Submission and Abuse
The following post is based heavily off of the book No Place for Abuse by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark. It focuses on abuse experienced by women and how the Bible is commonly used to justify abuse. Abuse against a husband is just as unacceptable as abuse against a wife.
Summary of Chapter 7 Does the suffering of an abused woman bring salvation to her husband?
Many use the verses from 1 Peter 3:1-6 to suggest that submission by a wife will lead her husband to repentance. The historical context of this passage is that if telling people you are a Christian puts your life at risk that you could provide a Christian witness through your behavior, lowering your risk for experiencing violence or unjust prosecution.
In the context of verses that speak about submission, husband and wives are told to submit to each other, and husbands are given specific instructions to avoid the misuse of their authority. Husbands are to love their wives, and love does not include abusive behavior towards your spouse.
Greek words that are translated as submission have different meanings based on whether the context refers to submission to Christ or submission to a spouse. Submission to Christ requires obedience. Submission to a spouse has more to do with being respectful, honoring, and coming alongside them as an encourager. Spousal submission focuses on encouraging Christians to live peacefully with one another.
“The suffering of Christ
Was the result of his free choice;
Permitted sin in order to do away with sin at a far deeper level;
Was undertaken to fulfill a grand purpose in redeeming humanity.
The suffering of victims of domestic abuse
Is not their free choice – it is inflicted upon them;
Allows the perpetrator to continue the sinful conduct;
Stems from a crime against humanity.
The results are destructive for the offender, victim, children and the wider society.” Page 129
“The allusion to women as the weaker vessel seems to be an acknowledgement that men possess greater physical strength and should therefore refrain from using it abusively…Abuse or denigration would bring an obstruction to his prayers ([1 Peter] 3:7), a deterrent to the husband’s spiritual life and growth.” Page 131
Continued submission to abuse is not redemptive.
“First, believers must demonstrate a lifestyle that can withstand criticism. Second, many biblical passages condemn violence, and verbal and sexual abuse. Christian women can profitably be directed towards passages that call on communities of faith as well as victims to take positive steps to stop the wrongdoing.” Page 132
Chapter 12 The Biblical option of divorce
“Often an abuser feels no real need to change, because he is convinced that divorce is not an option…At times, this attitude can cause pastors and congregants to ignore a major instrument that can be used to correct inappropriate behavior: divorce…The possibility of divorce reinforces the serious nature of the offense and serves as an incentive for changing abusive conduct.” Page 174
The Bible often connects God’s hatred for divorce with a hatred of abuse. Malachi 2:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Malachi 2:16 Or “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence,”
It is also important to be aware “Often, survivors tell us, the bitterest parts of abuse happen after the marriage has ended. Of domestic violence murders, 75 percent occur before, during or after the victim attempted to leave. As a couple separates, every sort of bitterness is sometimes unleashed.” Page 181
Domestic violence is about more than physical violence. Most domestic violence agencies can provide resources if a spouse is controlling, manipulative, verbally, or emotionally abusive. It can be helpful to get a risk assessment from a domestic violence agency to understand the level of risk you expose yourself to by staying in the relationship and how to minimize the risks of leaving. Due to the high risk victims of abuse experience when leaving an abusive relationship I strongly recommend contacting your local domestic violence agency, getting a risk assessment, and developing a safety plan to reduce the odds of further violence taking place.
Additionally, This article provides some thought provoking Biblical arguments about divorce.
“Sacrificing a person to save a relationship is not the gospel.”
“The second lie is implied: God hates divorce more than He hates abuse and sexual sin.”
“Divorce is the innocent party obtaining legal recognition that the guilty party has destroyed the marriage.”