This question is very important in terms of the safety and protection of women. I’m sure that it breaks the Lord’s heart to see so much abuse happening in today’s marriages. It also makes Him angry because abuse is wicked behavior and according to Psalm 7:11, God is angry with the wicked every day.”  Before I discuss abuse, I would like to mention some other marriage-related issues. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Some people use this verse to say that fornication is the only Scriptural reason for divorce.

However, the Apostle Paul was inspired to give another reason for divorce. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:12, “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” Paul was saying that he was about to share things that the Lord did not address during his earthly ministry. These words are still inspired, but this subject was not addressed by the Lord while He was on earth. The subject was marriages where one spouse was saved and the other spouse was not saved. In verse 15 Paul writes, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” Therefore, the second Scriptural reason for divorce is when an unbeliever abandons a believer. The believer is “not under bondage in such cases,” which appears to indicate that the one left behind is permitted to divorce the one who has abandoned them and to remarry.

What if both the husband and wife are believers and the husband abandons the wife?  1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” A believing husband who abandons his wife is not providing for her needs. Since he is considered “worse than an infidel,” he is acting like an unbeliever. Therefore, his wife is “not under bondage” to remain married to him.

Concerning abuse, let us first establish from the Scriptures that it is wrong and sinful. In 1 Corinthians 5 the Apostle Paul is instructing the church at Corinth to discipline a sinning member. In verse 11 he says, “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” The Greek word for “railer” in this verse is “loidoros” and means abusive. This passage is not giving marriage instruction, but it clearly shows that abuse is wrong and that the offender should be disciplined by his local church.

We have established that abuse is sinful. What should a woman do who is being abused? We read in 1 Peter 2:13-14, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” The “ordinance of man” mentioned in the verse above is speaking about the state and federal laws that are designed to protect people from harm. Abuse is not only sinful in God’s sight, it is also against the law! If a husband is abusing his wife, she should call 911 and alert the authorities. God has given government to punish those who do evil, and calling the police may save the woman’s life and the lives of any children in the home.

Two more verses to consider are 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”  Since God hates divorce, He does not want wives to be leaving their husbands. However, these verses indicate that there may be circumstances that would cause her to separate from her husband. Certainly abuse would be one of these circumstances. If a wife leaves her husband, she should stay unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. There is no Scripture that I could find that would justify a wife divorcing an abusive husband. However, if the husband commits fornication while they are separated or ends up abandoning his wife, then the wife is permitted by the Scriptures to divorce her husband. The best case scenario would be for the husband to genuinely repent of his wicked behavior and gradually earn back the trust of his wife.

This is a topic that stirs up strong emotions in all of us. May the Lord protect the women and give them courage to call the authorities if they are being abused. If they need to separate from an abusive husband, then the Scriptures support that as well. (173.3) (DJ)