If the person who went outside the union did so because they are a victim of abuse or brutality and there is no reasonable expectation that the abuse can or will stop any other way, is this permissible?
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I would agree with most everything that Abel wrote in his answer. I just think that the abuser has to clearly demonstrate his bearing the fruit of repentance. That is, the abuser has to show or prove that he has been totally reformed. Otherwise, it would be a dangerous situation for the abused to return to a relationship with an abuser. (e.g., Hatred is likened unto murder). (See Matt. 7 regarding the fruit of the "wolves in sheep's clothing"). In 1 Corin. 7:15, Paul states that if an unbelieving spouse separates from his/her spouse, then the believing spouse is free to divorce the unbeliever and remarry. 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 Marriage is supposed to be a testimony or reflection of the marriage of Christ and His bride. The husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Christ is no abuser. 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. Not talking about it doesn't make it go away! 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 I don't mean to sound one-sided regarding domestic violence. Yes, a man can also be abused. (Note: While women can also abuse their partners, most of the abused men are involved in homosexual relationships). There has been a lot of research, however, which shows the numbers as follows: "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! I would also recommend checking out a booklet offered by the rbc ministries. It is in the Relationships from their Discovery Series: "God's Protection of Women." (The booklet is downloadable from 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) 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! P.S. It isn't always that easy for women who have suffered years of abuse or violence to remarry. The road to recovery can take time.
To start the answer to your question about this form of divorce, it is confirmed by Christ in Matt 5:31-32 You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. Note the phrase 'But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery'. If a wife who is unfaithful (here it means that either of them does not provide support to the solemnity of their vows in marriage) and news has reached the knowledge of her husband, then he may take action to divorce (last resort only if the familial ties developed are badly severed). Likewise,the husband who is unfaithful (abusing his wife by all means,whether physically or spiritually, renders him unfaithful to the solemnity of his unison with his wife). Therefore Matt 5:31-32 is applied here. If he still does not repent for his anger, then the wife may and should take action by reporting to the police or by means of divorce (last resort only if the familial ties developed are badly severed). Consult your parish priest/ high pastors regarding this matter. So, only those who divorce out of his/her desire without concrete proof whatsoever and are only based on wrongful desires are guilty of committing adultery. If the abuser feels truly sorry for his/her deeds and has promised to perform restitution (spiritual compensation) for any damages he/she has caused, please do accept him/her but still remain resilient in nourishing him/her with prayers,word of God and acts of mercy. If he/she does not repent, then only divine intervention may help. This would also apply to the abuser who simply divorces his/her unison to unite with another woman/man. What all families must know is that when we say 'I do' to each other at the beginning of marriages, the grace of God has already flowed, the bond to each other has been established immediately at that time in the Greatest Commandment of Love(Love God and neighbour as ourselves) and we were reminded time and again of what Jesus has told 'Whatever God has joined, men must not divide' (Matt 19:6) We still fall every time we sin and severe our ties with our family. But Matt 18:21-22 shows that as much as we sinned against each other, we should forgive one another completely and unfailingly, but not necessarily to forget (God understands our limitations and our traumas we face and He does not want us to overdo in forgiving until we are crushed.If it is hard for the person in forgiving his/her abuser, what more can he/she do?). If the abused is hurt, and the abuser just does not even care to do anything to save his/her marriage, leaving behind scars of every kind, certainly the abused will shut his/her door towards the abuser, then maybe not immediately, but in His time, God who is all-seeing will come to heal the abused and teach the abuser to come back.
