January 27, 2014

God Hates Domestic Violence

Gary Thomas — 
photo: alexandria lomanno, Creative Commons

photo: alexandria lomanno, Creative Commons

Two days before Christmas, I accidentally sent a decorative reindeer hurtling off a small table in our library. This reindeer definitely could not fly and it shattered into five separate pieces. I picked each piece up, knowing there was no way I could repair this, and presented the demolished deer to Lisa.

“That’s fine,” she said, surprising me. “It wasn’t that expensive, I got it at Home Goods, and I wasn’t that into it.”

Our passion over the destruction of something is directly related to how important it is to us.

On another occasion, I dropped a glass cup that had belonged to Lisa’s grandmother. She knew I didn’t mean to break it, but she couldn’t pretend it didn’t hurt because it did. The cup was precious to her. Lisa didn’t even have to speak. I could feel the loss just by looking into her eyes.

When will we men understand how precious God’s daughters—our wives—are to him? To hurt them, even just to make them miserable, must raise a passion that we can’t even imagine. If we don’t strive to understand the depths of God’s love for our wives, we’ll miss the breadth of his wrath when we abuse them.

There’s a reason I’m picking on the men, here. The Bible does, too.

Christians are known for quoting Malachi 2:16 in which God clearly says, “I hate divorce,” but it’s amazing to me how infrequently the rest of the verse is quoted: “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment.” The sad consequence is that this verse is sometimes used to cement the opposite of God’s intent: keeping a woman in a dangerous home.

The force of a sacred marriage—love, absolute benevolence, living to bless each other and showcase each other, being for the other, nurturing each other, supporting each other, encouraging each other—is diametrically opposed to any form of assault. The church should hate domestic violence as much as it hates divorce. It should speak against domestic violence as much as it speaks against divorce. It should support women caught in domestic violence as much as it offers divorce recovery programs.

When we assume that God hates divorce more than He hates domestic violence it shows how little we understand His passion for His daughters. It also leads to the disastrous consequence of making women feel like they are obligated to stay in a dangerous situation that God hates. The last thing a woman fleeing a dangerous home should feel is guilt. She is serving God’s purpose by ending something He hates—violence against her.

Pastors, we must hold all forms of marital assault with the same contempt with which God holds it.

He hates it. Sometimes, it seems like we are more concerned with keeping the marriage going than ending the violence, when in reality, violent men need to understand that in order to keep the marriage going the violence must stop, now. Notice how we put the onus on the woman instead of the man: “Wife, stay in the marriage,” rather than, “Husband, we cannot support your wife staying with you as long as you harm her.”

We won’t counsel like this until we hate domestic violence as much as God hates it.  The harm it does to the children; the deplorable witness it gives to the world; the damage it does to a woman’s soul (not to mention her precious body); the corrupting influence it has on the male perpetrator; the pain it causes our Heavenly Father-in-Law who hates to see His daughters abused—it is as ugly a sin as you can find.

Would you ever counsel your daughter to stay in a place where she winces when she sees a knife, or flinches when her husband touches her? Would you ever tell her to spend a night in a home where she’s not entirely sure she’ll wake up alive or unbruised in the morning? Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get her out of there, sooner rather than later?

Every Christian wife should be able to look at her husband’s hands not as a threat but as a source of provision

—he will work hard for her and her children. She should view his hands not as instruments of pain but as tools of tremendous sexual pleasure—over the course of their marriage, he should provide countless sessions of loving caresses and experienced affection. His hands should be thought of as a source of protection— those hands will become a fist only to protect the family he loves, never, not even once, to turn on them.

May every church have signs in the women’s restrooms telling women where they can find help. May every woman’s group be on the lookout for any signs that any of the church’s daughters are afraid to go to their homes.

