For Better Or For Worse

February 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

I feel like I think about marriage a lot. It is something that many typical Americans experience or at least hope to someday experience, although there are indeed some who denounce it as institutionalized oppression by the patriarchy. The first few times I read this passage in Matthew, I nodded to myself and figured that it was pretty reasonable. Marital unfaithfulness would definitely convince me to get a divorce.

I like the verse above; I understand the importance it places on marriage, specifically the sexual union of the couple. It implies that in no other circumstances than sexual infidelity can a married couple become divorced, for it is by the act of making love do two people “become one flesh.” [Of course, such a view could be contributed to my romanticized view of things, for it certainly doesn’t explain the incest and other weirdness of the Old Testament, to which I am still searching for an answer.] Once that sexual bond is broken, the marriage can be negated.
The last time I looked at verse 32, however, I began to question what “marital unfaithfulness” really signifies. In passing, the phrase seems to simply convey cheating, adultery, etc. But is that really all it means?

Domestic violence is a brutal and common reality. Though McCain may joke about beating his wife, multitudes of women across the globe suffer physical abuse at the hands of their husbands. I understand that some instances may be singular events, but I wonder what the Bible has to say to the woman who experiences continual physical damage from her husband? [Hopefully something more helpful than “to be subject to their husbands”…]

I once randomly asked Boyfriend’s father what he thought about this subject, but he wasn’t really prepared with an answer, so I’m still asking. I would like to think that the Bible allows for some sort of escape from the situation: Boyfriend says that there should be a separation until the husband learns to control himself, although from watching Dexter and Desperate Housewives I’ve learned that though there are many ways to try to restrain an abusive man, mere distance isn’t enough to stop somebody who is seriously and evilly bent on inflicting harm on a victim. Maybe TV shows aren’t the best place to receive information, but it happens in real life too. I recently read a compelling account written from a woman’s personal experience with this situation on Christianity Today; after a separation, they ended up divorcing.

So I guess the solution would be, What would Jesus do?
Throughout the Gospels there is evidence that Jesus loved both women and men, and there are instances of him reaching out to women who were hurting, accused, and shunned. How would Christ deal with a man who was abusing his wife?

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