Abuse, whether physical, verbal, or emotional, is not given as a Biblical reason for divorce or remarriage. The only reason scripture supports as an allowance for divorce is breach of the marriage covenant (Adultery), or if the spouse is an unbeliever and chooses to leave the marriage [Matt 5:32, I Cor 7:12-16, Luke 16:18, Matt 19:9, Mark 10:11-12]. The primary reason for this is that marriage represents Christ and the church (Eph 5:22-33). While Christ never abuses us, we certainly abuse Christ frequently in daily living through sin, inattention, etc. Yet Christ allows us to repent and forgives us (I John 1:8-10); He does not seek to divorce us, but rather to abide with us as we abide with Him (John 15:4). There is not a point where we can 'sin too much' so that He would reject us. Adultery, conversely, breaks the marriage covenant itself. As marriage represents Christ and the church, adultery would be akin to turning away from Christ unto other gods. One of the most common metaphors God uses for idolatry in scripture is adultery, such as in Ezek 23 or the book of Hosea. This is why adultery is grounds for divorce, just as those who reject faith and do not abide with Christ reject the covenant with Christ. While not a reason for divorce, abuse is certainly a matter that needs to be addressed. If the spouse is a Christian, then ideally the matter can be handled through the Church (Matt 18:15-17, I Cor 6:1-20). Remedies might include getting accountability partners, marital counseling, programs such as anger management, even separation for a time. The matter should be dealt with as delicately as possible, with as few people involved as needed to resolve the matter and provide oversight and accountability, but very swiftly if safety is an issue. [The matter should not be resolved through gossip, even in the guise of prayer requests, or spread beyond those needed to help stop the abuse and resolve the issue]. In some cases, if there has been a clear breach of the law and the family or spouse is in danger, then the issue will also need dealt with on the side of the civil authorities. Even if temporary separation is called for, or even if the spouse ends up in prison, that is not a reason for divorce. To quote from S. Michael Houdmann's excellent answer under 'what are Biblical grounds for divorce?': "When discussing what the Bible says about divorce, it is important to keep in mind the words of Malachi 2:16, "I hate divorce, says the Lord God." Whatever grounds the Bible possibly gives for divorce, that does not mean God desires a divorce to occur in those instances. Rather than asking "is ______ a grounds for divorce," often the question should be "is _______ grounds for forgiveness, restoration, and/or counseling?" https://ebible.com/questions/2999-what-are-biblical-grounds-for-divorce Again, if there is clear and present danger, then the matter needs addressed quickly and should involve the civil authorities if there has been a breach of the law. More personal disputes should be settled in the church, if possible. Yet divorce is not the solution. Divorce is devastating on any children in the marriage; divorce seeks its own vengeance rather than the Biblical love and submission that should be between believing spouses, divorce is a 'final' remedy that precludes the possibilities of forgiveness and restoration; and threatening divorce is an attempt to control the spiritual growth of the believing spouse rather than allow God room to work in them. While abuse is a difficult matter [both due to emotional and physical harm that may have been done, and especially if leading to separation or imprisonment rather than the happy marriage one expects], we still should keep it in mind that marriages are to reflect Christ and the church. Just as the worst of our sins are forgiven and God reaches out to us to reconcile, so our heart should constantly seek the good and restoration of our spouse.