When we think keeping a marriage together is the only biblical solution, even if it means preserving a violent situation, we have become beholders of legalism and strangers to God’s true passion. The destruction of a marriage is a terrible thing; the destruction of a woman’s soul, the damage to the children’s psyches, the triumph of fear and hatred where there should be faith hope and love, is just as bad.

The last thing I am is “soft” on divorce.

I think a case can be made that adultery should still be a criminal offense. You harm a family and a child far more by stealing a mom or dad, a husband or a wife, than you do by stealing a television set. Yet the latter offense will put you in jail while the other gets you, literally, nothing in the way of legal punishment. I have pleaded with couples to reconcile, and I have stressed that making a poor choice in your twenties doesn’t give you an escape clause in your thirties when you meet a “better” choice.

But when I truly understand that my wife is God’s daughter, that every believing woman is God’s daughter, domestic violence isn’t something I just want to “treat.” It’s something I’ve learned to hate, as God hates it. And if getting the woman out of the house is the only way to bring it to an end, then the sin is on the man who hurts, not the woman who flees.

When Jesus seemed so hard and so cold to the Scribes; when he called them out and sounded vicious in His denunciations, what was He angry about? “They that devour widows’ houses.”

If we start messing with God’s daughters, we’re hitting Him where it hurts the most. We’re raising the most furious of His passions. We’re putting ourselves directly in the line of His red-hot wrath.

Let’s hate domestic violence as much as God does.

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28 responses to God Hates Domestic Violence

  1. How can more pastors become educated concerning DV .In turn how can or are there any other resources provided that women in the church can use to get support ? Pastors should be equipping women leaders in their churches to minister to these.
    I am in the New England area and know of one source that is pretty grass roots. Discovering the plight of women I know in other parts of the country ,I have learned that they are alone in it.
    There has been a twisting thread allowed into the church coupled with a marginal view of women that allows such oppression . I have encountered other women in the church that “keep” others in it.So sad and so many souls murdered instead of thriving to become
    the people God created them to be.

  2. Francine Tageant January 3, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Gary many years ago while you were a elder at a church we both attended. I approached the elders and pastors of the church to help my husband as he was verbally and physically abusing the kids and I. I was told to go and read the Bible so that I would become a more Biblical wife. I am crying right now because I am so happy that you have finally gotten that this is not okay to excuse the men from their abuse. You and one other Pastor were the only ones that came to me and said it is not right what they told you and you need to be safe. I have held onto that for years. I would love to say that you are doing so much for those of us trapped in a marriage because we were told our concerns and ideas of safety are not Biblical. Thank You. You may of saved a person’s or families life today.

  3. Gary, thank you for this illuminating blog/article. I recently (& finally) reported my husband’s violence against me-physically, verbally, psychologically, spiritually. I counseled with my pastor and a dear friend from church over several months about the abuse before I was finally able, through God’s grace, to report him and get out of my 17 year marriage. The physical abuse was “the last straw.” I suffered years of what I can only describe as verbal, mental & spiritual torture before it turned physical. Through MUCH prayer and counseling, God opened my eyes to the carnage my husband created in our home, the fear he consistently caused and what that was doing to me & to our daughters. He was arrested, has served little jail time but is currently fighting a legal battle, which is the consequence for HIS decisions & actions. I have to have neck surgery as a result of his violence. I am in counseling and my daughters have finally decided to go into counseling as well. I can honestly say that God is working forgiveness in me for my husband more and more, to be in prayer for him while keeping myself and our girls safe. I am very grateful that you included ALL the aspects of domestic violence, and that it truly violates God’s command for husbands to live their wives as Christ lives the church & gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). The guilt that I have experienced, that MANY Christian women experience, in leaving an abusive marriage is ridiculous. We ARE His precious daughters, and it is good, it is healthy, it is God-honoring to recognize ourselves as such. How else will our children learn their value in Christ if we do not SHOW them? Thank you for speaking up, speaking out! God bless!??

