Why Won’t the Church Address Domestic Violence?

I have to give a round of applause to Michael Spencer of the Internet Monk blog for his piece yesterday on this subject. He did a great job and he’s taking some heat for it.

You have to read it, but he gives 10 reasons why churches and pastors won’t step up to the plate on the issue of domestic abuse in the church – and they are not only right on target but communicated in a way that strips all the veneer of piety right off the excuses. I love the fact that he’s daring to take on the issue, when he is 1) a man!!!! yeah!, and 2) not a victim. In a strange twist of illogic, victims who speak out are automatically discounted considerably because we are assumed to have an agenda of validating ourselves.

So check it out and be sure to let the iMonk know you appreciate it!

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What Does the Bible Really Say? — God Hates Divorce

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…

This verse is frequently translated “God hates divorce” and this is probably the single most often-quoted snippet in Christianity on the subject of divorce. “Everyone” knows that phrase and will tell you it’s in the Bible. Usually, the phrase is understood to mean, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.”

First off, let me state the obvious. The Bible doesn’t say, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” But could it possibly mean that? Since the Bible does not actually say this, it is a fair question to ask whether that is really what it means.

Again, stating the obvious, it is reasonable to assume that God “hates” divorce, in the sense that He doesn’t like it. He isn’t dumb and any thinking person hates divorce. It is painful and it is not the way God intended marriage to be. So, of course, He doesn’t like it.

But is it also correct to assume that “God hates divorce” means divorce is an abomination to Him and absolutely forbidden?

In Isaiah 50:1 and in Jeremiah 3:8 God specifically states that He divorced Israel. I have discussed this in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, III. It is important to remember that human marriage is symbolic of the spiritual reality, not the other way around. If anything, God’s example in marriage would carry more weight than the reverse.

Also, Ezra 10 tells of a time when God commanded the Israelite men to get divorces. I have discussed this passage in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, IV. How could God possibly command the Israelite men to divorce their wives if, in fact, “God hates divorce” means that divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden?

Then in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 Jesus gives a very specific exception clause when He answers the Pharisees’ questions regarding the allowance of divorce. Obviously, Jesus did not say that all divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden.

Let me ask another obvious question. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Jesus to just say, “God hates divorce” when probed by the Pharisees, if God meant that all divorce is an abomination and forbidden? But instead of quoting the definitive “God hates divorce” Jesus went into detail in an entirely different direction. Why did He do that if Malachi 2 establishes the primary precedent for God’s view of divorce?

In the church what we hear most of the time is “God hates divorce” – and yet, that statement is never reiterated in the New Testament – or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter. “God hates divorce” is the most repeated phrase in the church on the subject of divorce but appears only once in the Bible. Why is this true if this one phrase is of such profound significance?

Would it be logical to believe that the words of Jesus are probably the most accurate reflection of God’s heart on the subject of divorce, since He was directly asked for God’s perspective? So why did Jesus speak as He did? I have addressed Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce in response to the Pharisees in the article, What the Bible Really Says – Don’t Put Asunder. For the sake of not straying from the point of this article, I’m not going to go into it here. But what Jesus said was important – and He quite noticeably did not say “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian (or follower of God, since He was talking to the Pharisees) to be divorced.”

It is necessary for us, as believers, to understand this issue, since the phrase “God hates divorce” is commonly being used in the church in an unbiblical manner and the result is a great deal of harm. It may not seem like a big deal for those who have not been faced with divorce or with marriages in violation of the Word, but the inaccurate handling of the Word is being used to keep people in bondage and also to cause added condemnation and rejection to people whom God has neither condemned nor rejected. Additionally, there are many who say they aren’t condemning or rejecting – but the effect is virtually the same since it is putting a burden of “wrong” on the shoulders of people for whom God has not a single shred of approbation – even without condemnation or rejection.

So what is Malachi saying?

Let’s first take a look at how several translations handle Malachi 2:16. This is very revealing.

King James Version

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

New King James Version
“For the LORD God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the LORD of hosts.

“ Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

New International Version

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.
So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

American Standard Version

For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

“If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

English Standard Version

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Now, let’s dig into this.

First of all, let me acknowledge that there are many people who believe the King James Version (1611 version specifically) is the only accurate translation. This version says God hates putting away. Without getting into any debate regarding the veracity of various translations, let me take this statement alone.

