A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Gains & losses; submission & self-sacrifice

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matt. 16:26)

What does it mean to lose or forfeit oneself – one’s very soul? Obviously in the eternal sense, the destination would be hell. But there may be other senses, perhaps not the primary meaning of this verse, but legitimate extensions of this verse. For example, Christians may lose themselves by giving their allegiance, their minds and their consciences over to false teachers, modern Scribes and Pharisees masquerading as regenerate believers, or legalists who major on minors, such as the Patriarchalists in conservative evangelical Christianity.

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  (Luke 9:25)

For what does it profit a woman if she gains perfect submission to her husband and loses or forfeits herself?

For what does it profit a man if he gains perfect self-sacrificing love for his wife and loses or forfeits himself?

And what does it profit the Kingdom if the church misrepresents wifely submission and husbandly self-sacrifice and loses its way as a result?

How could a bit of misrepresentation in a relatively unimportant doctrine (it’s only the doctrine of marriage, after all, not a core doctrine like the doctrines of God, sin, Christ’s incarnation, atonement, salvation and redemption)  – how could a little misrepresentation of a secondary doctrine have such a profound effect that it could make the church lose its way?  Here’s how:

Misrepresentation of the doctrine of wifely submission (and to a lesser degree, husbandly self-sacrifice)  is helping enable covert spouse-abusers to parade as true Christians, and is causing a massive disregard of the plight of victims of marital abuse.

At this blog we’ve been pointing this out for some time. This post isn’t covering new ground, but we will just keep saying the same old thing in new ways until the church heeds this cry for justice, particularly the complementarian side of the church that is aligned with organizations like CBMW.

Wake up. Please.

And lest any followers of CBMW think “Hey, there is a Statement on Abuse at CBMW, and they have a pretty balanced and qualified definition of wifely submission, so what’s the problem?”  …  I say to such readers, there is a problem. There is a giant gap between rhetoric and practice. And even the rhetoric – the published statement about abuse and the qualifiers of wifely submission – has a lot that needs improvement if the practice is ever going to get closer to what I think (I hope) the good folk at CBMW are aiming at. For an example of what needs improvement, here is a link to my Critique of CBMW’s Statement on Abuse which I posted a while back.

And that’s only a critique of the rhetoric; the practice needs more than a makeover – in many cases it needs a complete overhaul.


  1. Anonymous

    Okay, so this post triggered me.

    It seems to me, that what is wrong with the CBMW’s statement, is that they immediately make an assumption that the abuser is a Christian who just needs some “help”.

    In the meantime, the Christian wife, is left confused and confounded, and submitting to everything this abuser does to her, because she has been taught it will save her abuser and it is her duty before God. She cannot discern any longer, whether what he is doing is even sin anymore. She wonders why, if he is a true Christian, he continues to act like the men of the world, who do not serve Christ at all. Where is the change? Where is the difference between her husband and the neighbor’s husband next door, who was carted off to jail the night before, for abusing his wife? Where is the new creation that was supposed to come with Salvation? Why do we continue to insist that the sin of abuse is to be “tolerated” in the Church today? Why do we make excuses for it?

    I know lots of unbelieving men, who do not abuse their wives!! I know lots of women, who were horribly abused as children, but they do not abuse their children!! Why do we continue to make excuses for the abusers and sit by and idly watch the life of the victims drain from their bodies, without flinching, without caring and without doing anything except giving a Pharisaical answer, “it must be God’s will for you, or it wouldn’t be happening”?; or blame God by saying, “well, if He wanted it stopped, He would stop it; He is sovereign after all.” It is almost demonic, to hear a pastor say, “If the man is punching his wife in the mouth every night, then we may have to separate them, but only if it is happening with that frequency”. Really? Well, let’s try this. Pastor, you go home tonight, and punch your wife in the mouth and let’s see what happens. Let’s see how long she tolerates your abuse or how long it is before she puts you in jail or out of the home.

    When a woman is so enamored in the abuse she lives in, and others begin to see her giving her soul to her abuser, they need to step in and rescue this beloved daughter of Christ! It is the Church’s job to do so, but when the Church fails, God still has an army, and that army needs to march forward and take its orders from God!

    John 7:24 “Look beneath the surface, so you can judge correctly”. NLT Jesus said this after the Pharisees made a stink over him healing a man on the Sabbath. Jesus told them, that they would not have any problem circumcising one of their sons if the 8th day fell on a Sabbath, so why should they fuss and call Him a sinner, for healing a man on the Sabbath. Jesus then tells them, “look beneath the surface, so you can judge correctly”. I think what He was saying to them, was that they were putting too much into the written law and they needed to see and hear with the Spirit. In John 5:39-40 it appears that He is telling them that they are putting too much emphasis on the Scriptures and actually starting to believe that knowing them and keeping them would bring them eternal life. But, He said, the Scriptures point to Me but you refuse to come to Me for eternal life. This is what we need in the Church today. Someone to just please, look beneath the surface and judge correctly. Sorry for the length of this.

