The Bible virtually commands divorce for domestic abuse

While I was wrestling with what Scripture taught about divorce in order to write my book Not Under Bondage [Affiliate link], I came to the view that divorce is permitted for abuse.  And privately, I also ventured to believe that divorce is virtually commanded for abuse.

In Not Under Bondage I didn’t articulate my private view that divorce is pretty much commanded for abuse. I chose not to express it for two reasons:

  1. All victims of abuse have been ‘should-ed’ on by their abusers and fellow Christians. To lay another ‘should’ on them would be like stabbing another dagger into their super-sensitive and already bleeding consciences. It would be a boulder too hard to swallow for those victims who are just awakening from the fog.  And it could lay undue guilt on victims who may choose not to divorce, or who choose not to divorce just yet but might decide to divorce later on.
  2. I knew that many Christians would be wary of my book and it would be an uphill battle to persuade them to accept that the Bible permits divorce for abuse. I felt it would be counterproductive if I presented arguments for why the Bible pretty much commands divorce for abuse. That would have really put my book beyond the pale!

But now, six years on, I feel I can say openly that I believe that the Bible virtually commands divorce for some cases of abuse.

I would never say that divorce is commanded for ALL cases of abuse; I will always maintain that it is up to the victim herself to assess as best she can the risks of divorce, given the unpredictable minefields generated by abusers and the Family Court system. But I think it is fair to argue from Scripture that divorce is pretty much commanded for abuse.

One of those scriptures is Deuteronomy 13:6-11 — the case for this is well argued in the post Nor Shall Your Eye Pity Him. Another is 1 Corinthians 7:15,  the scripture I most relied on in my book:—

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved [not under bondage]. God has called you to peace.

As I explained in Not Under Bondage, that word ‘separate’ (chorizo) has the meaning of a situation where two or more elements have space between them. What is abuse, if not a mindset and behavior by the abuser that creates space — emotional, psychological and ethical distance —between the abuser and the person being abused. It is the perpetrator’s hard heartedness pushing away, extinguishing and twisting all the victim’s attempts to have mutuality, intimacy, honesty and trust in the relationship. It is the perpetrator utilizing the victim’s attempts to have a respectful, loving relationship, and employing them as handles to turn the victim into a slave, an automaton, an object for the abuser’s perversely selfish enjoyment.

And I also explained in my book that unlike us in our legal situation today, Paul and the Corinthians did not see separation and divorce as two different things. In Greco-Roman law, the way a marriage relationship ended had quite a lot of resemblance to the way cohabitation ends today: when one party to the cohabiting relationship decides to end it, it’s ended. The reason for this is that under Greco-Roman law, full and legal divorce took place merely by one party separating with intent to end the marriage.¹ The state didn’t have or require a legal process involving certificates of divorce. Divorce was deemed to have occurred when one spouse separated from the other party with intent to end the marriage. That was it! Finito.²

Therefore, if the unbelieving partner separates [causes separation by malignantly destroying respect and trust] let it be so.

The word ‘let’ in English often means ‘permit’. (Please mum, let me watch ten more minutes of TV!)   But ‘let’ can also be used to indicate a command, an imperative, a strong instruction to DO something.³

In English translations of the Bible, the word ‘let’ is frequently used to convey a command. Here are some familiar examples:

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:4)

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Eph. 4:28)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor. 5:1-2)

when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart (Luke 21:21)

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. (Luke 22:35-36)

Festus replied [to the chief priests and leaders of the Jews] that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” (Acts 25:4-5)

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:18)

Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. (1 Co4. 7:18)

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thess. 5:6)

Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (1 Pet. 3:10-11)

Now l would like us to examine 1 Corinthians 7:15a. Here it is in the original Greek with transliteration, and below it the interlinear Bible edited & translated by Jay P Green Sr., 2nd edn., 1986 (see in Google Books):

εἰ   δὲ     ὁ ἄπιστος [apistos]    χωρίζεται [choritzetai]     χωριζέσθω [choritzestho]
if    but      the unbelieving              separates,                          let be separated

You can see that the second ‘choritz-‘ (Strong’s 5563) — χωριζέσθω — has a different ending than the first ‘choritz-‘. That ending indicates the verb form: it is a present imperative verb.

