Pretty miserable picture, isn’t it? You can almost hear the hopelessness. My heart breaks for the baby, who is already learning how to behave in difficult situations: When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!
I wish there were an easy, one-size fits all solution for the problem of whether or not a spouse can divorce her abuser. There isn’t. I would never presume to be THE ONE with the perfect answer when all down through the centuries there has not been a universally approved solution to this problem.
You have those who say “No. Never. God hates divorce. There is never any permission given for a spouse to divorce an abuser. The only permission given for divorce is in the case of infidelity, and even then there is no allowance for remarriage.” This position is the most absolute, and is based mainly on the passage in Matthew 19. In that scripture, the Pharisees tried to trip up Jesus (foolish men!) on the question of divorce.
In His response, Jesus reviewed the Father’s plan for marriage: One man, one woman, becoming one flesh for life. Man is not to divide that which God has joined.
But the Pharisees were wily, and they reminded Him of Moses having given a command to “put away,” or divorce one’s wife. Jesus’ response was quick, and right to the heart. He said, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (allowed) you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Many have referred to this passage as the “exception clause,” because it was the only valid reason for divorce. However, to remarry after divorce was considered adultery for either the husband or the wife.
It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it, if there were no other behaviors that would make a woman want/need to leave her husband? Then we wouldn’t need to have these discussions.
There is another position. In I Corinthians 11, Paul wrote quite a bit about Christian marriage. You should read it, carefully and prayerfully, and as much without prejudice as possible. If you were reared in the same generation or church environment that I was, you regard divorce as possibly the WORST of all sins. That idea seems to have come from the statement that God hates divorce. It is also based on the picture in Ephesians 5 in which marriage represents Christ’s relationship with the church. Marriage is sacred.
In I Corinthians, however, we’re given a little broader scope to look at the possibility of leaving a spouse, and I will say at the outset that remarriage is still not an option; and I do not find it as an option anywhere else in the Bible.
Okay, let me stop here for just a minute. And maybe this post is going to be in two parts 🙂
I can already hear the questions: What? God won’t forgive me if I remarry? You’re telling me I have to just put up with the abuse?
God forgives all sin when it is brought to Him in repentance. I John 1:9. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to clease us from all unrighteousness.”
It is true that God hates divorce. That does not mean He won’t forgive it. He also hates lying (Proverbs 6), yet no one has ever turned anyone away from the church or declared them anathema because they have lied. Well, okay, there was Ananias and Sapphira, but that was a particularly nasty lie, and God dealt with it strongly. It’s a good thing He doesn’t do that with us today, isn’t it? We’d ALL be living in our mansions over the hilltop by now.
I am in no way minimizing the importance of marriage and divorce. It grieves the heart of God. It destroys families. It sets children up for all kinds of problems. The povertization of women in America is largely due to divorce. There’s really just not much good to say about it.
Big “however”: There are times when a woman is driven to desperate measures; when she can no longer endure; when she must protect her children. She doesn’t have to stay in such a situation. She doesn’t have to divorce, but if she does, she must remain unmarried until the ex-spouse dies.
I’m going to stop right there, and let you think about what I’ve written so far. Please, please feel free to comment. I will respond, unless the comments are just evil. Then I delete them.