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abusedQuestion (I’ve removed all details and changed some things to protect the identity of the person who submitted this):

I understand what you are saying about there being two biblical reasons for a divorce but let me share something with you. My husband and I have been together for a while, and for much of that time I’ve been a victim of his anger, including physical violence.

I have stayed and tried to lead him to Christ and be an encouragement. I have stood by him repeatedly but each episode has gotten worse ! I have been choked and punched repeatedly in the head while I was holding our infant and our tween-age daughter was home .  I protected my children even though there has been some unexplained marks on them.

Do you really believe I am suppossed to stay with him? That I haven’t done all I should already ? That this is what God wants for me and my children ? What if next time something horrible happens to one of my children? Wouldn’t I be guilty of not protecting them ? Please answer this I would really like to hear what you think.

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It is a common misunderstanding that being UNCOMPROMISING about Scripture also means a lack of compassion, legalism and a “tough luck” attitude towards those in difficult situations.  No doubt this dear Sister, after reading my “only two reasons for divorce for Christians” (which I stand by and are absolutely true) expected me to answer with “well sorry about that, too bad for you… I guess you just have a tough life.”

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I believe in the unerring commitment to the literal Scripture. I believe in compassion. I believe in mercy. I believe God wants us to live by the SPIRIT of His Word and not use it as a legalistic taskmaster. I believe that God is merciful. He is also Just. He is patient and forgiving… but that doesn’t mean He isn’t serious about His commands.

When it comes to OTHER PEOPLE, and their life, their situation, their suffering, my duty is to present what I am fully convinced is God’s Word, lean heavily on compassion and in the end, truly realize that their choices are between them and God.  Not me.

So when I present a lesson on something like “divorce and remarriage” and don’t cover every possible situation, then my uncompromising attitude about Scripture would lead some people to think that equates to a lack of mercy, understanding and compassion. May it NEVER be!

My Answer

No sister, I would NOT tell you to stay with him… and I’m VERY sorry to hear that you are enduring that.

The Bible gives two specific reasons for divorce: adultery and abandonment… in your case, you should IMMEDIATELY seek a legal separation to protect yourself and your child.  Then, from a distance, you can seek reconciliation making clear requirements of what your husband must do (and for how long) before you will consider ending the separation.

At that point he will either:

1) change. Let’s pray for that.

2) say “the heck with this” and leave the marriage. Or,

3) say “I’ll try” but then not really make any changes.

The 2nd and 3rd choices mark a clear permanent abandonment of the marriage. He has already committed a pretty obvious abandonment by getting it to this point. I’m amazed that some Christians would say “walking away from a marriage is abandonment, but beating the stew out your wife and choosing to stay in the marriage so she can do your laundry is NOT abandonment of the marriage”.

God knows what true abandonment is, and it can have many different appearances. It is up to Shepherds and spiritually mature Christians to help those in difficult situations discern these things.

You Can’t Play Fast and Loose With Scripture

We must be careful not to be TOO LOOSE with the definition of “abandonment” because it can be easily stretched beyond credibility, but in this case, as described, no spiritually discerning Christian (in my opinion) would say “tough luck”. Your husband has abandoned your marriage in a much worse and much more destructive way than simply walking away.

I advise you to take the children out of that situation NOW, and take IMMEDIATE steps for legal separation. You need to make sure it’s a done properly and is the LEGAL version. If not, the law still considers you “with him” and you lose MUCH of your legal ability to protect yourself both physically and financially.

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A final thought… God gives us standards and direction. He is a God of relationships. He expects us to keep the SPIRIT of the law. Just as Jesus said the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), God’s commandments on marriage are made for us to experience the BEST of marriage. They are not legalistic rules devoid of compassion or understanding. They are the basis upon which we are to firmly ground ourselves in God’s desire for marriage and commitment.

God knows the heart of each person. He knows if YOU hate divorce like He does (Mal 2:6). He knows if YOU only came to divorce as a true last resort. He knows when YOU have been abandoned. He knows when YOU have been the victim of adultery whether it was a physical act or an unwillingness to give up a life of pornography.

You Answer to God

Each of us only have to answer to God.  We should study the Bible daily to know what God says. We should seek to live our lives to what we have learned to the very best of our ability. We should make decisions with conviction and a clear conscience.

I have no problem, much to the chagrin of many of my Christian brethren, agreeing that a woman who is repeatedly brutalized by her husband after several opportunities to stop, has indeed been “abandoned” in the marriage.  While I never want to play fast and loose with Scripture, I also embrace God’s admonition:

Jas 2:13: For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (NKJV)

1 Pe 4:8: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (NKJV)

Love covers a multitude of sins. Compassion trumps legalism.

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Update: this dear sister wrote me and explained further that many chances to change the behavior have been granted as well as several opportunities for reconciliation. The last violent episode was finally met with a “last chance” ultimatum which was ignored. She told met that she has a clear conscience she has done everything possible to reconcile and feels free to seek a divorce on the grounds of abandonment.

I would agree based on what has been describe to me.

Thoughts? I know some of you will disagree… please leave a comment and tell us why. We are all interested in the Truth and I don’t claim to have a monopoly on it.