Abusive Marriages (1 Peter 2-3)

I have to confess that I stopped short when I was reading the word the other day because I read some verses that forced me to consider what the biblical standpoint is on abusive marriages.

Please read through everything I’ve said before passing judgment!

I have long wondered how pastors justified encouraging divorce over abuse when the Scriptures clearly state only two reasons for allowing divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and the unbelieving spouse leaving (1 Corinthians 7:15). And even those are because of the hardness of our hearts (Mark 10:5) because the Father hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

Let me be very clear first, I do not support – and I repeat NOT support – domestic abuse. Nor do I believe that it is pleasing to God or that He approves of it. He says husbands should honor their wives as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7) and love them as they do their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28).

Let me also say that I do not judge anyone for having made a decision to leave their spouse over abuse. I completely understand why one would want to and I have much compassion for anyone who has had to live through such circumstances. At the end of the day, each person is responsible for obeying what they understand God to be telling them. They need to hear what He says, and do it.

What I share below is just what I see in Scripture. This is me processing through what I believe the word says and trying to make sense of it. I’m laying it all out here in hopes this is a blessing to someone else.

Grace in Suffering

With that disclaimer let me share 1 Peter 2:18-21 (CJB)

Household servants, submit yourselves to your masters, showing them full respect — and not only those who are kind and considerate, but also those who are harsh. For it is a grace when someone, because he is mindful of God, bears up under the pain of undeserved punishment. For what credit is there in bearing up under a beating you deserve for doing something wrong? But if you bear up under punishment, even though you have done what is right, God looks on it with favor. Indeed, this is what you were called to; because the Messiah too suffered, on your behalf, leaving an example so that you should follow in his steps.

Please note the fact that it makes reference to the master being harsh, and specifically to beatings. Now before you dismiss these verses as being for servants only let me share with you another Scripture that directly follows this line of thought and keep in mind there were no chapter breaks when it was written so this is a single flow. 1 Peter 3:1-2 (CJB)

In the same way, wives, submit to your husbands; so that even if some of them do not believe the Word, they will be won over by your conduct, without your saying anything, as they see your respectful and pure behavior.

Note that it says “in the same way”. This appears to be referencing what had just been being discussed in the letter which was servants and masters. In other words, the verses we just read.

Possible Cause

As I wrestled with what I’d read I couldn’t deny the implications. So I pondered WHY. Why would He have a wive stay in such circumstances? What could be gain and how is He glorified in it?

The first scripture He brought to mind was Proverbs 15:1 (CJB)

A gentle response deflects fury, but a harsh word makes tempers rise.

Again, let me give the disclaimer that I am not saying that in every situation of abuse that the woman has “asked for it”, as I am not saying that at all. But the fact remains, in some circumstances that is the case. And I was to discover later, the reason that He was showing me these verses was that I could give counsel to someone very specific, and in that case, she had given a harsh word which caused exactly the response this verse promises.

All this has made me wonder how often if wives had just held their tongues and responded in the way that Scripture encourages them to that they would’ve affected a greater change in their lives than by trying to defend and argue and fight for themselves.

Frankly, this reminds me of my own marriage testimony! I did not suffer physical abuse, but emotional (in part by a steady threat of physical violence) and verbal. What I share below is what I learned and what brought longstanding effectual change in my marriage.

Spiritual Warfare

Too often in the heat of the moment we forget that the battle is spiritual, not in the physical. We have been taught to focus so much on the natural realm that we completely forget that Ephesians 6 exhorts us that we aren’t fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.

What that means is when we are dealing with a situation that is not one that is pleasing to God, it is very safe to assume we are dealing with something demonic. Therefore, it needs to be addressed spiritually not naturally.

So as we respond in love and respect to the person, we are able to do battle against the spirits controlling the person. It’s good to remember that the person being controlled is being impacted as much if not more by the enemy’s activities then even we are as we suffer the abuse.

The result of this warfare is then freedom not just for ourselves, but also for our spouse as well.

The problem is that most of the time we give up long before we ever see the victory because the enemy will attack us with doubt and unbelief. We accept thoughts like “my husband will never change” thus essentially saying that God is not all-powerful and further acknowledging the strength of the enemy. In essence the enemy steals our praise.

Father, please give us the strength to walk in love even when we are reviled and abused as Your Son was.  Help us to respond in love even in the face of hate.  Help us to refuse offense and react in grace that somehow in the midst of our ugliest moments that You would somehow be glorified.

