Joanne Jarlett, Victorian Baptist Witness

When research shows that one in four women in western countries who have ever been partnered experience violence from an intimate partner, we can be sure that these statistics significantly impact on our faith communities.

Traditional Biblical teaching has not always given abused women an effective way to hold the abuser accountable or given the church principles to implement appropriate church discipline to assist families. For victims the subject of divorce is often like stepping through a minefield of Christian interpretation and opinion, which often leaves them with two options - to either endure the abuse or face judgment by God and the church for disobedience to Scripture. For the Christian community the topic of permissible Biblical divorce has become an interpretive quagmire.

Not Under Bondage contains timely biblical teaching on the difficult subject of how to deal with abuse within Christian marriage. In the first two chapters the author Barbara Roberts explains what abuse is, the cycle of abuse, how perpetrators and abuse victims often present to others and what Biblical action steps the church can take to help perpetrators and victims.

The rest of the book discusses the distinction between ‘treacherous divorce’ and ‘disciplinary divorce’, defining what the Scriptures constitute as inappropriate grounds for divorce and appropriate grounds for divorce from an abusive spouse.

Throughout the book, marriage is held in high regard but Barbara also presents a tight argument derived through key Biblical texts and narratives to establish Scriptural grounds for divorce caused by abuse, adultery and desertion.

If you are a victim of marital abuse, a family member, friend or counsellor of a Christian divorcee, a pastor, chaplain or theologian who seeks to give biblical guidance on divorce and re-marriage, this book will be of great interest to you.

It will help you to discern the Scriptural exemptions from a marriage covenant that has been violated by various forms of abuse and will assist the Christian community to offer hope and freedom to victims of abuse through Scriptural principles that free them from bondage and guilt.

Joanne Jarlett is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for the Baptist Union of Victoria, Australia. Originally published in the Victorian Baptist Witness, May 2009.