Is abuse an acceptable reason for divorce?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Mini Cherie Mitchell
I posted most of the following in an answer to another question about "the remarriage of an abused spouse." I wanted to add some of what I previously wrote to your question because both questions are closely related. As I am sure many victims are seeking out insight and answers, I wanted to include this comment here.

Paul states that if an unbelieving spouse separates from his/her spouse, then the believing spouse is free to divorce the unbeliever and remarry. 1 Corinthians 7:15

I think that abusing or endangering someone's life is considered greater than unbelieving. If an unbeliever leaves and the believer can remarry, why can't the abused divorce and remarry? It doesn't seem just that the abused should be made to pay for the sins of the abuser. Ezekiel 18:20

One of the major underlying principles in God's word is the importance of life and salvation. One of the best ways to demonstrate love is in saving life. In fact, most of the theme of the Bible can be found is the value of both temporary and eternal life.

Domestic violence/ abuse doesn't reflect the importance of life and doesn't imitate the relationship Christ wants to have with us.

The church has recently been forced to deal with the issue of domestic violence/ abuse. Counseling a woman to return home and "submit" to an abusing husband is dangerous and can be life-threatening. I was in such a relationship and was just counseled to "submit" and that he would change by my quiet witness to him. (It didn't happen in over 23 years).

The result from such unwise counsel not only damages the wife but also damages the children who are witnesses. The children equate abuse as "normal" in relationships. It becomes difficult for the children to discern what is healthy and what is not. 

Statistics show that most of the daughters will enter into abusive relationships and become the victims. Likewise, the sons run a greater risk of becoming an abuser to their girlfriends or wives. So, the cycle goes on. 

Everyone in the home is affected and infected by the abuse. I would prefer to fear God rather than telling the abused to "submit" or stay with the abuser, especially with children involved. God hates it when a man treats his wife with violence. (See Malachi 2:13-16)
Other recommended scriptures:
Psalms 10:16-18
Psalms 146:5-10

Research reveals the following:

"Some 95 percent of domestic violence victims are women. These statistics include women inside and outside the pews of congregations." ("Domestic Violence" by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). 

According to Safe Horizon, the largest agency in America dealing with this problem: "One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime." That even means 1 in 4 women in the church! 

Unfortunately, a lot of abusers don't change. It's not that God can't change them. It's that they don't see or refuse to see what they're doing, thus making it less likely for them to repent. This is particularly true regarding the narcissist or psychopath. I would not recommend hanging out to see if they do change, if at all.

I would recommend checking out a downloadable booklet offered by the rbc ministries. It is in the "Relationships" section from their Discovery Series: "God's Protection of Women." (discoveryseries dot org).

There are a couple of other good resources:
"Woman Submit! Christians and Domestic Violence" - by Jocelyn Andersen, a Christian domestic violence survivor and advocate, author of the 2007 book

"What Women Wish Pastors Knew" - by Denise George (the wife of theologian Timothy George)

Scout out the web and you'll find a lot of links dealing with domestic violence/ abuse and the Christian wife.

A lot of ministry and non-ministry websites now have articles addressing the issue (e.g., CBN; Relgion Today; Life Wire - edvp org; Eve Foundation org; Avon Foundation; Safe Horizon org; etc.).

I will close with this: If you suspect or feel like you're a victim of domestic violence or abuse, get help immediately. If you feel your life or the lives of your children are endangered, get out now.

Find counsel from someone who will listen to your story. Maybe, you can find a friend, a counselor, a minister, agency, or support group to help. If anyone tells you to go home and be a quiet, submissive wife, leave and find another counselor.

I think it's a shame that the world can recognize the devastation of domestic abuse and violence, and the church cannot. It's an indictment against us. It's time to wake up and speak out!

Be silent no more.

October 06 2013 19 responses Vote Up Share Report

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
The Bible is silent on the issue of spousal abuse as a reason for divorce, although it is obvious what God expects a marriage to look like (Ephesians 5:22-33), and abuse is contrary to everything g...

July 01 2013 7 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Kathy Woo Student and Teacher; Biblical Life Breakthrough Coach
I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for 35 years. I tried everything possible to make a dysfunctional relationship work, but my husband refused to believe he had to change. Everything was deflected back onto me and he consistently refused to take responsibility for the pain and confusion he cause me and our children.

One of our daughters became anorexic and started cutting her arms and legs. What followed was six years of suicidal thought, drugs, alcohol and dangerous sexual activity. Our other daughter spent seven years of her youth in a relationship with an extremely controlling and abusive young man.

