November 29, 2016

Enough is Enough

Gary Thomas — 

Abusive Men

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby, twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.


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365 responses to Enough is Enough

  1. One of my favorite things I’ve read, THANK YOU for speaking truth on behalf of us women who were counseled mercilessly to stay in an abusive marriage & then further abandoned & punished when choosing to divorce. This post is excellent, full of truth, wisdom & love for all involved (wife, husband, church). Can I share on my blog?

  2. Wow! Gary, thank you for following your conviction to speak out on this atrocity. It took me three times to read through without weeping for those wounded. I pray this issue comes to the front of many healing conversations and leads to numerous saved marriages. Keep up the great work!

  3. Oh, Gary . . . I have no words! I am so thankful for this post! I cannot TELL you what it means to my heart and, I’m sure, so many other hearts. I remember a friend telling me, “Megan, God cares more about your LIFE than He does about your MARRIAGE.” It was a turning point for me but, as you know, I went in alone with no support. In fact, I was the one who was turned out by friends and family for wanting to protect my children and myself from, what felt like, the very essence of evil. Oh, if only more Christian leaders could see what you saw and experience what you experienced. God bless you, my friend! Posting this on Give Her Wings.

    PS — If any of the ladies who commented above would like to contact me, we are happy to send a free copy of my book, “Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse”.

  4. Thank you for this post.

    I’m in a rocky marriage that has been emotionally abusive and neglectful for 10 years. I’m finally awake to what’s been going on.

    He’s finally in individual counseling (so am I), so here’s my question: how do I know when to stay and fight for this or when it’s time to go because it’s destructive? We have three small kids together so the stakes are high.

    • Jo, I suggest Leslie Vernick’s book, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”. She talks about either “staying well” or “leaving well”, based on his desire for repentance. I hope this helps and I hope it is OK I jumped in, Gary!

    • I can’t definitively answer this in a blog post. If he’s in counseling and moving forward and you have 3 kids, my inclination would be to work through this, almost always, If your husband is spiritually awake and seeking to change, I believe you fight to make the marriage work. I’ve seen God turn many marriages around. Not knowing more details, that’s my general answer

      • Thank you Gary. Yes there’s so much to the story, and I know there’s not a cookie cutter answer. It’s taken him 8 months to go to counseling and he has repeatedly said that he’s no longer “in the marriage” and that he’s thinking of divorce. I don’t know if he says those things to hurt me or if he’s serious. I’m also in counseling too which has been really good for me. I came out of a very abusive childhood so it’s really not surprising that I’m in this type of relationship.

        There’s a lot happening in my family too as my older sister is battling cancer and is in the same type of marriage: no affection, emotionally abusive. I’m trying to take each day at a time and focus on myself and kids. It’s really difficult to live in the uncertainty

    • Jo,

      I’m probably not qualified to answer your question, but I could ask a few that might help you find some direction.

      For the record, in a lot of ways, I could have been considered an abuser. I had a terrible anger problem, and a temper that went with it. I know in my heart that I would have never laid a hand on my wife, but once I made a real decision to change, it dawned on me that I didn’t know if she knew that. One of the hardest things I have ever done was to ask her if she ever doubted her safety in my my presence. She said that if she ever thought I would harm her, she would have left long ago. It was such a relief for her to say that to me, but I still carry a lot of guilt for not being the sort of man who would not have to ask the question in the first place, because I know that it was emotional abuse.

      Counseling and Celebrate Recovery have been beneficial to me, but the single most important thing I did was just to vow to never let my anger loose in our home. I have broken that vow a few times in the last couple of years, but it was never directed at my wife, and I was quick to apologize and ask forgiveness.

      People can change, marriages can change. Somehow God has even used me to help a few other men who have faced similar struggles, and I have watched their marriages transform as well.

      My first question would be to ask if you believe that is possible in your marriage?

      I would also ask if you ever have cause to fear physical harm, to either yourself or your children?

      I would ask if you believe your husband is sincerely repentant, or if you think he is going thru the motions?

      I would also ask if you were getting any help for yourself, because whole I believe your husband carries some wounds from the past, the very nature of your question says that he has inflicted wounds on you.

      I’m not going to throw my wife under the bus, but it is fair to say that in a lot of ways, she was an abuser herself. There was a lot of neglect and a lot of passive aggressive behavior. It doesn’t matter at this point how it started, but we pretty much fed of the worst of each other, and by worldly standards we never should have made it. We just celebrated our 34th anniversary, and the last year has not only been probably the best we have ever had, but it wold have been a great year by any standard, and it was such a blessing.

