Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Scriptural advice for battered wives

According to a popular Southern Baptist blogger, in "a Conference forum entitled 'How Submission Works in Practice' Dr. Paige Patterson was asked a question about how a Christian wife should respond to spousal physical abuse." Copied from that blogger, this is how Patterson counseled a woman being beaten and its results.

I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.”

And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.”

And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”

And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis.

And remember, when nobody else can help, God can. And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him.

I didn't respond on that blog, since the majority of it was anti-Patterson rhetoric with a few awe-struck Pattersonites stirred in. But, IMO, none of the commentary of either side really directed toward a Bible answer. My question to you is, "How would you advise a woman subject to abuse, and on what Scriptures would you base it?"


Anonymous said...

I would advise her to get out of there as fast as her legs will carry her. The next time she might be dead.

On prayer, when I was a chaplain in Korea, we were under heavy gunfire, and we wee running for cover. One lad said, "Padre, shouldn't we stop and pray?" I responded, "No, we shall keep running for cover and pray when we get there."

In both cases experience spoke volumes; both physical abuse and gunfire.



R. L. Vaughn said...

Good to hear from you, Jim. I haven't heard from you in awhile. Hope all is going well.

I think a lot of the readers will not find fault with your analysis. But one thing I was hoping for, that I found lacking on the other blog, was reference to some biblical principles re the subject. Any further thoughts on that?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robert. I have been reading, but not responding.

On this one, as long as I ministered, I can't say that I have found specific verses of scripture with guidance for the battered woman in a modern marriage.

In every passage I have read, given the context, the man treated the woman with respect and dignity and did not overlord her into submission. The scripture says, "husbands, love your wives..." It would be hard to instruct a drunken, violent fool to love his wife.

So often, when a wife had been eat and she refuses appropriate legal action, she was dead within two weeks. This is how the safe houses came about.

If there is no violence, we can always use the standby teachings about love and dedication until death us do part.

I don't believe the answer to every modern problem is itemized in scripture. We canm always fall back on the standby, pat answer: Pray and Let God work it out. It sounds so spiritual



R. L. Vaughn said...

Well, I'm glad this one jogged you into responding!

My initial tendency is to agree with you on "advise her to get out of there as fast as her legs will carry her," but to disagree with "I don't believe the answer to every modern problem is itemized in scripture." Your use of the word "itemized" might be the determining factor. One can't turn to a verse that says "the battered spouse (usually the wife) should do thus and so." But what Bible principles would apply here? I think this should be jostled around and see if something worthwhile falls out of someone's head.

I think you reference above Eph 5:22-31 "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." (cf. Colossians 3:18-19) I guess my first thought here (and it seems you agree) is that if the husband kept his part of this bargain, there would not be a battered wife. Some might argue that his actions cancels out the submission intended in these verses.

I think the biblical rule is that a spouse should not leave with the intent of dissolving the relationship. I Cor 7:10-11 "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." Would this imply that if it becomes necessary for a wife to separate for her own protection that she should do so with a hopeful eye of resolution rather than forever severing the relationship?

1 Peter 3:1-2 deals with an aspect of the believing wife dealing with an unbelieving husband: "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear." How far does this subjection go?

Though we are not under the law, can we find any helpful principles in passages about husbands and wives, such as Exodus 21, Num 5, Deut 24? Does the use of the law in some of these cases mean the battered wife should take it to the law in some (or all) cases? The law would certainly seem to sanction legal action, IMO, in cases that ended in death. But what measures are used to keep it from going that far?

What about Matthew 5:39: "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Should a wife literally turn the other cheek to be smitten again? Or is this a context of getting revenge -- don't get revenge, but rather be wronged -- since Jesus prefaced it with "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Regardless, it is certainly hypocritical for men who will not heed this charge to advise battered wives to do so.

Should the local church be more proactive? In 1 Corinthians 6:1 Paul wrote, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" Often pastors and/or church members take a don't get involved approach. Have we rejected the idea that we are a community in but not of the world? Perhaps the church should confront the man guilty of hitting his wife? There are certainly approaches in the Bible for a so-called believer to be rejected and treated as a heathen and publican. Would this have any effect on his behaviour? What if he is not a believer?

Have these questions ever been asked? ever been answered? I don't know. I don't think I've ever thought about this subject in a deep enough way.

Anonymous said...

I think you covered the scriptural base for a marital union in your previous post.

Now, I would like to relate a story from my church in Toronto some 50 odd years ago.

A Jewish lady came to our church as a result of our scriptural two by two door knocking. A deacon paired with a church member and did visitation every Tuesday evening for an hour. They handed out the little Gideon's New Testament and extended an invitation to our church. They did not preach or pressure anyone during this visit.

The Jewish lady brought her son along and she eventually realized Jesus as her Saviour. Later, her son also came to Jesus. Her Jewish husband drove her to the church every Sunday. He remained in the car in the parking lot. Our people greeted him in a friendly manner, but did not press him to come to church.

The lady told me how difficult it was at home. He was not physical with her, but did pressure her for departing from her Jewish beliefs. She did attend Synagogue with him and the lad attended Hebrew school. She did not try to "convert" him nor pestered him to attend church.

Some 20 years later, he left the car and came to the doorway and listened to the service. He told the pastor, in privacy, that he had watched his wife all these years and now wanted what she had in life. Long story short, he came to Jesus. The lad went to Bible College and lady rejoiced in the Lord and all was well last time I had contact with them.

