Amid a week of dealing with the death of my stepfather, the pending death of my mother-in-law, school deadlines and wayward adult children, I tried to answer an e-mail from a divorced man whose teenage son objected to him dating new people.

The son, who was driving through life under the influence of fundamentalism, interpreted Scriptures to teach that a divorced person who dates other people is committing adultery.

That’s a common interpretation for fundamentalists. There’s no answer for this. Just love him back and thank him for his concern.

I was disappointed with your answer.


On the one hand, I wanted to justify myself by telling him I don’t always have time to give detailed advice and he should seek the advice of a community clergy who knows his life. Still, that answer comes across a bit pompous, and it frustrates me, too.

On the other hand, he was right. My answer was disappointing. I can do better.

Frankly, I get a lot of questions on that issue, and I must confess I’m tired of encounters with interpreters who read Jesus’ words with such legalistic fervor.

Instead of giving you God’s law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help.

Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hardheartedness, but it is not part of God’s original plan.

As a concession to your hardheartedness.

Hardheartedness is a way of describing resentments. Maybe these resentments took place during the marriage, or long before, but because we all experience a hardening of our hearts, divorce can happen.

If I had a do-over with my reader, I’d probably remind him it pays to remember two things:

First, God feels the hurts from all broken relationships. God hurts with our strained relationships at work as well as our strained relationships with countries like Iran. God hurts when he sees broken relationships with children as well as weakening relationships in our places of worship.

Seeing God as one who hurts with us gives us more perspective, because instead of seeing divorce as all about our hurts, we also realize we are hurting the one who has created us to live in loving relationships.

I think this perspective gives me energy to do my best to heal those relationships, whether they are at work, home or in world politics.

Second, and most important: God works with us to heal relationships. The healing may take place in our current relationship or it may take place while we are inside a new relationship, but healing always will be God’s business.

These two points aren’t just my best shot at do-over, but they are ones I am trying to practice this week as I, too, struggle with life, death and all the relationships in between.