What does the bible say about DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SPOUSAL ABUSE AND DIVORCE?
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.
5/19/2013 03:31:13 pm
1 John 1:9- If we confess our sin... He is faithful and just to forgive. There is hope through repentance and Romans 8:33-39 assures us (the elect- children of God) that NOTHING can separate us from the love and protection of God!
10/12/2013 02:30:53 pm
Thank you for notes, it really helped to back my situation right now.
5/8/2014 11:18:32 pm
What about the women that abuse? So many writings on this subject mostly describe the man as the default abuser. I experienced this: verbal abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, lying, racking up debt with secret credit cards, cosigning, skimming money from her check ( saying it's less then it really is), refusing to work together on a joint budget, ( we had joint bank accounts) abusing the children.
10/5/2014 03:18:21 pm
Chris- You are so right about the "default abuser" Women can be just as mean and hurtful as men if not more so. We all are sinful beings and only God can change hearts.Our society sees this as unnatural for a strong man to be bullied and so men rarely if ever reveal the abuse.This humiliation keeps men trapped and helpless- abused. Fear and loss are factors in most situations and sometimes the law leans heavily (even unjustly) in favor of women. Loving confrontation w/in a counselling atmosphere and accountability by a respected mentor are needed to restore trust. It is a lack of respect for your boundaries and integrity-I say this with the idea that your budget allows your wife a private, personal allowance. If you must leave then do so with the idea towards restoration. Reassure your wife of your intentions to be faithful and focus on God.Your children are your first priority- protect them.
5/9/2014 02:47:58 am
I agree that most writings on this subject refer to the man as the default abuser. It can be either party. In some cases a woman can be more of the aggressor toward the partner as well as the children. My heart goes out to you and what you are going through. Our top priority should be to protect our kiddos, as I'm sure you do. Keep doing what is right. God bless you!
10/1/2014 10:03:21 pm
Please pray for me! I wanted to leave my husband earlier this year and went to our Pastor for prayer. The Lord healed me totally from artritis after we prayed and I also told my pastor of my abusive husband that threathens to kill me and verbally and phicically abuse me. My pastor said that I must not leave him and pray for a break throug and that my husband will come to know The Lord. About 4 month later my husband got cancer- he went for treatment and he s very angry at God and everyone and me and the dr prescribed tranquilisers for him and sleeping pills. He drinks alchol with these medication and get even more aggresive. I left him as I feel my life is in danger. I believe that The Lord's hand is in this. I have filed for a devorce- but I don't know if it is the right thing! I wanted to leave him 2 years ago and send him to a Pastor for counceling after I also went for counceling. That Pastor says that knows him that I must devorce- he has hardned his hard to God and I must go on with my life! Please give me a answe what The word of God expects of me. My husband is very confused about God- and believe that all God's- muslems, Hindus buddas etc are the same God. So sad!!!
Lizette: Thank goodness you went against your pastor's harmful advice and left your abusive husband for your own safety! There is no guarantee that if you simply "pray harder" that your husband or anyone will change (as you know). True repentance and change will only happen if a person chooses to change. Statistics tells us that it is very rare that an abusive person will change. No one should ever take anyone's advice that will put rules as a priority above a human life, which is what your pastor did. Never should a person stay in a relationship with a person who is abusive and especially threatening to kill them. God values your life and safety ABOVE any rules listed in scripture! People love to quote the first half of Malachi 2:16 (NLV), which states that God hates divorce, but rarely quote the last half of the verse where God also says, “And I hate the man who does wrong to his wife,” says the Lord of All.“ Interestingly enough even God gave his bride (the children of Israel) a certificate of divorce for unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3:8 says, "I (God) gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce..."). When people say, "you don't have grounds for divorce," what does that mean? Does that mean that if you divorce you will not go to heaven? Certainly not. Does it mean that you will have the sin of "adultery" on your record? If so, can it be forgiven by God? Absolutely! Jesus defined adultery in 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.” I doubt there are too many people who have not committed adultery (according to Jesus' definition), including your pastor. The sin of adultery is a forgivable sin just like any other sin. We are saved by God's grace not by our works (Eph. 2:8-9). My heart and prayers go out to you, sister. I've been down your road too many times and my heart aches for you. I pray that you will find a church that will be there for you, encourage and pray for you. Blessings!!
