Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Divorce and Abuse

Challies (Tim Challies from linked to a post at Christianity Today on divorce which linked to this series of articles, which won the Pulitzer Prize. I don't know if there are stats (if there are please tell me where to find them) but I wonder how many women have been killed or injured because they were forbidden to divorce their abusers? (Persis Lorenti)

"I think there are a few reasons why many pastors and Americans unfortunately believe it is a sin for divorce in cases of abuse. One reason could be they hold marriage in high regard in the midst of a culture that seems to devalue marriage. However, they may be misapplying this value and think taking a zero-tolerance stance on divorce will stem the tide." Justin Holcomb

But this only gives the abuser what he wants - continued control over the victim whether present or remotely.

I saw this thread on FaceBook and it caused me to wonder why the obvious seemed to be missing. I think in our rationalization and reasoning we overlooked some things.

First, I shouldn't have to say that I want to be on record that I am against any form of violence against anyone, including women. Lest anyone think differently, I abhor the abuse that has been and is afflicted on women and or the children involved.

Second, as a pastor, husband, father, grandfather, and student of the bible it is clear that this subject needs to be highlighted and dealt with in a biblical and practical manner. For far too long it has been "swept under the carpet."

The Bible seems to be clear on the fact that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman for a life time. It does seem that due to sin and the hardness of men's heart, Moses gave to the Jews a procedure to protect women who had been put away by their husbands. 

Christ while on earth reiterated God's plan of life time marriage. It seems that He gave one exception to this plan and that was unrepentant adultery by one of the parties in the marriage. It seems that there are no other exceptions, unless Paul really meant to permit an abandoned spouse to obtain and divorce in order to remarry.

If this is the case, how does the subject of abuse fit in the "the picture." First, let me say that I don't believe and nor would I recommend a woman who is being abused to divorce an abuser. Whoa, hear me out.

I think and I have counseled abused women that they need to leave the home immediately and find safe haven. If there are children involved she needs to take them with her and obtain immediate help. Her safety along with the children's safety is of utmost importance. No woman should have to stay in an abusive marriage for one second.

Even though I advocate immediate relief and safety I do not think the Scriptures justify a divorce. I think the woman is to remain celibate and pray for reconciliation. Who knows if God may redeem the abuser and transform him into a loving husband and/or father? Perhaps God will save him and restore the home and marriage. But if God does not save the abuser and restore the home then any abused woman needs to stay as far away from the abuser as possible.

 However, choices have consequences. She may not ever reconcile but the Scripture is clear, this is not grounds for biblical divorce and remarriage. It is unfortunate that her choice of a mate and his acting out wicked and evil acts of abuse do not trump God's design and eternal purpose for marriage of one woman and one man for a life-time. Sometimes life isn't fair and at no time is sin ever or its consequences fair.

By the way, let me address those so called "Pastors" who say that a woman must stay in an abusive marriage. I live by several axioms. One of which says, "There is no use being an idiot if you can't show it off now and then." Please do not call any man a pastor who says, "Well, so sad, to bad, you have to stay put." Only an idiot would advocate that. Please don't call those men pastors.


Persis said...

Hi Gregg:

I would respectfully disagree with you about divorcing an abuser. Abuse is not primarily about the violence but about control and entitlement. It can take many forms , the most obvious being physical violence, but there are other forms that leave no scars. Given that control is the issue, even if a woman leaves the vicinity of the abusive spouse, abuse can continue remotely through a variety of means which will not leave a mark.

I can think of many respected theologians who would agree with your position and also those who believe divorce for abuse is a viable option. So I don't think there will be 100% agreement any time soon, but dialogue about the issue is always helpful.

Gregg Metcalf said...

I agree that I should have taken a little more time and thought about mental, emotional and any dangerous abuse. I would counsel women in any situation that is harmful to leave and seek immediate safety. However, I do stand by the biblical principle that divorce is still not an option even in these horrible and horrific cases.