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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

10 September 2005

Spouse Abuse and Scripture

Q: Is there anything in the Bible that says you are not supposed to abuse your wife?

A: Let’s start with, “The two shall become one flesh,” in Genesis 2:24, quoted by Christ and Saint Paul. Thus, wife-abuse is self-abuse. I’ll touch more on Ephesians 5 in a moment. Before that, keep in mind that any violence or hateful thought toward another is a sin (as 1 John 3:15 says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer”), so threats or violence against one’s wife violate the commandment against killing.

Now we can look a bit more at the latter part of Ephesians 5. Verse 21 addresses general Christian behavior, urging all to be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Applying this to marriage, neither spouse is to take advantage of nor mistreat the other. While the husband is made “head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the Church,” this headship is intended to look after the body and do what is best for the bride.

Only someone who is spiritually depraved or mentally ill ever seriously “hated his own flesh,” or mistreated this temple of the Holy Ghost. The husband is to treat the wife as any right-thinking man would treat himself: “He who loves his wife loves himself.”

As Paul also writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church.” We see that tender care, loving nurture, and even dying for her is what men are to do for their wives, just as our Savior did for his Church.

The abuse of wives, girlfriends, and other women remains a serious problem in our fallen world. Yet we dare not ignore some women’s violence and emotional abuse against men. This, too, is wrong in God’s eyes, for the same reasons as above and, in line with the created order, because it violates the male headship God established in Eden.

Actually, all forms of domestic violence and abuse — between or among spouses, parents, or children — are among the most damaging sins inflicted upon others. God intended home and family to be our safest havens from evil. When evil owns the fortress, where do its inhabitants find refuge?

Wounded JesusBattered victims — wives, husbands, children, and parents — have One who literally knows their pain. Their battered Savior bore the cruel taunts and the savage blows that He might bring true peace. He invites those fleeing from abuse to fly to His waiting arms.

He also provides hope for those whose evil begets the abuse. For during His crucifixion, while feeling the full weight of His own Father’s abandonment, He reached out in love to the batterers, offering them, also, sanctuary from their sins: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)”

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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