Friday Counseling Issues: Children of Divorce

“The kids will be just fine.  They’ll cope, and you need to dump the jerk you married after what he did.  Don’t worry about the kids.  Kids are resilient, and  they bounce back fast.”

Sometimes  grownups are less mature than their own children.  Some friend gives them this kind of advice, and because they are deeply hurt over a betrayal in the marriage, they think maybe the friend is right.

She’s not.

It’s true that children are resilient, but it’s not true that children of divorce wil be “just fine.” They are the most hurt participants in this tragedy; they lose the most, they have to adapt to change the most, their financial circumstances are often affected the most, they have more to lose than anyone else.

And perhaps most difficult of all, they almost always have to deal with some new person entering their lives as a step-parent, often accompanied by step-siblings.  Their whole world is rocked.

There are tons of studies that have been done on this subject.  They detail both the short-term and long-term effects of divorce on children. Some of them make for pretty dry reading.  I did some research on the topic for a paper of my own when I was working on my master’s degree, and I have to tell you that my eyes crossed sometimes while I was doing the research.

More important, though, is the heartbreak that accompanies the process and results of divorce, both for the parents and the children.  Divorce often seems like the only possible answer, but it also often opens a host of new problems.

If you are interested in reading about all this, I found an excellent paper that goes into a lot of detail supported by linear studies.  You can find it here.

The paper covers the whole range of topics that children of divorce cope with, from matters of faith to education, income and earning capacity, crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, government services, health and well-being, and so on.

Not every child will experience every problem. Some divorces actually do make the child’s life better, if one of the parents is abusive, alcoholic, drug-addicted, or criminal in other ways.  I had one young man tell me that the best day of his life was when his father got carted off to prison.  The second-best day was when his mom’s divorce decree was final.

I’m not being naive here.  I know that there are situations like that one.  However, the usual story is not like that, and children are often the victims who are overlooked in the process of the divorce, and are expected to happily move from mom’s to dad’s and back again for the rest of their growing up years.

It’s hard, and there’s just no way around that.  I’d encourage you to read the article.

If you are in a difficult marriage, please move heaven and earth to figure out a way to avoid divorce. Your kids don’t deserve to have to endure the fall-out.

Divorce

Matthew 19:9. “And I say unto you, Whosoever 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.”

I don’t think you can know how much I have prayed over this verse, wanting to teach it correctly and clearly as I can. This is such a hot- button issue in our churches today. Many people have been hurt because they’ve been made to feel they’ve committed the unforgiveable sin if they divorce for any reason other than adultery or fornication. I would just like to point out two things:  One, divorce is NOT the unpardonable sin.  Attributing the miracles of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the unpardonable sin. It is denying the deity of Christ (Matthew 12:31-32). Two, if we had not descended into so much selfishness, lack of love for God and His Word; if we had not adopted a secular, hedonistic worldview into Christianity and into our churches, divorce would not have become so common among believers. We would not be  having discussions about the rights or wrongs of it.

One more thing, and possibly the most important, is that God forgives. He is the God of second chances, the God of reconciliation and restoration. There is no reason a divorced or divorced/remarried person or couple cannot serve in the church in several capacities, once there is no question about their commitment to Christ.

Now, let’s look at the verse, understanding that there is much disagreement about the translation and application of all the scriptures that deal with the issue of divorce. As you’ve probably discovered by now, I’m pretty much an advocate of taking scripture in its literal sense.

In the Old Testament, adultery was punishable by death. Jesus, as the the divine Lawgiver, the great “I AM,”  now gave a new law about divorce.  He said it was wrong, except for the cause of unfaithfulness. There are those who dispute whether or not this so-called “exception clause” actually belongs in the verse.  That is beyond my reach to discern.

If a person divorces for any other reason, that is wrong; the person who marries a wrongly-divorced person is committing adultery.