Last year my husband walked out to move in with an employee he had been living with when he travelled away on business.

I can't begin to explain what this marriage has done to to undermine my self worth, confidence and even will to live. The effects have been deep and profoundly wounding.

My Pastor told me that I am free to walk away from this man without guilt or any sin on my part. My exhusband however will be judged for his behavior, and for him to remarry will be a sin.

I am thankful that my Pastor has a heart for the widow and the down trodden. I can start to heal, knowing that I can be free to love and be loved without guilt.

To say a victim can never divorce or remarry is to revictimize and punish the victim for the rest of their lives.

Abuse is evil, and we are to flee from all forms of evil. Grace gives room to repent, but if there is no repentance we are not to EVER fellowship with devils.

We can't allow forgiveness and mercy to be misinterpreted to mean tolerance of gross sin.

Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce because of their hard hearts - exactly. If someone has a hard heart then they are not willing to love their spouse and it is not a Godly marriage. God cannot have a loving relationship with someone with a hard heart. How can we be so arrogant to think that we can remain with someone with a stony heart and not be dragged down into hell with them? It is defiling and we should separate ourselves from all evil.

We can sometimes idolize marriage above the Spirit of the Word which is love and mercy - to the victim first and then to the abuser.

September 30 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Anonymous
No one should be trapped in an abusive (which is not always physical, does include sexual and emotional abuse too) marriage. Yes, the abuser needs to repent and change and only THEN should work be done for reconciliation. Unfortunately people who abuse may themselves sincerely believe they have changed but because of the nature of their issues, this needs to be demonstrated for at a significant amount of time (2 years) before they can be trusted. 

The relapse rate of such behavior is very high. Furthermore, it is absolutely untrue that this behavior can always be seen in the courting phase of a couple. Such behavior can manifest itself as the abuse gets older and their unmet needs are unfulfilled by the spouse. Disappointments in life and family background issues that have been suppressed can surface more and more as the marriage continues. There are some excellent books on abuse that church leaders would do well to read to understand this.area more and care for their congregations more compassionately. Furthermore, more and more is being unearthed about the abusive practices of leaders themselves. A highly recommended book is 'Inside the minds of angry and controlling men' by Lundy Bancroft.

July 07 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Christa5wat  sm Christa Upton Homemaker, Writer, Taylor University graduate
Spousal abuse is clearly a sin, in fact a very insidious one. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." The Greek word for 'provide' is 'pronoeo,' which (among other things) means: 'to take thought for, care for a thing.' 

Abuse is not even remotely caring or providing for the spouse's or family's emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical needs--it is the opposite of that. It is also an extremely serious breaking of the marriage vow. 

The God of mercy and grace absolutely does call us to protect. "Love always protects...." (I Corinthians 13:7) Therefore, it is the church's responsibility to protect spouses and children from abusers!

At the very least, a separation is mandated by this Scripture. (It is ridiculous to think that sending a person back to their abuser is in any way, shape or form, 'protecting.') 

Matthew 18:15-17 lays out what should be done in the case of sin. The end result is that if an abuser remains unrepentant, then the entire church should be told of the abuser's sin. The point of this is to motivate the abuser to repent, thus gaining reconciliation with God as well as working toward reconciliation with spouse and family. 

(In order for complete reconciliation with spouse to happen, trust must be built up. God calls us to be wise, therefore it is not wrong to approach a relationship--especially an abusive one--with wisdom. Again, it is ridiculous to call it 'wisdom' to put a person in danger, whether emotional, physical, or mental. ALL of these kinds of abuse are spiritually damaging.) 

Even if just the Matthew 18 steps were followed as God says they should be, much good could be done. If an abuser is intent on not repenting, how embarrassing to show up at church every Sunday knowing the entire congregation knows of the abuse. 

In addition, if an abuser was treated as 'a Gentile and a tax collector' (Matthew 18:17) by the church in this way, these things would at the very least stop the utter hypocrisy of abusers being treated as church members in good standing. 

Either way--through this method or the fact that some abusers abandon the church themselves, the abuser is clearly not walking in repentance and should not be treated as a believer.

Until true repentance is demonstrated and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, separation at the very least is the only way to protect the abused.

