An Open Letter to Husbands who Abuse Their Wives

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Dear Abuser…

I want to make it clear that if you want to invoke Bible verses to control and manipulate your wife, the Bible is against you.

If you harm your wife physically, sexually, emotionally, or materially, Jesus stands against you.

To hide behind the Bible in order to justify how you treat your wife is vile. Justifying your attitudes and actions with the Bible is like blaming the cook book for the food poisoning you caused when you cooked a meal with putrid meat. The issue isn’t with the book, but what you brought out of your fridge.

You are destroying your family, dishonouring God, and deceiving yourself.

I have met men like the ones described in Julia Baird’s article—not many, but a couple. When their anger was exposed they became even more heated. When we assisted their families, they stormed out. When we called on them to repent, they admitted no wrongdoing and instead tried to play the victim. When we told them to leave the church, they were vindictive and spread all manner of falsity.

I have met men like the ones described in Julia Baird’s article. They admitted no wrongdoing and instead tried to play the victim.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, warning him of men who would attempt to worm their way into relationships with women for all manner of evil intent. He says of such people, “They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.” (2 Timothy 3:8)

There is no place among the followers of Jesus for violence or harsh words, for sexual manipulation, for financial leverage or for making threats. Blaming tiredness or stress, or alcohol and drugs doesn’t cut it. These things are symptoms of a deeper issue in your heart. All such abuse is inexcusable, a betrayal of the standard set for husbands by the Creator of marriage.

Thankfully, these scenarios have been rare during my pastorate. I know many more men who, with their wives, are faithfully serving the Lord Jesus in their marriages, and it is a joy to see their loving homes flourishing, with all the warts and occasional grumpiness mixed in. I am thankful that the research Baird draws on not only highlights the disturbing incidence of domestic violence among the fringe-dwellers and occasional attenders of conservative Protestant churches but also includes this important conclusion: that conservative Protestant men who are regular church attenders are the LEAST likely demographic to abuse their wives out of any group, religious or not.[1]

The research Baird draws on shows that conservative Protestant men who are regular church attenders are the LEAST likely demographic to abuse their wives out of any group, religious or not.

But I am also painfully aware that I do not see everything that happens in the privacy of people’s homes or in the secret thoughts of people’s hearts. It’s possible that you may have slipped under my radar completely, which is why I’m doing the unusual thing of writing you an open letter.

If you are abusing the family that God has entrusted to your care, then the issue is not with the Bible, but your refusal to trust and believe what it says. Maybe there is a tendency in our culture to dissolve differences between men and women. It is true that our culture devalues both headship and service; they are assumed to be evils that inhibit our individual freedom.

But your abusive conduct is not the biblical alternative.

The model for marriage that the Bible offers is good and beautiful. It depicts man and woman as complementary; it upholds the dignity of both; their equality and their difference. Its takes its pattern from the person of Jesus Christ who loved his bride, the church, and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).

Headship is not wielding power over another, but is the exercise of responsiblilty, in love, for the flourishing of others. Submission is not the forced subjugation of one person to a cruel authoritarian, but a choice freely made to honour a person and acknowledge the weight of the responsibility God has placed on their shoulders. (And it is precisely because of that responsibility that the Bible places on husbands that it takes abuse and family violence so seriously.)

Revealing abuse, in whatever context it is taking place, is necessary.

If you are a perpetrator then there is no road to salvation that does not involve the bright light of truth shining into your heart and onto your behaviour. Mercifully, the God who is against us in our arrogance and violence is also full of mercy when we turn toward him in humility and begin the long, hard road of repentance.

This has been a letter addressed primarily to perpetrators not to victims. But I know that some of the people who end up reading it may not be perpetrators at all, but may be living with exactly the kind of person that it is addressed to. If that is you, then I want you to know that you are not alone in your predicament. I want you to be confident that your voice will be heard, and there will be people to stand with you and help you find healing and safety


This was originally written by Murray Campbell, on The Gospel Coalition. To read the full article, click here

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