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Evangelicals Rethink Divorce?

Dec 03, 2007 — Categories: ,

A recent article in TIME Magazine highlighted an article in Christianity Today describing a shift among some evangelicals to more openness about divorce. This would be welcome news to many evangelical Christian battered women who often feel that they are forced to choose between their church and their safety when it comes to divorce.

A recent article in TIME Magazine highlighted an article in Christianity Today describing a shift among some evangelicals to more openness about divorce. This would be welcome news to many evangelical Christian battered women who often feel that they are forced to choose between their church and their safety when it comes to divorce.

In the article, British biblical scholar David Instone-Brewer argues that in both Hebrew and Christian scriptures, divorce is allowed for adultery, emotional and sexual neglect, abandonment, and abuse. Dean Russel Moore of the Southern Baptist Southern Seminary even says that any woman in an abusive marriage should “leave that situation” and that a majority of pastors will probably accept remarriage.

Controversy about divorce among Christians has always reminded me of Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees about the Sabbath. In Mark 3:4, before he heals a man’s hand on the Sabbath, he says, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” The Pharisees were silent. I think their answer was “do nothing.” And what if, as is so often the case, doing nothing and maintaining the status quo means harm or death to someone? Jesus’ conclusion is: “The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.” [Mark 2:27]

So it is with rules about marriage and divorce. Marriage was made for humanity, not humanity for marriage. Scriptures recognize the reality of brokenness within marriage and do not condemn anyone to suffer unto death at the hands of a batterer.

Andrew Jackson, the 19th century general and not one of my favorite historical characters actually said it well: “Is it wise to sacrifice the spirit of the laws to the letter, and by adhering too strictly to the letter, lose the substance forever, in order that we may, for an instant, preserve the shadow?”

If the substance is a covenant of marriage shattered by the one who brings violence and domination to the relationship, why should we ignore this reality in order to preserve the illusion of the shadow of a marriage which no longer exists? We should get out of the way and let Jesus heal that which is broken – the body and spirit of the battered woman and her children – especially on Sunday.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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