      Honestly, without knowing any more than what you have shared, it would be impossible to make a recommendation, but based on what you said, I think it would be safe to give it some time (as long as there is no physical danger).

      • Jo, after fifty years of seeking counsel over and over without his genuine repentance I finally got out. And now it is breaking my heart to learn of just how angry one of my children, in particular, is at me, at God, at “religion” and I don’t know what else because his childhood was so miserable growing up in our home. Part of my reason for staying was to keep their father in their lives, believing they were better off with him than without him. He not only constantly threatened divorce, but to disappear and leave me without child support. So I stayed. Now, God is slowly healing my relationship with that son, but the depth of his anger astounds me. It’s something you may want to consider.

        • Dear Mary,
          I’m so sorry that you had to endure that. My mom is in a similar marriage and stayed with my abusive dad. We have seen a little change over the years- he did apologize to us. Anger is usually a mask for sadness and your son sounds a lot like my brother (and me at times). I’m glad to hear that God is healing your relationship!

      • Doug,
        Thank you for your honest reply and sharing your story. Yes, I do believe God can change and restore my marriage, but I also see that there needs to be real repentance in order for that to happen. We aren’t in physical danger and I have taken necessary steps to stop the emotional abuse (I leave conversations if he starts being mean and he sleeps downstairs). I think him being in counseling is definitely a good thing – it’s taken him 8 months to go but he’s finally there! I just know that this place we are in is not sustainable long term. So, how much time does it take? Right now I am focusing on myself and my kids and leaning into God.

        • I wish I could tell you it is an easy thing. The problem is that most men who are not physically violent, probably don’t see themselves as abusive. Most believe they are responding to circumstance, and they really aren’t the problem.

          That can make repentance a difficult thing, but I think counseling can help him get there.

  5. Thank you, Gary! This post needs to be broadcasted to the church.

  6. Yes and Amen, Gary!

    I was one of those women for fifteen long years. Constantly trying to determine if things had gotten bad enough to leave without the golden ticket of infidelity. It took me many years to finally utter the word “abuse” despite there being constant emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. Plus the taunting of a “Christian” husband that I should submit and had no Biblical case to divorce. The book “Necessary Endings” was very helpful to me, along with this saying:

    Change what is changeable.
    Accept what is unchangeable.
    Remove yourself from what is unacceptable.

    Yes, God hates divorce. But not as much as He hates the destruction of a cherished daughter.

    There are very few people in the church who I’m able to be honest with, to say, “Divorce was God’s blessing to me.” But it was!

    And now I rely on my true Knight in Shining Armor (Rev 19:11) whose name is FAITHFUL and TRUE — Jesus!!! I thank Him daily for allowing me to escape with my life, and He is also healing my deep wounds day by day.

    Gary, I believe your post is going to greatly encourage many women who are feeling beaten down by their destructive husbands.

    Repentance, repentance, REPENTANCE! In my opinion, long-term, genuine repentance is the vital key that lets a woman know she should stay and fight. Without it, abuse will only continue and worsen.

    • Sarah, this is beautifully written. You’re right, many of us are hoping for the “golden ticket” of infidelity to give us justifiable reason to escape emotionally and spiritually abusive marriages. Coming from one who loves the Lord and loves serving in my church of over 20 years, I’ve been fearful to escape, knowing that the other half will clearly decry that I was unsubmissive and ungodly in the marriage. Losing my good reputation within the church, in addition to financial reasons, has kept me back from making the right move I need to protect myself and children.

      This post is a breath of fresh air, and so needed in the Church.

      • I was mortified to have to go to my elders and pastors and staff oversight committee with a copy of my restraining order against my husband, who served on the church staff with me. I also handed in my letter of resignation detailng why I had to leave. I asked for their financial and spiritual support to escape an abusive marriage. I was trembling, but God saw and heard my cries for help, and helped them see the truth. Those men stood with me, and still do, and helped me make it to a safe place out of state with family while they dealt with my husband. I asked for help with my rent, food, etc. and they gave it. My husband asked for a nominal fee for a book for his voluntary Anger Management Class, they refused. He asked for a car, he got a used bike. Practical, tactical shepherding. I am thankful for men that stand against abuse in our churches. Yes, we all flinch when sin is brought to light–we ought to. But it is essential that we guard the sheep, especially those who are down-trodden. Yes, wives and children, you can get really sick from relentless stress caused by abuse. Yes, you can get mentally ill, too. You can lose all sense of yourself and not see how you could possibly live any other way than with abuse. I can tell you from the other side that God can lead you by still waters, he can restore your soul. He can restore broken relationships with people driven away by your spouse. He can revive your passion for life, can resoundingly call you to himself and give you your very own set of marching orders in his kingdom. He is the faithful and loving husband of the bride, his Church (you!). Psalm 18 was a tremendous source of comfort to me in the days following my exit, when I was breathless with anxiety and confusion. The Lord was my strength, and he delivered me from the violent man.