There was much prayer for them by the church people, and all the personal encouragement that the people could offer without offending. Time. Time and patience is what it took, notwithstanding the LOrd, of course.

The lady honoured the man's headship in the marriage and in the family.

I can recite several cases where God honoured the headship principle, but not the one's who lorded over the other with power, whether verbal or physical.



Anonymous said...

Jim, I always enjoy your thought-provoking responses.

A thought occured to me from a practical standpoint regarding this matter.

How many times have you known of a situation where a woman will somehow finally get out of an abusive marriage and be so thankful? Then what will they do but turn around and get into another one this is just as bad or worse than the first.

I just don't understand the whole concept of marriage, Jim. I've been trying for 25 years to understand it. I can rationalize just about everything else I've come across, but not this. How does someone make it happen Jim? Is it not meant to be for some? I'm still refusing to accept it if it is.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous///I have great trouble getting my name to appear at top

Yes, I agree that marriage is not for eveyone. I was well into my 30's before I married. I was far to busy and committed to ministry to even consider marriage.

I know some who went to the mission field and never married.

I will use a backward scripture here. Remember Paul sought the Lord some 3 times to remove the thorn in his side? We haven't a clue what that thorn was, but let's just say it was a woman and marriage. Paul resolved that the thorn was God's will and he finally submitted fully to the will of God and we never heard about that thorn again.

A Baptist preacher friend pastored his lifetime in a London Baptist Church. Early on he asked a woman to marry him and she said "NO!" He retired from ministry and she retired from the mission field and they then married each other and lived happily ever after. They both put God's service ahead of their personal desires.

I was never an easy counsellor when a couple came to me to be married. I want to be certain in my mind that they were indeed ready for a full marriage.

To-day it has become a civil service, a purchased licence, and when they are ready, they can apply for a refund,,,,and they do. We need to be tougher again to make marriages last "til death us do part.."



Techno Witch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Techno Witch said...

I know I am a little late finding this, but I really wanted to respond. First, being a woman, I would naturally feel for any woman in this situation. It certainly would not be my desire that a man do harm to his wife. What I am about to say may seem like easy believism because I am married to a godly man who treats me like a queen. However, I am not directed in scripture to lean on my own understanding or my emotions. I am directed to trust Him in ALL things. I do agree with Patterson's advice, even though I am not particularly fond of the man. My reasoning is wholly biblical I think. The highest biblical principle I see in this is found in 1 Peter 2 & 3. Chapter 3 begins with "In the same way, you wives,..." In the same as what becomes the question. It refers back to chapter 2 speaking of Christ in His sufferings.

1 Peter 2:21-23 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;..."

It goes against every fiber of human emotion. We want to protect, defend, and have everything fair. Yet, our example is Christ. This is a walk of faith, not one by sight. I do believe God is sovereign even in human suffering. When I have trouble trusting Him, I pray as the man in Mark. "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." I must entrust myself to Him who judges righteously if I am going to follow Christ's example.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Hi, Titus24mom. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your well thought-out and Biblically-based response. Is it possible that as Christians submerged in American culture that we all, men and women, have rejected some of the Scriptures about non-resistance?

Techno Witch said...

Honestly, r.l., I think Christian America has rejected much of what scripture teaches because it goes against the cultural norm. I don't see our falls into sin being huge nose dives, so much as a slippery slope where we don't even perceive what is happening to our thinking. Often, we become wise in our own eyes because our logic really makes sense to us. What is not understood is that just like a pilot cannot trust his sense of up, down, left, and right, but instead his instrument panel, we must not trust our own sense of direction. I have to constantly seek God so that He is my compass for all of life. If I change with the culture, I become less and less like Christ, and more and more like the world. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I must press on toward the goal in Christ Jesus, not the goal of conforming myself to a culture that is rapidly running from a God-centered lifestyle.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Titus24mom, sadly, I expect you are right -- Christian America has rejected much of what scripture teaches because it goes against the cultural norm.

I would be interested in your view on one particular thing Paige Patterson advised, since I think it ties in to something I see in a text you and I both referenced.

One thing that struck me as odd was his advising this woman to pray by the bed when he's "just about asleep". Now I see that he said "quietly", but since he didn't tell her to wait until he was asleep, it seems he wanted him to see and hear her. In I Pet. 3:1-2 "they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives..." I take conversation to be "behaviour". The KJV which I use says "without the word" and some "without a word." Anyway just wondering, since you've obviously thought this out and presented Scriptures, if you have a thought on that.


Techno Witch said...


I agreed with Patterson's advice for the woman to stay and pray. The point about praying quietly as he was going to sleep was confusing to me, too. Here is what I have come up with.

Webster's 1828 dictionary definition:

Conversation - 1. General course of manners; behavior; deportment; especially as it respects morals.
Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel. Phil 1.
Be ye holy in all manner of conversation. 1 Pet 1.

Based on this definition, I think Patterson's advice missed the mark a little. While prayer is certainly the most important and powerful thing she could do for her husband, the definition and idea behind the verse in 1 Peter is clearly speaking of her behavior. As a wife, praying for my husband is a good thing. Speaking respectfully and honorably to him is a good thing. I do think both of those absolutely have to be followed up by my actions. My behavior should be becoming of a Christian wife who names the name of Christ. ~Courtney

R. L. Vaughn said...

Courtney, thanks so much for your comments and insight. I'll hope to hear from you again.