian you can at least rejoice that they are with the Lord. But divorce is just the first link in a chain of events that will echo throughout the rest of the lives of all of those effected by it. Sure, losing a loved-one has life-long implications but what is worse: losing someone to death and being able to mourn that loss and then move on, or the fracturing of a family in which everyone who once loved each other has now turned on each other and, instead of just being gone and dead, are able to continually hurt each other for decades to come?

    I had never made the connection between 1Kin3:16-28 and divorce but I think it is very apt. A married couple is no longer two people but one person, joined together by God. Splitting that in apart can only result in death. This is probably a picture of what happened on the cross, as well, when the second person of the trinity was separated from that fellowship.

  2. dictionator Says:

    Thought this might make an interesting read:


    Yes, it barely has anything to do with the topic at hand regarding the concept of “death” in a divorce. But someone mentioned this to me, and it’s the latest I thought about in regards to the idea of divorce.

    See you maybe on Saturday!

  3. dictionator Says:

    By the way, is it me or am I slowly starting to sound more and more like Stephen? Hmm… this is unsettling…

  4. Ramsin Says:

    amen, precious tia. amen!

  5. saltyletters Says:

    The example you use is not common , but after a thought not that strange.

    Thanks for sharing your words with us.

  6. tia Says:

    jordan: i appreciate your thoughts. and that last point is one that paradoxically brings real comfort, doesn’t it? our God knows the pain, and He works incredible redemption from incredible agony.

    richard: sweeet link. i’m reading through it in between studying right now. and as a friend of stephen, i appreciate the stephenese, haha. i will tryyy to drop by for breakfast on saturday!

    ramsin: haha — thanks yo. always supportive. :]

    saltyletters: yea, my mind just drew connections. i suppose i should elaborate and qualify the comparison ….. i may, in time. :]

  7. Kau Says:

    hmm…a fitting connection, i think. but the gospel is meant to bring life where there was once death…

  8. tia Says:

    kev: you’re right — anything, even divorce, can be redeemed. because of Jesus. seems i need that reminder every day.

  9. Stephen Says:

    If by “unsettling” you mean “awesome”…then yes. Yes it is.

    Two quick points. Well perhaps quick. Probably not.

    #1 – Tia: My understanding of the Bible’s teaching on divorce and remarriage is that it heavily depends on the standing of the husband and wife in the eyes of God. Like one of those old choose-your-own-adventure books, the route laid out by Scripture varies depending on whether or not both parties are believers or unbelievers.

    That being said, I think it is often overlooked that marriage is first and foremost a covenant. In other words, marriage is a legal contract with moral stipulations and obligations to which the Lord is witness.

    When a covenant is broken (unilaterally or otherwise), that is not a dissolution of the individuals…it is a dissolution of the covenant.

    In the same sense, the “one flesh” element that is repeated throughout Scripture (and which you quote…and I say this gently…over-broadly) is one of the elements of the marriage covenant. I would argue that the covenant also includes at least “leaving father and mother” and “cleaving” as well as “becoming one flesh.” That’s getting beside the point though.

    My point, as it was, was that the Biblical teaching on marriage is that it is a covenant to form a new social unit that is pleasing to God. To fail in that regard…as in the case of divorce…results in the destruction of the social unit by definition. The individuals however, are still just that: individuals. However, it should be noted that covenants do not “die.” They break.

    There’s a difference.

    Here is where I’d like to camp for a moment though. I don’t want to make light of the pain of anyone who has had to experience or bear witness to divorce. Scripture wisely states that we are to “lecture those who weep, and argue with those who mourn.” Wait…no…that’s not right. Ah yes, I knew that sounded wrong. That should be “weep with those who weep.” The appropriate response here is not a 13-page treatise on my views of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, but rather the digital equivalent of an embrace. Or whatever equivalent expression is allowed in an Asian/Christian context. (Cue absolutely horrible memory of Youtube video with chorus of “gimme that Christian side-hug…”).

    And that is why I pointed out that I think your understanding has gone a tad sideways here. Not because I want to minimize any justifiable grief, but because as your brother I would protect you from unnecessary grief. If I could, I would shield you from it entirely. Obviously that’s not possible. If allowed, I would share it, in the hope that grief is subject to the laws of mathematics, and in division it is lessened. And failing that, I would at least sit by and offer words that I hope would in some small way encourage: children of divorced parents have NOT lost their parents. The Bible does not teach that. Put it out of your mind. Put down the burden that is not yours to bear. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

    Another commenter already pointed out that ” the gospel is meant to bring life where there was once death.” I have my own version of this, perhaps unduly-influenced by my MBA. Simply put, “God is in the redemption business.”

    I’ll leave it at that, with the belief that we both recognize the implications.

    And entirely appropriately…I would be remiss if I didn’t add…I love you hobbit.

