John MacArthur’s Instruction to Abuse Victims – Aaaaargh!!!
Ok, I am just going to let these paragraphs by John MacArthur, Jr (pastor, Grace Community Church, California), speak for themselves and then I am going to sit back and watch your comments come! REMEMBER, THESE ARE NOT MY WORDS!! We are in NO WAY endorsing them but in fact quite the opposite. They come from the article at Grace to You Answering the key questions about the family .
Question: How should a wife respond to a physically abusive husband?
Answer: Once I was taking questions from the audience in a meeting in Boston , and a young woman stood and asked how a Christian wife should deal with a husband who beats her. Immediately, a little eighty-nine-year-old, white-haired woman in the second row stood and shouted to her, “Hit him back, honey!”
Remembering the scene still makes me smile (I noticed after the meeting that the little old lady was wearing black boots). As funny as it was, however, I don’t think she had the proper remedy.
Divorce is not always an option, either–Scripture does not automatically permit divorce in the case of a physically abusive husband.
Still, while Scripture does not specifically instruct the battered wife, it gives principles that certainly apply to her. Proverbs 14:16 says, “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil” (NASB). God gives us wisdom to be defensive and cautious. We duck when something flies through the air at our heads. Common sense tells us to avoid situations where we’re placed in physical danger. And I believe that is what God expects of us.
A woman whose husband brutalizes her is not only justified if she protects herself — she would be wrong not to. There is no virtue in a wife’s willingly submitting to beatings and physical abuse from a cruel or drunken husband. And certainly there is no biblical warrant for a woman knowingly to allow herself to be beaten and even injured in the name of submission to her husband, especially if there are legitimate steps she can take to avoid it.
By way of comparison, the apostle Paul says in Romans 13 that we are to submit to civil government as a God-ordained authority. Yet that “submission” does not necessarily include voluntarily suffering at the hands of an abusive government. Our Lord said, “Whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next” (Matthew 10:23) — certainly giving the persecuted warrant to flee the persecution of wicked governments if a way of escape is open. So the “submission” God calls us to does not include automatic acquiescence to sheer physical brutality.
My advice to women who are in danger of physical injury from their husbands is first of all to try to defuse the situation. Be careful not to provoke any circumstances that will make your husband become violent. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”
This is certainly not to suggest women are to blame when their husbands become violent. There is no excuse whatsoever for a man to use physical violence against his wife; in fact, that is the most blatant kind of disobedience to the command given husbands in Ephesians 5:25. Men who physically abuse their wives cannot legitimately claim that any action on the wife’s part justifies their use of brute force. To physically attack one’s wife is an inexcusable and unconscionable sin against her and against Christ. And to try to defend such violence — as some men do — by claiming on biblical grounds that the husband is the “head” of the wife is to corrupt the very idea of “headship.” Remember that God is the “head” of Christ and Christ is also the “head” of the church (1 Corinthians 11:3). So the expression involves not only leadership and authority, but also loving nurture and protection. “The husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). The husband who thinks his “headship” justifies a domineering, tyrannical, or brutal leadership has no grasp of the biblical concept of headship.
If a violence-prone husband becomes agitated and abusive, the wife should remove herself from danger, by leaving the home if necessary. God has promised that He will not test us beyond our ability to endure, but will always make a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sometimes escape is the only way. If you have children and they are in danger, take them someplace where you will be secure until you feel you may safely come back.
If you are not truly in any physical danger, but are merely a weary wife who is fed up with a cantankerous or disagreeable husband — even if he is an unbeliever who is hostile to the things of God — God’s desire is that you stay and pray and sanctify that husband by your presence as a beloved child of God (1 Corinthians 7:10-16). The Lord will protect you and teach you in the midst of the difficult time.
Of course, pray for your husband, submit to him in every way you can, encourage him to seek advice and counsel from other biblically-knowledgeable men — and do everything you can to heal the problems that cause him to be angry or abusive.
END OF MACARTHUR’S WORDS.
As soon as your blood pressure lowers a bit, think carefully through this article. What do you think that his repeated use of the adjective “physical/physically” tells us about his understanding of abuse? Do you think that MacArthur believes verbal/emotional abuse is really as damaging? What statements here might indicate that MacArthur believes the victim has some control over her abuser’s ragings?
Update added June 2017: GTY’s website now gives the date August 18 2016 for their article Answering the key questions about the family, but that was not the original publication date. The article was at GTY’s when we first published this post on March 2, 2012, but it had a different URL. GTY have reconfigured their website but not changed the text of the article. And in case they ever scrub the article from their site, we have saved it here at the webarchive where it cannot be scrubbed.