Wife Beating and Divorce

A good friend sent the following question.

“If a husband is beating his wife, does she have permission to divorce him?  And if she does, what does the Bible say about her re-marrying?”

My answer:

1. Yes! A husband who “beats” his wife is violating the covenant to be a companion (Malachi 2:14) as well as numerous other commands regarding the “one flesh” relationship. Read Ephesians 5:23-32. When Paul was asked whether or not a Christian should divorce an “unbelieving mate,” he said, “And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.” The opposite of that is also true. If he is “not willing” to live with her then she can “divorce” him. In my judgment a husband who “beats” his wife is one who is “not willing” to live with her in peace and God has called us to “peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). Most everyone agrees that she could “separate” and “get out of danger,” and, if that is case, she could surely make the separation permanent (divorce) if she had no hope of him changing. We all believe that they need to go to counseling and do all they can to make the marriage work, but sometimes that is not possible. A wife in that predicament is in a marriage that is already “put asunder” according to the Bible definition (one flesh/one family unit) and all she would be actually doing by “formally divorcing him” would simply be recognizing that fact and making it legal. Sometimes people violate the marriage covenant by “cheating,” but others violate the covenant by “beating.” Either way, God never designed marriage for abusive “mistreating.”

In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus said a husband is to “be joined” to his wife…but that does not give him the right to physically abuse her. When a “marriage” turns into a continual “boxing match” or a “beat down” that marriage is over in most cases…regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. And for anyone to believe and/or teach that Jesus demands for a wife to stay in that kind of abusive situation is absurd!

And if she does, what does the Bible say about her re-marrying?”

1. I believe that she can remarry. In 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 the Bible clearly teaches than anyone who is “loosed from” (divorced from) a mate “does not sin” by getting married. As far as I know it is not a sin for a person who is “divorced” to marry. It is a sin to “divorce a faithful mate” in order to marry someone else, or cause one to divorce in order to marry — which is what Jesus was dealing with in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:1-9. But if a wife is “loosed from” (divorced) from a husband because he violated the marriage covenant by “beating her” then I believe she has every right to marry someone else. A woman like this, who has obviously already suffered enough physical abuse, does not need to suffer more by being told that she must live the rest of her life in celibacy simply because she made a mistake and married a wife beater.

As you can tell, I am not part of the pro-divorce group who says that the remarried must divorce again. Some are, and they have to live with that, but not me! God bless!

Hope this helps! Let me know…if you need more info.


Special note: Here a section on my book (Just As I Am..) from page 76 & 77 about marital abuse.

One of the first things we learn about marriage from the Law of Moses is that marriage is not a license to mistreat and abuse a marriage partner.We are partners, not prisoners. We are companions, not captives. Even slaves who married their owners were not to be abused or mistreated in the marriage relationship. This is one of the first things that Moses taught concerning marriage immediately after recording the Ten Commandments:

If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money (Ex. 21:10-11).

4.  Observe that the husband was not to diminish or withhold or deprive (NIV) his wife (even if he took another wife) of three things. He could not starve her or fail to provide clothing (necessities of life) for her or deny her “marriage rights.” Marriage rights would include sexual companionship. If he failed to provide these three things she could go out free without paying money to be free.

Just because a person is married does not mean that they must put up with abuse. The idea of having to stay with a mate no matter how they treat you is not taught in the Old Testament or the New. We understand that marriage is for life—but not if it endangers your life. Surely God does not expect us to remain in wedlock with a mate who keeps us in a headlock. I know that some fathers and mothers would say, “If he beats my daughter, I will kill him.” But the obvious implication from this statement is that God would rather us kill him than for her to divorce him, which is surely not true.

Marriage was designed for mutual habitation, not for brutal intimidation. For one to teach that God demands a wife/husband to remain in an abusive marriage relationship is itself abusive. It is an indisputable fact that marriage is not an indissoluble act and never has been. Moses did not say it and Jesus did not teach it. Sometimes the only sensible and scriptural recourse is a quick and permanent divorce from an abusive partner.

Wayne Dunaway


The Stolen Horse and Those Divorced

The question sometimes comes up in the MDR discussion about the “horse.” And here it is: “If a man steals a horse and repents, then he cannot keep the horse and, therefore, if a man steals someone else’s wife and marries her he cannot keep her as his wife. Can he?”

My response:

1. If a man “steals” a wife like someone steals a horse…that is called “kidnapping” and those convicted of that crime go to jail!” (In the Old West they would “hang ’em.”) Stealing a horse does not prove/teach anything about divorce and remarriage except how ridiculous such a comparison is and how easy it is to influence/manipulate some who may be already prejudiced against those that have divorced and remarried.

