Is Abuse Grounds for Divorce?

Abuse goes against everything about God and His word… just as infidelity and abandonment do.

We are taught that God hates divorce, and He does. We are taught that infidelity and abandonment are the only grounds for divorce, but that any other reason for divorce is direct disobedience to God. We should be careful to not take away or to add to the Bible. It is for that reason I cannot say that the Bible says abuse is grounds for divorce, because it doesn’t. But please keep reading, there is so much more to know, God has so much to say about this.

We will talk about these specific ideas.

God’s plan for marriage

God’s specific role for a husband

God’s plan included bringing up godly children

God takes marriage very seriously

You have an obligation to do the right thing

God hates abuse

Close up of man's hands and woman's hands on divorce papers, woman handing man pen to sign papers. Abuse constitute as grounds for divorce just as abandonment and infidelity do.

God only says that divorce is allowed for two reasons. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, it says, “But if an unbelieving partner separates, let it be so…,” and in Matthew 5:32, “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality makes her commit adultery…” I have struggled with God over these verses. I have cried. I felt broken and trapped by these verses. I struggled with the questions, “How can God, who loves me, want me to be hurt? Want my children to be hurt?” The answer I found is that He doesn’t want you to be abused. We have two choices, we either agree with God or we can disagree with God. And for a long time, I disagreed with God, or I thought I did. But maybe there’s more. More to learn. More to the story.

We get stuck so easily when we think that because abandonment and sexual immorality are grounds for divorce, but abuse is not, that God condones the abuse. This could not be farther from the truth. Abuse goes against everything about God and His word… just as infidelity and abandonment do. You see, God takes marriage very seriously. And He had a plan for marriages and families from the very beginning.

Here are some truths about God’s design for families and what He says about abuse.

1. God had a plan for marriage long ago.

God created marriage for companionship. God says in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” God could have created another man for Adam; to match his gifts and create a brotherly relationship for him. Instead, God created Eve, whose strengths and gifts are different from and complimented Adam’s; and Adam’s gifts complimented Eve’s. This companionship allowed for deeper intimacy. Eve had strengths that Adam did not have. The first marriage is a beautiful picture of God’s design for marriage.

2. God is very specific about a husband’s role in the family.

Love and respect characterize the roles of both the husbands and the wives. Men and women need both LOVE and RESPECT. To say that one gender needs more of the other is to go against what the bible says, what God says. But there is more… God commands husbands to be loving, understanding, and gentle with their wives (1 Peter3:7). In this same verse, God even says that a husband should do these things so that his prayers are not hindered. That’s pretty serious. Read more about the role of the wife here.

3. God’s plan for marriage included bringing up godly offspring.

After God created Adam and Eve he gave them the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). Through God’s gift of sex, Adam and Eve would receive the blessing of children. But God’s plan was not meant to just have children, He wanted those children to know and love Him (Ephesians 6:4).

4. God takes marriage very seriously.

God carefully designed marriage to be intimate and honoring to Him (Genesis 2:24). Intimacy can only happen when there are two people who participate in the relationship and both people are allowed to be themselves. Can you imagine being in a relationship where your opinion is always wrong and you’re not allowed to show any emotion? Well sadly, you probably can. When this happens, our gifts are hidden not enjoyed, and hidden gifts cannot compliment the gifts of the man in the marriage relationship.

5. You have an obligation to do the right thing.

Have you ever heard the saying “do the right thing, even if no one else is?” Well, this counts for marriages too. You have an obligation to yourself and to your children to do the right thing, even if your husband is not. Or more accurately… especially, if your husband is not. A God-honoring marriage sets an example for children for what marriage should be like. But the opposite is also true. If your marriage is not God-honoring then they will learn from that too. Boys learn how to be boys from the men in their lives. Can a woman teach a boy to be a man? Can you tell your daughters to find a husband who is kind and gentle when her father has demeaned her for her whole life (and watched you demeaned)?

6. God hates abuse.

God created each person in His image (Genesis 1:27) and each person is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). To treat a person as if they’re not valuable is to call the God who says they are, a liar. This verse in Matthew 25 gives us a good picture. “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters you were doing it to me.” When Jesus said this he was referring to those who were hungry and not fed, thirsty and not given a drink, naked and not clothed, sick and in prison with no visitors. Jesus also teaches us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Do this He says, “and you shall live.” God commands us to love our neighbor and tells us that what we do to others, we do to Him.

God takes abuse and mistreatment very seriously. He is not blind to what you are going through. God is very specific about how husbands should treat their wives and children. He is against husbands and fathers hurting their wives and children. But you have an obligation to your children’s safety, you have an obligation to your own safety. Abuse goes against everything about God and His word… just as infidelity and abandonment do.

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