I do not know the statistics, but there is a chance that separation will cause the abuser to ‘search for love,’ thus resulting in adultery, which is cause for divorce. Even without that, the abuser—by refusal to repent—is to be treated as an unbeliever. Also, by refusal to repent, the abuser is causing a situation in which a separation is needed, thus in a sense abandoning the spouse. I cannot ‘prove’ that this qualifies for I Corinthians 7:15, but I think a good case for this could be made. If an abused person chooses to live with the results of separation only (with no benefit of divorce unless the abuser commits adultery), I do believe God would honor that greatly. 

We know 100% that God cares about the physical body and the spiritual well-being of each person. Abuse dangerously threatens both. 

Therefore abuse must not be tolerated, abuse victims must be protected, and grace must be given to abuse victims.

March 29 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Godfried Baning
As Christian therapist who deal with women in abusive marriages I will like to add this:

The Bible is not silent at all on the issue of abuse and divorce. 

Malachi 2:16 says, "God hates divorce." That same verse also says " God hates the man who covers himself with violence"

The word "hate' in both phrases mean the same thing in Hebrew. God hates violence (which is of the devil because he comes to kill, steal and destroy) as much as divorce; maybe even worse. 

The question is, what is more important to God? The ordinance of marriage or the sanctity of a human life? A daughter of God being beaten daily by a demon possessed wicked man or the freedom by "divorce" to get away from the wickedness? 

Most abusers are narcissistic sociopaths or psychopaths, in religious terms demon possessed wicked men, filled the spirit of violence and murder. They never change until they do long process of repentance, deliverance and discipleship, education about DV and supervision in proper church and governmental agency. 

I strongly believe God will not want any woman to stay in an abusive marriage with a demon possessed religious psychopath claiming to be a Christian.

Any man that continues to abuse his wife may not even be a true Christian or maybe not even born again by their fruits of wickedness.

Abusers don't change and I believe after seeking good counsel the woman is free to leave that bondage called " marriage" and after healing is free to remarry.

God came to give life; not death and abuse.

A big part of Malachi is about how the OT priest mistreated their wives.

Any form of abuse violates the sanctity of the human life, made in the image of God; and also the sanctity of the holy matrimony.

And as such, when a man or woman stretches his hand to hit a woman the vow " to take to cherish to protect... " is rendered null and void.

I never counsel any woman to stay in abuse. Abuse is diabolical. It is not in the heart of the loving God we serve.

Abuse is contrary to the whole purpose of marriage. It defames the image of God and the paradigm of the Marriage of The Lamb; King Jesus as Bridegroom King who loves His wife, the Church and gave His life for Her.

Matthew 5:12 is the scripture religious folks hang on to say a woman cannot leave abusive relationship except adultery. Proper exegetical and hermeneutical application will take into context why Jesus made that strong statement. 

When Jesus said no one can divorce except adultery, people misunderstand the context in which Jesus said this. Those same Pharisaical abusive priesthood God condemns in Malachi of abusing their wives were trying to trick Him. But Jesus gave them a hard answer they did not want to hear. 

That does not mean if a woman is being abused and the husband has not committed adultery she cannot leave him. 

God hates divorce and also hates the man who covers himself with violence.

Why did God divorce Israel if He hates divorce then? 

In actuality the psycho- emotional, physical damage done to a woman in domestic violence could be worse than the impact of divorce. I cannot over emphasize the long term damage abuse does to a woman and her children and the multigenerational transmission of curses that follow the woman and the children.

That is why God hates the man who covers himself with violence.

For some women, there is other option other than leaving the marriage. I have counseled women to leave, helped them get restraining orders.

God love His daughters and want them to be treated well especially in His holy institution.

July 06 2016 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

Open uri20131016 19143 11nnwnd jamie zavala
No one is not free to remarry, if our marriage is a covenant one. If you both are eachothers first and only living spouse, then you are to remain single or be reconciled. No you should not stay and be abused, but you are not free to remarry, marriage is until death. There is no clause for remarriage, mot even adultery, Jesus Himself said moses allowed divorce, but it was not that way from the beginning. Who is the beginning,God :) so if one is being abused they may seperate and oray for the spouse to turn to God and seek counseling but is to remain single. While we were sinners He died for us, He doesnt give up on us, He forgives us our sins and takes us back. That is a true picture of Christ

February 11 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Terry Galloway Christ follower, Bible lover, mission of sharing the gospel
My testimony is the answer is no. Two days after my 22 anniversary, God spoke to me inside my mind (not a voice but a command) @ 1 a.m saying "Go check your husband's phone" I had been asleep. I called the last number on his phone and my best girlfriend from church said " Hey honey. How are you?"on the first ring. What many people, church staff and her husband (who divorced her the year before due to her adultery w my husband) knew about in the church, God exposed by telling me. God had been merciful to give my deacon husband plenty of opportunities to repent of a weekly adultery for 2.5 years.