If, in fact, the King James Version is completely accurate, it is important to note that it does not say “God hates divorce.” It says God hates putting away. In the context of Malachi 2 it is clear God is directing His statements to men who have been unfaithful to their first wives and put them away in order to take heathen wives. God speaks repeatedly of their treachery. God’s focus is on their treachery – this is what He is condemning – not divorce.

This fact is the key to the entire passage. God’s eyes are not on the legal documents these men obtained. It is on their treacherous hearts. God condemns the treachery that led to the divorces – and this fact is plainly communicated in the context. These men “put away” their wives and divorced them. The putting away of their wives was a fact of their treacherous hearts, and it led to divorce. But the treachery of their hearts was the real problem.

Would God have said it was OK if they had mistreated their wives but had just taken second wives instead of divorcing their first ones? They were allowed to have multiple wives so taking additional wives would not have been a problem. However, the answer is still a resounding NO! In fact, this would still have left these men in the position of the men in Ezra, whom God commanded to divorce their heathen wives, thereby making it obvious His issue is not with divorce but with the heart condition of the people involved. In Malachi, His focus is on their treachery – not on the legal documents that resulted from the treachery.

Another substantive point to note about God’s viewpoint on the treachery of these men in Malachi 2 is that He treats the two treacherous acts as separate offenses. He condemns their treachery in taking heathen wives. Then He condemns their treachery in putting away their first wives. The two are both treacherous acts, separate and distinct from one another. This is an important detail because we need to remember that the second act was not treacherous because of the first, nor vice versa. Each was treacherous independently — two distinct violations.

In Malachi 2, the focus on these men’s treachery is directly reflected in what Jesus said when confronted by the Pharisees. The root problem in both places is the heart of putting asunder – not the legal document of divorce. Putting asunder is a direct violation of God’s original plan and instructions regarding marriage in Genesis. And putting asunder is something that happens in the heart long before a legal document is issued by a court.

With this understanding, we also see the Word is speaking a consistent message. The problem in Malachi 2 is the same as Jesus outlined in the New Testament. And we know God is consistent! He doesn’t change His mind here and there, being double-minded and condoning divorce in one place while condemning it in another.

All that said, there is more to be seen in these translations. Notice specifically the wording in the Holman Christian Standard Version and the English Standard Version.

Holman says, “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice…”

ESV says, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence…”

Why do these two translations use such significantly different verbiage here? This change makes a serious difference in the meaning of the passage – especially considering the frequency with which “God hates divorce” is quoted in the church.

Before getting into the particulars, I think it would bear noting the pedigree of these two translations. In looking into this issue I corresponded with Barbara Roberts, the author of the book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion. She has an entire chapter (Chapter 8 ) devoted to this phrase in Malachi 2.

In the course of our correspondence, Barbara said, “The ESV is heavily promoted by Crossway, which is a major publisher of complementarian material. The Holman Christian Standard version was produced by the Southern Baptist denomination. So would-be-objectors from the conservative ranks need to sit up and take note.” I found this point interesting, since these translations are supported by conservative Christianity, yet this pivotal passage has not been seriously visited by the church systems which promote the translations.

But, let’s get back to the variance demonstrated here. There is actually a specific reason for such a substantive disagreement. Barbara goes into it in detail in her book, with extensive footnote documentation. Without reprinting the entire chapter here (you really need to read the book; it is exceptional) let me quote one relevant part here:

In Malachi 2:16, the subject of the verb “hates” is not explicit: the Hebrew does not read “God hates” or “the husband hates.” All we know from the verb is that the person who hates is third person masculine singular (“he” or “one”), just like “covers.” It is certainly not the first person “I hate.”

Now we come to our main point. Most Bible translations have taken the subject of the first verb to be God (God hates) and thereby changed he hates to the first person I hate. This is unfaithful to the Hebrew text and it creates an awkward grammatical shift between I hate and he covers

Some translations try to overcome the grammatical disjunction between the different subjects of I hate…he covers by translating the passage as I hate divorce…it covers… We need not resort to such a solution. The subject of “hates” is third person, not first, and we should only depart from the plain sense of a text if compelled by something in the text. Nothing here compels such a departure.

