Domestic abuse is an age old problem of sin and criminality that continues to occur. Though my ministry is to women, I am sensitive to the fact that in marriage, abuse is committed by both spouses. Husbands abuse wives and wives abuse husbands. There is physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse. Abuse can manifest as hurtful or harmful words or actions and/or by hurtful or harmful neglect. While abuse may vary in severity, all of it is wrong. Always. (For more details on what is considered domestic abuse, please see the info box below.)
In the years that I have spent ministering in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5, the reality of abuse in marriage is something I have often been conscience of. Yes, I am a big fan of marriage since it was created by God; but I know the serious problems that can develop in it. Our fallen state can do a number on all of our relationships.
A decent portion of my ministry regarding marriage is dedicated to the teaching of and the defense of biblical submission of wives to their husbands. This is a sensitive topic that needs lots of care. One reason for this is because submission is so often thought to be and sometimes is connected to abuse.
Though I have consistently affirmed submission in my ministry work, I have also repeatedly stressed that wives should never submit to anything that is contrary to God’s word. The Bible does not teach that wives should submit to the patterns of domestic abuse. I do not believe that wives default settings should be to suffer in silence even in small things, never mind serious abuse.
There is a post in my blog that I recommend to anyone who might think that a wife should quietly submit to anything her husband does or demands. That is simply not the case. See: Are Wives Really to Submit in Everything? This post is the first in a series that takes a close look at submission.
If you are in a situation where you have been physically or sexually harmed or believe you will be, please seek help as soon as possible and in a safe way. Contact the police, family member, friends, or church leadership. If at first you do not get the help you need, do not give up. There are also many organizations online and offline to help women in abusive situations.
If you are suffering abuse that is harder to see, it is no less real. Emotional abuse can be extremely damaging. Again, please seek help as soon as it is safe to. You may wish to consider the site below (The National Domestic Violence Hotline) as one option regardless of what type of abuse is occurring. It is a secular site, but has a lot of information. Please be discerning as that their worldview will be different. They will probably view any idea of “headship” or “submission” as detrimental. These things are not intrinsically bad, but they can be misused or misunderstood. If you are a believer, it would be wise to get loving, biblical counsel if possible.
If you are not sure if your situation is abusive, the website has information for you to consider.
We fall in love, get married, and dream of happily ever after; but no marriage is perfect. Some are nightmares. God can save and deliver. Trust in Him and pray for His help and protection and get help!
A few more thoughts…
A man who refers to or “quotes” the New Testament to extract obedience from his wife while he is abusing her is not representing the New Testament correctly. He has appropriated the language of headship and submission and distorted the biblical concepts for his own evil purposes. The New Testament does not allow for the abuse of wives (quite the opposite) nor demand that wives submit to it. The problem is not in the New Testament. It is in the sinner.
Abuse through power in marriage (and in the church) is always wrong. Tragically, it will probably exist as long as sinners exist. We cannot purge sin or crime by social outrage or policy. But God can change hearts. We (individuals and churches) can and must do everything possible to help the hurting and prevent more.
Abuse’s existence does not mean that we must step away from biblical, leadership distinctions for men and women. It is not wise to abandon God’s words because of the transgressions of some. If we did, evil wins twice; because then we would no longer be in His will as we were before.
Aside from the failings of some, living God’s design for marriage obediently will lead to wives and husbands both being safer, happier, and more sanctified as they line up their lives with His will and picture Christ and His church. (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1-7)