1. Assume marriage must be preserved at all costs
God created marriage. It is a beautiful, protective and loving thing when it is healthy. God uses marriage to teach us about our relationship with Him. He intended for marriage to bring us closer to him and closer to one another. Many Christians believe that marriage is an unending covenant between each other and God. They think that this covenant should never be broken under any circumstance except if one spouse sexually leaves the marriage. Even then, the marriage should be repaired and reconciliation take place. Marriage must be saved.
Ideally, this is exactly what God wants. He wants us to work through our differences and reach reconciliation in order to grow closer to Him and to each other. He intended that we should not give up easily in the face of hardship in our marriages. He wants us to fight for one another just as he fights for a healthy relationship with us. Because marriage is so important to God, he has put limits on ways it can be ended. In old testament times, Jewish men would randomly give their wives a document of divorce. God wanted the treacherous divorces to stop. He made guidelines that would make it clear under what circumstances a spouse could seek a divorce.
The Bible clearly gives us 3 good reasons that a spouse can choose to leave a marriage and not face spiritual condemnation. The Bible is clear that sexual immorality is a valid reason to end a marriage. I don’t think any of us would argue that point. When one spouse chooses to take sex outside of marriage by having an affair, using pornography or sexually abusing the spouse within the marriage these are all valid reasons for the offended to divorce the offender.
Abandonment, according to biblical counsel, is a valid reason for a believer to seek a divorce. 1 Cor. 7:10-16 gives some guidelines about what to do if an unbeliever abandons the marriage. It is considered ‘done’ in the eyes of God. The spouse who was abandoned is not required to reconcile but is free to accept the divorce and remarry.
Abuse is also a biblically recognized reason to end a marriage as it is an extention of abandonment. The verses in 1 Cor.7 address the unbelieving spouse. Abusive people are not saved. Someone who abuses their own flesh is not a believer in Christ. Someone who elicits control and power through verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, financial or spiritual abuse is abandoning the covenant of the marriage. They are not treating their spouse as Christ would treat the church. They are not honoring, loving or treating their spouse as they would themselves. To say that an abuser is a saved Christian is to bury your heard in the sand and ignore what the bible clearly says are the fruit of those who are saved. No true Christian would abuse another.
An abusive marriage is unsafe to the victim and unrepentant on the part of the abuser. A spouse who finds themselves in an abusive relationship has the right both spiritually and legally to divorce. Marriage is intended to show others who Christ is. Abusive marriages that are condoned instead of comdemed by the church does not show the love of Christ. It shows that we are unable to protect the weak and instead empower the abusiver. Abuse breaks the solumn vow and covenant of marriage. Abusive spouses are not saved and they abandon their marriage partner emotionally and spiritually. They put separation between them and their spouse. Moses allowed divorce because of the ‘hardness of your hearts’ (Matt 19:8, Mark 10:5). A heart gets no harder than in the case of ongoing domestic abuse. God does not require the saved spouse to live in bondage, fear and violence. A violent and abusive man has broken the marriage covenant by his sinful choices; he is the “divorcer,” and that marriage is not honoring to the Lord. It is unbiblical and unchristian to make the institute of legal marriage more important then the safety of the members who are in the marriage. Must marriage be preserved even at the expense of the emotional and physical health of the people involved? Is that really God’s best for us?
As a church we must study the biblical accounts of abuse such as David and King Saul in order to better understand what God expects of us when faced with domestic abuse in our church families. We have to read the bible, look deeply at the word meaning, search for the heart of Christ in order to form a relational and realistic strategy to deal with the 25% of families in our pews who have, are and will deal with an abusive spouse. Interestingly, victims who claim Christianity are deeply committed to their marriages or more accurately, to the institution of marriage. Studies show that religious women stay on average 2 years longer in abusive marriages then nonreligious women. (Horton, Wilkins and Write, ” Women Who ended abuse”)
I call the church to action. I call the church to search the heart of scripture and the heart of God toward marriage and realize that our ‘marriage at all costs’ stance is hurtful and unbiblical. I challenge the church at large to revisit the messages and attitudes we hold toward victims. I challenge the church at large to learn about abusive dynamics and hold abusers accountable.
“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” (I Corinthians 7:15).
*Source: Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion Barbara Roberts