2. Others may misunderstand what it means to get “hitched.” If we think a husband owns a wife like a man owns a horse then we have a problem with our concept of marriage.

3. A man’s horse does not cease to be his horse when his horse is stolen. The horse is still his. But a wife who is divorced does cease to be his wife. That is what divorce is! It is the termination of a marriage covenant! To make any sense out of this illustration one must say that a divorced woman is not really divorced but is still married (belongs) to the one who divorced her–which is not true and never has been. Since divorce actually ends the marriage covenant then no one can actually steal someone’s “divorced wife” because if she is divorced then she is no longer his wife. That is why it is not a sin for one who is “loosed from a wife” to marry. (1 Cor. 7:27-28).

4. If it were not for the “invisible clamp” or “mysterious mystical marriage magnet” that some religious people have “invented” that keeps a couple joined together that are quite obviously un-joined, then people would know that divorce and remarriage should not be equated with horse stealing. (I deal with some of that in Chapter Eleven of my book.)

5. Furthermore, a man is not in a “covenant relationship” with his horse but marriage involves an “agreement” and the will of both parties in order for it to be a marriage in the first place. See Chapter Seven in my book.

6. According to some, one could not keep a horse that had once belonged to someone else no matter what! And that simply is not true.

7. For example:

a. What if the horse turned on its owner and went absolutely wild and started kicking the owner and the owner could not do anything with him because he is a “wild” horse that she cannot tame? So the owner sends her horse away with a note around its neck, which reads, “I no longer want to be abused and kicked and pawed by this horse. If someone wants him, they can take him and they can have him—gladly! Later, a good woman finds the horse and decides to keep it. She later becomes a Christian. Can she keep the horse?

b. Suppose a horse owner simply decides to go out of the horse business and he abandons his horse out in the wilderness. A man who likes horses sees the abandoned horse, and decides to take the horse since it was abandoned and no longer has anyone to take care of it. He later becomes a Christian. Can he keep this horse?

c. Suppose someone owned a horse but he abused, starved and mistreated the animal for years and years. Finally, the “Humane Society” finds out about it and removes the horse. They later sell/give the horse to someone who will take care of it. The man who gets it later becomes a Christian. Can he keep the horse?

d. What if a man actually “stole” a horse and then when he goes to take it back, the man he stole it from decides to “give it” to the man who stole it because he does not want it back! The man who is given the horse then becomes a Christian. Can he keep the horse?

e. Suppose a man does not want his horse. He runs the horse off and refuses to have anything to do with the horse. He then sells his farm, moves to a foreign country, and people know nothing about his whereabouts. A man finds the horse lost, hungry, neglected and with no place to go. He takes the horse home, feed him and care for him. After years and years of riding the horse, taking care of the horse and treating him as his own, he learns about Jesus and become a Christian. What does he do with this horse?

8. Finally, those of us who have been/are guided or influenced by “horse stealing” illustrations may need reminding that we are not dealing with “horses,” but we are dealing with “hearts!” Some of those “hearts” have been abandoned or abused, mistreated and misused, rejected and run off, but have started over in a new relationship that is working for them and now they want the “healing” that coming to Jesus for salvation brings…but they surely do not want to “go through it again!” Others, who have sinned against marriage by committing abuse, abandonment or adultery against a faithful mate in the past want be forgiven and “start over” with the forgiveness that Jesus offers to all of us for the mistakes and sins of our past. But they cannot change the past any more than we can change ours…and to demand that they divorce the faithful mates that they love and are committed to in their present marriage is both “cruel” and “heartless”… as well as “sinful.” The Bible clearly says to “abide in the state” in which one is called (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24) which includes the marital state (1 Cor. 7:27-28). The “hurt” caused by bad marital choices or marital mistakes or sins against marriage are not healed by demanding more marital “hurt”…regardless of what one believes about “horse thieves.”

Wayne Dunaway

A Question about my book on MDR: “Eighty Times?”

Another question about by book on MDR is about “eighty times?”

One brother implies, “What you are saying in your book is that a person could have been divorced and remarried ‘eighty times’ and still be forgiven and keep the wife he is married to when he becomes a Christian!”

My response:

I really do not know where the “eighty” came from but the command to “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he is called” (1 Cor. 7:20) is what Paul had been commissioned by God to “ordain in all the churches” (1 Cor. 7:17). Does “remain in the same calling” include marriage? You decide. To me, the application is clear and the command later in this very chapter is plain: “Are you bound to a wife do not seek not to be loosed…” (1 Cor. 7:27). Note carefully that he did not ask are you bound to your “first” wife but are you bound to “a” wife. It seems to me that that would apply regardless of whether it was the first, second or eightieth.
Of course, we could do this “eightieth” thing with any subject. For example:

1. I believe that if a man had been guilty of unlawfully divorcing and remarrying “eighty” times when he comes to Jesus for salvation, then he needs to “repent” of that sin and stop divorcing and remarrying. I certainly would not tell him to make it “eighty-ONE” by divorcing the wife he is married to!

