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June 17, 1999

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  • Abuse


What about when the abuse actually comes? Or a fear that it is very likely and/or imminent? You know; abuse is a two-way street. Husbands abuse their wives emotionally and physically. Wives abuse their husbands [mostly] emotionally. Society doesn't much acknowledge the emotional abuse wives are guilty of; and instead labels it "women's lib" or "feminist empowerment", etc. I don't know of "shelters" for abused husbands. [Maybe that's why they go to bars and get drunk?] But there are for wives (and children).

What does a Christian do, who finds themself at the receiving end of abuse? Does one -leave- the home and find safety? Does one get a court order? What about divorce? Since society's dominant complaint is when a husband shows signs of abusing the women, let us consider this subject from the woman's perspective. We have considered the "role" of a Godly wife in the past; the Biblical perspective of how a Godly woman is to behave towards her husband. But what about when things start flying through the air, getting smashed, cords ripped out of walls? What are the Christian wife's options?

The following is a re-work of a reply sent to someone who asked. We do not share "personal" letters of this nature publicly. But this re-worked [generic] answer might provide support for others in need.

In light of Scripture, can an abused wife leave her husband?

This is a tough one. And while I'm going to give you two sides to this for your consideration, ultimately -you- are the one who has to decide, based on what the Lord speaks to your heart. Because there are, possibly, two ways to look at it.

First of all, in Romans 14 Paul speaks of various 'questionable' things; eating of meats offered to idols, keeping special days, etc. In vs4 he reminds us that each person "stands" before "his own master". And closes the chapter by saying that in many things of living life a person's "faith" is a "personal" matter between them and God. That whatever we do must be in faith. and if it is "not of faith [it] is sin." (vs22-23)

So, with that guideline in mind... on one hand Peter speaks of "taking it" (the abuse). He speaks of submitting to abusive masters. (1Pt2:18-21) In such a context, the master "owned" the slave. And in those days, masters could be rather cruel, doing all sorts of abusive, torturous things. And it was their "right" to do so...to their "property". And he exemplifies Christ's suffering, how He endured "not [reviling] in return" (vs23) and that as Christ was our "example" we "should follow His steps." (vs21)

And so, in 3:1 he says, "Likewise, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands..." When he says "likewise" this follows on the heels of what he was just talking about regarding servants and abusive masters. And when Peter wrote it, there were no chapter divisions. It's all one continuous subject. Servants submitting to masters...wives submitting to husbands. Also, in context, we need to understand that when Peter wrote this, wives were also considered as "property" of their husbands, by the prevailing custom of society. Think about what we hear about middle eastern and oriental countries today...it was the same, or worse, then. And so, too, husbands were sometimes known for treating their wives in most cruel manners. Peter says, "be in subjection..."

On the other hand, in the Mosaic Law in the O.T. God provided for servants in a way that the rest of the world did not. "And if a man strike the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, so that it perishes, he shall let him go free on account of his eye." Same for a "tooth". (Ex21:26-27) Would the same apply to a wife, who was "owned" as "property" like a servant?

So, you see Scripturally, it would appear that you could have two choices. Is the husband actually hitting you? Or is he -only- throwing things around? Some men, not wanting to hurt the 'person' will smash things, to vent their anger. And many such men never will hit the 'person'. Although, I'm sure it's a "scary" situation...

Having said all this "generically" ...let's bring things a bit more 'personally'. The woman in peril is a Godly woman. She loves the Lord with all her heart. She raises her children in Godly fear and admonition. She seeks to serve Him and do what Scripture teaches; which is why this question comes up in the first place...she wants to do what is "right" before God.

OK. So, personally... Is your husband saved? Is he a "Christian" (capital "C")? Is his anger "at you" ...or is it a "generic" anger...and you happen to be close-by..."handy" to vent his anger upon? OK...as you probably already know the answer to that, there may be two ways he's viewing you...??

  1. If you are truly a Godly woman, his conscience is being pricked something terrible as he sees your Godly life. And he's being like Saul "breathing out threatenings and slaughter" (Acts9:1) as he was "kicking against the goads" (vs5)

    If this is truly the case, you have, again, two ways to view your response. Peter says to (1) SUBMIT to him. (1Pt3:1-6) If this is 'persecution' because you are a Christian and he isn't, it says the Church was "scattered throughout the regions..." (Acts8:1) as people (2) FLED the persecution. Jesus even said, "when they persecute you in this city, flee into another.." (Mt10:23)

    On the other hand, such "fleeing" was to people in general. To Christians married to an unsaved spouse Paul says, "If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is pleased to dwell with him, do not let him put her away." (1Cor7:12) Same to the wife. (vs13) But Paul also says, "I speak, not the Lord..." [But, obviously the Lord allowed his 'personal' thoughts and wisdom to become part of Scripture] So, it sounds like there is a legitimate possibility for personal options, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Again... remember Romans 14.

  2. Are you a Godly woman...but you 'make sure' he -knows- you are? For every -truly- Godly woman, there are dozens who live a pharisaical life, pretending to be righteous...but are hypocrites. They are SELF-righteous. And there is nothing uglier to a man than a holier-than-thou whiny-face. And as Solomon said, "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with a quarrelsome woman and to share a house. (Pr21:9) But the man might not tell you that this is the problem...he may not know 'how to' tell you this. And if your attitude is one of self-righteousness, he could feel a sense of [undeserved] 'condemnation' from you, if he were to even bring the subject up. But being a "man" and not knowing how to communicate, the frustration builds up and must "vent" itself in some manner. But you should not be "condemning" him. He is your "head". (1Cor11:3) Even if you are a Christian, and he is not, you are to "reverence" your husband. (Eph5:33) The word NKJV/KJV uses as "reverence" means to "fear, venerate, revere, treat with deference."
Unfortunately, this #2 scenario is the preponderance of what most "C/christian" wives are, to greater or lesser degrees. But the reader must read with serious introspection of your own heart/s. Just to make sure that you are truly "pure" before the Lord in this.

Yes, your husband may have a 'problem'. But you are not answerable to God for him. You are answerable for you. So... No.1 consideration: make absolutely certain that -you- are truly pure before your Lord. Make sure you are not hording some little nick-nack of sin on a shelf some place in your heart. Then, the Lord will make it plain to you what you should or shouldn't do.


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