Is verbal abuse a reason for divorce?

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By BibleAsk Team


Verbal Abuse and Divorce

Verbal abuse, often times, can be considered to be a very harsh form of abuse for spouses, family members, or even coworkers. If one is in a receiving position for verbal abuse against themselves, or even their children, that in no way should be tolerated. While separation may be encouraged, is verbal abuse a reason for divorce? First, let us define verbal abuse.

“The tongue has the power of life and death.”

Proverbs 18:21

Verbal abuse is different from constructive criticism because it harms the soul instead of building it up. Verbal abuse can be considered a psychological violence that causes the victim to be confused with feelings of unworthiness and hurt.

Christ regards verbal abuse as a serious offense with eternal consequences. He taught, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21–22).

The Bible gives only one reason by which a divorce is permitted. Christ established adultery as the only grounds for divorce. He said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). Under the Mosaic law the punishment for marital unfaithfulness was mandatory death (Leviticus 20:10), not divorce, whereas under the Christian law divorce is not mandatory, but permissible.

In 1 Corinthians 7, verses 10-11, the Bible gives another permission for separation to women who cannot live with their husbands. “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

Husbands are not permitted to divorce their wives, but wives maybe permitted to only separate from their husbands on grounds beyond that of adultery.  If she separates on this ground, she must either live single, or seek to reconcile with her husband. In cases of verbal abuse where the wife finds living with her husband is unbearable, she is given the permission to leave the home. But her marriage here is not recognized as ended and she is not permitted to divorce.

Verbal abuse can leave scars on the heart and soul for a lifetime. Therefore, those who have been victims of serious verbal abuse may need the help of a counselor or pastor in the healing process. The Lord commands “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).

Jesus warned against the use of idle words (Matthew 12:36). Therefore, hurtful conversation, have no place in the Christian’s life; it is a sign of the unconverted spirit. That which does not encourage and build should be given up (1 Thessalonians 5:11–14). It is not enough that the believer may merely abstain from bad speech. His words are to edify and uplift others.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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