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Must Christians Stay In Abusive Marriages?

by Annagail Lynes  
12/28/2007 / Christian Living

What About Physical Abuse? What Does The Bible Say About It?

The Bible says in Malachi 2:16 (AMP), "For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment [his wife] with violence. Therefore keep a watch upon your spirit [that it may be controlled by My Spirit], that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly [with your marriage mate]."

In the same Scripture in which God says He hates divorce, He says He hates a man who covers his wife with violence. The two sentences are connected by the conjunction, "and." God hates divorce and a man who abuses his wife.

Many well-meaning Christians tell women who are being abused to stay in the situation. They tell them to pray, to be meek and mild so their husbands won't be so mad. They cite the Scripture that says that the believing wife can change her husband by being meek (I Peter 3:1, 4).

Abuse is not about the person being abused. It is about gaining control and power.

For the first five years of my life, I grew up in a physically abusive home. My father used to beat up my mother. As I tried to sleep, I heard the raised voices, screaming demeaning, derogatory statements. I even remember witnessing one of these incidents at age three.

After the first five years, the physical abuse stopped almost overnight. Instead he turned his anger on the cars he tried to fix, doors and inanimate objects.

Then when he wanted to control us, he gave us a disapproving look, followed by the threat of violence. The physical abuse may have stopped, but the emotional and mental blackmail continued. We remained frightened of him.

Although my mother and I struggled after the divorce, I know divorce was our best option for a better future. My father is manic depressive and refuses to get help. It was unsafe for us to live in that environment.

God doesn't expect women, or men who are being abused by their wives, to stay in an abusive situation. If the violence persists, these people are at risk of being murdered the longer they stay.

If the abusive husband, or wife, is willing to go into counseling or undergo medical treatment, excellent. If, like my father, the abuser refuses, though, the person should make plans to get out of the situation.

God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11), whether you are male or female. Many Christians believe that according to the Bible, women are inferior creatures in God's eyes, that women are second-class citizens.

This belief comes from I Corinthians 14:34-35 (AMP), which states "The women should keep quiet in the churches, for they are not authorized to speak, but should take a secondary and subordinate place, just as the Law also says. But if there is anything they want to learn, they should ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to talk in church [for her to usurp and exercise authority over men in the church]."

These Christians fail to consider the culture at that time. The law dictated that women should be silent. However, Jesus fulfilled the law for us (Matthew 5:17). We no longer live under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14).

These Christians also miss verse 36, in which Paul asked, "What! Did the word of the Lord originate with you [Corinthians], or has it reached only you?"

Paul wondered if this "word of the Lord" had originated with them because he had never heard this "revelation" from God for himself.

We often point to the women in the Bible who did wrong. For example, Bathsheba, Eve and Jezebel. What about the ones whom God used mightily? God appointed Deborah to judge Israel (Judges 4:4). God used Esther to save the Hebrew people (Esther 1-10). God used Mary to birth the baby Jesus (Matthew 1). Who first heralded Jesus' resurrection from the dead? Women (John 20:18).

Women are important to God. They are a part of God's plan, just as much as any man. Not just to be mothers, wives and keepers of the house. Although those roles are important.

The Proverbs 31 woman kept her home, mothered her children and tended to her husband. In addition, though, she sold her linens in the market, considered a field and bought it. She worked as a business woman, selling her product in the market, while attending to her duties as wife and mother. She worked, and her family still called her blessed.

The man is the head of the household, yes, but that doesn't give him the right to control his wife, put her down, physically or verbally abuse her. He is to love her as Christ loved the church. Does Jesus control the church? Put her down? Or physically abuse or emotionally black mail the church? Absolutely not!

Many men believe, though, that controlling their families is what it means to be head of the household. They hold fast to the belief that their wives and children are their slaves.

It is a weak leader who leads by fear, intimidation and violence. Good leaders are those who lead by example. They show others kindness, respect and love. They praise good behavior while instructing, without yelling or criticizing, in areas that need improvement. This is a leader. Violence, fear and intimation do not a leader make.

People who are in a bad situation where they are being physically abused need to pray about it and listen for God's instructions.

Before deciding to leave the situation, make a detailed plan of where you will live, how you will support yourself, how you are going to care for the children and so forth. Think about setting aside a certain amount of money each week for the cause, if you are working.

Find others via the Internet, or through your church, who have been where you are. Then you can ask questions and obtain the support of someone who has been there and knows what you are going through. Surround yourself with people who will emotionally support you and not criticize you.

Get a plan and dedicate that plan to God. Ask Him if there is anything in the plan that needs to be changed, added or taken out. Revise it accordingly. Keep praying about the plan. Then at the right time, when all the pieces are in place, work that plan.

God didn't call you to be abused. He called you to be victorious (Romans 8:37, II Corinthians 2:14)). He called you to be His. He has a purpose and plan for your life. You are no accident! God loves you and has the very best planned for you.

Annagail Lynes is a pharmacy technician, certified life coach and ordained minister. She is helping people move forward after trauma by helping them discover their purpose. Follow her blog at

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