For inquiring minds, I have transcribed the complete audio clip from the Saddleback Church website, of question #32 What should I do what abuse is happening in my marriage?
To read and compare, you may also want to read Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce and Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on “Miserable Marriage”.
The speaker is teaching pastor Tom Holladay.
Someone asked this out of their heart though, “Does the Bible say it is alright to divorce a spouse who is abusing you. I think that’s an excellent question of Scripture.
It’s not like you can escape the pain. You think you are. There’s an immediate release when you divorce and you think I’ve escaped the pain but anyone in this room who has been divorced you could come up here and give testimony after testimony after testimony after testimony to say that, no, you don’t escape the pain.
There’s still a pain there. It’s a long-term pain. It may come years later when a son or daughter graduates from high school and they have to get back together somehow and make that thing work. It may come years later as you talk with a new spouse and an issue comes up that had come up in a previous marriage. You don’t escape the pain.
And I’d always rather choose a short-term pain and find God’s solution for a long-term gain than try and find a short-term solution that’s going to involve a long-term pain in life. And I take that to mean, and there are some Christians who disagree about this. But I believe that to mean that if someone abandons you that you are free to remarry.
Now the question is, why doesn’t it say anything about a Christian leaving a Christian? The Bible doesn’t say anything about that because it doesn’t speak as if that would ever happen. It can imagine an unbeliever leaving because an unbeliever isn’t going to follow… if an unbeliever leaves you and says, “hey, you have to stay married to me for the rest of your life. I’m going to go live with this other person, but tough. Or I’m just going to go out and do my own thing and whether it’s 20 or 30 or 50 years and you can’t remarry” — that doesn’t seem right, does it? It isn’t even Scriptural. The Bible talks about that.
So adultery is one, and abandonment is a second. I wish there were a third in the Scripture. Having been involved as a pastor in situations of abuse there’s something in me that wishes there was a Bible verse that says if they abuse you in this and such kind of way then you can leave them.
I want to tell you, the advice that we give, in our counseling ministries, first of all, if you’re in these kinds of situations, I strongly recommend that you take advantage of our lay counseling ministries. Go in and talk to someone and let them minister to you.
The advice that we give is not divorce but separation. You should not put up with the abuse. There is nowhere in the Bible that says you should put up with abuse. There is nowhere in the Bible that says it is an attitude of submission to let somebody abuse you. That is not submission.
And so we recommend very strongly, separation. Why do we? It’s the only way to healing, because there’s an abusive cycle that’s been set up. Separation combined with counseling has proven to provide healing in people’s lives.
Now whenever I talk about divorce, I talk about it with a great heart for what many of you have been through. Because I realized many of you look back on your lives, some of you were divorced before you were a believer in Christ. Does God hold you accountable for that like He would hold a believer accountable for that? No, of course not. You didn’t know. He doesn’t hold us accountable for what we don’t know.
So what if you were divorced after you were a believer? And as you look back on it now you’d say “I told myself it was for a right reason but I realize it was more my selfishness than anything else.” You have the maturity to admit that. I would remind you that although divorce is a sin, God forgives sin. There’s lots of sins out there. I gotta tell you, without God’s forgiveness in my life, not just before I became a Christian, but after I became a believer, I’d never make it into heaven, would you?
I say that, not to excuse divorce, because God hates divorce. But just to let you know the heart of God about this.