Is Abuse Grounds for Divorce? [Podcast]

ABUSE: “An ongoing pattern of behavior designed to control, manipulate and subjugate another that usually occurs behind closed doors.”

The word abuse has taken many meanings over time, and now is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. People having an affair use “abuse” as a justification for their choices; people who’s spouse had an affair use “abuse” as a reason for their anger.

So in this week’s episode, we discuss what abuse is, what the Bible has to say about abuse, how we (Christians) are supposed to address it, types of abuse, and whether or not abuse an acceptable reason for divorce.

1. What does the Bible say?

Let’s be clear. Scripture reveals that the marriage relationship is to reflect Christ’s relationship with his church—one of sacrificial love. A wife is called to respond to her husband’s biblical headship, not to his destructive and sinful behavior, just as the wife’s mandate is to respect her husband.

The Bible condemns violence and violent men

The word “man” here does not mean husbands only or even males necessarily, but HUMANS. A wife can also be abusive!

Many passages in the Bible speak out on the issue of violence, and GOD’s attitude toward those that repeatedly use violence:

Psalms 11:5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

Zephaniah 1:9 In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.

Psalms 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Malachi 2:16-17 “I hate […] a man’s covering his wife with violence, as well as with his garment.” says the Lord Almighty….”You have wearied the Lord with your words.” “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying “all who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”. (NIV)

Scripture also shows us that the very words we speak can be considered as a form of violence:

Proverbs 10:6 Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Matthew 5:21,22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire

As followers of Christ we are encouraged to consider everything we say to one another, whether it stands the test of being for the benefit of the hearer – verbal abuse surely does not qualify:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

2. How are we (Christians) supposed to address abuse?

Firstly, the Church – and each individual follower of Christ – has a responsibility to offer comfort and help to those who are oppressed (by their partner), needy (of reassurance and protection), weak (due to the constant onslaught of abuse) and in distress. Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 12:12; Hebrews 13:3; Isaiah 1:17; Proverbs 31:9; Jeremiah 22:3; Genesis 42:21; Isaiah 35:3,4

Secondly, the Church also has a responsibility to hold the abuser accountable, to admonish him, to judge (that is, to investigate and discern right from wrong) and to encourage the abuser to change his/her ways: Romans 15:14; James 5:19,20; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3

Thirdly, the manner in which the abuser is to be admonished (i.e. the spirit in which to approach him/her) is also spelled out for us Not one of us is perfect – our aim is not to condemn the person – whom Christ has called – but to condemn the actions, and try to encourage recognition of the sin, repentance and a change in ways: 2 Thessalonians 3:15; Galatians 6:1; Luke 15:7
3. What are the different Types of Abuse?

Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Emotional/Mental Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Financial Abuse

Types of abuse

Examples of Abuse
4. Sooo…is abuse an acceptable reason for divorce?

The Bible gives two acceptable reasons for divorce: the first is abandonment of a Christian by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15), and the second is adultery (Matthew 5:32). Although God allows divorce in these circumstances, He does not command it. It is far better, in the case of infidelity, for two Bible-believing Christians to reconcile, extending the forgiveness and love that God freely gives us. However, in abusive situations, the circumstances are far different. While reconciliation with an abusive partner would be wonderful, it depends completely on the abuser proving his or her reliability, which could take years—if it happens at all—never on the abused party.

So abuse is not adultery. But if you initiate separation for saftey and then go through the steps of Matthew 18 to admonish a sinning brother or sister, and they refuse to repent, then Matthew 18 tells us they are considered a non-believer. And if they refuse to stop abusing, they have already abandoned the marriage.


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