  4. I appreciated this piece and agree with most of it, but do take issue with one mention in the paragraph about the wife’s perception of her husband’s hands – as a provision, not as a threat. The second function listed of the husband’s hands is ” She should view his hands not as instruments of pain but as tools of tremendous sexual pleasure”. What?? This is listed second?? Gary, do you know how many women in abusive situations have come to abhor sexual interaction with their husbands – either due to forcing sexual situations or enough emotional abuse around that subject that they have permanent negative associations with it? Sex and pleasure is a byproduct of bigger things. A husband’s hands should be foremost a symbol of loving/caring, protection and safety – emotionally and physically. Sexual pleasure comes out of that safe environment. Why in God’s name sex is listed BEFORE the caring part, I don’t know.

    • Anne, listing sex before the caring part wasn’t intentional. If I parsed every word I wrote for these, it would take me about a month to write a single blog post. Please don’t take offense there. There’s no intended message by putting one in front of the other. My mind was thinking “pleasure” instead of “pain.” Unfortunately, the book trilogy being made into a movie is now going to collapse these two in the popular mindset, making what I’ve written all the more open to misinterpretation.

    • Anne, I did not gauge any confusion of what Mr. Thomas stated about a man’s hands being of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is usually mutual and loving so it implies caring. He was stating that a wife(not a broken and bruised wife) should “see her husbands hands as a sexual tool when in a loving marriage”

  5. i have been divorced from my first husband for 5 years and have re married.
    Reading the above comments has caused me to reflect on my situation then. Maybe snippets o my experience with God will shed some light into His views.
    I was getting into bed one evening when a black `wall` appeared in front of me and it had writing on it…Habakuk 1:3….. thats exactly what was written. I had no clue what the book of Habbakuk was about. I generaly spent a lot o time in John or other new testament letters although i had read the whole bible through when i first became a christian. I immediately read that verse..and the next couple of verses…i was amazed, stunned.. because they were the almost exact ( some sentences were exact) words i had been crying out to my Lord Jesus. My husbands behaviour was …SOUL DESTROYING , the `over discipline`( i now realise was mental and physical abuse) and bullying of our son` . The manipulation that made me sick to my stomach. The physical and mental abuse to me…and other behaviour that i could not make sense of.. Habbakuk 1v3 and subsequent couple of verses were MY WORDS IN PRAYER..wow.Although i knew God it was only when i had this vision ( i had never had a vision before) that i FELT comforted and relieved that God was telling me He was right there in the middle of it all and he knew everything and was listening to me. I experienced much comfort from that but i told the lord `but where are your instructions…what can i do to change this`…I was led to read over and over again Habbakuk..the whole book…i could not understand it at first, but gradualy I realised that change WAS COMING.
    I cannot talk about it all here…the subsequent vision…the continued abuse…my dependence on my abusuve husband…the `mixed up-ness` of it all. but a few years later it all ended.
    My family life now( second marriage) is Godly…PEACEFUL and LOVING.
    One thing i will say here that i feel led to say…I prayed often…`Lord please get him out of here we can`t stand it` and without any words from me my husband would leave the house..often violently but we were relived when he went…looking back that was God answering me…I should have been resolved to not allowing him back UNTIL…….. and stipulated reasons to him…I struggled when he returned…which he allways did ater days, weeks or months…I should forgive…shouldn`t I?? and what does forgiveness look like????…and he is my husband. These are all contoversies within the christian home where there is domestic abuse…and the man is the head of the house….and a waoman should submit to her husband“( i am writing this for the benefit of victims reading)
    what i am trying to say is GOD ANSWERS PRAYER ..Jesus said `ask me`..we need to be ready and STRONG when he makes a way or us to escape violence.
    Another comment here…..IF WE DO NOT SEEK TO PUT PROTECTION IN PLACE FOR OUR CHILDREN AND OURSELVES…either social services will/they or we will suffer the consequncies.consequncies
    thanks Gary for standing up for us

