Enemy. What a harsh and horrible word. It brings up images of war or the movies, or in faith circles, of Satan. It probably does not bring up pictures in your mind of actual people in your life. At least, we’re sort of trained that it shouldn’t.
How many of us women haven’t read a Christian book or been at a church event or a retreat or a Bible study and heard something like this from the author or speaker, “If you are in a relationship that is toxic, cut the ties, walk away. Unless, of course, it’s your husband. Then, work it through.”
If I had to guess, I have heard a variation on that statement maybe a hundred times during my adulthood, during my difficult marriage.
It was this interesting paradox. If there were a person in my life who treated me terribly and was sucking the life out of me in pretty much every way, set boundaries or even move on; letting yourself be bullied isn’t what Jesus meant when he said to turn the other cheek. Unless, you know, it’s your husband. Because, since there was a vow, working it through is your only option.
Or how about this one? “Your husband isn’t your enemy, ladies…” Huh.
Dictionary.com defines enemy as: a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another.
So, because your last name is the same or because you both signed a marriage license or because you stood before God and promised to cherish each other yet your husband feels hatred for you, fosters harmful designs against you, and engages in antagonistic activities against you, he’s not your enemy..…just because he’s your husband?
I one hundred percent disagree.
I know enemy is an awful word. And I know that nobody wants an enemy. Who would want an enemy? But we talk about it as if it’s a culturally made-up concept.
The Old Testament mentions the word enemy over one hundred times. And I don’t think each reference was talking about Satan. In fact, David talks specifically about Saul hunting him down and being his enemy.
And Jesus tells us to love and pray for our enemies. Which must mean that we can actually have them. He wouldn’t have told us to love and pray for a non-existent people group.
Now, I get it. I really do. It can feel dangerous for a wife to claim her husband is her enemy. But acting like it’s not her reality does not help anyone. If she is being beaten or raped or called names or controlled or manipulated or lied to or put in danger by her husband, then friends, her husband is her enemy.
She is called to pray for him, absolutely. She can and should do that. And she is called to love him, yes. And the way she can love him best is to get help for herself, for her children and for him; and sometimes the way to love him best is to leave so that he wakes up and gets the help he needs; and if he never wakes up, for her protection and her children’s, to go.
Yes, Satan is our enemy. But yes, we can at times have actual human enemies in our lives. And yes, very, very sadly, your enemy may be your husband. And yes, we need to work it through, but staying indefinitely no matter what, no matter how you’re treated, isn’t always the best way.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.