Continued from Part 1
Q. I have a friend whose husband is physically abusive and violent, and she has left him. She now faces the rest of her life as a single mother without any covering because she can't remarry so long as he remains a Christian. Where is the love and justice in this?
It would indeed be a cruel Elohim (God) who did not allow a woman to remarry who has been terribly abused by a husband claiming the Name of Christ, especially if she is not at fault. There are plenty of abandoned or abused Christian/Messianic mothers who would seize the chance of coming under the covering of a good Christian/Messianic man polygamously but who feel imprisoned by a poorly understood theology of marriage.
There are many articles on this site about divorce and remarriage which ought to be studied carefully before what I have to say now is read. It is indeed true to say that the New Covenant provides for no divorce between Christian/Messianic spouses, so binding is the marriage covenant ... not even when the heineous crime of adultery is committed. Or to be precise, a Christian/Messianic has a legal letter-of-the-law right to divorce an adulterous spouse but at the same time the Saviour pleads that we seek a higher law, which is the law of forgiveness. Of course, proper repentance and restitution must first be made for such forgiveness to have any meaning at all on the part of the one who has committed adultery. And forgiveness for such an evil should neither be easy nor light. Nevertheless forgiveness is the better way for those who will walk the higher path of the Christian/Messianic life.
But what if the offending spouse refuses to repent? I have voiced, in other articles, my conviction that a 'Christian/Messianic' spouse who refuses to repent of a gross sin such as adultery or physical abuse, actually ceases to be a Christian/Messianic and becomes a devil. That this was Christ's teaching is confirmed in the Gospel of Matthew:
Our Master Yah'shua (Jesus) makes it very plain that there is a three-fold process of complaint against a brother or sister, even a husband or wife. First this woman should confront her husband on the matter privately. If he refuses to confess and repent, she should call in one or two more other witnesses and confront him again in their presence. And if he still refuses to acknowledge his crime, she should then bring it before the Pastorate of her local assembly or church. If he still refuses to acknowledge his wrong, then by the Word of Christ he is no longer to be treated as a fellow Christian/Messianic but an UNBELIEVER or HEATHEN (NKJV).
"If one of my followers sins against you, go and point out what was wrong. But do it in private, just between the two of you. If that person listens, you have won back a follower. But if that one refuses to listen, take along one or two others. The Scriptures teach that every complaint must be proven by two or more witnesses. If the follower refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the church (assembly). Anyone who refuses to listen to the church (assembly) must be treated like an UNBELIEVER or a tax collector" (Mt.18:15-17, CEV).
Of course, all of this presupposes that that the accusation is true and that a biblical law is in violation (I can, for instance, see this passage being abused to declare polygamists as non-christians). I must also underline the need for careful and proper ministry to the offender, remembering that such a disciplinary proceedure has, as its intention, both the protection of the victim and the eventual redemption of the offender. But first priority must always go to the victim.
As I write this response I am actually working with a couple of cases where Christian husbands have abused wives. One involves physical violence and the other a wife who has simply been abandoned. Both husbands refuse to repent or accept accountability to a local church (assembly). Both wives want to return to their husbands but not the way their men are now. Equally, they do not want to spend the rest of their lives as singles should their husbands never repent.
What, then, ought a pastor to advise these women?
None of us knows whether a fallen husband will repent or not and this is one of the complications in the New Covenant Law. The letter-of-the-law is straight forward enough. But how long should one realistically wait? Some good women may choose to wait all their lives against all hope and then come to later regret throwing the way a second chance at happiness, raising a family and serving fruitfully with a godly husband.
- 1. Firstly, they need to be taught that if they choose to end the marriage that they have the right to do so since their husbands are now heathens in both the church's (assembly's) and in Yahweh's eyes.
- 2. Secondly, that they should be encouraged to wait for their husbands to reform and call them home per pro the law of love. How long they are prepared to wait, however, must be entirely between them and Yahweh.
- 3. Thirdly, so long as they are waiting, they should be protected by the local assembly against predator romeos. What this means is that if and when the abandoned wife decides to 'end it', there should first be a conference with the Pastorate in which to thoroughly thrash the issues out.
Our own Order has a clear-cut policy on this. We mandate that after such a separation an abandoned mother spend a MINIMUM of one year both to readjust to being single as well as to give the errant husband a period of grace. If after this time the husband has not repented, then we publically declare the marriage null and void. If the woman receives a Word from Yahweh definitely telling her that she should wait longer, then we of course encourage her to do that, and defer such a public announcement. It is, in the end, a personal decision. During this time, the woman is placed under the spiritual covering of a patriarch who becomes a FATHER to her. Often this will be her Pastor or another Elder from the local assembly. If her own father is still alive and he is a believer, she is put back under his covering by ordinance and prayer.
What this policy is NOT saying is that couples can separate and divorce on the basis of any transgression. We are talking about ADULTERY and VIOLENT ABUSE. If the husband decides to leave their Baptist Church and become a Methodist or a Messianic then obviously these are not grounds for separation or divorce! Even if he becomes a Buddhist or a Hindu she is not entitled to divorce him if he decides to stay with her and does not abuse her. Of course, if he tries to force her to deny her faith then this would create a third category for seperation and divorce. But if he is willing to live in peace with her, each following the separate religions, then there is no grounds for divorce.
I know of one case where a Christian woman married a Wiccan occultist. Of course, she should never have done that in the first place and was in direct violation of a commandment not to become unequally yoked to an unbeliever. Indeed, she has had nothing but problems since. Her husband's witchcraft has progressivley demonised her family and is destroying her own faith. What should she do?
I think every case has to be examined on its own merits but clearly she was in violation of the commandments, her marriage was never joined together by Elohim (God) in the first place, so the question is moot. But under more ideal circumstances where the husband might be willing to repent and be saved, there is a better alternative to divorce. The only place in the New Covenant where Christian-pagan marriages are justified is if the two both come from a pagan background and only one converts. Otherwise the Torah is perfectly clear - a believing spouse who enters into a pagan marriage is in violation of the commandments and such a marriage should be terminated unless Yahweh gives a very clear sign that the unbelieving partner will convert.
This is one of those Gospel topics that continually surfaces and generates a lot of heat. But so long as it does not go away, it must be addressed. I fully anticipate more light and truth to be shed on this very sensitive and difficult topic in the future.
But within the context of your question I would say this: if a husband (or wife) becomes adulterous or abusive, that unrepentant spouse is declared by Christ to be an UNBELIEVER. This was a radical departure from the prevailing doctrine of the day which taught that 'once a Jew, always a Jew' (and the modern equivalent, 'once saved, always saved') and shows that our actions can negate our religious profession ... and in such a way to free a spouse being enslaved by extreme religious hypocrisy that might also lead to spiritual and physical death.
Continued in Part 3