    • Amen, Sarah, Amen!

  7. This post makes me feel a bit ill, too. Everything you say is true Gary, but where does that leave those of us who are stuck with abusive men and dependent on their income? It’s true that women’s shelters can often help an abused woman to stand on her own two feet, but in my case my health is worn down after so many years of intense stress, so that I cannot possibly hold down a job. Nor do I think I could even handle the stress of divorce. I am a mere shadow of what I once was, and I don’t seem to have the strength to defend myself.

    My husband, for his part, believes he is a wonderful husband, that he has given me a wonderful life, and that I am sick only due to weakness or a desire to complain. He scoffs at the idea that I have ever suffered stress. My health is very poor now and I am very sensitive to chemicals and smells, and yet my husband continues to choose to smoke in the house, and I although I beg him to smoke outside he continues to smoke in the house, and I do nothing, because what am I supposed to do exactly? He does what he wants, what I want doesn’t matter, has never mattered. He knows I have no power here. It’s horrible to know that deep down, your husband truly doesn’t care about you, he only cares about his own pleasure and comfort.

    • Jane, this is such a sad tale and I know many will join me in praying that God will bring rescue. The reality, however, is that a blog post simply can’t address individual situations. I’m raising general issues, but we need to go to godly, trusted counselors to work out the particulars and find the right applications. It’ll take some long conversations; perhaps your husband will finally repent when it’s brought out into the open and there’s an objective third party. If not, there will be other long conversations about your proper biblical response. But I would dishonor you and your situation if I pretended that I could “solve” this with a few “words of wisdom.” I’m truly sorry. You need much more than a blogger–you need to find a true advocate who can walk through this with you.

      • Gary, women from your blog will find a lot of support on my site as I deal with them all the time. and there is a great blog community of support there for women in destructive and abusive marriages.

        • Hey, everyone, I HIGHLY recommend Leslie, her ministry, and her books.

          • Almost crying too hard to write anything right now. Just subscribed here, was directed here from Dave Orrison’s Grace For My Heart. And Leslie’s book is what finally showed me the scriptural truth that I had been missing for all those years. I am one who ended up taking fifty years to get out, but I am out now. Hard to do this at 70.

          • Yes, Yes, yes! Second the recommendation! Wish Leslie’s resources had been available in childhood and during first marriage. By the grace of God brought healing. Most counseling resources then were harmful standing behind the man and submission and forced reconciliation in abuse. Was blessed to find an experienced Christian clinical social worker and to earn a Master of Ed in counseling. But my best info education and training came after all that and best healing (ongoing as God shows me MY heart) came from receiving the love of Christ and growing to know Him, and especially in helping/advocating for those struggling/suffering (as above crazy long post) in ways more difficult than I experienced. (:

          • Forgot most important: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU GARY! THIS IS RARE AND SOOOO PAST DUE AND NEEDED FROM MEN AND ESPECIALLY FROM HUMBLE CHRISTIAN LEADERS IN THE CHURCHES AND COMMUNITIES!!!! Most women who have entrusted me with their story have been sexually abused. Often by those they most trusted or their family knew.

        • I have benefited GREATLY from Leslie Vernick’s resources! Her blogs and, especially, her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage helped me diagnose that what was happening in my marriage really was a big deal.

      • I sought godly counsel from my church for decades, and it did much to strengthen and change me, but he never repented and never changed.

      • Praying for you Jane!

    • Yup, been there. After I left, my health improved significantly!

  8. I believe God led you to write this for me to read. And not in the way you’d think.

    My parents divorced about a year ago after a separation that spanned over 10 years.

    Growing up, my dad was very angry and moody and certainly had a bent towards depression. He would walk out on our family a few times over the course of my childhood, usually coming back within 24 hours… but still terrifying mom and us 8 kids at the prospect of fending for ourselves.

    Most family meal discussions were about how work wasn’t going well, so he was going to quit… over and over and over and over and over. Or he’d talk about what terrible shape the world was in, and how it was all coming to an end.

