Clarifying Words On Wife Abuse -- By: John Piper

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 18:1 (Spring 2013)
Article: Clarifying Words On Wife Abuse
Author: John Piper


Clarifying Words On Wife Abuse

John Piper

Founder and Teacher of DesiringGod.org

Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Several years ago, I was asked in an online Q&A, “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?” One of the criticisms of my answer has been that I did not mention the recourse that a wife has to law enforcement for protection. So let me clarify with seven biblical observations.1

1. Every Christian is called to submit to various authorities and to each other: children to parents (Eph 6:1), citizens to government (Rom 13:1), wives to husbands (Eph 5:22), employees to employers (2 Thess 3:10), church members to elders (Heb 13:17), all Christians to each other (Eph 5:21), all believers to Christ (Luke 6:46).

This puts the submission of wives and husbands into the wider context of submission to Jesus, to the civil authorities, to each other, and to the church. This means that the rightness or wrongness of any act of submission is discerned by taking into account all the relevant relationships. We are all responsible to Jesus first, and then, under him, to various other persons and offices. Discerning the path of love and obedience when two or more of these submissive relationships collide is a call to humble, Bible-saturated, spiritual wisdom.

2. Husbands are commanded, “Love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col 3:19). They are told to “love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph 5:28-29). The focus of a husband’s Christlikeness in loving his wife is “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).

Christian husbands are not Christ. They are finite, fallible, forgiven sinners. They do not stand in the place of Christ. Their wives relate directly to Christ (Heb 4:16; 11:6), not merely through their husbands. Husbands do not have the wisdom or the power or the rights of Christ...

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