  6. I survived years of domestic violence and abuse in my first marriage. Our pastor ridiculed and taunted me because my abusive husband’s violence did not bruise my skin. (He would hit the wall next to my head to make me flinch without actually hitting my head.) Pastor said this in earshot of my then husband and pastor told me to submit more. This happened at one of the largest churches in Houston. I waited until my ex husband had intercourse with another woman so I could have a divorce that was unquestionably biblical. I still lost my church and most of my friends because I got divorced. Blame the victim is the unspoken mantra of the church. Thank you Gary for this post. Praise God for giving me freedom. He really does set at liberty those who are oppressed.

  7. Thanks for sharing. I’m curious to read your work as well. When we start delving into the Hebrew and nuanced interpretations I begin to feel so overwhelmed, almost to the point of being ineligible or disqualified from seeking the truth. I know that’s not true and I trust the Holy Spirit to guide me, but my human limits are magnified with stuff like this. However, I feel compelled to continue to dig and see where the evidence leads me.

  8. I’ll look into it. Thanks!

  9. @Ryan,

    The list of authors you gave for books on marriage strikes fear into me — Piper’s permanence view is pretty horrific (when applied to real life, as opposed to a theory), and Piper has a lot of serious problems with his theology (mainly that it sounds more like Roman Catholicism than anything Protestant.)

    Please, I suggest that you read David Instone-Brewer’s work – Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. He is *definitely* a scholar, and his work his far above anything that Grudem or Piper has written on this subject.

    Thank you to Gary for writing this post. I also escaped a very abusive marriage, and God rescued me & my children when the church would not. God has set us free and I can now say (with absolute belief) that God loves me and values me (and my children). Amen!

    • Katy,

      Thanks for the recommendation. Just FYI, Kostenberger, Adams, and Arthur don’t hold the permanence view. I’ve been looking for theologians, etc. who span the different views, going back further and further in history. G.K. Chesterton has some very thought-provoking takes in his series of essays titled “The Divorce Myth.” He’s addressing his era’s desire to normalize divorce because the rich were getting it and the poor could not, but it’s still good stuff.

      I believe I have the Instone-Brewer book on my shelf already, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

      I’m curious to read the writers Gary mentioned, because when taking an initial survey of really old dudes, it seemed almost consensus that remarriage was always wrong and divorce almost always, if not always. The guys I’m referencing are pre-reformation which is why I’m intrigued by Gary’s recommendations.

      I appreciate your thoughts.

  10. Gary,

    I appreciate this post very much and am glad you published it. I have some questions for you though, and please believe me when I say they are coming from a heart in a desperate search for truth and not one of legalism or antagonism. I’ve been reading and studying on marriage, divorce, and remarriage on and off for years now (I’ve read your stuff, Kostenberger, Piper, Baucham, Adams, Arthur, Laney, Grudem, Xacharias, Smalley, etc. Not to mention pouring over the pertinent passages from scripture countless times). After all that, I believe the permanence view is the correct one but struggle sometimes with the difficult emotional and physical situations a spouse may find themselves in. I get sick over it. But when I go back to the word can’t find an out for them. Here’s my questions:

    1) What are your thoughts on prescribing separations (even long-term ones if necessary) in violent situations? I’ve yet to come across someone advocating a victim to stay in the home of an abuser. I don’t doubt they are out there, but I don’t give that idea any time. Would you advocate the separation in view of reconciliation step or would you find yourself leaning more towards a clean (as “clean” as any divorce can be) break in these situations?

    2) Would you be able to point to a book, chapter, passage, or verse that supports the prescription of divorce in this situation? Or might you believe God has implied permission from less overt passages? I’ve had some attempt to suggest violence is equivalent to the abandonment Paul speaks of in Corinthians. While I appreciate their heart I can’t make it fit with Paul’s teaching there. Let me say again, I really am looking for a scripturally defensible position in pursuit of accuracy not to be argumentative or legalistic.