Here are some other English translations of this passage:

But if the unbelieving spouse separates, let them separate.  (Jubilee Bible 2000)
And, if the unbelieving doth separate himself — let him separate himself (Young’s Literal Translation)
But if the unbelieving spouse separates himself, let him be separated. (Complete Jewish Bible)
But if the unbelieving partner decides to separate, then let there be a separation. (Phillips)
If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. (New American Bible Revised Edition)
But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. (English Standard Version)

The second ‘choriz-‘ —  the imperative commandment — is let it be so.  The marriage is O.V.E.R. That’s the reality. It was ended by the hard-heartedness of the abuser.  Don’t try to keep a corpse alive. It’s dead. Don’t make a person stay in the grave of a putrid dead marriage.

For the victim —  just get on and finish the paperwork that the State requires: apply for the divorce certificate (the decree nisi), get a ruling about the division of the marital property and child custody as best you can, and go on with your life with a clear conscience, knowing you have obeyed the Biblical instruction to let it be so.


NB: I advise anyone reading Not Under Bondage to read it in conjunction with my post Church Discipline and Church Permission for Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed.


1.  See Susan Treggiari, “Marriage and Family in Roman Society”, in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, ed. Ken M. Campbell, pp. 155–7; David Atkinson, To Have and to Hold, p. 109;  David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, pp. 73–4, 190; Steven Clark, Putting Asunder, p. 143.
Paul was writing to the church in Corinth and the city of Corinth was a Roman colony. In the Roman Empire, cities that had the status of Roman colonies were more closely under the laws and customs of Rome than other cities in non-Italian parts of the empire were.  The congregation in Corinth had both gentile and Jewish members, so it is not feasible to argue that Paul was writing to an audience of solely ethnic Jews who might have differentiated divorce from separation because of the way that Jewish custom and law utilised divorce certificates. This Corinthian congregation, with so its many gentile influences, was most likely to see separation and divorce as one and the same thing. That would have been their default view, and Paul would have known that and felt no need to spell it out because it was a ‘given’.

2.  In Greco-Roman law, when a marriage ended the father would ordinarily get the children, but we have to imagine that sometimes the mother took the children, especially if the father did not want to be bothered with raising them. The division of marital property was not so fraught as it often is today, because under Greco-Roman law, marriage did not by default cause a woman’s property to become joint property of the married couple. A married woman could and usually did retain sole ownership of her property and any assets she had brought into the marriage; she could maintain this sole ownership simply by not sleeping under her husband’s roof for a few nights each year. Women would go back to their parents’ home for a few nights each year, and thus maintain ownership of their own property. Such a woman’s property was considered to be under manus (under the hand) of her father, rather than of her husband.  Some marriages specifically transferred manus from the woman’s father to the husband, but most did not. Thus, separation with intent to end the marriage did not usually entail a complex judicial process to separate joint marital property, because joint property usually did not exist. ( I need to provide citations for this footnote, but in the rush of publishing this article, have not yet done so.)

3.  In grammar this is called the imperative mood, and in Biblical Greek “the present imperative means a command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action.” (Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, AMG, 1984, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, p. 1571)
The imperative mood is reserved for the indication of commands.
List of all the present imperatives in the New Testament.

Translating Tenses into English,
Translating Tenses into English, Greek Quick Reference Guide

42 thoughts on “The Bible virtually commands divorce for domestic abuse”

  1. Very well done, Barbara! You’ve made your case and stated it with exquisite clarity.

    1. mywordlikefire,

      Married A.A. co-founder preyed on vulnerable A.A. women….another little discussed fact…

      It just proves there are abusers everywhere.

      1. You are right Brenda. We are all sinners. I point this out about Bill Wilson because pro-AA author Dick B. has created a mythology where the AA co-founders were Christians. They were not. Wilson’s adultery, the fact that he left a portion of his royalties from AA books to his mistress, his spiritualism etc., all these things must be made known to offset the harmful claim about being a Christian.

