Question: “Doesn’t Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? And to forgive seventy times seven times? And doesn’t the love chapter in I Corinthians 13 tell us that love keeps no record of wrongs and it suffers long and it never gives up? So, doesn’t the Bible basically tell us that we must take abuse in a marriage and stay under it?”
I felt trapped by my faith for many years. I was in a marriage that was killing me while I was simultaneously trying to live out what I felt Jesus wanted me to do, which was stay, no matter what, because, as everyone knows – say it with me, God hates divorce apparently no matter what.
Let me first say that yes, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. Yes, Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven times (in other words, an infinite amount of times). And yes, I Corinthians tells us not to record-keep and to be known for long-suffering and to not give up on love. But no, that doesn’t mean the Bible is telling women to stay in an abusive marriage no matter what. I’m going to be quoting from two sources here to convey this point. The first is author, Steven R. Tracy, from his excellent book Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse.
“While God can and does use suffering to build character, there is no virtue in enduring avoidable suffering. In fact, the Bible teaches that we should avoid abuse and seek safety whenever possible. Jesus repeatedly avoided physical assault and sought safety by hiding (John 8:59), by maintaining physical separation from his abusers (Matthew 12:14–15; John 11:53–54), and by eluding them (John 10:31, 39). Other godly individuals in the Bible, such as David and Paul, also repeatedly fled from physical abusers (1 Samuel 19:12; 27:1; Acts 9:22– 25; 14:5–6; 17:8–10, 14). Creating safety for those traumatized by abuse has a strong biblical basis. The Bible frequently instructs those in positions of power to ensure the safety and protection of those who are vulnerable (Psalm 82:3–4; Proverbs 24:11–12; Isaiah 1:17).”
I urge you to take some time to look up these Scripture passages for yourself, but I want to emphasize one point here: Jesus himself repeatedly avoided attack. For those who would argue that Jesus allowed himself to be beaten and to die on the cross, we’re not Jesus and God isn’t calling us to die in our marriages to bring about the salvation of the world. I also wish to add that I believe there are two kinds of suffering: there is the kind that God allows in our life to draw us closer to him and to help form Christ in us, and then there is the kind that we allow ourselves to be in when we don’t need to be. If you’re unsure where your situation lies on that continuum, I would pray for guidance and ask a few godly people you trust to help you discern the difference.
From my mentor, Charlotte Lukas, “Marriage is based on mutual vows….loving one another….not abusing one another. Marriage is to reflect God’s love…..Jesus’ love for His Bride. When that is broken, it needs to be made right through counseling and prayer and restoration. If not, separation is needed to protect the abused.” If you are being repeatedly abused (sexually, physically, emotionally, verbally, through coercion, manipulation or control), your spouse is not loving you and is not fulfilling his vow to cherish you.
Charlotte goes on to say – and I love this, “Suffering means allowing…as in suffer the little children to come to me. For instance, as a spouse allowing for illness and coming alongside the spouse, seeing it through. However we are not to allow sin but instead to repent and make amends. We must convict one another of sin and enter into resolution.”
Does God want you to fight for your marriage? I believe he does. Does God want you to do everything in your power to keep it together and to make it whole and holy? I believe he does. Does God want you to suffer under constant abuse, placing the institution of marriage over the wholeness and holiness of the individuals? From what I have read and talked through with others and prayed about, I don’t believe he does. If this is you, you can get help. You need to get help. Suffer well, my friends.
in a difficult marriage?
*if you’re not safe or if you or your children are being physically or sexually hurt, please set up a safety plan (http://www.ncdsv.org/images/DV_Safety_Plan.pdf) and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233)
*marriage assessment: http://bit.ly/marriage-assessment
*Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage e-book: https://elisabethklein.com/books
*14-Day Marriage Challenge: https://elisabethklein.com/marriage-challenge-2/
*my 3-month e-course, Marriage Methods (now PAY WHAT YOU CAN): https://bit.ly/marriage-methods-pwyc
*if you’re in a difficult marriage with biblical grounds to divorce and you’re trying to decide whether to stay or go: my 5-week e-course, Decision Time (now PAY WHAT YOU CAN): https://bit.ly/PAY-WHAT-YOU-WANT-FOR-ALMOST-EVERYTHING