A friend of mine told me about a church she knows of that is exacting discipline on a woman because she filed for divorce from her husband. She claims he emotionally abused her. The elders, all male, in the church say that she has no “biblical basis” for divorce. Therefore, they are “disciplining” her.
I’ll make this as brief as I can.
- The biblical basis for divorce? Some churches believe that the only basis for divorce is sexual unfaithfulness. Because there isn’t a chapter and verse for or against something, doesn’t mean the Bible does or doesn’t support it. It’s a very good thing we don’t hold the issue of slavery, for example, to the same standard we hold to the right to divorce a spouse. There is no chapter and verse to justify many civil and human rights laws in the 21stcentury but thank God we have them anyway. Our human consciousness has surpassed the Bible in many ways, except for the rule of love. We can’t possibly apply every situation today to an ancient book that doesn’t address all the circumstances we face. Hunting for Bible verses to uphold what common sense already tells us keeps us in the dark ages, and worse, keeps women in abusive marriages. God gave us a brain, impressions, intuitions, many ways to know things. He never intended the Bible to be used as a literal handbook for life, to crowd out the work of the Holy Spirit.
- What is unfaithfulness? See, reading the Bible so literally is extremely problematic. Jesus himself said if you even look at a woman with lust in your heart, you’ve committed adultery (Matthew 5:28.) The heart of marriage is more than just sexual faithfulness, and I can assure you that the Biblical intent was not just to “keep it in your pants.” It’s so much more than that; it’s taking care of one another emotionally, mentally, spiritually. In other words, it’s not relating to your spouse to gain power or control. When we marry, we entrust ourselves to someone else and when that trust is broken, it does serious harm. This husband, when he emotionally abused his wife, over time breaking her down, broke his promise to love and cherish his wife. Why isn’t the church concerned about this egregious violation? Because the Bible doesn’t tell them it’s wrong in a verse? Are they that numb to their own inner voices? Wow I’d hate to be a part of that flock; they might lead us off the nearest cliff. Or I might go ahead and jump anyway.
- What about the husband’s command to love his wife? The institution of marriage is not more important or sanctified than the individuals that make up that marriage. How we treat one another is paramount. Why didn’t the church discipline the husband for emotionally abusing his wife? Spouses need to treat each other with the utmost love and respect. We should be one another’s best friends. What happened to this church’s stand on love? I see a tail wagging the dog here.
- What if this was one of their daughters, would these elders turn her away? I can hear the conversation now “Dad, my husband is calling me stupid and ugly and accusing me of cheating on him. He’s hiding my keys from me when I want to go out; I have no freedom and I feel so unhappy.” Dad/elder says, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry this is happening. You gotta make this work with Dillweed because there is no verse in the Bible that says you can leave him, even though he is cutting your very soul to the core. Good luck, sweetie. Mom and I will pray for you.”
- Shouldn’t we show our love by supporting a wife who is standing against the evil of abuse? Isn’t the church breaking the love command if we punish her for leaving, thus encouraging her to stay and tolerate this abusive and sinful behavior? Aren’t we supposed to stand against evil?
- Humankind has far outgrown the literal reading and narrow view of this application of the Bible. Did I say this already? I JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE WE ALL HEAR THIS.
- Women in these kinds of churches need to run. Run, don’t walk. Leave this place where you are restricted, and one must conform. There is no freedom, which is the reason Jesus came. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
We live in an amazing time and the church needs to wake up to who we truly are. We are never to tolerate abuse, especiallyfrom our spouse. We are the light and this woman stood up for herself and said “No!” She realized she deserved better and she’s on the road to freedom, but this church, this place of religion, grabbed her by the wrist to hold her back and keep her in her place. Her place is wherever she wants it to be and I hope she hears the call to run free.