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Q. Is Divorce And Remarriage After Abuse, Neglect, Financial, Or Emotional Issues Okay?


Dear *******,

It is becoming more and more popular in our culture for Christians to take some form of abuse as a reason to justify divorce and thus remarriage. There is no clear statement of Scripture that allows this, and, in fact, there is this text which certainly seems to reject it:

3 And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh ‘? 6 “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it” (Matthew 19:3-12, NAS)

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away. 12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7:10-16 NAS)

It has been my experience that those who seek to justify divorce and remarriage are inclined to ignore texts like these.

The only two biblical grounds for divorce I find in Scripture are (1) divorce on the basis of sexual immorality on the part of the other party (Matthew 5:31-32), and (2) divorce at the initiation of an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15-16).

I don’t wish to over-simplify the issue, but it does seem to me that we have to deal with the inspired and authoritative words of Jesus and Paul before we embrace the teachings of others. My fear is that when some Christian leaders teach that divorce is more readily an option folks are more likely to see divorce as the solution to their problems in marriage.

For “full disclosure,” I have performed a remarriage ceremony for some, whose spouses were unbelievers, and who divorced them. I have also married some who were divorced, or divorced their spouse before they were saved, and a reconciliation was not possible. Based on our Lord’s words in Matthew 19, I would have to say that if there are exceptions to the “once married, always married” principle (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:4-6) these must be regarded as the exception, and not the rule (Matthew 19:8).



Q2. So specifically if I divorced someone who was an addict and abusive, and also did not live a Christian life, can I remarry and it be blessed?

Answer #2

Dear *******,

The first thing I would say (as I have said to others) is this: When you get to heaven and stand before God to give account of your decisions and actions, God won’t be as interested in what I have had to say on a matter, as He is in what you have done with what He has said in His Word. I am most reluctant to “give the green light” to someone, when I have a very limited knowledge of all of the facts, and when His Word seems to speak clearly on a matter.

Specifically, when it comes to abuse as justification for divorce. Nowhere in Scripture does God say “abuse” is a just reason for divorce, only immorality on the part of the spouse (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12), and abandonment/divorce initiated by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15-16).

Even more problematic is what we read in 1 Peter 2:18—3:7. Peter begins by addressing slaves who are abused by their masters, then he focuses on Christ and the abuse He endured for our salvation. Then, he begins chapter three with the word “likewise,” which continues the theme of enduring abuse, but it is now applied to wives, husbands, and marriage. The question you must answer is, “What does this passage say to me about abuse justifying divorce?” [I must add, parenthetically, that I don’t believe this text requires you to endure abuse to the point of serious injury, or death. But there is a substantial difference between escaping to a safe place and filing for divorce.] A problem that I have is that once the word “abuse” is used, it then is extended to “verbal abuse,” “psychological abuse,” and the like.
These are usually far from life threatening.

Being an addict is likewise not a reason for divorce in the Scriptures.

I think the real question is, “Is your husband a believer, or not?” If your husband is not saved, then he does partially fall within the standard Paul sets in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, but ideally it is he who should initiate the divorce. If your husband is a true believer, then abuse is biblical grounds for church discipline (see Matthew 18:15-20).

In addition to all this, it seems necessary to point out that just because the Scriptures “allow” divorce, this is not the same thing as commanding it:

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. (Matt. 19:7-8 NAU)

I have known folks who had the biblical “right” to divorce, but chose not to do it. I have likewise known those who did not have the right to divorce, and did it anyway.

My counsel to you would be to become a part of a Bible teaching, Bible practicing church, and seek the counsel of those who are wise in the Scriptures. But note especially how they interpret and apply the texts of Scripture I have mentioned.

Incidentally, if these “wise folks” are acting within the Scriptures, I believe they should also be prepared to confront your husband, and to make it clear that they will not look the other way if he is abusive.

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Divorce

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