Does spousal abuse justify a divorce?

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Question: Does spousal abuse justify a divorce according to the Bible? How should a person's mate be treated?

Answer: Before tackling your question on spousal abuse in the Bible, something must be said about divorce. Jesus stated that it is because of the hardness of people's hearts that God allowed divorce in the first place (Mark 10:2 - 12). God is looking for a commitment from people whom He has called to His way of life. Unfortunately, we live in a throw-away society where if something does not immediately work we toss it out. We should do all we possibly can to have both spouses try to save a marriage.

That said, in the case of spousal abuse, we must also consider that our bodies and minds are the temple of God. One should not remain in an abusive home if at all possible. Physical, mental or emotional mistreatment in any marriage is unacceptable.

The New Covenant is the agreement God offers man so that he can live forever. He looks at the temple of our hearts and minds and welcomes those who by their conscience have been keeping themselves separate from sin and Satan the devil. This separation includes honoring our spouse as our heavenly Father wants us to do.

Tarquin attacking Lucretia
Tarquin attacking Lucretia
Leon Davent, 1540s

Our Father commands us to be holy, pure, and not to defile ourselves with sin (2Corinthians 6:17, 1Corinthians 3:16 - 17). When a person is converted they are willing to keep a commitment to him and walk in His ways (Psalm 119:165, Proverbs 6:23). True Christians must put him first in their life (Deuteronomy 30:15 - 16).

In the New Testament Paul gives us several important principles and addresses the issue of how husbands and wives should treat each other in chapter 7 of 1Corinthians. Paul endorses peace and rejects any kind of spousal mistreatment or abuse.

And if a woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to dwell with her, let her not divorce him . . . But if the unbelieving husband or wife separates (or you must separate from them due to such things as spousal abuse), let him or her separate. The believing brother or sister is not held in bondage in such cases; for God has called us to peace (1Corinthians 7:13, 15 - 16).

For it is obligatory that as God's steward an overseer be . . . not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not a bully (by implication, not someone who indulges in spousal abuse) . . . But hospitable, a lover of good . . . self-controlled (Titus 1:7 - 8).

No one should ever stay in an situation where spousal abuse, either physically, verbally or otherwise, is present. If the offending mate was a Bible believer at one time, they have become an unbeliever because of their behavior.

If the person who is an abuser is not willing to seek counseling and make a sincere, concerted effort to stop their behavior then the offended spouse should not remain in this type of environment. Prayer about the situation and separation from the person is certainly warranted.

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