It makes sense to maintain the same subject (the divorcing husband) for both verbs. Since 1868 at least eighteen scholars have said that “he hates…he covers” is the most faithful way to render the Hebrew, with “he” being the divorcing husband.

Just in the past couple days I heard a preacher whom I greatly respect say, “God doesn’t condemn divorcees; He condemns divorce.” This concept is quite common in the church. But in reality it is inaccurate. God got a divorce, He commanded people to get divorces, and Jesus gave a specific circumstance under which divorce was appropriate. So God cannot possibly be condemning divorce.

What God does condemn is treachery that results in divorce. God condemns putting away or putting asunder. There is a huge difference between the statement that “God condemns divorce” and “God condemns the treachery of putting asunder in marriage.”

While I do not have ill feelings toward the person who said this, knowing he is speaking out of a place where his paradigm of truth has never been challenged, this kind of teaching is causing a great deal of hurt in the body of Christ. It is necessary, I would even say vital, for this error to be corrected so that people in the church can be accepted and loved according to truth.

Here is the bottom line. No matter how you look at Malachi 2, it is critical to understand the passage neither states nor implies “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” This understanding is important because this passage is a lynchpin in church teaching on divorce and it is being persistently misused. And this misuse is causing significant pain and even alienation of believers who are victims of treachery in marriage and who most need the love and support of the church.

[In this article I have not addressed the subject of if/when Christians are allowed to divorce. I have addressed this elsewhere in other articles (see What Does God Really Say? Series What the Bible Says About Divorce, Series, and THE Biblical Grounds for Divorce) and will continue to write on the subject, since I have not yet covered every Scripture about it. The purpose of this piece is not to make any commentary on the parameters of divorce for Christians. My goal here is solely to explore the phrase “God hates divorce” in Malachi 2.]

How to Deal with Condemnation in Divorce

This great subject came up on another thread, so I wanted to copy it as it’s own post.

Viktoria said:

…I have a question. I am getting a divorce from an abusive marriage. The thing is that I have been a youth leader for many years and there were several times when I had to talk to the christian girls (often members of our church) who decided to marry non-chrisitan men… Now, as I am divorcing from a chrisitan marriage I hear it in my head all the time “How could you tell all these girls not to marry non-christian but GOOD men when your own christian marriage is falling apart?” I was praying about it but this just doesnt go away, especially that this last friend of mine has a much better marriage than mine. This steals my peace of mind. And these thoughts come to me again and again.

Danni replied:

This is a great question and there are actually two parts to the answer.

I think as Christians who end up divorcing, one of the things we all have to deal with is condemnation. We usually get a bucket-load of it put on us by others, but then there is the even greater pile we put on ourselves.

There are a variety of reasons. One is just that Satan is the accuser of the brethren and he will try any trick he can to put a believer into a defeated position. And if we are feeling condemned we ARE in a defeated position. Satan comes for nothing but to kill, steal, and destroy – and he will use condemnation to do it.

The idea that your friend who married an unbeliever has a better marriage than your Christian marriage is straight out of Satan’s bag of tricks. There are too many variables in that judgment to be able to make such a definitive statement. God’s Word is still true – a believer must not marry an unbeliever because it puts us in a spiritually adulterous position. There are no two ways about it. Whether the fruit of that has yet been manifested in your friend’s life isn’t the test of truth.

We also condemn ourselves. We have a paradigm of belief regarding what Christians “do” and “don’t do.” And divorce is definitely on the “don’t do” list. So even if we land in a situation where divorce is the only option, our hearts will condemn us because we are violating the “don’t” list.

I John 3:20-22 is very helpful with this. It says that if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things – He sees the whole picture. And if our hearts do not condemn us (the position we can be in before God – because Rom 8:1 there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh) then we have confidence and boldness toward God and our prayers will be answered.

The truth is that our acceptance before God is based on Jesus’ sacrifice – not on anything we do or do not do. God does not look at us with displeasure, anger, or judgment – He sees only Christ’s sacrifice and it is more than enough. The same grace that provided our eternal salvation is the grace that provides for all of our todays, too. (That’s the subject for a much more in-depth study.)

And God’s grace is not only enough, but if we are attempting to add to it or “do” for God by our “works” – even after salvation – we are stepping outside the bounds of His grace (of which condemnation is a sure sign) and are cursing ourselves (Gal. 1:8-9). God isn’t cursing us – we are cursing ourselves. That’s what condemnation is!

