Before I address a couple questions that have been asked let me say once again that when we disobey God’s instructions on marriage (1 man… 1 women… for life… if Christian both Christians) we head into murky territory. Unlike many sins (if I lie I can go tell the truth or if I steal I can return what I stole) there is no way to go back and set things perfectly right. That leaves us simply trying to do the best to move forward and do things right from now on while knowing some of the damage can never be made right.
Several people asked me about abuse situations. I don’t see the Bible saying it’s a direct reason for divorce. BUT, I don’t believe God, or any intructions in the Bible, would have someone stay in a dangerous situation for themselves or their kids. My initial advice is always to immediately get out of danger and find a safe place to stay and seek reconciliation from a distance. Then I think we follow the instructions in Mt. 18:15-18.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
So we bring other Christians in to confront and help the situation (if both parties are believers.) If they are not both believers I think you can seek reconciliation at a distance but if the non-Christian partner decides they don’t want to honor the marriage I think there is biblical precedence to say let them go. But, under no situation do I see someone needing to stay physically in an abusive situation.
Someone also asked about the instructions in Mt. 18… What does “treat them like pagans and tax collectors” mean? Some have suggested that Jesus ate and spent time with “pagans” and “tax collectors”. He didn’t, however, seem to let them into His intimate circle of friends or offer them other benefits of a close relationship with Him unless there was repentance. I think that’s a reasonable application of this passage. I think 1 Cor. 5:9-12 gives some similar instructions that may bring some insight.
1 Cor. 5:9-12
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
If someone has claimed to be a Christian we, as brothers and sisters, are to hold them accountable to that commitment and sometimes that means really tough love like having nothing to do with them until they repent. The goal is not to beat them up as punishment but to create enough pain from the loss of community that they will repent. I think this is also an option that applies to how we try to restore “brothers and sisters” who are unrepentant of sin.
Both of these options, however, involve some measure of distancing ourselves from unrepentent fellow believers which seems to be the principle.
I’m interested to hear others thoughts. I think conversations like this help sharpen us all and teach us better how to love God and each other.