Even though my husband failed to repent and continued in adultery, I became a sheep that knows the Master's voice. Your question doesn't indicate what kind of abuse you are experiencing, but I experienced emotional, spiritual, financial, sexual and verbal abuse. Still God did not allow me to divorce my husband but to separate with the hope of reconciliation. He told me not to divorce but to persevere. My husband in God's eyes committed more adultery with different women though he had signed us up for The National Institute of Marriage retreat (after I agreed to go and signed their agreement, God said "have him followed", and I hired a private detective the next day. He had two different women to his place the two days I had him followed which violated the agreement he had signed with NIM.) 

I took the issue the church and they let my husband remain a deacon. They wrote me a letter to leave the church after I went forward to ask to be baptized. I complied and became a member with my husband of a church in Atlanta that is one of the largest in America. I then met twice with this popular pastor asking him to follow the Bible in 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18 for the good of my husband and family to bring about repentance, but both times the pastor refused. He wouldn't even allow me to speak to the elders or at least remove my husband's membership (the Director of Membership was in both meetings because this pastor has a policy of not being alone with any other woman which is good). My member husband later divorced me when I had not been unfaithful which is more adultery; and after committing more adultery with more women, this prominent church baptized his adulteress complete with her testimony video thanking my husband. They were getting married (more adultery) the next Easter weekend. They are both members of this church with me. I don't go there anymore and have asked for my membership to be removed since April 2012, but they haven't removed my membership.

Wise counsel I believe is to practice what God's Word says which includes leaning not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), not listen to any advice that goes against God's Word and ask God to show you in a personal relationship with Him as your husband what His will is. For me it was to separate but not divorce and to be faithful to my vows to God by not dating or remarrying since I want to not participate with adultery. God is faithful and His Word is true. 

Oh, also, go to a church that has the courage to tell the truth of Bible-only and practices what it preaches instead of hypocrisy. Romans 12:9 Love must be without hypocrisy. Hate evil. Cling to what is good. Romans 15:4-6 NLT

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

March 29 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini ainsley chalmers Medical Research Scientist, devoted family man.
The general consensus abut divorce is that it is allowable where one party has committed adultery. My general feeling, rightly or wrongly, is that one can adulterate a marriage in other ways beside sleeping with someone other that your spouse.

In the past, and probably now, the church will try with all its Godly wisdom to save a marriage because God hates divorce. However when you have a situation where there is chronic domestic violence in which the husband or wife continues to emotionally, physically and psychologically attack their spouse then one creates a very toxic environment for not only the husband/wife but also for bringing up any young children. 

I feel that counseling needs to be applied to these situations but this puts the victim in a very precarious situation at home after. Also perpetrators can use scripture to bully their spouse (ie man is the head of the wife) who accept this bullying because this is their cross in life and wives must obey their husbands. In these situations the husband and wife need to separate for months if need be until the fruit in the perpetrators life indicate true repentance.

Where true repentance is not evident then there is little chance of the marriage going on and divorce may be the outcome.

God hates divorce but He hates domestic violence even m ore. DV is really a slow form of killing one's partner in life. Whatever happens one must pray for the offending partner and forgive him or her.

December 31 2016 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Open uri20140907 30708 17dglhz Holuwadamilarey Hardeloye BIBLE STUDENT
The answer is NO. The gospel of Matthew 19:3-9 read thus. The Pharisees also came to Him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Jesus answered and said, Have you not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. Verse 9 says, 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 want to add that 1Corinthians 7:39 is another reference on this subject matter. It says The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth, but if the husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will,only in The Lord(KJV)
This is the clear demonstration that abuse is not a good reason to seek divorce, only death can end a marriage.
May God give us understanding of His word (amen)

October 07 2013 8 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mikek2005 Michael Kouroupis
Would an unbeliever leave, then that's 100% verifiable and factual.

Yet abuse is all over the map and very subjective. It's even been defined as 'verbal abuse', in that the listener can't withstand (mere) words. Would a believer actually believe God's Word more than man, then man(kind's) words are always tolerable.