Another factor that enters into your question is the qualification of a Christian vs non-Christian marriage. God tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. But who is an unbeliever? Unfortuately, church teaching on this subject is woefully lacking. We accept anyone who has “prayed the prayer” and says/does the right things as being a Christian. That is foolish and dangerous.

The Word describes a godly union –

A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Then — and only then are they one flesh. Anyone who puts asunder that union has committed adultery. Putting asunder happens a long time before a legal document is handed down by the courts! And the person who has “put asunder” that union is the one who is at fault.

Also the Word says that a man who does not provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever. Among other things, this points back to the definition of a godly union. If a man (or woman) puts asunder s/he has demonstrated that they are an unbeliever – regardless of what they may say they have prayed or whether they go to church and serve regularly and “do” all the “good Christian” things. An abuser most definitely puts asunder – an abuser puts his/her spouse away in every action they take toward their spouse. There is no union, no cleaving, no one-flesh.

And the Word has a process of how a Christian should be able to take this offense to the church, in Matthew 18. Ideally, the church would ultimately judge an abuser as an unbeliever and put them out of fellowship. This doesn’t happen in today’s church, but it is what the Word says is supposed to happen (I Cor. 5 – an abuser is a railer, even if no other of these applies).

Once someone has been judged an unbeliever by Biblical standards the guidelines of I Cor. 7 apply, and a believing spouse is not required to remain with an unbelieving spouse who isn’t “pleased” to dwell with them. An abuser isn’t pleased with anything! It doesn’t matter if that person refuses to remove him/herself from under the same roof. They are not being pleased to dwell with their spouse. There is no peace there. And the believing spouse is NOT bound to remain in that marriage.

So, this is what the Word says. You weren’t in a Christian marriage. You were unequally yoked to an unbeliever – though you didn’t know it.

You have no condemnation. And you can use the truth of the Word to stand up to those voices – whether external or internal. That, in turn, gives you boldness and confidence with God.

Ex-Pastors’ Wives Share Hope in Abuse

Two ex-pastors’ wives have written a book together sharing insights on how to cope with abuse and adultery. The book is titled, Surviving Shattered Dreams: A Story of Hope after Despair, by Yvonne Partyka and Joanne Klinger.

When the women first met they had no idea how much they had in common. As they became better acquainted they discovered they had both had been married to pastors who committed adultery and were abusive. Eventually, they decided to share their story and the hope they have found in their experience.

According to the linked article, Yvonne and Joanne have singular advice for women, especially pastors’ wives, involved in marriages where there is adultery and abuse. “Don’t try to handle this on your own. Secrecy and cover-up don’t work. You’re not alone, and God is faithful.” The problem of pastors involved in extramarital affairs, pornography, or abuse “is not uncommon,” says Yvonne. “Churches tend to look up to their pastors and don’t want to believe it when problems surface.”

Saddleback Church Backpeddles on Domestic Violence Divorce Quotes

In an article in which he interviews Saddleback teaching pastor Tom Holladay, Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press reveals that Saddleback has removed the audio clips which raised so much stink earlier this year. Holladay insists that the audio clips are taken out of context and do not reflect what the church teaches or believes, leaving the mistaken impression that the church will not support divorce for abuse under any circumstances. The original clips have been transcribed and can be read here:

Transcript of Saddleback Abuse Audio Clip
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Miserable Marriage

In the audio clips, Holladay stated (among other things), “I wish there were a third [reason for divorce] in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse… 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.'”

It is difficult for me to understand how Holladay’s comments could be misinterpreted, but to give him his due, he states for the record in this article that Saddleback does not teach or support the idea that someone must linger in an unrepentant abusive marriage. The linked article says, “What the clip didn’t make clear, Holladay said recently, is the question he was answering had to do with abusive language and not physical abuse. The way it was edited, Holladay said, gave the impression that a chronically violent and abusive situation is the only just cause for separation.”

This is something that touches right on a sensitive spot because then we have to address the question of what qualifies as “abusive language,” and more importantly, what happens when you have a non-physically violent, unrepentantly verbally abusive spouse. Words can literally kill and are just as deadly as physical violence. Not only does the Word clearly state this, but scientific research has affirmed it as well. The Word says that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart and words are the first expression of a heart of abuse. There should be no need to wait for fists. The mouth is fruit of the heart’s reality and can give us all we need to know and act — and prevent physical violence, or physical death and disease by the tongue.

