Some of you may be wondering why there’s any question at all about this. If he’s abusive, divorce him! Seems like an easy answer, but for those who want to follow what the Bible teaches, it’s not that easy. I do NOT claim to have the only definitive answer. I certainly cannot pretend to solve a problem that has been debated for centuries. All I can share here is my own understanding of what God’s Word has to say.
I’ve been studying I Corinthians 7 every day this week. It seems to me that the key verse here is verse 15: “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God hath called us to peace.”
Depart is the word chorizo, and means to separate, put space between; it was commonly used at the time to denote divorce, or putting asunder.
Usually, this verse has been applied to desertion; more specifically, to the desertion by an unbelieving spouse of a believing spouse. Abandonment has been seen as cause for separation, but not divorce.
Abusers, however, do not typically leave the relationship. They want to keep it, because they crave the power, control, and warped sense of entitlement it gives them. So, the power still remains in the hands of the abuser, because the believing spouse does not feel she has biblical authority to leave.
A quick review: Abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior that belittles, demeans, degrades, and crushes the victim. This abuse can happen in so many ways, including verbal, emotional, mental, and physical. Many professing Christian men are quite adept at twisting the scriptures and using them against their wives, thereby using her own desire to obey God as a way to keep her under his control.
When the victim, finally exhausted and at the end of her strength to withstand the abuse, finally leaves the relationship, the question of “Who left?” is often used to bring her back into the marriage. Maybe it would be better to ask, “Who caused her to leave?” The one who perpetrated the abuse is the one who caused the chorizo, NOT the one who finally escaped!
Let me put this in simpler terms. I was watching a rerun of an old program the other night. The high school jock, star athlete, and conceited brat, was failing algebra. He would be kicked off the team if he didn’t pass. A concerned teacher got him a tutor, a peer; a girl in his class who was not one of the “cool girls.” Mr. Jock wanted her to just do his assignments for him, saying “Come on, be a friend.” When she reluctantly refused, he stormed out. Just before he got to the door, he said, “When I get kicked off the team, just remember it will be YOUR FAULT!”
Okay, we all know that was a classic job of blame-shifting. It was his own fault, and he was trying to make it hers.
When a marriage breaks up, the abuser ALWAYS says it’s the victim’s fault for leaving. He shifts the blame to her, ignoring his years and years of tormenting her, degrading her, and beating her up. The abuser caused the separation. The victim escaped. If she had been held by any other man besides her husband, and been mistreated in the same way, everyone would be up in arms to rescue her and set her free.
Why don’t we have the same concern for a wife who needs to be rescued?
I still haven’t mentioned whether or not remarriage is an option for the believing spouse who has left an abusive relationship. We’ll take a look at that next week.
If you are just coming into this series, you may want to go back and read the previous Friday posts about abuse. I am not advocating that a believing spouse quickly and easily walk out of an abusive marriage. Especially if the abuser is a believer, every effort must be made to reconcile. But no one should be forced to stay in a marriage that destroys the heart and soul of the victim. This is not what God established.
The end of I Cor. 7:15 says that “God has called us to peace.” If peace cannot be found inside the marriage, then it must be found in separating from the marriage. Must a victim of abuse divorce her spouse? No. She can separate without divorcing. I do believe, however, that the option of divorce is not closed to the spouse who has suffered years of humiliating, chronic abuse.
As my cursor hovers over the “publish” button, I have strong misgivings. What I have said here will not be accepted by a lot of people for whom I have great respect. I need to emphasize again that I know there will be disagreement, and I welcome that as long as it’s courteous. Please, no long discourses. Use your own blog for that.Also, as I said at the top of this post, I do not claim to have the definitive answer. I do claim, however, that this post has been covered in prayer, sincere searching of my own heart, and thorough study of what the scriptures teach. I do not believe that the heart of God is willing for anyone to live life as a victim of ongoing abuse; I believe He has provided a way of escape.