What God Expects of Husbands
God made us in His image not only so that we might reflect His character, but so that we might live in relationship with one another. Just as the Father, Son, and Spirit share a deep intimacy within the Trinity, God desires that we would know and experience the deep riches of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 shows us what Godly love looks like in practice:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Where love prevails, a hand is never raised in violence, a word is never spoken in malice, and a demand is never made out of selfishness.
Unfortunately, in our broken world, people easily fall short of this ideal.
This is especially damaging in our marriages. Marriage is where God intends for us to experience the most intimate and satisfying depths of love. Too often, selfishness and sin take hold, and in extreme situations, abuse takes over.
What does the Bible Say about Abusive Husbands?
When we think of abuse we often think of physical violence, but abuse may show up in several forms:
- Physical abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional Abuse
All abuse is a sin against God, and contrary to how He commands us to treat other people. But for a husband to abuse his wife is an egregious sin, because of the height of love that God calls husbands to exhibit:
We’re all familiar with the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. God commands us to treat all people with kindness and honor. For husbands, He raises the bar, commanding us to love our wives as we love our own bodies. This is a call to not just be kind but to actively care for our wives.
God declared that in marriage the two become one flesh. So any abuse that a man displays toward his wife is abuse that he also commits against himself. Clearly, a wife will experience the brunt of an abusive husband’s actions, but the abuser is also damaging himself in the process.
The sad reality is that, because of this truth, patterns of abuse become harder to break the longer they persist. That is why we must lead with such high expectations for husbands. The best way for men to avoid even stepping foot on the path toward abuse is to always remember God’s intention for marriage and the level of love and care that He calls us to.
Let’s look at Biblical wisdom for identifying and confronting other forms of abuse.
The Bible has plenty to say about harsh words, and rightly so. Words are easy to weaponize and can do significant damage very quickly. Proverbs 22:10 says, “Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.”
A husband that brings his wife down with harsh words and insults is inviting strife and argument into his marriage, in addition to the damage that he is doing directly to his wife with reckless words that pierce like swords (Proverbs 12:18).
Modern readers might dismiss this Peter’s notion that women are ‘weaker’ than men, but we must remember that Peter was speaking of physical size and strength. He was also writing in a culture where women did not have the same standing and rights as men.
Considering this, Peter’s description of wives as our partnersis groundbreaking.
Peter instructs men to elevate our wives and view them as equals, despite our physical and societal differences. So we ought to treat our wives, our partners, with consideration and respect.
Emotional manipulation, demeaning treatment, and other forms of emotional abuse are neither respectful nor considerate because they ignore and diminish the thoughts, feelings, and worth of our wives. There is no room for such treatment if we are to live as partners.
Times have changed since the New Testament was written. In our society, women are equally capable as men of earning a living and being self-sufficient. Nevertheless, marriage is a partnership, which requires the contributions of both partners. A husband who neglects his duties, whatever they may be in his household, is neglecting his role not only as a husband but as God’s image-bearer.
Examples of Abusive Husbands in the Bible
One person in scripture stands out as a model for husbands everywhere to NOT follow:
Nabal had a reputation for being abusive in all of his dealings. And though scripture doesn’t explicitly say that he mistreated Abigail, her familiarity with his personality and her need to work around his temper suggest that she experienced his abuse on multiple levels.
When David and his men arrived in Nabal’s land and sought hospitality, Nabal responded with insults. It was Abigail who took it upon herself to prepare bread for David’s men and extend an offer of peace in order to head off a potential conflict.
Nabal was drunk and unaware of—neglecting—what was going on until the following morning:
head.” Ezekiel 16:12
Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. (1 Samuel 25:37-38)
Nabal failed his wife, failed his people, and failed himself because of his propensity to all manner of abuse and mistreatment.
What does the Bible Say about Divorcing an Abusive Husband?
God designed marriage to be a permanent covenant. Of course, He also designed marriage to be a partnership built on love, care, and honor. So when the foundation of marriage breaks down, at what point is it acceptable to sever the covenant?
The Bible is silent on divorcing for any reason other than infidelity. But we can gain some understanding from this conversation between Jesus and some Pharisees in Mark 10:2-5:
Pharisees: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
Jesus: “What did Moses command you?”
Pharisees: “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
Jesus: “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law.”
In ancient Israel, a woman left on her own was left without care and security and would have been resigned to a life of poverty, begging, or prostitution. The Mosaic Law that Jesus refers to was written in order to provide security to a divorced woman by allowing her to return to her father and ultimately remarry.
In other words, the law was written to protect women who faced divorce.
Likewise, a woman who is suffering from abuse is entitled to safety and protection. As Christians, we encourage any woman in an abusive and dangerous environment to take steps to get herself to safety, even if that means separating from an abuser. There is no Biblical mandate to stay in an abusive marriage and subject oneself to ongoing hostility.
As for the men reading this: Remember where we started. Live each moment of each day fully aware of the high call that was placed on all of us to honor God and honor ourselves by showing the greatest honor, respect, and love to our wives.