2. I believe that if a person murdered “eighty” people when he comes to Jesus for salvation he needs to “repent” and stop murdering people—and I certainly would not tell him to “make it eighty-one.”

3. I believe that if a man has committed fornication “eighty” times when he comes to Jesus for salvation he needs to “repent” and stop committing that sin.

4. I believe that if a man has told “eighty” lies when he comes to Jesus for salvation he needs to “repent” and stop lying.

5. And on and on and on…and on and on…..and on…the list could go. But of course the “eighty” would usually only be used when it comes to “divorce” and then the word “eightieth” can stir up the prejudice that already exists in the minds of some and that is probably why it would be used in many (perhaps most) cases. All of us who believe the Bible believe that unscriptural/unlawful divorce is wrong, whether it is done once or one hundred times. The issue in these cases is not whether or not people have done wrong or how many times they have done wrong in the past, but what do they do about it “after the fact?” Some obviously can live with telling them to “make it eighty-one” and divorce again. But not me! I teach them the same thing I understand Paul to teach which is, “as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk” (1 Cor. 7:17); and “let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called” (1 Cor. 7:20; and “let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called” (1 Cor. 7:24). Therefore, “Are you bound to a wife?” then I teach them “Do not seek to be loosed” (1 Cor. 7:27). Regardless of who may say it, how manysay it or how long it has been said, there is nothing in the Bible that teaches “divorced and remarried” people to divorce again when they come to Jesus for salvation! “Remain with God in that state” does not sound like “divorce your present mate”—at least not to me!

BY THE WAY: I believe that those of us who have refused to baptize/fellowship “eighty” couples involved in MDR and thus (in most cases) have turned them away from Jesus (and no telling how many others that those couples could have influenced to come to Jesus) can be forgiven and “go on from where we are”–just like every one else who has sinned (including those married, divorced and remarried)–when we come to Jesus (ask) for forgiveness. But “repentance” demands that we stop refusing to baptize/fellowship those who (like ourselves) have made mistakes (or misunderstood things) in the past that in many cases we cannot change now! God bless us everyone as we seek to follow His will for our lives as we understand it!Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).

Wayne Dunaway

A Comment from a friend about MDR

One reader/friend wrote the following comments concerning my “Marriage Maintenance and Divorce Dilemmas” article that I sent last week.

I have a different view on the remarriage. If you get a divorce for convenience, remarriage maybe should not be a future option.

My response: I see where you are coming from here and I basically agree. In my judgment, divorcing for “convenience” is the very thing that Jesus condemned in Matthew 19. Divorce and remarriage is not an option in a case where one divorces a faithful mate just for “convenience” sake without “sinning.” Jesus said, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 15:6). When a marriage partner divorces a “faithful mate” simply because the law of the land allows them to do so (convenience), it is wrong! Terribly wrong! And if they divorce a faithful mate simply because they “conveniently” find someone they like better, then that is marital adultery. Jesus said if one divorces a mate and marries another he “commits adultery against her” (Mk. 10:11). The issue I have is, “If they have already remarried, how do they fix it? Is it “convenient” to divorce again to repent of divorcing for “convenience”? The view I oppose is demanding that those who have already sinned by divorcing and remarrying for “convenience” being told that must divorce again.

His next comment: With a marriage involving young children, the children have no say about the divorce or a subsequent remarriage where they will become “step children” to the new spouse. A divorce is traumatic enough for children. A remarriage is another traumatic event. I think a divorced adult with young children should put their priority on the children, not themselves. Just my opinion.

My response: This is very good…especially the statement about putting “their priority on the children, not themselves.” I could not agree more. I believe (and know from experience in my own family and among some of my closest friends) that “divorce is traumatic” on all involved, especially for children in many (most) cases. I really don’t know hardly any families, in the church or out, who haven’t been affected in some way. And “remarriage” can be “traumatic” on them as well in some (many) cases. Knowing what I have seen in my lifetime, in most cases I personally would not recommend remarriage where children are involved…especially without a lot of spiritual counseling. So the point you make here is well taken.