That seems very harsh to us, in this age of backward thinking, when hundreds of thousands of dollars can be spent on a wedding but there is little or no preparation for the marriage.  We have to keep in mind what the symbolism of marriage is. It is the picture of Christ, the Bridegroom, Who gave His life for the church, His bride. It shows the sacrificial nature of the love required of the groom, and the reverent, respectful love the bride is to give in return for His servant leadership.

When I have a couple in my office who are only inches from the cliff of divorce, I always go to two places in scripture. The first place is I Corinthians 13, the great “love chapter.”  The second is to Ephesians 5, which talks about the filling of the Holy Spirit and how that filling affects a Christ-centered marriage. Most husbands don’t seem to realize that the submission they seek from their wives could easily be theirs if they would simply obey scripture themselves, loving their wives sacrificially, nourishing and cherishing them as their own flesh.

Submission to that kind of love is easy. It is not a burden, because sacrificial love is not arrogant, demanding, and overbearing.

Please note that there is no condemnation to hell in Matthew 19:9.  There is no demand that people be  cast out of the church and shunned. There is no standing in haughty self-righteousness and holding our sacred white robes away from those who have sinned as we have not.  I’m afraid most of those attitudes have come straight from the hearts of prideful people who have indeed made sexual sin the most horrible sin of all.

Again:  God is the God of reconciliation and restoration. We need to consider that when we feel the need to judge a behavior that we ourselves have not committed.

Moses

Matthew 19:7-8. “They say unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered yout to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

It comes as no surprise that the Pharisees would call up Moses to support their argument for divorce. He was, after all, “The Lawgiver” in their history, although it seems they may have forgotten Who was the Source of that law. They also overlook the very obvious fact that Moses was just a man, given to temptations of the flesh and spirit like all the rest of us. He was not infallible.

Then Jesus pointed out the simple fact that  it was because of the hard hearts of the people that Moses allowed, not commanded, divorce. That wasn’t what God had ordained in the beginning.

The next statement Jesus made is very difficult for us, never mind the Pharisees.  Stay tuned.

The Pharisees. . .Tempting Him

Matthew 19:1-3. “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond the Jordan: And great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”

As Jesus traveled nearer to Judea and Jerusalem, His activities didn’t change much.  Crowds of people followed Him, and He healed them. And, as always, there were Pharisees who followed His progress, seeking ways to accuse Him and discredit His authority. This time, they used the sacred insititution of marriage to try to trip Him up. 

The Pharisees were traditionalists, and strong ritualists.  As always, the question they ask is about their oral law, their man-made rules that may have been derived from the scriptures but that went way beyond what God originally established.  Jesus had already dealt with their legalism regarding the Sabbath, and their rituals around the washing of hands before eating. He had pointed out more than once that they taught as doctrine that which was only the commandment of men, not of God. 

Earlier, in chapter 5, Jesus had taught about marriage and divorce. It is interesting to me that this topic is still one of major division among believers today, and has never been resolved completely.  Satan will always use that which is most dear to the heart of God and of true believers to try to trip us up. 

The Pharisees hoped that this explosive issue of divorce, putting away, would be the issue in which they could finally trap Jesus into saying something that would condemn Him.

There were two opinions that divided the Pharisees about divorce. Some held to the views of Hillel, others to the views of Shammai. These two rabbis had taught differently.  Hillel said that indeed for almost every cause a wife may be put away. There were long records of offences and rules by which this process was to be accomplished. One example was that a wife could be put away if she cooked her husband’s food poorly, over-cooking or over-salting it. 

Those who followed Shammai permitted no divorce at all except for the case of adultery. The Pharisees, in tempting Jesus with this question, hoped to catch Him on the horns of a dilemma.  Tomorrow we’ll see how well they succeeded. 

 

Domestic Violence: Divorce and Remarriage

Matthew 12:7. “For if ye had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”

Time after time, in His ministry on earth, Jesus overturned the rules.  He not only desired that mercy be practiced; He showed us how to do that.  He forgave, He loved, He accepted those who had sinned—which, really, is all of us, isn’t it?  He never condoned the sin; in many other scriptures, we see His judgment on continuous sin.

