Only the Lord really knows the heart; as Jesus said, evil comes from within and loves the dark. We cannot leave it up to a minister or a church leadership team to decide when a marriage ends; it is up to the individual victim, in prayer before the Lord. Only they and the Lord know what their life is really like. Only they know if their partner has expressed repentance, and only they will have to live with the consequences of the decision.
David Instone-Brewer. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (p. 105). Kindle Edition.
No one is competent to interpret Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels on marriage and divorce until they have carefully read and assimilated what Instone-Brewer has discovered in his study of rabbinics. His book is very, very freeing to abuse victims and, like the quote above, serves to silence all the amateur juries in the churches that are adding to the victim’s suffering.
(We have added Instone-Brewer’s book to the Resources tab on the top menu bar. There – and here – is an Amazon afffiliate link if you are interested in purchasing the book.)
This is the book which helped me to become free from guilt for choosing to divorce my abusive spouse and feel free to remarry.
I dunno. I read the more academic version of the book (which he has on his website for free). It left me with more questions than answers. In particular, he states that we don’t know what the Rabbinic opinion in those days was toward physical chastisement of wives for educational purposes, which is a practice that pretty much the entire planet has historically condoned (and still does, in many places). Medieval Rabbis were all over the map on the issue. So, I wrote him, and he responded with the following:
How can I know that God is against this practice, and always has been? How do I know that the Old Testament teaches against it? I could really use some good news on this front. God seems so silent. Is there anything you can think of that would help me see that God does not approve?
This is where we ultimately have to look at Scripture directly. Physical chastisement of wives? No matter what the rabbis did, it is what Scripture says that matters. How would loving one’s wife and being one flesh with her so that to love her you love your own flesh allow for beating her? For any reason? No way does the Lord condone or authorize such abuse.
I should also say that Instone-Brewer is not telling us to do what the rabbis did. He simply studied their teachings and writings in order to better understand Scripture. Matthew 19 is a key example. Knowing that the rabbis argued among themselves about something they called the “any cause” divorce sheds huge light on what Jesus was saying there. And it is Jesus’ teaching that we are concerned with and directed by.
Thanks, Jeff! Sometimes, I need to hear it from someone who isn’t a Rabbi. 🙂