This is the third part of our series about interacting with our husbands.
In the previous two posts, we discussed unbiblical views on submission and, also, how to address your husband if he is a believer.
Today, we are talking about dealing with abusive, unbelieving, or backslidden husbands.
We are picking up where we left off yesterday, talking about bringing a husband who is in sin before the church.
I know more than one woman who was being physically abused and was sent back to her husband after seeking help at the church.
This infuriates me.
How dare we claim to be followers of God while sending women back to the person who may end up killing them!
That’s not what submission is about.
Submission, and all of marriage, is to be a reflection of Christ’s love toward us.
An abusive husband does nothing but taint Christianity and disgust those around us.
Even unbelievers know this is wrong. It is not a testimony to God’s love.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.
It’s a travesty that this is permitted in our midst.
It’s even more of a travesty when those abused women leave their husbands to try to save their own lives and their children’s lives, and the church sides with the abuser labeling the women rebellious and unsubmissive!
I have seen this happen with both men who are beating their wives and men who are sexally abusing their children.
Frankly, it makes me want to vomit.
Shame on the church who sends an abused woman back to her husband, refusing to help and calling it God’s will!
It is never God’s will that we knowingly permit evil in the name of good.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
Scripture is silent on the topic of how the church should address abused wives specifically, but it is not silent about permitting evil in our midst or about interaction with believers and unbelievers.
Purge the evil person from among you [from in the church].
1 Corinthians 5:13
If you try to address your husband’s behavior according to the biblical pattern and he refuses to listen, you can assume he is not a believer. Scripture allows us to treat backslidden Christians like unbelievers.
So, how would you treat an unbelieving husband?
Scripture says that the wife of an unbelieving husband can win her husband over to Christ by her behavior.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands,
so that even if some do not obey the word,
they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.
1 Peter 3:1
This is an incredibly difficult position to be in. I cannot say enough how I don’t envy women in that position.
Even if your husband is unkind you have a biblical responsibility to be respectful and submissive –unless he wants you to do something that’s clearly unbiblical. In that case, you must obey God rather than your husband.
We must obey God rather than men.
I will say it again: this is not an easy position to be in. It will take grace, prayer, and dying to self.
In the time when scripture was written, there was no recourse for abused women. It was permitted in most cultures in the past. It is still even largely permitted in our culture with few options for abused women, unfortunately (even restraining orders are not very well enforced where I live). At least in our culture, a women can legally work as a single mom to provide for her family if she has to leave her husband for her own safety.
Scripture is silent on the issue of abuse. Although people try to read into passages saying that a woman must stay with someone even if he’s threatened to kill her, you simply can’t back that up with chapter and verse.
Additionally, a mother has a responsibility to protect her children if her husband won’t.
Do you honestly think that, if a wife knows that her violent husband likely is going to kill her and her children eventually and does nothing about it, she will be blameless?
Do you honestly think that, if we know she’s in that position and do nothing to help her, we will be blameless?
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Relationships are all about the intersection of rights and responsibilities. We wives are responsible to be respectful and honoring, but do we have the right to remove ourselves from a life threatening situation if we are able? I believe we do.
In a non-life-threatening situation, we have the responsibility to behave toward an unbelieving husband though same as we would any other unbeliever.
Not returning evil for evil.
Turning the other cheek.
Treating authority figures –even ungodly or unkind ones– with respect.
These are good practices- -even if your husband is a believer– because he’s still a man and a sinner.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling,
but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called,
that you may obtain a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
A husband’s authority over a wife does not supercede all other scripture. I challenge anyone who says it does to find that in scripture.
Again, I reiterate shame on those who would perpetuate abuse in the name of submission!
Do not champion evil in the name of good.
Tomorrow, I will present a chart of biblical responsibilites for husbands and wives. It is worth mentioning that the husband actually has more God-given responsibilities than the wife.
I often hear women saying that they need to be more hospitable, thinking that they need to have more dinner parties, but biblical hospitality is opening your home to someone who is truly in need –like an abused wife, not having a bunch of people over for dinner.
If you find yourself in an abusive situation, I’m here to support you.
My house may not be terribly clean, but my doors are open to those who are in need.
PS Items in brackets were added by me for explanation