The Bible’s Answer
Although the Bible and the Christian church stand opposed to divorce (Mk 10:9), Christians who are married to abusive spouses are allowed to—and even should—either separate from or divorce the abusive spouse, if every effort to reason and reconcile with them has failed. The Lord Jesus Christ is compassionate (Mt 9:36), and does not force anyone to stay in abusive relationships. In St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he reiterated Jesus’ prohibition against divorce, but then acknowledged that sometimes divorce is a sad, inevitable reality in some Christians’ lives:
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10–11, ESVUK)
As we can see, Paul clearly knew that sometimes genuine Christians do get divorced—sometimes by necessity, sometimes against their will, or sometimes by their own sinful fault. For married Christians who suffer from an abusive spouse who never listens to their pleas for reconciliation, separation is not only a good idea, but a necessity—especially since their physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing are at stake, as well as that of their children, or even their very lives. In addition, victims of abuse sometimes have to secure a civil divorce in addition to separating, because in some countries this is the only way which grants the innocent party the rights over the children, property, and finances. Christians who get divorced for this reason are not guilty of sin, and can still receive Holy Communion, in which the Lord Jesus Christ will come to them, and gradually heal them of the hurt and pain of the abuse they suffered from (Ps 147:2–3; Is 61:1; 1Cor 10:16–17; 11:23–26).
However, as Paul clearly specified, Christians who get divorced on account of abuse cannot remarry while their spouse is still alive, but must either remain single, or else reconcile with their spouse. This is because their one-flesh, covenantal union remains for life (Mt 19:6), for there is nothing on this Earth that can dissolve a valid, fully consummated Christian marriage except for death (Rom 7:2–3). If either of them remarries, the new relationship will be an adulterous affair (Mk 10:11–12). Hopefully, this lonely reality will cause the guilty spouse to repent of their ways, and return to their spouse in Christian love and faithfulness (Eph 5:22–24, 25–33).