    In our home, dad could take an hour or two every morning to go swimming, he would spend long self-imposed hours and business trips away at work, and could attend whatever church function he liked (the homeless shelters, the prison ministries, the Saturday work days, the visitations, the prayer meetings) in evenings and on the weekend. Yet Mom had to sneak out to go grocery shopping while kids were sleeping at night so that Dad wouldn’t have to be bothered. She dreaded Dad coming home at nights because nothing she or we did was ever good enough. I can’t remember Dad ever suggesting to her that she go have some fun for a few hours while he watched us.

    When they went to counseling with our misogynistic, man-needs-to-control-his-wife pastor at the time, the fault was placed directly in mom’s lap. She just needed to be a better wife, and everything would be ok.

    I have crazy trust issues. Worst fear – being abandoned… alone… destitute. Hard to have a correct relationship with God or my husband when my relationship with my dad is so screwy and unreliable.

    I’ve prayed for my parents’ marriage to be restored. For over a decade. I wouldn’t wish my dad on Cinderella’s stepmother!… but I prayed that he’d change so that their marriage could be awesome.

    It seems as though my dad remarried this past weekend. I was shattered at this news yesterday. My prayers for a restored family were forever put to rest.

    But then I read this post, and realized that perhaps God was unwilling to let my mom go through dealing with my dad again.

    Side note – what are your thoughts on remarriage? As that appears to be the current hurdle for our family to figure out. Not just in my dad’s case, but also if my mom goes that route.

    • Lest my account of my dad sound too rosy, and not what you referring to as detestable in your post… there was porn use and there were bedroom issues. My mom has never had a full conversation about it. But she has alluded to what she endured.

      I merely was recounting my view of the marriage in my above post.

      And I thank you for helping me to see that perhaps it wasn’t God simply not answering my prayers for a changed dad and a restored marriage. Perhaps He intended for me to understand that His answer is a distinct “no”.

    • Sara,

      About your comment asking about remarriage: if you notice the scriptural witness, it’s the act of remarriage, not divorce, that brings “adultery” into play. It’s too big of an issue for me to address in a short reply. In general, however, I would encourage anyone going through a divorce to avoid dating for at least a year, probably even a couple years. You need to heal, figure out what led you to get into an unhealthy marriage, and also give God room to bring conviction to your ex-spouse. I’ve seen marriages come back together after a divorce. A quick remarriage would make that impossible. Since a person does make a life-long commitment, I do believe there’s an obligation, even after divorce, to give God time to allow the divorce to become a tool of reconciliation (assuming there is repentance and change).

      Once the ex-spouse is remarried or moving on sexually with other partners, there’s no chance of marital reconciliation. The Bible doesn’t give us a calendar of when “abandonment” becomes abandonment–after you’ve been apart for 6 months? 1 year? 2 years?–so I can’t lay down any law in that regard.

      Now, having said all this, as a pastor, I have performed “second weddings” when I believed there was a biblical divorce and sufficient healing. If there has been a biblical divorce, I think you can eventually pursue a second marriage, though some pastors would disagree with this. If I was the offending partner, however, I would not feel free to remarry unless my spouse did first. And then I’m not sure if I could with a good conscience even then.

    • Sara, you have just described my marriage of 20 years. I don’t think ours rises to the level of abuse, but you are giving me a picture of what my kids are perceiving and what they will struggle with for the rest of their lives. It makes me sad.

  9. Thank you! I had to go to other blogs to get the truth of what had been happening as mainstream Christianity didn’t acknowledge what I was experiencing.

  10. Gary

    I deeply appreciate your boldness in this blog and honoring women and protecting from evil within marriage. I grew up in a home of domestically violence and my mother took my sister and me and left my dad. It was when my dad felt the separation from his family that awoke him. My story has a positive ending in that after 36 years of divorce, I remarried them 12 years ago. But it took my mom set a firm boundary of “I love you and I want our marriage and its not okay for you to abuse me.”
    I affirm your words – God loves people more than institutions. I am sure you will get much pushback on your words and I want you to know as a pastor I stand with you and am praying for you.

    • Thank you, Johnny. That’s a tremendous testimony of God’s healing and reconciliation.

      • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Johnny and for your post Gary. You’ve put words to what I’ve been feeling and am learning to do, draw healthy boundaries.

  11. Good word Gary.
    One issue I foresee is that the husband isn’t going to tell his second wife his contributions to the wife leaving. He’s going to portray his wife as being insubmisdive, ungodly and stubborn, disrespectful and s wicked witch that he finally was able to get rid of. Cast the ‘poor me’ portrait. And adore the second wife as an angel and goddess compared to his first. Little does she know what she’s getting into!!!

    I totally agree that the church has to rake s better stand. Let the church rise up and stand for the orphaned, widowed, abused and the victims!!