    And now I have to go explain that briefly to my fiancee. She will understand and wholly affirm the first three words. I predict a long, painful conversation over the fourth. ;-P

    #2 – Dictionator (Richard?): Without launching into it, suffice to say that I would not entirely agree with that particular position paper. I think the more fundamental question is not “Can I remarry?” but rather, “Is God angry with me?” And the answer to that question is going to depend on both their standing before God, as well as their role in the divorce. But to elaborate that would get rather long-winded…and I’d rather not get into it here.

  10. tia Says:

    haha, stephen, i need more friends like you.

    and i’m ready to have my thinking regarding divorce refined where it might be off. admittedly, emotions can be pretty loud, but when those quiet down, Scripture will still be speaking. i pray i’m teachable.

    just to clarify: my parents aren’t divorced. i can’t foresee what may happen in the future, of course, but today, they are still married.

    with that said, here’s just a general response to your fine points, and i encourage anyone else to jump in this discussion … with the qualification that the purpose of this discussion is to lovingly investigate a biblical view of divorce (i will freely, and i hope lovingly, delete comments when i don’t think that’s happening):

    marriage is a covenant between two individuals, but as illustrated in the physical “one flesh” union of husband and wife, i think there’s an idea of corporate standing (as a unit) before God as well. the physical consummation of “one flesh” illustrates a greater mystery. Christ and the church, of course. and in the roles between husband and wife, something of the image of the Triune God is reflected, too — at least in function, if we can’t imply that there is a 2 persons in 1 reality in marriage, just as there’s 3 persons in 1 in the Trinity.

    there are practical and necessary implications to “one flesh,” agreed. but i would argue that something more than the physical and legal covenant is broken when divorce occurs; it can’t just be reduced to the material or explained away in legal terms. there’s something akin to death in divorce, as with any effects of sin, which is why i think those involved in divorce situations grieve in ways often similar to grieving death. but something about divorce smacks more of death than other relational sins, at least in experience. physical death? not quite. death of individuals? not quite that either. but death in some other way that I can’t quite put my finger on? i think so … and not just to the divorced parties but those in their lives.

    is the gospel still true in the face of sin? absolutely.

    but i guess this post was more a lament than a stance on divorce, though your comment (as i told you via email) makes me realize that laments assume stances, too.

    there’s a reality to grieving sin and the excruciating pain it brings. that was this post. maybe another post will be dedicated to a more high-functioning, reasonable view on divorce. :]

    even so, i could often use more light in lament, too. so i really do appreciate you and kevin shedding that gospel light. thanks for pointing even grief back to Christ — i mean it.

  11. dictionator Says:

    how dare you guys deprive us of this discussion by privatizing it to e-mail. i object. just kidding. thanks for the thoughtful discussion!

    Stephen, yes this is your “golden child.” =)

  12. Stephen Says:

    1. Grief SHOULD point back to Christ. “All of Christ for all of life” and other assorted Kuyperisms are more than just slogans. They’re a survival manual.

    2. At the same time, the point is NOT to minimize or marginalize your pain or grief. I hope I didn’t come across as doing that; that would have been the opposite of my intent: to recognize it and support YOU.

    3. “i would argue that something more than the physical and legal covenant is broken when divorce occurs; it can’t just be reduced to the material or explained away in legal terms”

    So would I. In my original comment I wrote “In other words, marriage is a legal contract with moral stipulations and obligations to which the Lord is witness.” I didn’t mean to imply that is ALL it is, and I certainly didn’t want to take the time or space to fully exegete the nature of the covenant, how it dovetails with God’s desires, how He stands not only as Witness TO but as Lord OVER and Creator OF said covenant, etc. I think that would get us more to your comment, that “there’s something akin to death in divorce, as with any effects of sin.”

    Yes, because at the end of the day, sin IS death. Christ died so that we might die to sin, and when we don’t, we minimize that sacrifice. To make little of sin is to make little of Christ, and that becomes especially…obvious…in relational, corporate sins. I could quote JC Ryle on hating sin, but I think you know the quote already.

    You’ve already put your finger on part of the analogies between Christ and Church…and you came SO close to pinning down the analogy between the persons of the Triune Godhead and the three members of the marriage covenant: husband, wife, and God. And now I must STOP myself from launching headlong into explanation on how the Trinity exemplifies and justifies love itself since our God has existed forever as a perfectly loving eternal society…

    Plus, I’m at work, so I really don’t have time to go into a long defense of my understanding of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Seriously, where else except your blog have I ever said THAT? My intention here was to support a friend, not propagate a particular theological view. As long as I’ve succeeded…however clumsily…in doing that…it’s a good day.

  13. tia Says:

    good points, stephen. and rest assured — it’s a good day.

  14. Stephen Says:

    Alright, then I’m out of here. ;-P

    These financial statements don’t write themselves.

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