The major topic today is remarriage after divorce for reasons of abuse.  I want to stop here and say a heartfelt thanks for the reception of my post on divorce last week.  I’m so surprised that not even one person wrote to argue with me.  Maybe those who disagree just don’t read my blog 🙂  Many of you sent positive responses, and my reader statistics soared on that post.  Every writer wants to know that she’s being “heard.” So thank you.

If you’ll remember the story behind today’s picture, you know that this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.  She was taken out to be stoned, and the Pharisees even brought her to Jesus, to see what He would do.  Of course you know that He embarrassed the Pharisees, forgave the woman, and told her to go and sin no more.  Mercy.

I’m slowly reading through a remarkable book by Jeff Crippen, A Cry for Justice, Calvary Press, 2012.  You should get the book, if you have an interest or a situation you’re not sure how to handle.  It’s written with great compassion and a lot of common sense. Pastor Crippen, thank you for sharing your book with me.

One of the things this author says is that we need to look at  any part of the scriptures in the light of how they support the totality of scripture.  For example, Micah 6:8 teaches us that the Lord requires of us  that we do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  This is an overarching principle in the Bible.  It is echoed in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep  His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret things, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

So then, every other  part of the scriptures needs to be consistent with these principles of justice, mercy, humility before God, respect for God, and obedience to God.  If we are to follow the example set by Jesus, we will show mercy rather than judgment. There is no thought of stepping outside of or over the Word of God here. Rather, the point is to fulfill God’s purpose that we live, behave, walk, as Jesus walked.  Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

I know all the arguments, scripturally derived and supported, that slam down a life sentence on anyone who divorces for any reason and then remarries.  I’ve been uncomfortable with most of them for many years, as I’ve seen sincere believers struggle with what they’ve always been taught amidst the misery their lives have become. And, as I’ve said before, the abuser is always quick to use those very scriptures to keep his victim in bondage.

Last week, I think I made it pretty clear that I do believe God has provided escape from an abusive situation.  The question remains, though, about whether or not He allows remarriage.   I cannot come down with an absolute yes or no here.  I wish I could.

Matthew 5:32 and Luke 14: 26, 33 are often the core passages used to deny remarriage after divorce.  For a very interesting discussion of these passages, go here:

http://www.jesusfamilies.org/Articles/Divorce.htm (always remembering that everything must be sifted through the filter of God’s Word, not the filter of our own prejudices).

I believe I can say, with conviction, that generally speaking, it is better for a divorced person to remain single. To do so prevents all the problems that can arise in step-families, with all the baggage that both families bring into the new relationship. I’ve personally known of more than one situation in which a divorced person stayed single until the ex-spouse died.  I think that’s commendable, and certainly in keeping with Jesus’ teaching.

I’ve also known many couples who have divorced and remarried, both before and after coming to know the Lord; most are doing very well, rearing kids in the church, serving God wherever they can.  I cannot and will not stand in judgment on these people.  God, Who knows the hearts of all men, will deal with all that.  I don’t have to.

What I must do, however, is to show mercy and forgiveness; I have to remember that Jesus told the Pharisees, “Whoever is without sin may cast the first stone.”

The only sin that God cannot forgive is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; that is, to attribute the powers of Jesus to the devil rather than to the Spirit.  Unbelief is the only unforgivable sin. We need to remember that when we look down our noses at divorced people, and especially at those who have remarried.

We need to put down our stones.

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.

Domestic Abuse: Divorce

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.

Response

My word!  My Friday post, “Can I leave? Can I divorce Him?”  has literally gone to the top of my chart for readership.  I’m amazed at the number of hits on that post, and the number of shares.  I fervently hope and pray that the post has been helpful in clarifying the thinking of those who may be in an abusive situation. That’s what this blog is all about.

I will be posting on Friday, the 20th, about what I believe to be the biblical position on divorcing an abusive man.  Please pray for me as I prepare this one.  It’s a very difficult topic, and raises lots of controversy.  My heart is to say the truth, always.