  2. Hi Barb,
    Oh Good, this works now and on a Tuesday. lol I am about to read your book again, I want to be able to explain the issues more clearly and hopefully remember verses to use at the time. I am glad you wrote this post. It helps me to reinforce that freeing myself was not wrong. It has brought me closer to Christ and have been able to witness about Him to those who deny Him. I didn’t have that ability while I was carrying my chin on the ground to talk to anyone about anything, much less tell of the Gospel that I was not portraying.

    The X found yet another way last week to send messages to me via the internet. My daughter helped me block it a few minutes ago. I’m very thankful for tech savvy kids. It has become like the “Where’s Waldo” thing. I never know when he is going to show up. It is maddening yet empowering as a solution is found each time. You’d think after 14 months and 9 days, he’d just go away.

    1. Brenda, I know what you mean. It’s been 3 years since we separated and he can’t let go. I’ve been divorced since January. He is using the courts to keep in touch with me. I’ve since learned that you have to ease them out of your life. They can’t handle a cut off. And since there is nobody to hold them accountable, you are on your own to deal with it. Eventually they move on to newer prey. You hope they find somebody new and then feel guilty because it isn’t fair to her. Why can’t we just have justice instead?

      1. Sarah,
        I don’t think justice is coming this side of Heaven. For over a year now X claims to have “found God” and loves me. Of course, he was saying he loved me at the same time he said vile things to me, about me, about my kids etc….. You probably know the drill. It wouldn’t matter any longer if he was saved and became the best preacher the country has ever seen. I would not trust him. I cannot go back there. When he says anything even remotely nice, I remember the real him. The real him still comes back to pay me a visit every couple of weeks, if not more frequently.

        Sarah, 3 years? I told my daughter last week that I was moving to Siberia and not leave a forwarding address. She told me not to because he would still find me and I wouldn’t have any escape there and cell phone probably wouldn’t work for her to help me.

        I pray that this doesn’t last for you until year 4.

        Blessings, Brenda

      2. ” You hope they find somebody new and then feel guilty because it isn’t fair to her. Why can’t we just have justice instead?”
        The daughter of a close friend was abused by her fiance. Eventually the engagement was broken off but the abuser wouldn’t go away and leave her in peace. My friend, a deeply committed Christian, struggled with this thought because she hated to see her daughter suffer. It is one more example of the ripple effect of abuse. There is a primary victim and there are those who may have no direct or very little contact with the abuser but suffer just the same.

      3. I’ve since learned that you have to ease them out of your life. They can’t handle a cut off.

        Where did you learn or hear that, Sarah? In my observations, that principle may not always hold true. I’ve seen abusers resist and create drama when the target tries to ease them out — and the same abuser resists and creates drama when cut off. I’m not sure there is any one way, or ‘better’ way, to end the relationship. Abusers vary, and no one rule applies to all cases. But generally speaking, the particular victim of that abuser is the expert on her own situation and can make the call as to whether ‘easing out’ or ‘cutting off’ is the better way to proceed.

        I should also say that I’ve observed from hearing many women’s accounts that when a woman starts internally shifting to that place where she starts to decide to really and truly end the relationship, the abuser senses her change (they can smell it!) and the abuser then starts to take action to try to keep her under his control. That action is often, in the first instance, putting on the ‘nice guy’ act by diminishing his most egregious abusive behavious so that she thinks he may be softening and changing and she ought to give him another chance. And when that fails to work, he escalates the abuse something shocking, and the victim is thrown right off balance and has to go into crisis management mode . . . which of course serves the abuser’s goal as it stops her making the preparations for her escape, stops her from being able to focus on getting all her ducks in a row before she leaves. The out of the norm escalation puts her on the back foot, and can sometimes make her so terrified that she doesn’t leave because she’s just exhausted and burnt out.

        But God. . . . 🙂 He can work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

      4. Barb, That was more my experience. It took 3 years after my 1st attempt to leave before I actually did. When I did leave, I did not tell him in advance, I made arrangements with the Lord’s help and went. He started out very abusive, mellowed and then the roller coaster ride to now having to block his attempts to contact me. When I heard Sarah has been doing this for 3 years I cried for both her and me. It meant that it was never going to end. He is never going to go away. He has told me a few times that he was going to die. He’s still here or at least in the area,!! Instead of Siberia, my daughter suggested that I work from home in the state where she lives. About half of my job I could do that way, the other half–not so much. I am not going to get paid as well or at all anywhere else and with my health issues, I can’t afford to loose my insurance. So I’m stuck right where I am. I could change apartments, but I like where I live and he’d find me sooner or later anyways. I can’t have dogs where I live or I would get one and train it to smell him coming.