At any rate, I’m reporting this development on this issue in the interests of being even-handed. I do not know what was originally meant since what was published were the audio clips – which seem very clear – so I cannot make a judgment about that. All I know otherwise is what I have heard in talking with some individuals who experienced Saddleback’s counseling. The church does seem to have a much more supportive attitude than most churches, but I also have heard of some very serious failures and profoundly bad, even dangerous, counsel as well. So, I can’t make a concrete statement one way or the other about the original intention of the clips.

What Does the Bible Really Say? — Don’t Put Asunder

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

This is the second part of a series addressing the comments made on another post. A commenter using the ID of “Ancient” posted a series of verses intending to set us “women” straight on issues of marriage and abuse. In this article, I will address the second two verses used by Ancient. I wrote about the first of these in part in my previous article, What Does the Bible Really Say? — Wives Submit, but it also overlaps with the third verse, so I will be picking up with somewhat of a duplication, but also including additional commentary.

Ancient, on May 29th, 2009 at 8:24 pm said, in part:

Read the Word of the Lord, sisters:
…Gen 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Mark 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder…

Once again, when Ancient quotes these verses he picks a couple nuggets out of their context and then misunderstands and misapplies them. Unfortunately, he didn’t come up with these ideas on his own. They are commonly taught in the church.

Gen. 2:24 starts with the word “therefore.” This is a conjunction that indicates this verse is part of a larger thought. So it cannot be separated from the rest. As before, let’s look at the context of Gen. 2:24.

Gen. 2:18-24
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

The only way to understand and interpret verse 24 is in light of the entire context of the marriage of Adam and Eve, which begins in verse 18. Verse 18 begins with God finding the first (and only) “fault” in creation. For the only time, God said, “it is not good.” He said it was not good that the human was alone, unlike all the rest of the creatures which were in male/female pairs. Each pair was a complete set. But the human wasn’t in a complete set. He was alone.

So God had Adam name all the creatures. While the text does not say God did this to show Adam his lack, it does say in verse 20 that while Adam named all the creatures “there was not found an help meet for him.” So evidently, God had a purpose in addition to Adam naming all the creatures. He also showed the man that all these creatures were in complete pair sets, and he was the only creation that was not in a complete pair set. There was not another creature like Adam that could be the other half of a whole pair.

Since, in the existing creation there was not a second half to the human “set,” God directly created Eve out of the body of Adam. Why did He do it that way? He could have just spoken into being another human to be the partner of Adam, just as He had done with the rest of creation. There had to be a reason why God did something different this time.

And Adam obviously got the point because he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” This is underscored in the New Testament where the Word says in I Cor. 11:8-11:

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

And again, the Word says to the husband in Eph. 5:25-33:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Even in the beginning with the creation of Eve from Adam, God was foretelling or foreshadowing the coming of Christ and His relationship with the church. And this relationship between husband and wife is supposed to be a picture of that. The way God ordained the marriage relationship, the husband is to view the wife as literally part of his body — she is completely one with him. She is not merely a partner, she is part of him, just as intrinsically as his eyes or his elbows, or his feet, or his hands, or his brain. She is not merely his partner, she is part of him.

Because the wife is literally to become part of the husband when they are joined, the husband must “leave” his lesser relationships; even his own parents and siblings are not part of his own body.

When he leaves all these other relationships he is to cleave to his wife. I talked about cleaving in more detail in the first article, so I won’t repeat it here. But in brief, to cleave means to absolutely and totally “stick to” and “conform to” the object of cleaving. If the wife is truly part of him he cannot help but cleave to her. If he grasps the significance of this one thing, it would answer all the questions about whether he is to rule or dominate his wife. But that is not the subject of this passage directly.

The way this is written, the Word indicates when the husband leaves his other relationships and cleaves to his wife, then they become one flesh. A marriage where this does not happen leaves the union in violation of the one-flesh relationship God ordained for marriage. And the responsibility for that violation is first, and primarily, on the husband (more on the wife’s part momentarily).