There is no one 'Gospel' for one group of Christians, and another Gospel for different personal circumstances. Would the church capitulate to abuse as being a way out of a inconvenient marriage, then there's a personal incentive to look for abuse. And with the current mindset of the culture today, then mere accusations count, and the offender is deemed guilty in the court of public opinion. Hardly what any of us would call God's version of justice and righteousness.

In the end, 100% of the marriages are now suspect and subject to evaluation as to when it gets 'bad' enough to endure. Would an objective standard like a leaving unbeliever spouse be respected, then the freedom to have the best marriage possible is enjoyed by 100% of marriages.

May 14 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Charles Baldwin
The New Testament only gives one reason for divorce, and that is Adultery! Even in that case, Jesus made it was better not to divorce.

That does not mean that God wants us to stay around and be physically beat. Unfortunately, it seems as today's society jumps to divorce when there are times that a "separation" is what is right. We jump to that point of finality and starting over, wanting to find 'better' than before. 

GOD does not want anyone being beat! But He also does not want Divorce. The first who commits adultery is the one who causes grounds towards divorce! 

Unfortunately, today we find other beliefs brought into our Christianity. BUT the Bible is what's right. If that is what is being truly searched for, then we will put such emphasis on the ways of God which endure, endure, and endure! We would hope for the best results and seek reconciliation. When results take fruit, then we would have faith and walk in that hope.

So many marriages were born in the church, but today for so many reasons the house of God is rarely attended. God was the glue in these marriages that crumble today.

Get back to Gods House for your marriage and Families sake! Half of the problems of today's world were caused by the breakup of family. Let God handle the problem. Move out if they won't change.

Start regaining what was lost in your relationship. If there is signs of hope start dating again but publicly (be wise) and most of all get yourself and try to get your spouse also back to church! If they won't, and if they commit adultery, you are free to marry.

No, you don't deserve to be hit in any fashion, but that is not a reason for divorce.

November 08 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
I would say that it depends on what the abuse is:

Explicit Divorce Allowances

The Bible only explicitly allows divorce for two reasons. Köstenberger, who is also the President of Biblical Foundations, summarizes: “Jesus proceeded to state one exception in which case divorce is permissible: sexual immorality on [the] part of one’s spouse, that is, in context, adultery (Matthew 19:9).” Köstenberger clarifies, “In such a case, however, divorce is not mandated or even encouraged—forgiveness and reconciliation should be extended and pursued if at all possible. But divorce is allowed, especially in cases where the sinning spouse persists in an adulterous relationship.”

Köstenberger goes on to note, “Paul adds a second exception, in instances where an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage. This would typically be the case when one of the two partners is converted to Christ at some point after marrying and the other person refuses to continue in the marriage” (see 1 Corinthians 7).

Even so, I would avoid it almost at all costs. 

I know I am probably in the minority here:

As far as domestic abuse goes, Jones, who is the author of Faithful: A Theology of Sex, brings a broad conceptual view to biblical teachings on divorce. She says, “In Matthew 19:9, Jesus forbids divorce ‘except for unchastity.’” She explains, “When a spouse breaks the marriage covenant through sexual sin—porneia—there are biblical grounds for divorce. Divorce is not, of course, required in such cases, but it is permissible. I see this as a way that Jesus protects us in a world torn apart by sin. Because we are precious to God, we are not required to stay in a marriage when we have been betrayed through porneia.”

It is worth mentioning that many Bible interpreters see porneia here as referring only to sexual sin against one’s spouse, but Jones believes it can be understood more generally: “If we put porneia into the larger biblical context, we see that it is any violation of God's intentions for lasting, faithful ‘one flesh’ union. Porneia certainly includes adultery, because adultery violates the one flesh union. But porneia can also include violence or abuse against one's spouse because to abuse one's spouse is also to violate that one flesh union.” Jones emphasizes, “If committing violence against the one who is supposed to be ‘one flesh’ with you isn't a violation of God's intentions for marriage as a faithful, one flesh union, I don't know what is.”

Dr. Craig Keener, Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, goes on to add, “Now, I don't want to let that be an excuse for people to opt out of their marriages—someone saying, she abuses me (because she doesn't laugh at my jokes) or he abuses me (because we had an argument). Even the patriarchs in Genesis had disagreements (for example, Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 30:1-2),” Keener points out. “But there does come a point where discretion is the better part of valor. Some people are too ready to grasp for that point; others wait much longer than they should. Jesus told those persecuted for his name to flee from one city to another to escape persecution (Matthew 10:23), and sometimes the apostles did so (Acts 14:5-6). It is heartless to make someone remain in an abusive situation.”

April 28 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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