What does the Bible say about separation and divorce in cases of domestic abuse?
This is the start of Ally Kern's chapter on the Biblical perspective regarding divorce and domestic abuse. The full chapter can be found in Restored: A Handbook for Female Christian Survivors of Domestic Abuse. This handbook is relevant for survivors, friends of survivors, church leaders and service providers.
You may have heard from the church that the Bible says divorce is a sin, and only acceptable in the case of adultery or physical abandonment. For those who have experienced the anxiety, fear, and even terror of being abused by a partner, the possibility of separation and divorce can often be a life-saving one.
So if God is good and loving, committed to justice, and in particular cares for the vulnerable, how then can we understand God’s teaching on divorce in the Bible? Is it even an option? And if so, in what circumstances?
As we’ve discussed earlier, God defends the rights of the marginalized and abused—which is why God permits divorce throughout the Bible which includes the case of abused women.
'While God's heart is for healing and reconciliation of marriages, the restoration of a biblical marriage is impossible when the abusive spouse does not repent or change.'
— Ally Kern (Restored Survivors' Handbook, p.185) —
About the author
Ally Kern is a survivor of Domestic Violence who uses her voice as a public theologian and scholar to advocate for women's flourishing and the end of violence against women and girls.
An Adjunct Professor in Practical Theology at Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles, she is also a Ph.D. student at Claremont School of Theology, where she is doing cutting-edge research in the fields of theology, neuroscience, psychology, and women’s studies to create resources for women to heal from relationship abuse. She also brings two decades of pastoral ministry to her work as a speaker, writer, and advocate for women.
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