10/5/2014 02:11:34 pm
Lizette, I know the awful confusion you are facing- wondering if you are doing the "right" thing. Just because you are praying for your husband to have a "break through" (this is godly- to pray for your husband and have faith that GOD is in control and will convict your husband) does not mean that you should trust your husbands motives and continue to place yourself in harms way! If you must leave your husband for the sake of safety then do so with the knowledge that God knows the intent of your heart and the love you have for your husband. You are GOD/HIS child and HE is compassionate as well as provides ways to protect HIS own- do not ignore his love and provision. I say this with the full knowledge that it is rare indeed to see a reconciliation of the marriage w/out intensive, independent accountability counseling for, and by, both parties! A very beloved and wise older woman once told me that Jesus is a gentleman- "Behold I stand at the door and knock... if anyone will open the door I will come in.." Rev.3:20. Jesus woos us and does not use (kicking the door in) force, threats, manipulation, etc... to get His way- He lets us choose to have fellowship. That said- know that even with all your fervent prayers for your husband he may not choose to open the door to Jesus and ask forgiveness- Know that his attitude and behaviors are not your responsibility. You can choose not to divorce- to remain faithful and loyal to your husband with the hope that God in His own timing will bring him to repentance. I do not expect you to live w/violence and abuse- separation can be a real wake up (door knock) call if he is willing to listen.
10/2/2014 02:45:07 am
I will be praying for you. I know that God does not like divorce but I don't feel He expects us to be treated like door mats. I would recommend a separation from the abusive situation. I will pray for your husband that God will touch his heart and open his eyes to seek Him and counseling.
12/3/2014 10:12:16 am
Thank you for this. I forgot that God cares more about us than His rules... I am currently going through a divorce from an emotionally and physically abusive marriage. And while I am so thankful now that I am no longer in that marriage, I can't help but feel guilt knowing that I have done something God hates. It's all so confusing right now, but this was comforting to read.
10/15/2015 10:27:15 pm
I been in a abusive relationship in which my wife treated me poorly emotionally. In the end I was no better and physically pushed and emotionally attacked back. Because of my undoings my wife then placed a DVO against me. I was betrayed by her family and friends to be morally inepth. I don't judge my wife's behaviour but I have let myself down. I have two beautiful children who are only 3 and 1. I was so lonely and was feeling isolated and depressed. I strayed from our marriage. I have committed two very bad acts. I miss my two beautiful children in which I was a stay at home dad. I looked after my children since they were born and I personally delivered both my children. If I ask God for forgiveness will he forgive me??. I am a christain and I have been praying for 8 months now since my having to move out and leave my two beautiful children behind. I have been going to church everyday to pray and saying the rosary. I have been seeing a councillor, I pray at night for my children, I don't get to see them for months sometimes. My wife moved so far away. Is there a chance God will forgive me and help reunite our beautiful little family. My wife has serious issues with incidents that happened to her as a child. I love my wife and I adore my children. I have learnt so many growth lessons. What's important in life "LOVE". My devotion to my family is so strong now. I want to be the best version of me I can. Devoted husband,loving father, good provider, protector, a loving family man.
1/29/2017 05:50:13 am
Thank you for this article...for literally decades I have been a victim of abuse from my wife...both physical in the earlier years of our marriage and ongoing mental and emotional abuse. She's a controlling narcissist who has been able to keep me from any hope to resolve this by using scripture to say there's no divorce except for adultery. Even our daughter believes it's ok if I am a victim because Christ suffered so why shouldn't I as well? It's truly sickening to me. I am trying to keep a positive relationship with our daughter and I see a therapist to help keep my sanity. Please pray for me...wife claims to be changing but I cannot believe nor trust her anymore.
9/13/2018 06:52:38 am
One of the best Scriptures on divorce is actually the often overlooked book of Jeremiah in which God's divorce (yes, divorce!) of Israel is discussed. All other Scriptures on divorce make so much more sense when we understand that Israel was divorced for breaking her marriage covenant with God (which included adultery, deception, abuse, and the unwillingness to repent). There are many wonderful articles on this topic which we have outlined in our post at https://www.agapemoms.com/blog/is-all-divorce-sinful-what-bible-says-about-divorce-abuse Allowing abuse to go unchecked is permitting sin to destroy our families- our prayer is that both the abused and the abusers will get the help they really need. Blessings.
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