I pray You would give wisdom to anyone in this type of abusive situation. You see then beginning from the end. You know if it’s a situation where a massive heart change will result from one who is willing to respond in humility and grace that You might be glorified.  I pray for protection over the weaker vessels and for the hearts of husbands to desire to protect, love and cherish just as You have called them to. Give us wisdom to act in accordance with YOUR wisdom as opposed to man’s wisdom.

Ultimately, we desire Your will be done. Let us be willing vessels for Your glory to be known in the earth!

9 thoughts on “Abusive Marriages (1 Peter 2-3)

  1. Best quote in my opinion: “At the end of the day, each person is responsible for obeying what they understand God to be telling them. They need to hear what He says, and do it.”

    Personally, I find this is a topic of much prayer, not only for the married couple, but also their children. Our only hope is in the Lord.

  2. Pingback: Meghan W » Blog Archive » Beauty of a Woman

  3. I am single, not married yet, but I cannot wait to move from my parents house because the bible is completely suppressed. I cannot discuss it. I can’t mention my ministry vision. I cnanot have the place it needs to exist. It is regarded as stupid in my household. All my friends that I share it with absolutely love it. They say “that’s beautiful” You’re not crazy” Go with that” This is good encouragement that I need and also a confirmation that I should go with it. I do need to get a job and move somewhere, to one of those efficiency condos or something, because I am not rich. I thought about living in nature too. I need to move because the biggest aspect of my vision is hindered while I live at home and I always seem to feel like prayer is stupid, scripture is stupid, and that my whole thing was made up because of what was directed at me. It is just hard to endure because every time I want to pray about something or read Scriptures, voices in my head say: “That’s stupid” “that’s childish” “anything bible or religious is stupid” “you know your vision is made up nonsense that is all in your head” Things like that come to mind.

  4. Proverbs – the book of wisdom also has something to say about abuse and separation. It’s up to the individual to be guided by the Holy Spirit and decide whether that separation needs to be temporary or the permanent separation of divorce.

    … a fool is hotheaded and reckless (Pro 14:16B)

    A quick-tempered man does foolish things… (Pro 14:17A)

    STAY AWAY from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips (Pro 14:7).

    Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, DO NOT ASSOCIATE with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways
    and get yourself ensnared (Pro 22:24-25).

    The Bible is true, and it has a warning for abusive spouses:

    Exploit or abuse your family, and end up with a fistful of air; common sense tells you it’s a stupid way to live (Pro 11:29 Message).

    If an abused wife decides to use wisdom and “STAY AWAY” and “NOT ASSOCIATE” with an abusive spouse, she is still within the confines of scripture.

    The book of Proverbs has a whole lot more to say about abuse. It would be enlightening for those dealing with abuse to read the book of Proverbs and gain wisdom and understanding on the issue.

  5. @KM – Let me begin by reiterating that I completely understand why someone would leave an abusive spouse and that the decision to do so is obviously between them and the Father. I in no way judge such a decision, nor am I supporting that it is a husband’s right to abuse his wife! I very definitely agree with the scripture you cited from Proverbs 11:29 and would add to that my personal favorite, 1 Peter 3:7 (ESV)

    Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    My desire in this post is simply to look at the scriptures and see what counsel they give. And while I strongly agree that the Proverbs you’ve cited make it clear that if the abusive behavior is apparent in courtship you should RUN AWAY quickly – I do not think that wisdom (i.e. Proverbs) written by a man specifically referring to friendship can be used to offset or counter scripture written specifically about the covenant of marriage and speaking directly to the topic in discussion.

    Again, I am in NO WAY trying to presume what someone else should do in their situation! My heart hurts for those who are in the midst of it now or have gone through this (of whom I know more than I care to count – some of whom are in my own family).

    It grieves me that this situation is so common. We are to be known by our love and yet even within Christian marriages – which at their best should mirror how Christ loves His bride – we hear of abuse… clearly it is of the enemy and grieves the heart of the Father. It is a tender issue and I pray Father to give wisdom to anyone in such a situation.

    Bless you <3

  6. “I do not think that wisdom (i.e. Proverbs) written by a man specifically referring to friendship can be used to offset or counter scripture written specifically about the covenant of marriage and speaking directly to the topic in discussion.”

    Jesus talked specifically about marriage in the gospel, and we know that Jesus is God. Paul and Peter also taught on marriage. However, Paul and Peter were just men used by God. Solomon was also a man used by God. Paul and Peter were no greater than Solomon and no less. Their teachings were God inspired and so were Solomon’s. Solomon also wrote a lot about marriage – covenant aspects, adultery, profile of a worthy wife, etc.

    Friendship is a integral part of the marriage covenant. In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about how the covenant between husband and wife is symbolic of Christ’s relationship with the church. As a result of that symbolism, we should study the relationship between Christ and the church to see what it entails. Long story short, the relationship between Christ and his church is one steeped in friendship:

    Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15: 13-15).

