By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Summer 2014 – 3
I’ve read “divorce and remarriage” article which helped me to understand what God wanted in a married life. Thanks for the article.
Now, I’m writing this question looking for answers in the Bible related to my family life. Please respond to me at the earliest as a fellow brother in Christ since I’m in dire need of getting an answer for this issue.
I’ve been married for the past 1.5 years. We both are believers, yet we didn’t have a peaceful life because of my wife’s mental disorder which is supposed to be ‘bipolar disorder’. We had many counseling sessions with pastors together and it got revealed in one of those counseling sessions to seek medical (psychiatric) help for her. Ours was an arranged marriage and the medical condition of the girl was not revealed to me before marriage by her parents or concerned people and I feel I was treacherously brought into this marriage. She had issues of going depressed and getting into very active state. She used to physically and verbally abuse me when not in her normal state (most of the time). I’m willing to take care of my wife if she agrees to go for psychiatric counseling and treatment. However she is telling she is normal and very adamant not to take medical help. Presently she has abandoned me for the past 1.5 months) to stay with her parents without informing me.
It is risky and dangerous to bring her back without proper treatment since many issues has already happened like taking me to the Police station, wrongly accusing me of killing her, her suicidal thoughts, verbal and physical abuse towards me.
I was always mentally, emotionally, spiritually tortured and physically abused sometimes. It is as if like I’m in bondage with no freedom to live with her with her mental disorder untreated. With the help of my Pastor’s counseling here, I came to my senses not to bring her back until she agrees for treatment. However I couldn’t find any willingness or any move from my wives or her parent’s side to resolve the issue to move ahead regardless of many futile efforts from my side. We haven’t yet consummated due to many issues though we had some intimate times. I’m longing to have a family life but I feel I’m trapped and stuck with Bible telling me not to divorce except on grounds of adultery or desertion by an unbeliever!!! Many counselors have already advised her to go for a psychiatric treatment, but she is adamant not to go for it. If she still persists not to go for treatment, do I really have a legitimate Biblical reason to divorce and remarry? Please guide me with your answers.
Dear [name Withheld],
Thank you for your letter. I sympathize with you and know that marriage trials of this nature are very heart-rending. I think it is similar to what Christ felt when his own followers turned away from Him. There is a tendency among Christians to say, “That sounds too awful, I don’t want to talk about—or read about it in a magazine!” nevertheless, believers are commanded to deal with such issues
(1 Corinthians 6:2-5).
First, let me say that there are two issues here:
How does the teaching of the Bible apply to your case?
What are the true facts of your case?
I believe I can give you a good presentation of the Biblical teaching on the subject. But because I do not know your wife, and because it is not likely she would trust a distant person whom you have contacted, I cannot verify the accuracy of the facts you stated. I hope they are true. in the many times I have spoken to others about marriage difficulties, sometimes an individual’s initial telling of the situation was very good, and other times very important facts had been left out!
I therefore encourage you to find believer(s) who know you, your wife and your families if possible, and let them hear both sides and determine the facts. Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:5 are examples of this. It is in your best interest to have someone do this for you, even if you are sure that your wife is nearly all the cause of the problem. Almost everybody who wants a divorce blames the other person—but only some are right, most of the others are deceived and a few probably know they are lying. When a person blames their spouse for their divorce, but they are mostly at fault, they will usually continue to marry and divorce until they realize they are the problem. Whereas, people who get a divorce, but who are not mainly to blame, usually wait longer to remarry, but then stay married for life.
There is no free lunch! Any unjust person who “gets away with” a divorce usually suffers more in the future. a largely innocent spouse who ends up in a divorce is hurt, but is usually wiser from the experience and much better able to enter into a good marriage.
If you take this letter to your pastors or counselors, do they agree that it is an accurate statement of the facts without important omissions? Have they also told you to make changes in your life? Do any of them believe she may be troubled by demonic spirits?
Laws vary greatly throughout the world, but some might grant an annulment to your marriage because there was fraud involved—not telling you of her mental issues—and because it has not been consummated. There was fraud involved when Laban gave Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel, but since it was consummated, the marriage was held as valid (genesis 29:23-27). Conversely, when Onan refused to consummate his marriage to Tamar, he was treated like one who refused to marry (genesis 38:8-10).
The Old Testament teaches that a man may give his wife a “certificate of divorce” (Deuteronomy 24:1), except in certain cases (Deuteronomy 22:19, 29). God himself gave such a certificate to Israel (Jeremiah 3:8), even though He “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). Many people think Jesus changed the law regarding divorce in Matthew 5:32, but this is in a section immediately prefixed by this statement:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Christ did not alter the law. in that same section, Christ shows that hating one’s brother without a cause is like murder and lusting after a woman is like adultery—but nobody claims He changed the law for judges to exact the physical death penalty for hate and lust. No, Christ was teaching the spirit of the law and what God wanted for us from the beginning. Christ taught:
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. 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” (Matthew 19:8-9).
When God instituted marriage, He never wanted any divorce, but because people sometimes have hard hearts, He knew it was better for them to formally divorce rather than live a lifetime of abuse or contention—or to simply walk away and live with someone else. Even today, the believer should do all he or she can to avoid divorce—they should do more than “their share”. But indeed, there are some who claim to be believers, but still have hard hearts. This same teaching is repeated again here, in slightly different words:
He [Christ] 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. 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.” His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given” (Matthew 19:8-11).
The disciples realized that this “no divorce” standard would be very difficult to achieve—so difficult that one might consider avoiding marriage altogether. Christ’s response is in complete harmony with what he said in Matthew 5. He is not implementing a new law, but he is expounding the spiritual ideal for those who are willing to accept it. Paul explains exactly how a believer should implement this:
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 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. 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. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 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. 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 7:10-15).
Paul explains the principle of temporary separation with the hope of reconciliation. When people blame their problems on their spouse, separation gives them a chance to see if their problems go away, or if they are still with them—and maybe they need to change themselves. Paul further explains that believers ought to be willing to live with unbelieving mates, as long as the unbelieving mates are willing to live with them. They may still be difficult to live with. Obviously, if a spouse simply leaves with no intent to return, the believer may divorce him or her. This is especially important if the believer has children and the desire to raise them in a two-parent family.
Just because an unbeliever does not leave the home does not mean he/she is willing to live with his/her spouse. People who physically attack their spouses or attempt to have them prosecuted for crimes they did not commit are trying to get rid of their spouse and keep the family possessions—they are not willing to live together in peace. Also, a person may not be treated as a believer, even though they claim to be a believer. Matthew 18:15-17 explains that offenses should first be taken to the offender, then to some witnesses, then to the Church. If the offender will not hear the church, then he or she is to be treated as an unbeliever. If a spouse claiming to be a believer will not follow the judgment of the Church (or someone chose to judge the case—1 Corinthians 6:5), then he or she is to be treated as an unbeliever.
If your letter is accurate, Mr. India, it appears that your wife does not want to live with you. She has departed. She has also made efforts that would have removed you from the household if she were successful. if you explain this to her, take witnesses to her and explain it to your church, and if she will not follow the words of your church—or if she utterly refuses to even listen to all of these steps—then I believe they should agree to treat her.
May God grant you either reconciliation or a peaceful divorce— and, if God willing, the wisdom to find a new, good wife. Please note that the Bible contains many examples of arranged marriages, but it never commands them. Rather:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).