While I am delighted at the readership on this one, I really wish there were more comments so that I know what you’re thinking.  Please feel free.  The only comments I won’t publish are those that are ugly, hateful, or full of foul language. I don’t mind if you disagree with me.  Just be polite 🙂

Can I Leave? Can I Divorce Him?

There is so much amazing stuff available in cyberspace.  I liked this one:

An abuser depends upon silence . It enables him to continue the abuse without any fear of repercussion.   Sadly, I’m finding that more and more so-called Christian men are very successful at finding a woman who will submit to the abuse, not realizing what she’s in for; when she tries to get help from the church, too often he has already made a name for himself as a godly man, charming, and someone everyone else loves.  So she stays silent.

If you’ll remember, I’ve said before that abusers are very, very good at what they do.  It’s all about control and manipulation.  I know of a man who tells his wife that he’s just obeying “that verse that says I’m supposed to love you like Christ loved the Church. See, Christ was HARD on the church. He chastises those He loves.  You should thank me!”

Sounds very reasonable,  unless you’re on the other end of that chastisement.  What a perversion of scripture!

So–can a Christian woman leave?  I believe she not only can, but that she must. It could be a matter of life and death for her and their children.  There is absolutely no scriptural basis for telling a woman she just has to endure.  In fact, I’ve searched diligently for anything, one way or the other, that addresses the problem of an abusive spouse. It’s kind of like cigarette-smoking, which is never mentioned in scripture. There is the principle, however, of the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should not pollute the place in which the Spirit resides ( I Cor. 6:19-20 ).  Most believers understand that smoking damages the body, and is therefore to be avoided.  Used to be, we just considered it worldly and therefore not something we did, because we wanted to keep a good testimony.

Those were the days.

But I digress.  What I would like to offer you today is this:  If we avoid smoking because it destroys the body; if we avoid drunkenness for the same reason; if we avoid illegal drugs, illicit sexual practices, and overeating for the same reason, then why not avoid abuse?  It certainly destroys the body.  It certainly destroys the mind, heart and soul of the victim.

We would never tell someone that he has to stay in a toxic environment because “it’s God’s will.”

But,” you say, “This is marriage, and marriage is sacred!  God hates divorce!  Divorce is wrong, and sinful, and the ONLY reason God allows it is for infidelity.  Don’t you know that marriage represents Christ, the Bridegroom and the Church, the Bride?  To divorce is to destroy that symbolism.”

Yes, I do know all that; yes, I understand it and I, too, hate divorce.  Satan is always busy trying to destroy what God has ordained.  Marriage is one of his prime targets.  But please ask yourself, who has broken the contract in this marriage?  The abuser, or his victim?

Are you really telling me that you’d insist that your daughter stay with someone who beats her regularly?  Is that scenario fulfilling the symbolism of Christ and the Church?  When did Christ ever damage His bride?  When did He belittle her, demean and degrade her and use physical violence to get His own way? Don’t you understand that this is NOT what God ordained when He created marriage?

It is not God Who ordained that a man has complete, unquestioned authority, even to the point of physical violence, over his wife.  That is man’s idea, not God’s.  It appalls me that so-called Christian men advocate the same kind of violence that exists in godless cultures around the world, where women are nothing more than possessions, meant for breeding and pleasing the men.  That attitude is despicable.  It does not belong in Christendom, yet women are told every single day that they must stay, they must submit sweetly to the authority of their husbands, and they must never, ever divorce them. My Bible tells me that in Christ, there is no difference (inequality) between the Jew or the Greek, the bond or the free, the male or the femal (Galatians 3:28). So if a man has the right to beat his wife, then she has the right to return the favor.  Yes?  Yes!  Of course, that’s my flesh speaking.

Someone close to me recently told me that if I think my anger over this issue isn’t coming through in these posts, I’m delusional 🙂

Yes, I’m angry.  I’m angry that our churches having taken a “none of our business” approach to this dreadful behavior.  I’m angry that Christian leaders think a woman should be willing to put up with such mistreatment, in the name of preserving marriage and being biblically submissive.  I’m particularly angry that even some other women have adopted these same attitudes, and will tell a suffering sister that she must be doing something to aggravate her abuser.

