Marriage is Made for People, Not People for Marriage

The teaching of the church has compounded much of this hurt rather than alleviating it. Victims of continued abuse have been told they must stay married, and if they do get divorced, they have been told they cannot remarry until their former partner has died. And sometimes those who have divorced and remarried are told by their church that they must now divorce their new spouse because in God’s eyes they are still married to the person who abused or neglected them. Thus the church makes them a victim for a second time. (Instone-Brewer 2003, [Kindle] Location 1795)

One of our readers asked if we could post the following paragraphs from my book, A Cry for Justice*, pp202-4 as she found them so helpful.  So, here they are! Thanks to her for typing them up for us:

One of the irritants Christians often apply to the abuse victim’s wounds is the assumption that God would have every marriage preserved at all costs. This notion, coupled with the fantasy that “with just a little hard work we can put this thing back together,” has worked to enable hosts of abusers, and to intensify the suffering of their victims. Listen to the following Scripture:

Mark 2:23-28 “One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of man is lord, even of the Sabbath.

In Matthew’s parallel account, we also have this statement recorded:

Matthew 12:7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Christians, like these critics of Jesus, often embrace a traditional view of marriage that is just that – tradition. I do not mean the one-man, one-woman for life model that is normally intended when the term “traditional” is applied to marriage. The tradition in this case rather is the notion that man is made for marriage, not marriage for man. As the Pharisees had inverted God’s order for the Sabbath’s value and purpose, so Christians do the same in regard to marriage. This means that when an abuse victim comes to her pastor to reveal what her abuser is doing, the welfare of the victim is made subservient to the institution of marriage. But marriage was made for man! Marriage is a gift created by God for men and women to enjoy, not an ordinance to which people are to be enslaved at all costs.

What God desires, in the application of His law, is mercy. Yes, the Sabbath is to be observed, but it is for man’s sake, so that he might rest and refresh himself and enjoy God. The same is true for marriage. Therefore to insist that an abuse victim is to remain in her marriage “no matter what,” is to do what Jesus forbids: condemnation of the guiltless. And this is precisely what this book takes as a major thesis, namely, that the evangelical church has been condemning victims of abuse and withholding mercy from them.

Just as the Pharisee’s teaching about the Sabbath exceeded God’s Word and purpose and placed a huge burden upon people which they were never intended to have to bear, so it is with marriage in the teaching of many conservative, evangelical churches. The end result is sadly common – the guiltless victim is condemned for separating from and/or divorcing her abuser.

When man enslaves people to distortions of things God has intended for man’s good (like the Sabbath and marriage), Christ would have us set those people free! It was not God’s blessing of the Sabbath rest that Jesus opposed, but the twisted perversion of it imposed upon people by the Jewish leaders. In the same way, it is not the blessing of marriage as created by God for our blessing that we oppose but the wicked, twisted thing it becomes in the hands of evil people.

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10 thoughts on “Marriage is Made for People, Not People for Marriage

  1. Stephanie

    Thank you Pastor Crippen for all you have done to help those of us who have been enslaved to an abusive marriage due to much false guilt being heaped upon us by the evangelical community and nouthetic counselors. Your books were instrumental in helping me to realize the freedom and mercy Christ gifted to me via his death. I am still working my way out of fear of man. But, on 9.29.19 I will celebrate my 3rd year out from under the abuse of my ex husband, who also happened to be a pastor at one time. I am so very thankful…it was a long 26 years! Peace is precious!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Natalie


      I could have written those same words! It is amazing how many of us there are. I am grateful to hear from other women who get it.

      3 years ago, I escaped 24 years of horror. It has been hard to free my mind.

      You are right, Jeff’s writings are so freeing to those of us who labored under the painful yoke of twisted scriptures and condemning religious people.

      It sure is a hard climb back to level land, but having others climbing beside me has been so encouraging.


      Liked by 3 people

  2. Change Agent

    Thank you Pastor Crippen for rightly explaining the truth of Scripture. It is both inspiring and refreshing to hear. The phrase that comes to mind is Luke 24:32-
    They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us

    Every grace and strength to you.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. No one down here

    Right now, that is happening. I don’t know how the topics here are always so relevant… exact timing that matches what I’m facing at the time.

    I am continually surprised about the evil things said and done by the husband person. And yet, the church says… they believe we just have to forgive and put aside past hurts to the glory of God.

    I am done with that group of people. They are not my authority. I am so tempted to sign them all up for this blog roll…haha! pretty sure that would be pointless, though.


    1. Jeff Crippen

      ASevereMercy – I don’t have an article as such on that subject but I can tell you that it happens EVERY time divorce is filed. Abusers use the whole process then to wreak as much more suffering as they can.


      1. E Manning

        Agree, it absolutely gets worse. I mistakenly thought it would not lessen and it only intensified. I suffered almost 20 years of physical, mental, and spiritual abuse. I went to the church for counsel many times switching churches and denominations (catholic, evangelical, non-denominational, lutheran, etc)…every single one gave me the same advice…”pray up your marriage”. I was quoted scripture “A wise woman builds her home a foolish one tears it down” over and over again they had me return to an abusive environment. He broke me until I was nothing more then a shell. I merely existed. I begged God to take me.

        I was imprisoned for 40+ years to ideologies, to roles I thought I was obligated to portray, and to beliefs that I was indoctrinate into. Always setting aside what I wanted, what I needed, what I desired, what I longed for…I was taught that none of that mattered. I did not matter.

        My ex was charming and charismatic, I very like-able guy. He could cry at the drop of hat, look solemn, etc. He was great at it. Most of the abuse was verbal. I remember one pastors wife laugh at me during one of our sessions and told me “that’s it?! Sister you need to grow thicker skin”.

        The last time he laid his hands on me was in 2012. In 2013, I finally found my “get out of jail” card…I caught him cheating. I immediately separated from him and filed for divorce and boy did that piss him off. He never ever expected me to leave him.

        We were in the courts for 3 1/2 years! He filed motion after motion against me. He opened up credit cards and took out numerous loans which translates into martial debt (another form of abuse). He almost left us homeless. My legal fees skyrocketed into the thousands ($35k to be exact). Divorce finalized late 2016. It is Sept 2018 and I am still trying to financially recover.

        We have a young child and he still tries to manipulate and talk down to me. I thank God that I am in such a good place that his words do not penetrate as they once did.

        I knew early on soon after our marriage and sought Biblical counsel. Had someone just said “it is okay to leave and divorce” I would not have endured so much loss and pain.

        THANK YOU Jeff for this blog, it has helped my healing in so many ways!

        Liked by 1 person

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