    2. It isn’t always worth it to pursue a particular remedy, but the behavior you describe sounds like stalking to me. Whether or not you pursue it, it might be worth your while to investigate whether your X’s persistent sending of unwelcome messages is criminal behavior where you live. Perhaps you already know.

      1. Gary,

        It is considered stalking, but not life threatening in their view. A year ago, I filed for a Protection order, but because of judges schedules, vacations and postponemets, it never happened. After several months of this and still no order, X was willing to settle financially without all of the hooplah, such as coming up with 2 decades of financial records and other nonsense that I didn’t have. The stress was taking a toll on my heath so I backed off on the order so I could move on. He doesn’t contact me as much as he did and is now seems to mostly feel sorry for himself, but hasn’t done anything that reflects a heart change. It really wouldn’t matter any longer. I cannot trust him again.

        Now he has limited access, doesn’t call my work anymore, which is a huge blessing and my health is better. The Lord has provided for all of my needs. Thank you so very much for your concern. I appreciate it.


  3. I wonder how many churches will cease to make a god of marriage, recognize and discipline abusers, and begin to care for the victims in their midst. But I suppose a better question is this: when will bystanders in the church, those who are not suffering or inflicting abuse, demand that their pastors refer to scripture and not the doctrines of men when victims seek their help?

    1. Suzanne, I fear that nothing will change until those who don’t understand the impacts of abuse have it personally happen to them, or to someone they love, or they choose to become educated. Christians as a whole don’t see abuse as real. Slowly we hear of another pastor here and there that get it and are being public about it. We need more voices being heard. Those of us that are in the church need to spread the word. The more we speak, the more opportunities there will be that someone will listen.

      1. The snowball starts small, but as it rolls down the hill it gathers more snow and becomes larger. I feel we are still in the early stages of that process. The momentum and volume of advocates is growing, and I suspect that there are quite a few people in church leadership and ministry who as yet have not been ‘converted’ so to speak to our cause, but their thinking is bit by bit shifting and softening towards the victims, and simultaneously wising up to and hardening towards the abusers and their lies. I think as it continues we will see and hear from more people in leadership who come out and get it and say so publicly.

        At the same time, a hardening is probably going on in those who are not going to get it, ever. The Lord is testing people’s hearts. And the truth of the Word either softens people and makes them more like Christ, or it hardens them and makes them more like the devil.

      2. Barb, The snowball here is quite small and abuse is still mostly considered external bruises, cuts or bullet holes to a large degree. BUT, there are those who get it and those are a reason for Thanksgiving. I am hoping to attend the event where Ps Jeff will speak in October. I would love to see a larger snowball or even a whole snowman. 🙂

  4. Extremely enlightening and compelling post, Barb. The scripture references are very helpful in lending solid evidence to support the logical basis for your position. Thank you!

  5. Barbara,

    I had a similar thought go through my mind about commanding divorce for abuse. But the context was about who is rightfully God in the victim’s life. Because the abuser does not allow God to be God in the victim’s life (or his own), she is thrust into a place where she must chose between two masters, as it were. We know the first of the 10 commandments is Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me. And the second, which is about graven images, includes that God is a jealous God. He is jealous to be singular in the place of worship in each person’s life, and we can be assured He therefore is opposed to those who oppose obedience to these commands, as abusers do. These commands carry over into the New Testament. Grace does not leave room for more gods.

    So from this I have thought it highly likely that the Lord would eventually demand that the Christian victim separate/divorce the abuser, and would work in their lives accordingly. I know I have seen Him do this very thing and for that very reason. If I’m not mistaken, we have some testimonies from victims who felt God did actually demand or command them to leave their abusers, which stands to reason.

    1. I am beginning to open a door to discuss this correct perspective of divorce with a family member who is in ministry. This is very very dear to my heart. I am trending very carefully, and become anxious when I anticipate our first conversation about divorce. I will ask his permission to send him your book. This article speaks to my fearful side and tells me it was right to divorce my N husband who was a minister as I’ve mentioned before in recent blogs. Thank you, Barbara.

