There is currently a great deal of discussion among many churches across the country revolving around the issue of abuse of women in the home. There are, for example, instances where the abuse of one’s wife is “tolerated” (if not condoned) in “christian” homes (as anti-Christian as that seems to me), this tragic fact has a bit to do with the general lack of dialogue due to what some consider to be “none-of-your-business” for anyone outside the immediate family. But it is also more than that.
It is not just the result of a lack of conversation or even a lack of understanding by men, but rather a sinful disposition in the heart and the working out of rebellion against God. It is therefore necessary for us, if we are truly committed to a right relationship with God, to confront it, confess it, and repent of it. God maintains an expectation that men be the antitheses of “misogynists” and no woman should bear the ungodly burden of fear for her life and well-being. If a woman is in actual danger because of abuse, the Church has the responsibility of being an agent for her safety.
Let us be clear on this: abuse (mistreatment and/or harming of another, especially one entrusted to you relationally such as a spouse or a child) is unacceptable at all times, under all circumstances. No one “deserves” to be mistreated even if the Church seems, in many people’s experiences, to not only be vague about this, but to endorse certain forms of it.
Perhaps one of the chief sources for confusion on God’s expectations of how husbands and wives treat one another is found in the mishandling of Ephesians 5. A crass and superficial reading of some verses in the passage notwithstanding, the point and premise of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
Clearly, the idea of love here is personified in Jesus’ tender regard and whole-hearted pursuit of the welfare of His people, the Church (which includes you and me through faith). The welfare of His people and His laying down of His life was and is paramount in our understanding of how men and women are called to relate to each other. Accordingly, this principle should completely eradicate any illusion of an excuse for men to mistreat women (wives or otherwise).
Nor are men licensed to maintain a condescending and “superior” mentality to women or their gifts and callings. Even though the Bible consistently implies different roles and callings typically associated with men and women respectively, only a mishandling of 1 Peter 3 would be interpreted to mean that men are “more important” in the grand scheme of things than are women (just as it is not correct to assume the opposite either!). After all, wives “are heirs with (husbands) of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).
Too often, we inflate our own sense of importance and use distorted interpretations of Scripture to support it. In the case of men and their attitude and behavior towards women, this has too often been true.
To my sisters in Christ, I am sorry for the ways that you have suffered abuse and that the church has failed in hearing you, supporting you, and protecting you. I am also sorry for those moments and occasions when even well-meaning Christians downplay your value in the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord. Your presence matters. Your calling matters. Your voice matters. The Church must learn to appreciate your role and your contributions. The Church must learn to recognize your many areas of gifting and serving, valuing you as dear daughters of God. I hope that I, as well as my other brothers in Christ, will uphold you and support you, believe in you and in God’s working through you.
We are not only blessed by you, but through you as our Heavenly Father has pressed forward in the building of His kingdom. Thank you and thanks be to God for you.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).