    3) Randy Alcorn touches on this in one of his Ollie Chandler books (Deadline, Deception, and Dominion) I think it was Dominion. Anyhow, in the fictitious account the elders of a church hear about a man abusing his wife and they proceed to get her out of the situation and, how can I say this, bring the beautiful feet of the gospel of peace while putting the boot of God’s wrath squarely upon his backside. In all seriousness, I thought is was a beautiful picture of how the church should behave in these situations. Don’t know if you’ve read that, but what would you say to godly men bringing that type of loving correction to a violent male who I think would be getting off easy?

    Ultimately I want God glorified and for his children to bear witness with their lives. I believe with you that marriage is a wonderful, and perhaps the most powerful, tool to those ends. I want to accurately handle God’s word, especially when it comes to stuff like this. Maybe you can help my heart (which is burdened for marriages that are broken) come to agreement with my mind (which sees scripture present a clear, unwavering testimony on the permanence of marriage).

    Love your ministry! Love your books! Share them and reference them often!

    • Ryan, I wish everyone was like you–earnest heart, sincere desire to find the truth over defending/advocating a personal agenda, etc. I can just tell from your comments that God is doing a serious work in your heart and I’m honored that someone like you is reading this blog.

      1) Separations are essential for violent situations. I see them as a last-ditch effort for other situations, though many times necessary. The reason I say “last ditch” is that separations can actually make one partner feel better about living outside the relationship. Any counselor will tell you there is great risk to go this route, but sometimes, they can provide a breather. I would try other things before an immediate separation.

      2) I don’t claim the title of Bible scholar. I have a master’s degree in theology (which means there are only 50 million others like me out there), but can’t call myself an academic with a straight face. One thing I’d encourage you to do, though, is to read some of the older writers on divorce–especially the Reformed camp. Many of them saw long-term sexual withholding as “abandonment” and a “biblical” cause for divorce, as well as long-term incarceration. They were seeking to apply Jesus’ and Paul’s words in a culturally appropriate way, with an earnest passion for the authority of the Word of God..

      I’m with you in wanting to take a strong stand against divorce. It’s clear though that Jesus was defending women when He spoke, not seeking to keep them entrapped in a situation that would be hateful to Him. Divorce as we know it now wasn’t really an option for those listening to his voice. His passion was to serve the wives.

      It just seems to me that we have so focused on the sin of divorce, that we have unwittingly de-emphasized the sin of violence. If the church had been practicing church discipline for men who were abusing their wives, with the same vigor we have challenged hurting wives, we wouldn’t be having the same conversation we’re having today. That’s what my post is trying to correct.

      So, you can see (in an indirect way) I’m taking your second option: “Or might you believe God has implied permission from less overt passages?” buttressed with historical tradition, including within the very same traditions that seem now to often forbid it.

      Being a pastor, and being invited into so many lives, has opened up my eyes to real-world situations that are just horrendous. When you have someone in your church whose daughter was murdered by her husband, after ample warnings, you’ll never look at this issue in quite the same way. My first concern now is protection–talk about the divorce can come later. But my emphasis now will always be, to the men, STOP. NOW.

      This won’t satisfy your questions, simply because I’m not capable of satisfying them. I wouldn’t put myself up against anyone on your list. So, take them as opinions, worth decidedly less than what you’ve already been exposed to. I’m just trying to be faithful before God to the platform He has given me. I truly felt called to write this post. I may have gotten some things wrong, but it was written with much prayer and pastoral concern.

