Since I’m in the midst of writing my series on When a Husband Doesn’t Love His Wife with Christ-Like Love, I felt that now would be a fitting time to answer this reader’s question.
I attended a church many years ago that taught some things I still wrestle with: I know God frowns upon divorce, but what does the Bible say about getting out of abusive relationships? Regardless of the abuse (physical, mental, emotional,) the above mentioned church taught that you stuck it out, “If God wanted you out of the marriage, you would not survive the beatings”.
My sister is currently going through a divorce from a man who has been abusive to her & my nephew for a number of years. In the case of physical abuse, what does the Bible have to say?
Also, I recently read a book that backed up some other church teachings on sex. I understand that the Bible says our spouse is to have access to our bodies and to refuse our spouse is a sin (because of this there is no such thing as “marital rape”). Could you shed some light on this? ~email has been edited
Well, I must say when I read this email my heart broke for the ungodly counsel that some wives are receiving from the Church! Abuse is so contrary to Scripture and here’s why.
The Gospel message is a message of love. Jesus Christ IS love. He embodies it. It’s who He is. Therefore, when a church does not frown upon abuse in marriage, then they don’t understand the love of Christ. They don’t understand what a biblical marriage looks like and they don’t realize how what they are advocating is bringing shame upon the love that Christ has for His children. And yes, God hates divorce. His Word is very clear on this! But, God is also a God of love. And again, His Word is very clear on this.
If God would advocate abuse in marriage, then why on earth would a woman want to get married and subject herself to such nonsense? The logic here doesn’t add up. And let’s not forget that God is not the author of confusion.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace. 1 Cor. 14:33
God can not endorse and embrace abuse in marriage because it contradicts His character. And since marriage is designed to represent Christ, the teachings of such churches embracing abuse is heretical and it is blasphemous to the Word of God.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17
God does not condone abuse.
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. Luke 12:42-46 (ESV)
Based on these verses, the case could be argued that a husband who beats his wife is not a believer.
Now regarding marital rape…
It’s already been established that God is a God of love and therefore He doesn’t approve of abuse, and marital rape is abuse! So let’s get that straight right now!
God has never given the husband the right to force his wife to do anything. Also, there is no example in the Bible when God forced anyone to do anything. A perfect example of this is the prophet Jonah. God asked him to go to Ninevah and he didn’t want to go. Jonah fought God on this and therefore there were consequences to his actions. God has always given us free will to do as we please. (God even gave Satan free will; He never micro-manged him.) Of course if we make the wrong choices we will have consequences just like Jonah did. But here’ where the free will that God has given to us will end. At the end of everyone’s life, every knee shall bow to the Lord.
For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:11,12
Yes, our bodies belong to our spouse but that doesn’t mean they can violate us.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
The teachings that the Apostle Paul gave in the verses of 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 are designed to protect our marriage and to keep us from sexual temptation.
The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Cor. 7:3-5
Paul shared these words for the benefit of our marriage and the relationship with our spouse. These teachings were not to harm us. Marital rape is harm. It’s violent force. And nowhere in the Bible does it state that a husband has a right to force his wife to have sex with him.
Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:3
There’s absolutely NO affection given to the wife when she is being raped!
The reason why Paul addressed this issue with the Corinthians was because sexual immorality was rampant. He wanted the husband and wife to delight in one another and not go outside of the marriage to fulfill their sexual desires.
Withholding sex from our spouse is not what is best for the marriage. The Bible is clear on this. But a husband forcing himself on his wife for his own pleasure is not Christ-Like love. There is nothing in this action that represents the Lord. So, if one’s actions are not representing love, then Christ would not endorse it, therefore, it’s not Biblical.
A wife does not have to stay in an abusive marriage, nor should she! She can get out and separate from her husband. This does not mean she is divorcing him. It merely means she is establishing boundaries and protecting herself and/or her children. The abusive husband needs to be held accountable and he needs to get help. If he truly has a repentant heart, then the couple could seek reconciliation. If the husband is unrepentant then he’ll most likely seek to satisfy his lusts by being unfaithful to his wife while they are separated. And if he is unfaithful, the wife is no longer bound to him and she could then seek a divorce without being outside of the will of God.
A related post on this subject matter: Help! I’m Married to an Unrepentant Husband.
Live a poured out life for Christ,