What does God's Word say about divorce because of an abusive situation, and remarriage after that?
There are actually two questions here, but before I deal with either of them let me address abuse itself.
Physical, emotional and verbal abuse is far too common in marriages and homes today and the fallout has terrible long lasting effects. Personally I hate abuse in any form and believe it is a sign of unrestrained selfishness and cruelty. It is impossible to be abusive and Christ-like at the same time. Any man who claims to know and serve Christ and who abuses his family is a hypocrite of the worst possible kind.
(Let me interject here that I define abuse as inflicting physical harm, and/ or emotional distress by using abusive language or behavior with specific intent to demean, intimidate, threaten and tear down.)
Having said that, I need to also make the point that abuse has been elevated in our culture to something approaching the status of the unforgiveable sin. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since it has raised awareness about this kind of behavior, but it can be a bad thing when we allow our cultural ideas to transcend what the Bible actually says.
And like it or not, the Bible does not list abuse as biblical grounds for divorce. Now be careful! I didn’t say that an individual experiencing abuse should just hang in there and “make the best of it.” I’m not saying that at all. Abuse is clearly dangerous and quite obviously against the law. If abuse is going on in the home it needs to be confronted and those who are suffering need to separate themselves from the abuser.
But let’s not react where the Bible hasn’t given us clear direction simply because this particular sin is so disgusting to us. Someone who is physically or verbally abusing their family members needs to be confronted and helped. If they are serious about changing, Christ is able to heal and change their heart. If they aren’t, they will eventually leave on their own. But those who are being or have been abused need to be in a strong place of protection during that time, where the abuser can’t get to them or emotionally manipulate them into returning for more abuse. They should not be allowed to return into the home of the abuser until such time as an independent party believes it is safe to do so, and even then only with close supervision.
One question I get from the abused spouse from time to time is, “Just how long does God want me to wait for this person to come around?”
I understand where this question comes from, but when two people get married they promise to stay together until death. They also make this promise for better or for worse—in sickness or in health. Since abuse is not biblical grounds for divorce, the abused spouse needs to prayerfully wait to see what the Lord or their husband/wife is going to do before taking action on their own. They need to remain completely submitted to the Lord and wait for Him to bring specific direction as to their future. This is a matter requiring patient endurance on the part of the abused partner.
Let me be very clear about this: suffering abuse at the hands of your spouse is not biblical grounds for divorce. It is clearly grounds for serious and decisive action, and needs to be closely monitored by strong individuals who can insure that the abuse never happens again. But that doesn’t mean you now have the freedom to divorce and remarry.
If, at such time, as the abusive spouse reveals that they are not willing to effect any lasting change in their lives and they either abandon the marriage, initiate a divorce on their end, or start up an illicit sexual relationship with someone else, the abused partner would then have biblical grounds for divorce and possible remarriage.
If you have specific questions about your own personal situation regarding abuse, divorce or remarriage, I invite you to contact me. (Please refer to our Contact page for information.)