Is it ok to divorce for spousal abuse?
Malachi 2:15-16- (NLV) Has not the Lord made them one in flesh and spirit? And what does He desire but God-like children? Be careful then in your spirit, and stay faithful to the wife you married when you were young. 16 “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “And I hate the man who does wrong to his wife,” says the Lord of All. “So be careful in your spirit, and be one who can be trusted.”
This verse says, first of all, that God hates divorce, it does not mean that God hates you, if you are divorced. Secondly, it says in the last part of the verse that God also hates a man who does wrong to his wife.
What are some ways that a husband can ‘do wrong’ to his wife? (adultery, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, lying, stealing funds from bank account, refusing to allow her to have her name on the bank account, abusing the
children, abusing pets, forbidding a wife to have counseling, getting a job, attending college, etc.)
Anyone who has gone through a divorce fully understands why God would say, “I hate divorce!” Not only the spouse, but the children go through an incredible amount of loss and pain. I can understand why a loving and compassionate God would hate divorce! There isn’t a loving father that would. The words “I hate divorce” come from God's compassion for those who will suffer hurt because of divorce, not condemnation for merely disobeying a rule.
God values you personally more than he values your marriage covenant. Marriage is instituted by God for people’s protection and well-being. It’s meant to be a safe place that serves the needs that God created us to have: needs for intimacy, union and procreation as well as the need to mature, grow and flourish. Marriage is meant to serve our needs by providing a safe place for us to thrive. We were not created to serve it. It was created to serve us. People are what matter to God, not us keeping His rules.
God cares more about people than rules. Matthew 12:1-8 says: “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."  He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?  I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.  If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Basically this says that God’s love, mercy and grace outweighs God’s rules and His laws. There are so many examples in the gospels that indicate this, such as Jesus healing on the Sabbath, etc. If a husband was abusive to his wife (verbally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually) in their marriage God would not forbid a woman to escape or dissolve the abusive marriage just to uphold a law or legal vow and marriage covenant. God cares more about a woman and her children having safety, protection, peace and joy more than he cares about a biblical rule or law being upheld.
If anyone (your church, a friend, your spouse) tells you that you will not have eternal life (go to heaven) if you are divorced, you must know that this is spiritual abuse. The bible says in Jeremiah 3:8 that even God gave a ‘certificate of divorce’ to Israel. Divorce is not an unpardonable sin as many spiritually abusive people will claim. God would not do something that he would condemn his children to hell for doing!
Jeremiah 3:8 says, "I (God) gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery."
What two reasons does the Bible say divorce is permissible (permissible meaning that the individual is not guilty of adultery)? First reason given in the bible: Divorce is permissible (not guilty of adultery) in the case of marital unfaithfulness. Jesus allowed divorce in the case of marital unfaithfulness, which breaks the marriage covenant, giving grounds for legally dissolving the
marriage through divorce. Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32
Jesus also said in Matthew 19:9, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Based on the words of Jesus, only "marital unfaithfulness" can be grounds for divorce without being guilty of adultery. Remember, that adultery is a sin that can be forgiven when there is repentence and confession to God.
What exactly is “marital unfaithfulness?” The King James version uses the word “fornication” which tells us that the unfaithful spouse had sexual relations with someone other than his/her spouse. The Greek word used for this phrase is “porneia” which is where we derive the word“pornography” and means sexual immorality or illicit sex. Porneiaincludes adultery, sexual abuse, incest, prostitution, homosexuality, pornography and any other form of sexual perversionTherefore, any sexual participation with someone or something other than your spouse is “marital unfaithfulness.”
Matthew 5:27-28: Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This verse would indicate that just about everyone has committed adultery, not just those individuals that have been divorced or who have had adulterous sexual affairs. Everyone has sinned. Everyone is a sinner. We all need a savior from the condemnation of our sins which is why the apostle Paul said in sRomans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The good news is that we can come to God and repent and ask forgiveness from our sins and God forgives us as it says in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
The second reason the bible gives allowing for divorce (not guilty of adultery) is in cases of abandonment/neglect.
In I Corinthians 7:13, 15 Paul says that if one spouse leaves another, the abandoned person is no longer bound to the marriage. I Cor. 7:13 reads: “If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him....But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.”
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul originally specified abandonment by unbelievers as the grounds for dissolving a marriage, since some in that church were experiencing rejection by non-Christian spouses. However, abandonment can be perpetrated even by someone claiming to be a follower of Christ. In either case, the one who abandons a spouse breaks covenant faithfulness by failing to “cleave” or “cling to” that spouse, which is the basis and foundation of marriage (see Genesis 2:24).
In I Corinthians 7:15, Paul refers specifically to spouses who are not Christ-followers abandoning husbands/wives who are followers of Christ, but the larger fundamental or principle is that God does allows a spouse, who is abandoned (for any reason) to obtain a divorce.
Sometimes, however, that abandonment/neglect is not necessarily a spouse that literally relocates out of the home, but can be abandonment in the form of emotional abandonment caused by an addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, etc) or physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. Scripture doesn’t encourage or promote divorce for these reasons, but it does allow it without the spouse, who is the victim, becoming guilty of adultery.
God would prefer that both husband and wife work on their marriage through counseling, etc, where both parties learn to love and respect each other, but that takes more than one spouse’s commitment. This takes mutual participation and commitment.
I sought counsel and help from leaders in my church to advise me on what to do in my abusive marriage. My church did not help me in the way the bible teaches a church is to help as indicated in Matthew 18:15-17. However, there are many churches that do assist their believers/members within the church in the way the bible instructs. My ex-husband had gone to jail many years earlier for domestic violence against me. He was abusive to me and was very abusive to our oldest son who was a teen. He also had stolen a large sum of money out of our bank account. He was extremely controlling, manipulative and misogynistic. To this day, he denies any of his abusive behavior even though there are police reports documenting it. My church leaders informed my husband at the time that he needed to obtain counseling for his anger and abuse and that he also needed to have a third party go through his business books and find where he stashed the large amount of money he stole from our joint bank account. After we met with the church leaders he informed me that he would never attend anger management counseling nor would he allow anyone to go through his business books! He refused to do the necessary steps toward reconciliation. Our marriage was not saved. A marriage can’t be saved by just one spouse’s efforts.
God does not take our marriage vows lightly. Some Christians, unfortunately, have swung to the opposite end of the spectrum, using a very unbiblical, narrow-minded and judgmental interpretation of the Bible to condemn people who are in situations that they themselves would not be able to endure.
In Luke 11:46 Jesus confronts a similar situation: “Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.’”
Jesus warns people against judging others. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” John 3:17 says, "For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him." John 3:18 says, "He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God." Acts 2:21 says, "And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
In conclusion, if you have been divorced other than for ‘marital unfaithfulness’ or ‘marital abandonment (neglect, abuse, etc) you can still confess your sins to God and believe on Jesus Christ and you are no longer judged by God ( I John 1:9). If anyone tries to tell you that you can’t have eternal life if you are divorced, you must know this is spiritual abuse.