    • Well, ideally this man is also then excommunicated. Since his unrepentant sin forced his wife to leave him. In my understanding, if you’re excommunicated from one PCA church, you’re out of the whole denomination. Of course, he could play it off as leaving the denomination over spiritual differences, or because they supported the “witch” wife. But church discipline involves confronting the man before the congregation, and possibly the presbytery, so his deeds will be known in the community. This will hopefully lead to these things being talked about and not hushed up like something shameful. There is shame, but its all on him.

      • Ideally, yes, you are correct. My experience and my observation is that men cover for men, and I have yet to see the proper action taken.

    • Rose, that’s an excellent point. One way I’ve approached this in dating is to ask a divorced gentleman to share with me how he personally contributed to the demise of the marriage–or what, in hindsight, he would have done differently. This tends to earn their respect and sidesteps any bashing of the former wife. More importantly, it gives one a glimpse into this person’s honesty and transparency. A man who learned from personal failure, and can admit to his role (however small), is quite different from someone who has no clue and feels it was entirely the other party’s fault.

    • Exactly. My ex told me how mentally ill and abusive his late wife was. He was a “saint.” After 6 months of marriage I no longer believed a word he said about her. To our 7 marriage counselors (yes, we went to seven, since we had to change counselors every time one of them would confront him), he had the hubris to tell each that ALL our marital problems were mine. After divorcing, he was remarried within a year. No doubt he tells his new wife what an ogre I was and portrays himself as a saintly martyr.

  12. Thank you, Gary, for saying what needed to be said. I would urge women (maybe men too) to get an advocate on their side by simply learning their legal rights (often at no charge for the first visit to an attorney specializing in family law). We do have rights! People are so misinformed about divorce, and misconceptions abound–especially within the church. Financial splits are not necessarily 50/50. They can be 90/10. “Irreconcilable differences” is a cop-out if the legal charge should actually be “Cruelty.” I’ll stop there, for the truth is longing to explode and would shock people if they only knew.

  13. The real problem is not that the Church loves the institution of marriage more than it loves women…. The problem is that the Church has become infested with patriarchy, chauvinism and sexism. If a Christian man divorces an abusive wife, an unfaithful wife, or even simply and “un-submissive” wife no one in the Church would bat an eyelash. Women are expected to “submit” to these men even to the point of abuse.

    • This is definitely a topic that needs to be addressed.

      “patriarchy” is found in the Bible. And someone that understands it realizes that a true patriarch will “love his wife as Christ loved the church…” You rightly condemn “chauvinism and sexism”. Be careful you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      • I encourage you to read Carolyn Custis James recent book, Malestrom. Patriarchy is in the bible and it was used by God, but, based on the NT, Jesus came to redeem patriarchy, not enforce it.

      • Yes, Patriarchy is found in the Bible; but as you and Gary rightly pointed out the patriarchy of God’s design is for the protection of women and not their abuse. However, not everyone realizes this. Some persons approach the patriarchy of the Bible through the lens of chauvinism and sexism and therefore pervert God’s design to the detriment of women.

      • Patriarchy was not ever God’s idea. It was man’s idea. Look to the Garden to discover original intent. In the Garden no “archy” was over either person. It was an equal and blessed and purposeful relationship.

    • Thank you for saying that!

  14. I just posted this on Facebook. I am so thankful you spoke about this issue and clearly distinguished the differences between marital friction and abuse. I have always wondered how our Lord would bless a marriage that was so clearly degrading to his daughters.

  15. Thanks you thank you thank you for saying this! Wake up church!!

  16. Jennifer McWilliams November 30, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Wow! Thank you for having the courage to post this. Such a powerful message. I pray for the hearts and minds that need this message so desperately, encounter this blog post today. God bless.

  17. This is so true. I grew up in a home like that and I know of people whose marriages are like that and I would not wish it on anyone. Church culture should never be allowed to hold people in bondage in abusive and at times life threatening situations. “Who the Son set free is free indeed”

    • I am another woman who stayed in an abusive violent marriage 40 years, married to a pastor/missionary. Submission was used as a weapon as well as a host of other verses that were twisted. “Forgive and forget” and “submit more” was the constant harmful advice from Christian leaders. Your article should be shouted from the rooftops. Thank you.

  18. Thank you for the validation Gary. I do believe God had you in the right place at the right time. Praying for you as you step out in faith to address a longstanding issue in our churches.

  19. God’s Warrior, may the Lord bless you and keep you strong and protected from the evil one, as you seek kingdom work first!!!! Bravo!