But I also know cases where “remarriage” was one of the greatest blessings ever for the children. I have known children whose mothers divorced her “physically abusive/controlling/violent husbands” and later found a husband who was a “great father” to her children. So each case is different. The problem I have is with the view that says “remarried” couples must divorce again…which would be/is just as traumatic in many cases as divorcing the first time. Couples, whom I know personally, divorced and remarried and had children together in the “second marriage” but were told that they had to divorce in order to be Christians. If they had listened to those preachers and divorced each other, the divorce would have also been “traumatic” on them and their children just like it is “traumatic” on children in a first marriage. The question is usually not whether people sinned or were sinned against when marriages are destroyed, but it is, “What must they do about it when they have already committed the sin and are in a new relationship that they would not/cannot change?” God hates divorcing a “faithful marriage partner” no matter who does it or who demands it. See Malachi 2:16.

Wayne Dunaway

Marriage Maintenance and the Divorce Dilemmas

Marriage Maintenance and the Divorce Dilemmas

In my judgment, some long held views are simply…wrong views held! For example, I have read recently from at least two sources sent to me in the mail that most of those couples in our country who are “divorced and remarried” are quote, “living in an adulterous relationship.” The only exception is the innocent person who divorced a mate because the mate committed fornication. I do not know either of the writers who wrote the articles personally so this is not about the people who wrote…but it is about some things about this position that we need to note. In one of the articles the mention was made of the “innocent victim” in a divorce for fornication and how they are free to remarry. We all understand that an innocent “victim” who has been sinned against in this manner would deserve and is given the right to remarry in those cases where the marriage is “breached” in this way. But what about the “innocent victim” of a partner in a marriage that was breached by desertion or breached by an abusive mate? What about these “victims”? Do we actually believe that God does not care (in the sense of making provision) for these “innocent victims”? Do we really believe that Jesus allows the “innocent victims” in one case the right to get remarried because most people need to be married (1 Cor. 7:1-2), yet refuses that right to another “innocent” person simply because the guilty mate chose to “breach” the marriage covenant in a different way? Mention was also made about the “devastating effects of divorce” on the innocent children involved which is certainly something that needs to be emphasized over and over and over again. But what about the children who are born to those who are divorced and remarried whose parents are told by those who hold this view that they must divorce in order to be right with God? Those divorces will have much of the same “devastating effects” on their children as those in the examples given in the article. Divorce has much of the same “devastating effects” on the children of the “remarried” as they do on the children of the “once married.” Divorcing faithful mates should be reprimanded by us…not demanded by us! There are enough divorces in our country already without us Christians demanding more. I personally want NO PART of this teaching and practice of breaking up established families by teaching them to divorce faithful mates.

The truth is that the “only exception” view of the right of remarriage taught in these articles is simply not true…and never has been. There are plenty of cases where “innocent victims” have had mates to breach the covenant by “walking out on them.” Others have been “innocent victims” of domestic violence and abuse and have had to “walk out themselves” to protect themselves and their children from being wiped out! And we should not forget about the “innocent children” involved in the cases of “remarried couples” who, not only will suffer most of the same “devastating effects of divorce” if their parents heed this view, but are also now being told (directly or indirectly) that they were conceived and born out of wedlock! Adding to these “devastating effects” in their case is that their parents who were/are faithful to each other in a marriage relationship at the time when they were conceived were sinning (therefore, according to those who hold this view, they were born to parents who were fornicators and/or adulterers) and that their faithfully married parents are still sinning because they are living in an “adulterous relationship!” This is a very, very serious charge and should not be taken lightly. In my judgment, the Bible does not teach any such thing and never has. Those who teach married couples to “divorce” a faithful mate (whether first, second or fifth) are demanding the very thing that God “hates” (Mal. 2:16) which is in itself sinful. If those who hold this view want to “break up” established families let them “go for it,” but they shouldn’t be allowed to blame it on God or the Bible! The idea that marriage is “indissoluble” or that “only the innocent victim” in a case involving “fornication” can remarry is simply not taught anywhere in the Bible regardless of who says it is or how long it has been said or how many may say it! Just one example is enough to prove that the “only exception” view of divorce and remarriage cannot be true. A mate who has been deserted (abandoned) by an unbelieving marriage partner is CLEARLY given the right to remarry and therefore does not have to remain single unless they choose to be single.
Read it for yourself:

But if the UNBELIEVER DEPARTS, let him depart; a brother or a sister is NOT UNDER BONDAGE in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15, NKJV).

The question then becomes, “Can one “not under bondage” (or “loosed from a wife”) remarry without sinning? Read it for yourself in the same chapter just a few verses later:

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you LOOSED FROM a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But even IF YOU DO MARRY, you have NOT SINNED; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned…(1 Corinthians 7:27-28, NKJV).

I wrote my book for those involved in the MDR dilemma that want to (or have) come to Jesus for salvation. If you have been divorced and remarried (or know someone who is) this book may help: Just As I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried. http://wdunaway.blogspot.com/2015/06/just-as-i-am-married-divorced-and_10.html

Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).
Wayne Dunaway