    • Ryan — I am kind of following this to learn about some titles, myself. I have kind of read a lot about this because I had to face the AGONIZING decision to take my kids and leave my first husband. It took me 3 years to actually make the decision. The last straw was when I watched my husband grab one of my children from his top bunk and hold him upside down. Said child was also complaining of his back hurting. He was bruised on either side of his spine where he had (apparently) been grabbed in the grocery store by an angry father. I knew that I had to save my children. I was raised with the permanence view. A “no tolerance” for divorce. I knew I would lose my family’s support (and I did) and I knew that all my church and seminary circles would condemn me (most did). My ex told me God was not with me. I almost believed him. So . . . I read a lot of books that helped me understand that I had made the right choice. I now know that I did. But, I cannot tell you how hard it was for me. It was like leaving a cult! The books were great . . . but, what really helped me was understanding the character of God. It seems like divorce takes on a different nature every century. Jesus says He “meant” for us to be One. But sin enters in and . . .

      We have to make choices based on the law of love. It is somewhat our only option. We know that God hates violence and we know that God hates a man “putting away” a wife and leaving her helpless for unjust reasons. It is God’s nature that convinced me that I did the right thing. There is nothing (NOTHING) Scriptural about staying in an abusive marriage. There is nothing about allowing someone to hurt you (when you have the opportunity to leave) that reflects God’s heart. God is one who stands up for orphans and widows . .. He is a Rescuer . . . He is for the oppressed. As Mr. Thomas says, each situation is unique. However, if a woman is being perpetually abused . . . God wants her out. Typical abusers put on a show of repentance, a woman goes back in . . . and the man tightens his grip. It is tricky and dangerous and takes an enormous amount of wisdom.

      Discovering God’s heart, in Scriptures, truly is the best way to make these types of decisions, as far as I am concerned. 🙂 My two cents.

      • Megan,

        Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation. Seeking God’s heart is definitely the goal and that’s my pursuit. I’ve added the Not Under Bondage book to my list as well 🙂

  11. Well done.

  12. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I have had Sacred Marriage quoted to me and at me numerous times. I have been told that my xh’s abuse was God’s tool to sanctify me. I have been so confused, so very confused. Thank you for clarifying your position here, and so publicly. Can I give you the names and email addresses of the people who have used your book to try to convince me and others to go back for more sanctification? How would you feel about posting ON THEIR fb walls? Oh, I would like that.

    Seriously, I am thankful that you took the time to write this post. It is a blessing to read and to share. On fb. Lots and lots.

  13. Thank you for this . . . It is very refreshing, to my soul, to hear about an author of a Christian marriage book explaining that God hates violence. And you take away the common idolization of marriage that keeps so many women in abusive marriages, believing that God would “hate” for them to leave more than He would “hate” for them to stay and be abused. I have actually written a new blog post (not yet published) pleading with Christian authors to make a disclaimer (or, dare I dream, a chapter?) on how their books may not be used to coerce women into staying in abusive marriages. I cannot tell you how many times, in my first abusive marriage, pastors and Christians used books like your’s to keep me in. Guilted over and over again, I was told that God does not want me to be happy in my marriage . . . He was sanctifying me (I know that is a twisting of your words). I actually believed that God was using abuse to sanctify me! What a very very skewed understanding I had of God! 🙁 I remember telling my first husband, “I am a child of God! You cannot do that to me!” He would look at me strangely; he did not believe that I was a child of God because I was a woman.

    I do have a question . . . many people are now going back to the original Hebrew in the Malachi 2 verse that you mentioned. The ESV has interpreted this verse as: “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and tdo not be faithless.” Do you subscribe to this interpretation? I have not looked at the original Hebrew but I do know that books are being written to correct this interpretation. Sadly, when many of us, who divorced an abusive spouse, are quoted this verse in other translations, it is easy (at first) to believe that we have committed the unpardonable sin . . . or that God actually hates *us*.

    Again, thank you for this.

