Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Making Little of Abuse

This is a quote from the Reformation Heritage Study Bible. There are a series of good articles at the back, but the essay on “Being a Good Wife” ends with this paragraph after a discussion of the godly wife:

Some men are difficult to respect and submit to; their wives have the challenging task of rising above their behavior and taking the high road of obeying God (1 Peter 3:1-2). Such a wife is not a doormat, she may not enable or approve sin, but she exercises tough love. She will need to pray for fortitude. She hopes and prays he will be sanctified by her example (1 Cor 7:10-17). Blessings will follow the godly wife when she follows God’s plan for marriage, and those around her will be blessed as well.

Difficult to respect and submit to. A challenging task. Rise above his behavior. Obey God. Can you guess what the author of this article would say about divorcing an abuser? Stay with him. Endure the abuse. But don’t enable or approve of his sin. What? In fact, it’s her job to save him.

So her marriage is one in which she is bound to a man who is “difficult,” whose behavior is sinful, who requires her to plead with God for courage to stay married to him, and yet it is God’s plan that she remain in that bondage.

I cannot find the identity of this article’s author listed anywhere, but the General Editor of this study Bible is Joel Beeke. I appreciate much of Beeke’s writings but more than once I have seen this very kind of teaching from him when it comes to marriage and family.


A Wonderful Article: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce by Rebecca VanDoodewaard


More Thoughts on Forgiveness: Part 3


  1. IamMyBeloved’s

    I contacted Joel Beeke when I was living in an abusive marriage and being attacked by my church leaders after notifying my husband that he could not return to the home until he got help and then I would decide after that, if there was any change and what would happen in the future. My church leaders did not like that I had made that decision and insisted it was not my place to make that decision, but rather their place. Hahaha! As I had attended a few of the conferences where Mr. Beeke was the main speaker, I felt perhaps he could give me some advice. Mr. Beeke advised me to separate and if no change occurred, then I was free to divorce. He also told me that the church leaders were supposed to be there to protect and help guide me biblically, but that in no way was it their decision as to what should happen in my home. I appreciated his counsel and told my church what he said. So, I’m not certain if he wrote that note or not, but I do know he does not believe, at least at that time, that abuse of any kind has any place in marriage and is grounds for divorce.

  2. Natalie

    The word “submit” is the most used word to force victims of abuse to accept abuse.

    Mutual submission meaning both partners put the needs of the other partner in a place of importance is just the concept of empathy.

    Nobody is supposed to be “in charge” in a marriage between to grown adults.

    The husband and wife are total equals. They should be able to communicate and respect each other like adults.

    If they can’t both do that, they should not be married.

    Any form of the man wears the pants so he gets the final say, will lead to abuse and creating a selfish man who sins against his family.

  3. Veronica

    What floors me is how the focus is always on the woman to submit. Why don’t preachers/pastors (so called) focus on what is required of the man?? To “love your wife the way Christ loves the church” seems to me as a greater onus on the man! To love his wife and give himself up for her to the degree that Jesus did?? Do we even understand what that would look like or how a man could possibly fulfill that command unless he is born again?? I just don’t hear that talked about in the visible church. As Pastor Jeff said, it always seems to be up to the woman to pray, to believe, to submit, to “save” her husband and family, when the Word calls the husband to be like Jesus!!! It’s hypocritical and misogynistic, contrary to the character of God.

    • Innoscent

      Exactly!! after 3+ decades of becoming a Christian I’m yet to hear a sermon on that…

      In the Eph 5 passage, there are 3 verses describing the role of the wife, and 8 the role of a husband. Yet so much is preached and written about the “submission” of the wife.

      That the wife, according to them ends up emulating Christ’s redemptive mission is so backward! A typical move of the devil to switch things around to accommodate the wicked.

      And let’s imagine the role of the husband were truly addressed, what fraction of the husbands in the audience would get it and put it into practice…?

  4. Jan

    “Difficult to respect and submit to. A challenging task. Rise above his behavior. Obey God. Can you guess what the author of this article would say about divorcing an abuser? Stay with him. Endure the abuse. But don’t enable or approve of his sin. What? In fact, it’s her job to save him.”………………………exactly what my Pastor has said. Also said to wait for God to take him in judgment. I did not do those things – I am separated and my husband has now filed for divorce since he has another woman.

  5. Jacob

    When I met my lovely Wife (in Indonesia) the thing that I wanted to see was submission to God. She wanted the same for me as well. Never submit to sin. Nothing is more precious than a soul submitted to the Lord! God will never crush someones spirit. A spouse should be encouraging submission to the Lord and not to themselves. Obey Gods commandments. Not the demands of the wicked. Jesus will set you free. Not enslave you in an abusive marriage.

    Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
    “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

    • Esther

      Thank you Jacob.

      • Sue

        And hooray, because guess what, there’s even another pastor out there (on sermonaudio.com) who preaches HARD about the husband’s responsibility (to…ya know, actually work to provide) – and not just pounding the pulpit, sunday after sunday on the wife’s submission.

        So very glad to know, that Pastor Crippen is not completely alone, preaching in the wilderness. There aren’t many, but there’s a few.

    • Innoscent

      Jacob, really appreciate your words. To me a most beautiful man is a man wholly submitted to God.

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