      1. Good for you, Seeing Clearly!

        You might like to read or re-read this post of mine, to help you prepare for the conversation(s) with this person. The post is called Converting statements into questions: a skill for bystanders who want to help victims of abuse, but you could take the principles and apply them to your need. Posing questions is a good approach to use, when trying to have a persuasive / educational conversation with someone you wish to influence.

        However, asking questions is not necessarily a good technique to use with abusers.
        In my experience, no approach works with a rock hard abuser, except —
        the ‘no contact’ approach by the victim,
        the excommunication approach by the church,
        the firm arm of the law by the justice system,
        and a collective disapproval and disavowal by society of the underlying presupposition of unmerited male privilege – because that presupposition is the growth medium for the virus of the abusive mentality.

      2. Thank you for your kind guidance. As I was reading your reply to me, my nephew called to visit. I want to learn how to refine and be more effective in dialogue. In this conversation, my nephew welcomes receiving your book. This is a good first step for me. Now I will return to your guidance. I am thankful to be sitting under your ministry. There is so much to learn and I am enjoying it. Although, as others comment, sometimes it is so painful be stay in the present while reading what others are experiencing.

      3. Thanks Seeing Clearly.
        I prefer to think of us as all sitting together under the ministry of the Word and the Spirit, rather than me or Jeff or our team providing a ministry which others ‘sit under’. But I don’t say that to tick you off, dear sister 🙂 I just say it because I don’t like feeling one over my brothers and sisters, and I try to guard against getting a big head.

    2. Yes, BIT, we do have testimonies like that. And I’ve heard more such testimonies from private emails from survivors, who are too scared to write them on a public blog like this.

      For readers who may not know, we have compiled some of these testimonies into a Testimonies page, which is nested under the ‘New Users’ tag at the top of this blog.

  6. Barbara, I have a question. What if the abuser is (supposedly) a Christian and not considered an unbeliever? Would 1 Corinthians 7:15 still apply in that case?

    1. I am not Barbara, but I will tell you that the general consensus is that a Christian is not an abuser. If he’s an abuser, he isn’t a Christian. If he is claiming to be a Christian, he should be repentant; he should be sorry for sin, hate and forsake it because it displeases God. A repentant person would not be making demands, complaining, insulting, demanding acknowledgement, would be acknowledging his abuse and the fact that it ended the marriage covenant. An abuser who isn’t repentant, also isn’t a Christian as far as we can tell.

      1. I understand that reasoning, but even Christians still sin. Yes, they should be repentant, etc, but even if they are not they can still be a believer. In addition to that, it is not my call to say he is not a Christian. And although I am separated from him and planning toward divorce, I don’t feel that this reasoning would hold any weight at all with my church leaders (not that it has to for my purposes.) I do feel, though, that he has broken our marriage covenant in being abusive, then saying he has changed but not exhibiting repentant or remorseful attitudes to show that he has. Does that make any sense?

      2. Yes, I understand – too well. Our definition of abuse might be helpful to you.

        Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself1 as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.

        While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.

        Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim’s person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.

        This isn’t an “all Christians sin” sort of thing, but a pattern; a lifestyle of demands, tantrums, complaints, caring more about what he thinks others think than doing right before God.

        And if your church doesn’t understand that, they won’t. That’s one of many reasons that God took me and my kids to a new church.

        1Sometimes the genders are reversed

      3. Jane- These things are difficult. I surely understand that. However, Christians repent. That is what they do when they sin. While we cannot perfectly know someone’s heart, Scripture does give us instruction to judge. A person who walks in sin, who does not repent, who lives a pattern of disobedience to Christ, is – according to God’s Word – not a Christian. For example-

        Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

        See it? The Christian WAS that. But no more. No, we aren’t perfect, but we are a new creation in Christ. That is who we really are now. We have been washed and sanctified and justified in Christ. So Paul tells us not to be deceived. A person who IS one of these categories of sin is not a Christian. Notice the one category in particular – “revilers.” A reviler is someone who assaults others with their mouth. They verbally abuse others and they are characterized by that evil. Revilers are not Christians. They will not inherit the kingdom of God unless they repent and truly come to faith in Christ.