Now, let’s look at the connection of this passage to Mark 10:9. Mark 10:6-9 says,

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:9 says, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Interestingly, there is a qualification right there in this verse. It says what God has joined together, let not man put asunder. And the context describes a union joined together by God. It is this relationship where the man leaves his other relationships and cleaves to his wife so that they are one flesh.

Also, Mark 10:9 is in a context where Jesus directly referred to Gen. 2. We can’t take the single verse out of the context of the whole. The verses immediately before verse 9 indicate that Jesus’ statement describing the union of Adam and Eve is completely connected to “what therefore God has put together (like He did with Adam and Eve), let not man put asunder. We can’t just tell people not to put asunder, without taking into account the qualifications Jesus put in the same context — the marriage must be one God put together, like Adam and Eve’s union as described in Gen. 2.

We will come back to Mark because there is more to see in this context, but we need to take a little side trip and ask the question, does God put together every marriage union? Besides the fact that the whole context would suggest that a marriage that does not have these qualifications (husband leaving and cleaving) the marriage is not put together by God, the Word also gives us examples which support that conclusion.

If every marriage union were put together by God, God could not have instructed the Israelites to divorce their pagan wives in Ezra 10. Shechaniah spoke that the Israelites had trespassed against God by taking pagan wives. When Ezra, the priest, went to God for direction, he came back and told the men they must divorce their pagan wives. Now, if those marriages were joined by God, He would not have instructed them to divorce.

There is also an indication that a union put together by God can be broken, resulting in godly divorce. For this we have God’s example of his own divorce of Israel in Is. 50:1 and Jer. 3:8. Now how could God have divorced Israel if that union were still in line with the truth of the Word? God cannot violate His own Word. Apparently, it is possible for one of the partners to walk out of that one-flesh union, making that union no longer a godly one, and violate it to the point that a divorce is a godly choice.

Another thing we can infer from this connection is that a wife can violate the one-flesh relationship even if the husband does initiate and maintain it fully and correctly. God certainly was not the one who violated His relationship with Israel. But Israel’s spiritual adultery violated the one-flesh relationship she had with God, eventually resulting in God divorcing her.

In light of all this, the context of Mark 10 has much fuller meaning that is typically taught in church. The entire context is not limited to the portion quoted earlier. Here is the whole context including Mark 10:2-10:

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

The Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, thinking they could trick him. And Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. THEN Jesus went back to Gen. 2, concluding with “what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

God allowed divorce because people were violating His ordained plan for marriage and putting asunder marriages that He had put together. Jesus said these people’s hearts were hard. Whose hearts were hard? Those who violated God’s order for the marriage union, resulting in putting asunder. The “putting asunder” is indicated to be a cause of an effect. The “putting asunder” is not the cause – violation of God’s order in marriage is the cause.

We can infer this because God Himself divorced Israel and He instructed the Israelites to divorce their pagan wives – so the divorce itself was not the issue. The issue was the hard hearts which violated God’s order and creation of a real one-flesh marriage. If this were not the case, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to make the statement about hard hearts or reference the Gen. 2 passage. He could have just said divorce is wrong and been done with it. But, as He always did, Jesus went back to the root of the problem.

In the case of Adam and Eve, there was absolutely no question of whether God put them together as a completed pair. But we cannot assume that all other marriage unions meet the specifically stated (multiple times) qualifications for a God-ordained marriage union. A marriage which does not match what the Word describes, is not a godly marriage, regardless of whether both parties say they are Christians. Someone who is living in direct violation of God’s qualifications of a believer and follower of Christ is NOT a Christian, regardless of whether they have prayed a prayer, go to church, and can say all the right theological things to sound good. God says we are to judge by the fruit.

Now, to answer the obvious question or objection to what I just said, I want to clarify that just because a union is not one God has put together, does not automatically mean it is perfectly acceptable to divorce. The Word has directives for dealing with an unbelieving spouse. But that is the subject of other passages of Scripture – and for another day.

But what this does tell us is that a godly marriage should never be put asunder – and that is all it says. We cannot apply it more broadly than the Word does.

Another Domestic Abuse Survivor Tells of Pastoral Abuse

Yet again, a woman is telling how her pastor has sided with her abuser. She shares e-mails from her pastor with his exact words and has photos of her wounds – so there’s no denying this unless you just want to bury your head in denial. I wish this pastor’s attitude were unique or rare, but it is unfortunately common.