Domestic Abuse: Divorce, part two

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.

13 thoughts on “Domestic Abuse: Divorce, part two

    1. I don’t know, Mike. Perhaps a misguided effort to obey the letter of the law? Perhaps a lack of understanding of what it is like to live in a marriage that destroys you, body, soul, and spirit? This wasn’t an easy post for me to write. It doesn’t completely support what I’ve been taught most of my life. I know God hates divorce. Why do we overlook that He also hates violence, lying, pride and arrogance?

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  1. One of the things were taught was that if a Christian divorces and remarries they will be out of God’s will and will be chastised and judged by God. I have seen that not to be completely true. Several couples through the years that have remarried have been used and blessed by God, so I began to search the things that I have been taught. I came to the conclusion that I personally don’t have to have an opinion on someone else’s life, they are the ones responsible to God for their choices. It is my job to love them and share their burdens if neccessary. Good blog Linda…it will be appreciated.

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  2. Lynn

    thank you so much -this is so needed in the church today, not as an escape route for disgruntled, disappointed or selfish women, but for so many who have tried so hard for so long to believe it was their duty to endure the emotional tortures perpetuated on them and their children by husbands who hied behind twisted scriptures.

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  3. Becky

    I am amazed that someone finally has the courage to say what many of us have felt for years. When you are the one in bondage, you want to cry out for help but you know it will be met with the “it’s your duty to stay” response. Meanwhile you are dead inside. You’ve been crushed for years and you know some well meaning person will tell you to stand by your man. Stand by? And endure more torture? More abuse? More pain? Keep writing…more tortured souls need to hear the real truth. Thank you!

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    1. Becky, I’m sorry for what you’ve endured. I do not believe for one minute that it’s “God’s will.” Jeremiah 29:11 says,
      “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Staying in an abusive relationship just doesn’t compute with the heart of God. Thanks for your encouraging comment.

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  4. This is an awesome post. Thanks for sharing! I do remember how The Lord told Hosea to marry Gomer (who wasn’t particularly faithful!) and this scripture also came to mind:

    “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” – 1 Peter 1: 6 -7

    We must continually seek after Christ, and ask him to strengthen our hearts in the midst of tribulation. Sometimes our troubles are perpetuated by the perception of our earthly reality. This is by no means minimizing the affects of abuse, adultery, belittling, etc…

    I pray that all find the wisdom of God and search the scriptures daily so that you can resist the “schemes of the devil”…

    My final though is this: “God has called us to peace…” and sometimes that peace can only come by changing your situation. Please be prayerful in all things, and remember that the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Love you all 🙂

    – Bro Rajis

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