I once wrestled long and hard with this, being a health practitioner and a Christian Bible teacher, who was often cornered with the question. I prayerfully read every Scripture on the subject before turning to Christian writings. There were many pastors and counselors, with open doors for inquiry, but little written discussion on the subject. Interviews with church leaders revealed a deep divide on the subject. Many stood hard upon Jesus words (Mat 5:9; 19:9) but nearly as many were less dogmatic, pointing to the fact that Jesus’ words were specifically directed to the problem of men putting their wives away for any reason they could justify. Nowhere did he address a woman needing to save herself or her children. Some felt that a marriage with a spousal abuser was no marriage at all, thus such women had the right to remarry. Interestingly enough, the more firsthand experience ministers had with the subject, the deeper their empathy ran with women in such situations. Shortly after, my licensing requirements changed to require training in recognizing spousal and child abuse in patients. That training was conducted by the U of Minn. Med school and shed profound insight into the problem, while shaking me to the core of my being. It was worse than anything I had ever known, including abusive training at Ft Polk, La., and a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam. First, there was no line of demarcation or declaration of war, but that’s where these souls found themselves. They were innocents, seeking nothing more than nurturing and protection – that which our Creator had laid out for them in the beginning (Gen 2:23-4). Thus most were totally shattered by what befell them. Second, variations of physical abuse combined with its escalation over time, is almost impossible for the average person to comprehend, without seeing it themselves. The question eventually changed for me. It was no longer whether a woman was biblically correct in remarrying following spousal abuse, but just how great the grace of God would have to be in order for any woman, who had suffered such abuse, to ever trust entering into that covenant, with any man, again. Richard W. De Haan’s booklet "Marriage, Divorce and Re-Marriage," showed more understanding and sensitivity than anything I’d read previous. Yes, he reasoned, Jesus said there was no legal reason for divorce and remarriage outside of infidelity, in discussing whether a man could put his wife away for any reason, but was the subject of spousal abuse not brought up, he queried, simply because such a thing would never have been tolerated in Israel? He reasoned that it would not. (In short, our society has already degraded far beyond what would've been tolerated in Israel in that day.) Given the fact that abuse often includes being punched, burned with hot coals or cigarettes, scalded with hot water, dragged by the hair, whipped, dislocated, fractured, even raped; thus resulting in physical and nervous breakdowns, I reasoned whether Torah-minded Hebrews, who loved their daughters, would tolerate this. It was clear to me they would not. In fact, if adulterers or even a rebellious child were to be taken outside the city and stoned to death (Lev 20:10, Deut 21:18-21), how much more so would the violent wife or child abuser of our day have been? (Even our laws declare them criminals.) That God would expect a woman coming out of such a relationship to consider herself as bound to him for the remainder of her life is incompatible with God's mercy and love. Would Jesus set a standard excusing one from marriage and setting her free to remarry, simply because she was abandoned or cheated on (I Cor 7:15-16), while a woman suffering physical abuse day after day, once separated and saved from that abuse, could not? If so, she would never be loved and provided for by a man, who could show her God's nurturing love and mercy, which is God’s design for her in the first place Gen 2:23-24; Col 3:19; Eph 5:25, I Pet 3:7.
No. You may get the divorce, but you may not remarry. A true marriage is indissoluble; therefore remarriage would be adultery. Abuse has no effect on The Unbreakable Bond. You may want to get remarried but that does not mean you can. Following the way of Christ and His church is not always easy, even for a victim of abuse. Carry the cross.
The question seems to be whether it is legitimate to re-marry after there has been a divorce due to domestic abuse. In my opinion, based on the experience of a young woman I know, is that when a marriage is dead, the original bond has been severed, just as if a spouse has physically died. There are Biblical references to remarriage after the death of a spouse (even childlessness in the OT), so marriage for a widow or widower is not an issue. What we need to determine is whether constant physical abuse where the abused partner could be killed if he/she remains in the vicinity of a violent husband/wife constitutes a dead marriage. No way should a victim of abuse be told to go back to a situation where their life is in danger. Practical support must be offered and counselling sought. Where the abuser flatly refuses to acknowledge their sin nor repent of their ways, after a period of separation, a divorce may be the best option. It may be the only way to retrieve custody of belongings, settle housing payments etc, let alone arrange legal custody of children (who must be a major consideration). Now, suppose after a while another person comes into the divorcee's life and love prevails, do we have any right to condemn their subsequent marriage as adulterous? Does God condemn such a union? As I see it the first marriage was dead and the innocent party became free of their marital responsibilities, as if that partner was no longer alive. In the case of the woman I mentioned, her new husband is a caring Christian man and they have two wonderful children together. It is good that she has that support because she sometimes has flashbacks of the previous violent experiences she suffered. But such an arrangement must be an exception to the general rule of 1 Cor 7:10-15. Also verses 8-9 speak of the unmarried and widows being allowed to marry rather than burning with passion, with the temptation for immorality that accompanies such a single state. Having said all that this is a complex issue. We need sensitive compassionate hearts, not cold legalistic ones. We should consider the restoring love our heavenly Father has towards us who are often unresponsive in our relationship with him.
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