    • Megan, I can’t tell you how sorry I am that my words were used against you. I tried to address (and DID address this) in Sacred Influence, but that book, though it has sold well, hasn’t sold nearly as well as Sacred Marriage, so my position on it isn’t as well known. I have just finished a new book on marriage that will be out this Fall–and this blog post is part of an appendix that will be in that book, just to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

      Regarding Malachi: I’m not a Hebrew scholar. I’m not even a Hebrew student, if you want me to be honest, so I don’t think I could shed any light on that. But there are other passages, beyond Malachi, that would challenge men to forsake domestic violence. The prohibition against divorce in the first century was clearly to PROTECT women who might otherwise have been left so vulnerable. It’s rather curious, and somewhat dismaying, that we now use the very same words to compound their hurt.

      • Ah! I may have just squealed a little! Yes . . . Exactly. The very Scripture that was meant to protect is now often used to control and manipulate women while covering up the heart of a loving Father. I am now in a good marriage and I have come to the point where I can read SOME marriage books again. And I find them helpful. It is amazing how anything can be a tool in the hands of wicked men — even those tools meant for good. I am thrilled that you will be putting this blog post in your new book. I would gently ask you to just look at some of the books that have recently come out regarding that chapter in Malachi (“Not Under Bondage” by Barbara Roberts is a good one). I am no Hebrew scholar, either, but that verse was used against me over and over for escaping my first marriage (with my children). It was used within my marriage and without. When I read the ESV version and realized that God was actually protecting women and not condemning them, it was a cool drink of water to my soul. We are presented with a “pick the lesser of the two evils” when we are married to an abusive man. Either way, it seems to break God’s heart. How I longed for Him to say, “No, Megan . . . I do not want you to be abused and I never placed my stamp of approval on it!” If you stay, you are your kids are broken; if you go, you and your kids are broken, but there is healing. Either way, it is difficult.

        I admire your heart that is open to listening . . . and that is willing to put an appendix like this in his new book. I am also a trauma counselor, now, and what a joy it will be for me to have a book I can suggest that has an appendix like this one.

  14. Great post, Gary – thank you for addressing this issue. Question for you – how would you advise women who are victims of severe emotional/verbal abuse in their homes? I’m not talking about the occasional disagreement or badly-managed argument, but consistent, unrelenting emotional and verbal abuse. I’m thankful to not personally be in that situation, but I’ve known women who have been. What are your thoughts?

    • Happy, thanks for your concerns; sounds like you have a truly ministering heart. It would be irresponsible for me to try to give hard and fast rules for other forms of abuse, for this reason: some questions need dialogue, with a counselor or pastor. As much as I appreciate books (trust, me, I REALLY appreciate books) or blogs, they’re not always the most appropriate form of communication. It’s why I don’t try to counsel via email. And the same is true here. If someone feels they are being abused in their marriage, they need the prayerful care of a person who can listen to them, counsel them, and pray over them–not someone who spouts principles without knowing their situation.

  15. Gary, thanks for this. Sorely needed words. Wondering if you might be willing to clarify between domestic violence and domestic abuse? Many, many Christian women are in abuse situations where violence is not necessarily involved.

    Still abusive, still dangerous, still something God hates. Maybe even provide a link to resources for women to find help?

    Sacred Marriage has been so meaningful to me in my own mareiage, and at the same time, so difficult for some of my sisters in Christ who have been or are being browbeaten into staying in abusive marriages with scriptures, with your words, and with those of other authors on marriage. I know you hate that, too.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    • Thanks, Rachel. I purposefully didn’t make a distinction between sexual violence and abuse, because this is a blog post, and you need chapters, not paragraphs, to do justice to that distinction and all the (fair) questions that will arise. We don’t have hard and fast rules from Scripture on how to distinguish between the two. That’s why the force of my post was that we should be so focused on positively BLESSING our spouse that any active hurt should be unthinkable. Some forms of abuse can be “treated” with counseling, as the couple learns more mature ways to handle conflict. That’s different than actual violence where the danger is imminent and severe. That’s NOT to undercut the seriousness of other forms of abuse–just a recognition that different challenges can have different prescriptions. That, I believe, is best left up to an experienced counselor rather than a blogger to apply.

  16. Thank you for this.