An Open Letter to Husbands who Abuse Their Wives

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

“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.”

 

Author’s note: If you are in an abusive relationship, it is best not to show this letter to your abusive spouse in the hope that it will change their behaviour. In the situation where an abuser needs to be called to account, it is best handled by those with expertise in these matters.

The ABC has today published an extensive piece examining the issue of domestic abuse perpetrated by men in the name of Christianity. It is a sober and important read. While there are a few minor points that require clarification, I do not wish to quibble over these here, for that might unhelpfully distract from the weight of this matter.

Many things need saying, and much listening needs to be done. Not everything that needs to be said will fit into one short blog post. (For example, I’m aware that men and boys are sometimes the victims of domestic partner abuse. According to some estimates, as many as 20% of domestic partner abuse victims are male, a reality that is mentioned in passing in the ABC report.) But in keeping with the article’s focus and in line with the majority of situations in which domestic violence occurs, in this post I wish to address the kind of man who has been spoken of: married and manipulative, misogynistic and oppressive, and connected in some way with a church.


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.

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]

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.

Read More