Written by Steven Liechty
"I Know the Bible is Against Divorce . . ."
Dear Theo, My marriage ended after 22 years three years ago. I decided to follow Jesus and joined my local church. My question is was I wrong in refusing to go back to an abusive husband? Was I lacking faith or was I not praying enough to save this marriage. I know the bible is against divorce but it is also against violence. Will God forgive me? What if I find someone else and decide to marry again would this be wrong in God's eyes?
Dear Miss Dee,
The first thing I want to tell you is that God forgives everyone and everything when we go to God in humility and hope. Absolutely no doubt on that one.
The second thing you need to know is that you may not be the one who needs God's forgiveness. You were a victim of someone else's violence. There's probably nothing God needs to forgive you for.
The third thing you need to know is that if your husband was abusive to you, it had nothing to do with a lack of faith or the strength of your efforts to make the marriage work. You did nothing to deserve his violence, and all the praying and faith in the world could not have saved the marriage. The only thing that would have saved your marriage, or at least given you a chance to save it, is if he had changed truly and stopped abusing you for good. The problem was his, not yours.
As for whether you should have gone back, if your former husband was still abusive, the answer is a huge no. God does not ask us to put ourselves in that kind of danger, especially in our marriages. Of course God would prefer that all marriages work out and that every spouse loves the other deeply forever. But God never wills that spouses demean each other, hit each other, exercise abusive power over each other, or otherwise murder the soul.
In the Bible, Jesus did say that divorce isn't a good thing. And it isn't. It's always a tragedy when marriages fail. Such break-ups are the result of much pain and anguish, and they cause a lot of pain and anguish too. So we encourage all spouses not to quit too soon and to bring a full and persevering heart to their unions. Keeping our promises is important, especially when those promises are made in God's sight.
But when we look to the Bible for guidance, we never look at just one line or even just one part. We have to put many parts together to get a clear sense of what God's Spirit is trying to tell us throughout scripture. When we do that, we find an overall message—we are to treat one another with mercy, love, and respect. That commandment to love God and our neighbor as ourselves sums up and trumps every other commandment—including Jesus' own hope that once we marry, it will be for life. Divorce in your case seems like a more faithful path than sticking it out. Your husband was the one breaking the commandments when he abused you, not you when you decided to divorce.
As for whether it would be wrong for you to marry someone else now, it depends. Some churches do not permit remarriage after divorce. But it seems you may be a member of a UCC church, and the UCC takes a different view. If you are a member of the UCC, you need to know that the church is welcoming of people who remarry. We believe that second chances in life are sometimes God's way of teaching us about God's own dealings with us—always forgiving, renewing, changing things, making life better. You did not take your first marriage lightly. You always intended to stay married. But you were at risk in that marriage, and you did the right thing by ending it. Don't you think God wants to honor and grace you with the freedom to find real happiness now, maybe for the first time?
Blessings and hope to you as you make your way forward.
Please send your questions and problems to "Dear Theo" at: email@example.com or click here to submit your anonymous questions.
A new letter will be answered by "Dear Theo" each week. Letter writers' identities will always remain anonymous.
"Dear Theo" is written anonymously by three UCC ministers of different ages and backgrounds—one main writer and two respite writers. We welcome questions spanning all kinds of topics: from sexuality and relationships to church culture and conflict to mental health, family drama, ethical and moral dilemmas...and everything in between.