What Does the Bible Say About Abused and Battered Wives? What Does One Do?
First, I’d like to say that my heart goes out to anyone who may have to make difficult decisions because of this. I don’t think these are easy decisions for anyone involved. Based on Scripture, here is how I believe this issue should be addressed (all Scripture verses are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible):
Christian marriage is to be one of respect. Husbands are commanded to love their wives in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians :
“5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind-yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband”
All Christians are to behave in a Christ-like way:
Ephesians 4 “30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
I would say that a man who abuses his spouse physically or verbally is not behaving like a Christian should. This is also a violation of Jesus’ two greatest commandments: Matthew 22 “37 He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”
I would say that spousal abuse does not show love for God or your neighbor.
What should a Christian woman in such a situation do? Prayer should always be involved, and a battered wife should have the support of friends. Does the Bible allow for divorce in such situations? Although the Bible doesn’t directly address divorce on the grounds of abuse, there are two other allowances for divorce that are very often involved in abusive marriages, adultery (Matthew 5:32) and an unsaved spouse (often referred to as the Pauline Privilage, 1 Corinthians 7:12-16)
In both instances, the Bible seems to be addressing the issue of whether remarriage is acceptable more than whether a Christian may divorce. What about an abusive relationship where the husband is not comitting adultery and professes to be a Christian? While it’s not for us to judge someone else’s relationship with Jesus, I doubt very much that a man who sincerely professes Christ and follows Him would treat his wife in such a way. If a man is abusive to his wife and doesn’t repent of his behavior, her life may be in danger by staying with him. Legal separation and/or divorce is often necessary in these circumstances. Divorce may be against God’s original plan for marriage, but spousal abuse is, too. Under these circumstances, I think God does allow for divorce.
My thoughts and prayers are with all those involved in such a relationship.