        Yes, even Christians sin. But we hate that sin when we do, and we repent of it. We battle that sin by the Spirit in us (Galatians 5:16ff and Romans 8). The abuser? Well, he just does what he is – abusers abuse.

    2. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      What if the abuser is (supposedly) a Christian and not considered an unbeliever? Would 1 Corinthians 7:15 still apply in that case?

      Yes it would. The key there is ‘supposedly’. As most of us have learned only too painfully, abusers can proclaim to be Christians, can show up at church each week, lead small groups, lead worship, play on the music team, preach from the pulpit, and run para-church ministries. That doesn’t mean they are Christians though. A Christian is someone who has been born again:

      Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:5

      And while no mortal can tell for sure for sure whether or not someone has been born again, there are marks of a true conversion, a true believer. The marks are (and Jeff C or others may remind me of more here)
      1. Love for the Word
      2. Desire to fellowship and worship the Lord with other true believers
      3. Continuing efforts, with the help and power of the Holy Spirit, to put the ‘old man’ to death: to wean it off of its habits and patterns that are wrongly / idolatrously attached to the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), and to continue to repent of one’s sins as one is convicted of them, with full resolve and effort after new obedience (WSC Qn 87 [Internet Archive link]). Or, as the London Confession — Reformed Baptist Confession — puts it: (source of image [Internet Archive link])

      [The original link to the source of the image was corrected to reflect the change in URLs. Editors.]

      We believe that many people in churches today are not actually regenerate and are therefore not actually followers of Christ. They may think they are. They may proclaim they are. And in the case of the abuser whose profession of faith is being scrutinized, they may loudly and indignantly proclaim they are Christians. But . . .

      We believe that when someone professes to be a Christian but is abusing their spouse (or children), they need to be put out of the church. We can say this for sure because our definition of abuse, the one Ellie quoted here, and which you find in our sidebar to the right, emphasises the pattern of conduct and the intentionality and deliberateness of the abuser’s power and control. Thus, it’s not just an ordinary sin, it’s a heinous sin. And anyone doing it who professes to be a Christian needs to be put out of the church, as 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 so decidedly commands.

      Jane, you might find this post of mine helpful: Church Discipline and Church Permission for Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed. Indeed, anyone reading my book or passing it on to others needs to read that post along with my book.

    3. Jane, At this blog we have many denominations represented. From the Lutheran perspective, I would have to agree with you. The abuse alone is reason to divorce an abuser and church discipline should be implemented against the abuser who is obviously sinning. The purpose of church discipline is to regain the church member, not to be a divorce trial. If abuser won’t repent of the terrible sin of abuse, he should be removed from the congregation.

      I think that the Lutherans would leave whether to divorce or not to Christian conscience of the parties involved. From what I have experienced, the Calvinistic churches put more stress on whether divorce can be granted with their approval. One way to get that approval is to judge if the abuser is regenerate or not so that 1 Cor.7:15 can be seen as grounds for legitimate divorce. When I was in the PCA, I felt a need for my husband to be disciplined so that they would see that he was unregenerate/unrepentant and I would be able to legitimately divorce him. However, I don’t see that need in the Lutheran church. There is more focus on Christian liberty in the Lutheran tradition and less stress that church members must be regenerate.

  7. While it is doubtless to best to read the entire book in context, some selected passages from 1 John may be helpful. John recognizes that Christians sin: [all passages from ESV]

    If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

    My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1

    However, if abuse is an expression of hatred, as I contend it must surely be, one who practices abuse cannot be considered a Christian:

    Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11

    Finally, John specifically informs us how we can discern who is and is not a Christian:

    No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:6-10

  8. The Bill Gothard advanced seminar teaches that those with the gift of exhortation are able to perceive intuitively why people do what they do.

    And of course Bill’s gift is exhortation.

  9. I have a husband who is not physically abusive, but who is very controlling and has no desire to learn what it means to live with his wife with understanding. He is not interested whatsoever in relational intimacy (non-sexual closeness). He is not interested in learning what it means to listen and communicate in such a way where I am both being heard and understood. My thoughts, desires, and needs are dismissed, minimized, ignored, forgotten, and basically, I am a nuisance.