    The LORD is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant (Ps 25:14).

    … there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Pro 18:24B).

    “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend (James 2:23).

    Because Christ’s covenant with his church is steeped in friendship, the relationship between husband and wife should also be steeped in friendship. This verse echoes that sentiment:

    …who leaves [her husband,] the closest FRIEND of her youth, and forgets her marriage vows to her God (Pro 2:17 God’s Word Translation). Of course, this woman left her husband to commit adultery, which we know is perverse. However, this verse emphasizes the sort of close, intimate friendship that should exist between husband and wife..
    Other translations that use the word friend in this verse: Hebrew Names Version, World English Bible.

    Surely verses about friendship are applicable to other types of relationships, but they can definitely be applied to the marriage covenant because other than Jesus, a married person’s spouse should be their closest and most intimate friend.

    Lastly, I definitely believe that scriptures don’t offset or counter each other. Scriptures balance and confirm one another.

    May God richly bless you and your family too!

  7. @KM – First off thank you for your replies which have clearly been given much thought as well very graciously stated which means more to me than I can begin to express – so thank you from the bottom of my heart 🙂

    All that said, let me clarify a bit because in my comment I was not trying to say that the Proverbs were lesser scriptures in any way – I hold ALL scriptures as inspired by Holy Spirit. I was however addressing that the context of the scripture and its intended purpose or topic it addresses which from my perspective obviously should be considered and carry weight. The reason I was pointing this out had to do with the comment you made in your original post:

    “If an abused wife decides to use wisdom and “STAY AWAY” and “NOT ASSOCIATE” with an abusive spouse, she is still within the confines of scripture.” {emphasis mine}

    My concern with your comment was that in saying that the wife “decides to use wisdom” by leaving implies to leave is the ONLY wise choice. Since that choice obviously contradicts the scriptures originally shared in this post which specifically are addressing marriage and abuse in marriage it seemed to me that you were using the scriptures in Proverbs to counter the ones I’d mentioned and align with the outcome that you seem to support based on your comments.

    But obviously I either must’ve misunderstood your original comment or your word choice didn’t accurately reflect your feelings on this since you’ve said that you don’t believe scriptures counter each other as well as having said that you – like me – believe the Father should give the final direction in such a situation (which implies that either decision would be supportable). So I apologize for any misunderstanding on my part!

    Again, please let me emphasize that I do not support any husband abusing his wife, nor do I judge any woman for leaving if she is in such a situation. I’m simply trying to show the surprising and rarely quoted scriptures I found on the topic to show a different perspective.

    And obviously I agree with you that friendship is a BIG part of marriage – my husband is my best friend… now (not sure if you’ve seen my own marriage testimony). My heart in this post (which aligns with my personal testimony) is that sometimes staying and praying in situations where the world tells you you’re an idiot to do so IS the Father’s will.

    Please note I’m saying sometimes 🙂

    I’m just presenting the possibility that Father may want to change the wife’s heart and/or actions in this situation and bring supernatural change through her… just as He did in my marriage through me.

    Even when I share my story in person I remind people that simply having a stubbornness to say doesn’t mean they’ll have the same outcome as I did. They have to know what FATHER wants them to do because in the end, He sees the beginning and the end and fully knows whether someone is going to allow their heart to be changed or not… He has to be the one directing because without a) knowing He’s told you to stay and b) having His strength supporting you – you’ll never make it through the trials because even WITH both those things it is incredibly hard.

    Anyhow – just my thoughts 🙂

    Again blessings to you KM and your household. May the Father bless you and keep you, cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace!

  8. I have been in this horrible situation of which you write. I prayed, cried, obeyed, and did everything I could think of, including counseling with my pastor. Other than our physical safety, one of my biggest fears was that my son was learning to be like his father. I stayed for many years, but did eventually leave. I too do not condemn anyone who stays in an abusive marriage nor the one who leaves. It is more complicated than many people realize. After so long dealing with this situation, I decided to leave with my children. I asked God for forgiveness in case I had done the wrong thing. I had asked for His will during this time, but there was always such upheaval and confusion, (or maybe my own will) that I didn’t hear from Him clearly what to do about my marriage. For anyone out there who has loved ones in an abusive relationship, don’t judge them, but make sure they know you are there for them when thay need help.

    • I’m so sorry to hear you went through this 🙁

      Amen to the not judging. I’m always surprised by how much say people think they should have into other’s lives. So not true! Can we just stand by someone and offer love, trusting them to Holy Spirit? Such an important thing to learn!!!

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