Can Christians Divorce Over Domestic Abuse?

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What happens when your husband or wife, that claims to be Christians, abuse you? This was a question a close friend of mine asked. At the time, I didn’t have much of an answer besides “Christian husbands don’t beat their wives.”

My answer to her was not accepted. She continued to question my answer. This is my response:

Everyone has heard that Jesus said one can only divorce if adultery has been committed. Let’s look at the original question.

Matthew 19:3 NKJV
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”


There were several schools of thought in those days. Some Jews felt one could divorce his wife over anything, such as burning bread while cooking.

Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ [5] and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? [6] So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”


Jesus states to the Pharisees that God said male and female would come together and be joined as one flesh, and let no man separate. This refers to entering into a covenant.

But the Pharisees, in their folly, wanted to test Jesus even more. So they asked:

Matthew 19:7 NKJV
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”


Jesus answered them, with a twist to their question:

Matthew 19:8-9 NKJV
He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. [9] And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”


Jesus states that Moses did not command for men to divorce, but that he permitted. God allowed Moses to let men divorce under certain circumstances, but only because they were hard-hearted. He goes on to state that God did not want this, and that now, under the Messiah’s command, the rules would revert back to God’s original plan- that husbands and wives should not divorce unless one breaks the covenant.

Matthew 19:10-12 NKJV
His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” [11] But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: [12] For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”


Understand that this adultery covenant, while for believers, is normally upheld by unbelievers. This is one reason that many unbelievers that come to Christ do not forsake their spouse, because they do love and care about the covenant they made with their significant other. How much more should the children of God feel about marriage!

Now we come to the abusive marriages. Simply put, if you are a Christian and you abuse your spouse, you are not of His and you have no right to be called a Christian or even claim the label. Even the non-Christians take care of their spouses.

Ephesians 5:25,28 NKJV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, [28] So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.


We must take into account that there are different marriages. Paul only spoke of the primary two which happen often. Believers with believers can only divorce over adultery. However, if a spouse was to become abusive, they would fall into the rank of “let them depart.”

1 Corinthians 7:10-15 NKJV
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. [11] But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. [12] But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. [13] And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. [14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. [15] 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.


Why does a Christian who becomes abusive get labeled as an unbeliever? Because God is love and he that does not have love, to the point of loving her as he loves himself and as Christ loves us, is not a Christian. On those terms, you are allowed to get divorced.

P.S. Updates to this knowledge base are in order. Check back for a more orderly ending.