So yes, in answer to the first question, you may leave him. There is nothing in scripture that forbids you to do so.  There is nothing in scripture that says he has the right to abuse you, and that you “deserve” it and have to take it.

Next week, I’ll try to deal with the issue of whether or not you can divorce him.  It’s a tough one.

Domestic Violence: What Can You Do?

Perhaps the hardest question to answer, for a believer who is a victim of abuse, is “What do I do about this?  Divorce is not an option for me.  I can’t afford to leave–he controls all the money, and I’d have no way of supporting the children.  I’ve never worked outside the home. He’s a respected member of our church and our community.  He does well at his job. I’m afraid that even my parents wouldn’t take me in.  I tried to talk to them once, and they told me I just had to submit and pray, and God would fix everything; but that under no circumstances could I leave my husband.  I have nowhere to turn.”

Again, for the sake of grammatical simplicity, I’m going to use the masculine pronouns for the abuser and the feminine for the abused.  I want to stress that sometimes it’s just the reverse.  I know that.

The first question I have for the beleagured victim in my office is, “Are you sure your husband is a believer?”

Invariably, the answer is “Well, he says he is.  He goes to church.  He reads his Bible, and then tells me how it applies to me.  But I really don’t know for sure.”

In II Corinthians 7:10, we read, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

It is pretty typical for the abuser to express remorse after his rage is spent and his wife is  bruised, bloody, and broken.  He may even promise never to do it again.

This verse makes it pretty clear that if his remorse (sorrow, grief) is of God, it will work in his heart even to the point of salvation, which he will never regret.  However, if his remorse is of the world (full of entitlement, power, control, and justification; in other words, not at all sincere)  then he does not know God.

How does this kind of phony remorse sound?  Like this: “Ok, I’m sorry I hit you.  I’ll try not to do it again. But you need to understand who’s in charge here, and quit doing and saying things that make me lose control. If you’d give me the respect you promised me in your wedding vows, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen!”

If you try to approach him with a scriptural reason he shouldn’t beat you, he’ll twist it and tell you it means something entirely different.  You really can’t win.  That’s because, in my opinion, he has a reprobate mind.  He is closed to the Holy Spirit.  He is not a child of God.

Does his spiritual condition make it ok for you to leave him? First, I believe that everything within a woman’s power, with the help of her church in whatever capacity possible,  must be done to  help bring the abuser to Christ.  Leaving should happen only if she and her children are in danger or when other interventions have failed.

How many times must a woman accept a beating before she can leave?  Well, personally, I think once is more than enough! In most cases, the first time is just that:  The first time.  It indicates there will be a second, third, and more.  Violence almost always escalates. This is not to say she must divorce him; however, to protect herself and her children, she needs to leave.

Jesus stated, in Luke 4:18, His purpose in coming to earth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”

I find great comfort and encouragement in that verse. It is not the heart of God that anyone not be set at liberty from physical abuse (or, in my opinion, all the other forms of abuse.  There are those, I know, who will take strong exception to my use of this scripture. They are free to do so.)

Consider this.  Assault is a crime.  People are arrested, jailed, tried and convicted for assaulting someone else.  Why, then, is it not an actionable crime in the minds of so many Christians for a man to assault his wife?  Why, in this relationship alone, is it considered “God’s will” for a woman to accept the abuse?

I’ll never understand it. Never.

This is going to require more posts than I realized to explore thoroughly.  My point today is that I believe we can safely assume that an habitual abuser is not, in truth, a born again Christian.  Abusive behavior is contrary to the very nature of God.  It is, however, totally consistent with the character and behavior of Satan.

Why would God demand that a woman stay married to such evil?  I don’t believe He does. And for now, that’s where I’m stopping.  Come back next Friday for more scriptural support for my position.