A brouhaha has erupted today regarding comments made by Tom Holladay who is a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. He says that biblical grounds only exist for abandonment and a physical affair. He said in an audio comment on Saddleback’s website that:
“I wish there were a third in Scripture having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse,” Holladay said in an audio clip posted on Saddleback Church’s Web site. “There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.’”
He says that you shouldn’t have to put up with abuse. In cases of abuse he recommends separation and counseling while the couple tries to mend their marriage.
Danni Moss, who is an abuse survivor and a Baptist blogger fired back:
“expresses a distinct lack of understanding about the nature, heart, and spiritual roots of abuse. I think he believes he is doing right and doesn’t realize his ignorance or how much he is hurting people, so this is offered without personal judgment. But I also believe categorically that it is dangerous.”
HT: World Magazine
I had a chance to preach on this topic not that long ago. I want to look at what Jesus had to say on this subject.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery,” (Matthew 5:31-32, ESV).
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery,” (Matthew 19:4-9, ESV).
A couple of quick observations.
1. There are no biblical grounds for divorce. People have approached this completely wrong. There isn’t some smoking gun issue or event that occurs in a marriage that mandates that you divorce your spouse. God makes it very clear in Malachi that He hates divorce, (Malachi 2:16). In Matthew 19, the Pharisees asked, “why then did Moses command?” He didn’t command. Jesus said that he allowed it because of the hardness of their heart, but God’s desire is for reconciliation.
2. Matthew 7 and 19, as well as Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (which by the way is abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, so Holladay is making that too broad). The instruction isn’t so much on divorce as it is remarriage. When is remarriage permitted? Much of the problem when people seek a divorce is that they don’t think through the covenant that they made with one another. You want to divorce? You can legally I suppose, but in God’s eyes you are still married unless one breaks the covenant (adultery) in which case remarriage after divorce is permitted. Otherwise you are guilty of adultery. Far too often people divorce, remarry quickly, only then to divorce again.
So what could be said is that if you divorce your husband due to physical abuse, you can do that, but don’t think that you are free to remarry. Some would argue then if the ex-spouse gets remarried and thus commits adultery then the person could since reconciliation is no longer possible. I can see the validity in that argument, but I wouldn’t buy it in every case.
Regardless, the overall point is this – are there Biblical grounds for divorce? No, God allows it due to our hard-heartedness, but desires reconciliation and for us to honor the marriage covenant we entered into with our spouse.
What do you think?