    My husband is not an unbeliever, however, living like this is becoming more and more unbearable. We do have counselors, and I say if husband does not see a need to change (it’s always me who is responsible for everything that goes wrong.)…. I will consider him unwilling to make the marriage work.

    I am at the point where life has to mean more to me than being someone who facilitates another to live however they want to live at all times… regardless of my desires or needs. I am ready to call it quits very soon if the counseling does not point him toward and enables him to change. I value my counseling very much as it is helping me see what I need to grow and to become more intimate with my God… my goal is not to act as though I’m all right and he’s all wrong.

    1. Elizabeth Marie, your words create quite a clear picture of a marriage where only one person matters. That person is not you. It does require personal therapy to stay afloat where the person you live with tells you, on a regular basis, that you don’t matter. But he can be so cunning so as to never actually say those exact words. You are working very hard and this can be so very painful and deadening. I am very sad for you.

      After being in a long marriage that required personal therapy just to stay afloat and sometimes to stay alive, I now wonder why I tried so hard for so long. Something is very, very wrong in a relationship if so much outside assistance is needed. I am now divorced and slowly voicing what was really going on in my home. For those long years, life was very confusing and I could not communicate what was really happening. I was very much as a little girl carrying the threat from an abuser to never tell. But the abuse was so confusing that I was never certain what it was that I was not to tell. So I never told anyone what exactly WAS going on.

      If this makes any sense at all, I hope it can help you figure out what you should next.

      1. Thank you so very much, Seeing Clearly…. it is wonderful to hear someone relate and acknowledge how I feel. I am learning…. and because of this very conversation, I have been able to express myself to husband tonight as never before. He actually acknowledged that he learned something he did not know… we’ll see where it goes.

    2. Elizabeth Marie — Hang in there. Good to hear that you were able to talk with ‘him’ and that he admitted to learning. Be on guard to be sure that he is sincere. I share this only because I kept trusting and trusting for so many years which only exhausted me and made me appear like the crazy one to others. He has silently waited me out so that I was always talking and confronting his sin whereas he continues to live life as he pleases and just wants me to leave him alone as he now feels no compulsion to be my husband except on paper.

    3. When I filed for divorce nearly [one decade] ago, I had no internet teachings such as ACFJ to help me know that Scripture virtually commands divorce from an abuser. Leading up to filing for divorce, I asked my therapist about elderly couples who seemed miserable together, stayed together. I questioned why women in abusive relationships remained in those marriages. He explained that some simply decide to live out there lives this way, some are not able to support themselves, etc. The comment that woke me up was “they missed their window of opportunity”. One who has been reliant on a spouse for most things would find it difficult to begin a career, establish credit, set up single living, etc. in late 50s, early 60s. I understood that I was moving to the age that would only become harder and harder to make it on my own. If I had not believed divorce was not permitted, I should definitely had gotten away at least 10 years earlier when it was obvious there was no hope for the marriage. I would not have lost my career, I would not have lost those 10 years of living. I would not have required heavy meds to keep my head on my shoulders.

      Leading up to filing, I never used the word divorce with him. I was quite certain he would adjust his behavior just enough to keep me from filing. I did not want a man who would change for a word (divorce), but not for me. In the divorce process, he never asked me to reconsider my choice.

      We long to be loved, to be cherished, to be important to someone. In reality our longings will never, ever be fulfilled by an abuser, no matter how long we wait. I now know they do not change. Now, as a single lady I am free, happy, purposeful, medication free….

      1. Thank you, Seeing Clearly. It is correct… I am well and truly over 50. The two things that have kept me put are: 1) the kids (now all adults) What mother wants to stick a dagger of sorrow in her children’s hearts…. and 2) the belief that God hates divorce, of which I have come to see is not always the case. He loves me more than He loves the institution of Marriage. But I have also thought, at this late stage of life…. I could hang in there and live with as much integrity as I can muster until it’s time to go home. My Faith has a huge part in reminding me that this life here is only temporary, a blink of an eye, compared to eternity. So… I try to keep that in mind as well. But those reasons are slowly melting away as I see the stubbornness of my husband to hang on to his way of life. Gathering courage from articles I find here, etc….

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