Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable … not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
I Timothy 3:2a,3b (NIV)
Pastor Saeed Abedini is one of the five captives freed from Iran this past January. His wife, Naghmeh, came out about spousal abuse in their marriage and separated from him hoping that he would work to deal with his anger issues in counseling. He has chosen divorce instead.
To those who doubt Naghmeh’s claims of domestic abuse issues, I just want to point out some concrete evidence indicating Saeed has a problem with respecting boundaries. Besides the 2007 misdemeanor domestic assault charge that he plead out as guilty, Saeed was charged with violating a restraining order earlier to this year, 2016. Minimally, Saeed is not respecting the boundaries set by the law as demonstrated by him being arrested for violating a restraining order.
Now. let’s digest this latest news of Saeed filing for divorce. Below is both Naghmeh and Saeed in their own words regarding this development.
It is with a heavy and broken heart that I inform all of you who have prayed and wept with our family the last few years, that Saeed has rejected counseling for anger and abuse and has filed for a divorce. There will be a time to share more fully, but for now, we appreciate your prayers.
Saeed’s statement regarding filing for said divorce:
“My heart is deeply saddened to be sharing the news that Naghmeh and I will be divorcing. She has been my wife of 12 years and she will always be the wonderful mother to our amazing children. While we have experienced struggles, she, along with my children will forever be my heroes, both for what they had to deal with during my imprisonment in Iran and for how they never gave up fighting for my freedom.
There are no words to describe the ongoing effect of the trauma I experienced and my family has experienced both during and in the aftermath of my imprisonment. We are different people, and we are hurting people. It pains me to say, but I have decided the only path toward healing is apart, and not together. Sometimes as Christians, we experience pain for which there is no explanation in this life, yet we must continue, even in the hardest of times, to look to Christ for strength, grace and comfort. I am trying to do that now, and I know Nagmeh is doing the same. Even in our disappointments, when we don’t have all the answers, Christ is still Lord. He is good now and forever.
…. My personal pain, and our family’s struggle, does not diminish my commitment to Christ or my resolve to preach his Gospel to Iranians and to Muslims around the world.”
Divorce Minister’s thoughts on these statements:
For a pastor who was embraced by the evangelical likes of Franklin Graham, I find it odd how Saeed does not even make an attempt to frame his filing for divorce in biblical terms. Do you see him mention anything approaching the two major biblical grounds for a Christian–let alone a pastor–to divorce his wife? I don’t. He does not frame this as Naghmeh being a non-Christian and abandoning him (see I Corinthians 7:15) or her being sexually unfaithful to him (see Matthew 19:9).
What is his justification or explanation for choosing divorce?
“It pains me to say, but I have decided the only path toward healing is apart, and not together.”
While I am not saying Saeed has been or is unfaithful, I do want to note that these words are eerily similar to the words I got from my (now) ex-wife as her reason to abandon me prior to her known and confessed sexual infidelity.
This explanation or “justification” is not grounded in Scripture’s teachings on divorce. But those words sure sound nice and engender sympathy for Saeed while he seeks to end his marriage. Who really is going to argue with someone taking action “simply” to heal?
Furthermore, Saeed and Naghmeh are already separated! In other words, they are already “apart.” He should be able to heal under the current circumstances if being apart is the real need. Divorce simply clears the way for Saeed to remarry.
Another thing that bothers me about Saeed’s course of action is that he does not deny refusing to go to counseling to deal with his anger and abuse issues as Naghmeh wanted. This bothers me as I would expect even a falsely accused brother minister to go to counseling as a grace to his wife.
I bet many male faithful spouses who read this blog went to such counseling sessions whether or not that was a real issue in their marriage!
Nowhere in Scripture do I see where Jesus tells us we can divorce our wife if she demands we work on our anger management issues. My point is chucking the marriage over this clear–and not ungodly expectation–from his wife seems odd for an evangelical pastor to do. If nothing else, he could have demonstrate his love and care for Naghmeh by attending these sessions to allay her fears. He chose divorce instead.
Finally, our marriages are our first and most important place of ministry as husbands and pastors (see Ephesians 5:21ff and I Timothy 3:4). It is hard to trust in a pastor’s commitment to Christ when he is forgoing his commitment to his family when clearly given a path to win them back–i.e. go to counseling to address anger and abuse issues.