I have always maintained that we must be alive, first of all, to make our marriages or relationships work. That stance I do not think will ever change.
It is therefore absolutely important that people are encouraged to run from toxic and abusive unions and not waste anytime trying to save it, especially with physical abuse. Chances are that, the more minutes one wastes to stay and save an abusive marriage / relationship from collapse, the more opportunities one loses to even save themselves.
Sometimes, we put undue focus on preserving the sanctity of the marriage institution than safeguarding the sanity of the people in it, who are affected the most from any fallout, and who should at all cost be protected from abuse of all kinds. Jesus loves the individuals just as much as the institution of marriage; does He not? It would be difficult to wrap ones head around any religion or culture that wouldn’t value human life more than doctrines or practices.
Maybe part of the problem is that good people wait forever for bad situations to change, and that’s how they get played by bad people or their abusers who overtime get convinced and emboldened by the victim’s own decision of clinging on to a false hope that things would eventually change. Indeed, some choose to stay because of the kids, but in the end still die at the hands of their abusers, leaving the kids.
And how on earth a large part of society, including some churches still encourages people to stay, fast and pray away abuse in marriage and it will somehow disappear miraculously sometimes beats imagination. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer but I do not believe it is the solution to everything. I can never understand why in our part of the world, every problem we face must be attributed to some fact that we are either not prayerful or praying hard enough, or might have sinned against God.
Maybe we erroneously interpret the “for better for worse” marriage vow to simply mean people should die in their marriage irrespective of whether they are being physically abused or not. It always comes down to the sad conclusions that after all, “God hates divorce“, “what He has put together, no man should put asunder“, “infidelity is the only grounds for divorce“, etc. Then, there are often other statements that suggest that the victims perhaps did not pray enough or sought well the face of God in choosing their partners, hence the situation they find themselves in. Really? Godly people don’t change? We’ve not seen enough examples of very spiritual people who are intoxicated by the Holy Spirit himself acting like beasts? What’s even the guarantee that somebody being spiritual and approved by God today cannot change tomorrow or when it comes to God revealing marriage partners, that kind of revelation no longer comes in part but in full? I shudder to ask because anytime revelations / prophesies come from God, we are always told they come in part and not in full; and that is sometimes used to explain away why some revelations or prophesies fail, or?
Sometimes we just use our own interpretations and the ones we’ve grown up to be taught to limit the wisdom of God. And sometimes, we do it so much to suggest that we the interpreters of the Bible are ourselves wiser than God. We really try so hard to put God in a box, our own little boxes, outside of which He has no room to operate.
Marriage is great but sometimes we make marriage look and feel more like a bait for some, allowing many evil and unthinkable things to happen in the marriage, and people cannot break free as long as the issues does not involve infidelity. We have continuously pushed the rhetorics of infidelity at the expense of things that are sometimes worse than infidelity, such as physical abuse or domestic violence and maltreatment. Perhaps we forget that some people in a marital union are more accepting of infidelity and can live with it but can never stand violence, maltreatment and physical abuse. There are spouses who will never commit infidelity and yet are so wicked and abusive that continuing to live with them is more than signing ones own death warrant.
Apparently, the kind of rhetorics we push, even in our churches, makes God look like someone who approves of every kind of vice in marriage, except infidelity. We are happy as a people for women (who are mostly victims of physical abuse) to continue to hide behind makeups and concealers to paint beautiful faces that hides the scars of abuse, saving face in public and deceiving themselves and younger generations that they are enjoying a “God ordained marriage”.
God must be happy too, right?
As for me, I only tell people one thing: don’t buy anybody’s idea of “God hates divorce” and die in your abusive marriage. God does hate divorce, and neither is divorce a thrill for many right thinking couples because nobody enters happily into marriage to just get up and divorce. Context is very critical in the evaluation of every issue to which a rule or law applies. I have always asked extremists who lean on the rhetorics of “infidelity is the only grounds for divorce and that is final” this simple questions that I never get answers to: To whose benefit is it when people endure physical abuse and die in their marriage? God? Are the victims given a crown for that in Heaven for staying and dying? You think it’s enough to just preach “God hates divorce” and life goes on? Do you know how many Christians are perpetuating so much evil within the walls of marriage but will not even cheat for their spouse to as it may have at least that “one ground” to seek divorce?
You must be just a religious fanatic to think that far worse things do not happen in marriage than infidelity and people feel trapped just because God has only given one ground for divorce in the Bible. Just like any enterprise, if a marriage won’t work after you have put in your everything, including prayers, it just won’t work. Accept that and move on. Run even when it involves physical abuse.
In any case, even though marriage is an institution of God and a spiritual union, aside it being physical, no marriage will ever exist without the willingness of two individuals committing to the journey. Christian marriage is not a union solemnized at gun point or with knife to the throat. Two consenting adults find each other, express love for each other and decide to live together, seek approval of parents, bring the marriage to be covenanted before God in a Church (which then makes it a Christian marriage, as legally, the laws only see the Church as a venue for holding marriage), then a certificate from the state (not church) is given to them and they go on to live as married couples. So, at any point where one partner, irrespective of the circumstance, becomes unwilling to go on, and all effort to solve the issue fails, the union is as good as dead and no amount of not allowing them to go their separate ways because “God hates divorce” can ever make that marriage a happy one. The ability of a marriage to stand is always premised on the two consenting individuals who must be committed at all times, with a great dose of God’s grace to make it work.
In any case, even if the Church does not consent to divorce under any circumstance, except infidelity, have you ever seen married couples dissolve their marriage in Church instead of the law court before? The Church may play a big spiritual role in instituting the marriage and helping it last with godly counseling but when it comes to dissolution of marriage, it is a matter solely for the courts (the body that certified the marriage). Well, if you think that marriage certificates belong to the Churches that issue them, then think again.
Yes, God hates divorce and would be unhappy with couples divorcing not on the ground of infidelity (perhaps they may miss heaven, which I don’t even think is the case as context matters as much as rules), but it is more a matter of faith than legality.
Truly, may God grant grace where it is needed and may all parties to a lasting marriage play their part because the wellbeing of society depends on happy marriages and happy homes. And if we all raise our voices against domestic violence and physical abuse as much as we advocate against divorce, we would all achieve the same thing and we would not have to constantly fall on the “God hates divorce” rhetoric to cower people to stay and die in abusive unions.
Like | Comment | Share
©Mark Gadogbe, 2021
Cover Image Source: https://instagram.com/elcarnastudios?igshid=dr0gdfq3qa3g