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.
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.
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!