Call it Divorce or Separation - Just Save your Life

This issue has cropped up again, and it totally tears me up when I hear of women who lose their lives unnecessarily. Let us consider this scenario. An unfaithful husband asks the wife to grant him a divorce cos he now loves another and wishes to be able to remarry after they're separated. Being a Christian woman, she refuses and remains in the same house with him as they begin counselling. The man, unwilling to lose his job or his lover, fakes therapy, and then plans and kills the wife.

The scenario above is a real story and it shocked me that off the back of it, some people are still quoting God hates divorce, and marriage is for life/till death. I agree that God hates divorce, but the second is up in the air. Now there are some people that are vexed when I question biblical basis for practical living. This may be the time to stop reading.

For those still reading, back to the story which you can read in full on Gbemisoke's blog, not only did the husband kill his wife, he killed their two sons too. Without mincing words, he is a monster and is deservedly in jail. I do not want to blame the woman because her heart was probably in the right place, but maybe if she had left, her life and those of her sons would have been saved. Also, maybe the devil would have found no foothold in the mind of the adulterous man to make him a murderer too.

I say the woman's heart is in the right place because a lot of us for various good reasons do not want to see our marriages end. There are the children to consider, and in some cases, you may still love the man and want to save him from himself, for instance if he is being unfaithful to you, or losing his faith in God. But there are other more selfish reasons people do not want to consider divorce. There is pride and wanting to save face among friends, or simply wanting to continue benefiting from the perks of legal marriage.

Some of these people when they're Christians hide behind the marriage-is-for-life dogma. I personally believe that this doctrine of 'indissolubility of legal marriage' is a human construct that uses a literal bible to coerce people. Jesus said he came to teach us, not the letter of the law, but the spirit.

The "NO DIVORCE" rule has its roots in the Roman Catholic history while the church was still closely tied to the state and soliciting for mass membership. With the decree, a rich heiress is kept tied to her husband (sometimes the pope/king) while he is free to commit adultery. Also, poor women were assured that if married in the church, their husbands would not be able to divorce them.

Before I expound on my own understanding of divorce within a Christian context, read more heart-rending stories.
A Senior Pastor of United Evangelical Church, Rev. Sunday Alfa has murdered his wife,a mother of 4 for refusing him sex.The wife,Mrs. Rose Alfa was murdered in the Mission House at about 3am in Igojo, Ubali Village near Okene in Kogi State.

We learnt that before the woman gave up the ghost,she had confessed to a Policeman,who was taking her to the hospital that she did no wrong to her pastor husband and that the man came in the night in the room she was sleeping to demand for sex, but she refused because she gave birth to her last baby in October last year through cesarean section and the doctor asked her to abstain from sex for some time.

We gathered that the woman had divorced the pastor and went to Benin City to live with her brother,Mr. Alex Abah.

Four years later,the pastor went to meet the wife relations to beg for forgiveness and pleaded with them to allow his wife come back to him because he had been promoted to Senior Pastor and it was compulsory for him to bring back his wife before they could effect the promotion.
The wife’s relations agreed and allowed her to go back to the husband.

It was during his stay with the wife that the pastor eventually murdered her over sex. Source
This second tale is one we're more familiar with, it also ended in death. Titi Arowolo was allegedly killed in their home by an abusive husband. She left behind a motherless baby who will be an orphan if the husband is convicted to death.
During her testimony yesterday March 20th, Adetoun Oyakhire, Late Titi Arolowo's stepmum, told a Lago High Ccourt that Titi's alleged killer, her own husband, Akolade Arowolo, once chased Titi out of their home with a knife. She said:

Shortly after their wedding, there was a quarrel between them and Akolade pursued her out of the house with a knife. Titilayo was still breast-feeding at the time and her daughter was just three months old. Akolade snatched the baby and took her to his parents’ house at Ejigbo. Titilayo ran to our house that day and told us everything. Titi also told us on another occasion that Akolade had threatened to throw her off the penthouse and her dad told her to report the case to a police station but she never did.

She told her father that she was tired of the marriage and was going to file for a divorce. She stayed with us and when her father was leaving for Kano, he told her not to go back to her husband’s house. But Akolade came back saying he was a changed man and the deceased eventually moved back to his house in April (2011). Source

Now, the favorite quote of "no-divorce" proponents is God Hates Divorce. I agree, but He also hates adultery, and many other sins that yet exist within most Churches. In fact, one of the 10 commandments says, Thou shall not commit adultery. This I think is the reason Jesus agreed with the adultery clause in Jewish marriage laws that allows divorce.

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Matt. 19:9
If I may go further, in the bible, our relationship with God was often likened to marriage. Yet God gave us freewill, the knowledge of good and evil, AND SIN. And when we use that will the wrong way, and are unfaithful to Him, we are divorced. Lets look at the OT. (Jer.3: 8 and 14).

I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.
God Himself, said He divorced Isreal. And this is not just separation or allowing them to leave, he gave them a certificate. However, if you do not consider this enough of a rationale then consider 1 Cor 7:10-11. What the above underlined tells me is that the teaching to avoid divorce is not set in stone.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

The truth is that when we vow till death do us part, we also vow to be faithful, love and cherish. A lot of abusive spouses and Christians who insists an abused person must remain in a false marriage, seem to forget this. They encourage victims, who are mostly women, to be matyrs for Christ but forget that Jesus has already died that we may be saved.

Imagine that the victim stays in such a marriage till she dies at the hand of her husband. She may go straight to heaven for sticking to her vows, but the man is condemned to hell. How Christian is that?

Some 'no-divorce' proponents say that in marriage, the couple becomes one flesh and you can no longer tear apart what is one flesh. But Jesus said in the sermon on the mount (Matt 5) about adultery,

29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
This shows how much the Lord hates adultery. In this analogy, Jesus justifies it as a reason for one to "tear off what is one flesh". He calls it by name when He goes on to allow it as a condition for divorce in v32.

In my marrige, I would forgive like a good Christian if there is repentance. But will I blindly bear abuse, physical or emotional,  for years? Especially when it has become an everyday affair? I will quote Paul in Romans 6:1,

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Finally, I want it to be clear that my stand does not mean I take marriage or divorce lightly. I consider divorce just one option out of many for healing a troubled marriage, and depending on the sanity of the couple, should be the very last option.

Below is what I would do personally, or what I will say to someone I know, Christain or not, in an abusive marriage. I define abusive as where violence, infidelity or emotional trauma is a regular, daily or weekly occurence and not just a one-off event.

Your life is precious - to you, to your loved ones, and to God. Please leave or ask your spouse to leave the home. Seek therapy and support for a period of time. If the abusive party genuinely repents, shown by consistent changed behavior and accepting regular counselling, forgive them and return to the marriage. 

If they do not repent, or revert to abusive behavior, do not wait around, they are like the original unbeliever, and have left the marriage in spirit by breaking the core vows. 1Cor 7:15 says a Christian is not bound in such cases. Seek legal divorce with a clear conscience, and live your life to the full afterwards.