    • No need to apologise, Anon. I like your comment a lot. Much wisdom there.

      Sorry for the triggering. 😦 What was in in particular about this post that triggered you? Or did the trigger come from reading the the Critique of CBMW that I linked to?

  2. Anonymous

    Both, I think. The CBMW statement is just so minimizing and non-helpful; like when my husband was told by the pastor to come to Church and others wouldn’t believe that he was abusive; “we will just smooth and sand and polish and make it all look good, but never really deal with the abuse or protect your family, because we are afraid that would offend you and then we wouldn’t “win you to Christ” — oops — I guess we thought you already were a Christian, but our actions reflect, truly, what we really believe – we just won’t deal with that part; and, we are too afraid of starting a war within the body of Christ, by taking a stand, so we will just call you a Christian and say you are a sinner, just like the rest of us.

    AND, the post talking about losing yourself to the abuse/abuser, really hit home for me – turning your soul over to anyone/thing other than God. I am learning just how much my life has become about learning how to live with the abuse, instead of learning how to live to bring God the most glory — and that is what grieves me the most. I truly, have lost who I am in Christ, trying so hard to preserve the marriage/home/family and being a great and submissive wife for God, and my husband; shutting my mouth and submitting, even at the cost of my own life, sanity and perhaps my soul, if it were possible. I am troubled that I cried out for help to pastors and they put my and my children’s souls at the bottom of the bucket, and put the marriage – the really sick and unhealthy abusive marriage – above everything else, including my relationship with God. It is sick — really sick — and cannot be called godly counsel or even God at all! They actually lie to us when they say it is God. It isn’t God, it is them and their own notions or false beliefs about God, but it is not the true God! It is Satan’s counterfeit. Satan always has a counterfeit, and abusive marriages are his sick and twisted counterfeit of what God’s intention for marriage really is and ought to be.

    True men of God cannot and should not be afraid to tell the truth and to free the captives and release the shackles that bind, and heal the broken-hearted, bringing them to freedom in Christ, regardless of what their reputations may be afterward, or what people will think of them for having done so.

    I don’t need to, but I will apologize again for my tirade here, because that is what I have been trained to do. Apologize for everything, including being abused.

    • haha — you certainly didn’t need to apologise again, Anon. 🙂 I am so glad I asked what triggered you because you’ve given us a second burst of you marvelous prose and another powerful teaching. I was going to say sermon but that sounded too stuffy. I really love what you’ve written and I want to say it’s not a tirade, no way! It’s a perfect illustration and heartfelt description of what goes on in so many churches where the leaders don’t get it.

  3. Now Free

    One of the most significant qualities I gained back after leaving my marriage was my “self”. Looking at your title Barb I think I did sacrifice my “self” in this marriage. His power over me was so intense that in time I didn’t know who I was.. I truly did lose myself to him.

    When I started to come to my “self”, to became assertively confident, my husband angrily told me in these very words, more than once: “You changed and I don’t like it!”

    What he thought (and still thinks I’m sure) to this day as an insult, I think as a great compliment that I figuratively wear as a badge of honour…out of the war zone and into a new life.

  4. Jeff Crippen

    Anon- You said, “…they immediately make an assumption that the abuser is a Christian who just needs some ‘help’.” And therein in that little nutshell of a few words is the virtual heart of the whole mess. Yes, I believe that there are Christians who learned abusive ways growing up. But guess what? When they are confronted, convicted by the Word and the Spirit, they REPENT! Christians REPENT! (Emphasis not for you, but for our opponents!) Christians are new creations. Christians have the Spirit of Jesus and Christians love one another. So what then is this business we are hearing all the time that, as you say, abusers are just imperfect Christians who are abusers by habit, by nature, and they have been so for decades!

    The reason your statement struck me is that in just the past 2 weeks I have had conversations with 3 or 4 abuse victims, all of whom wanted to argue the case that their long-time, wicked, mean abusers are Christians! “He can be sooo nice sometimes.” “He had a rough childhood.” I tell them, “the ‘nice’ is part of the abuse. He is just sucking you in so he can blind-side you again.” And I quote 1 John to them – how if any man says he loves God but hates his brother he is a liar. “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.” “Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother (or his wife) in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?’ It doesn’t! That’s John’s point.

    And this is why Barbara’s bold-faced comment here is so spot on – “Misrepresentation of the doctrine of wifely submission (and to a lesser degree, husbandly self-sacrifice) is helping enable covert spouse-abusers to parade as true Christians, and is causing a massive disregard of the plight of victims of marital abuse.” Parading as true Christians. That is the name of today’s game.

    Thanks Barbara.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, if I had “repented”, I would have then been lying (saying I had lied about the abuse to begin with); and secondly, I would have just joined myself to a mindless, godless teaching about abuse and submission. I stood for what was God’s truth and because they are blind, they cannot see that, nor accept that.

      God also showed me, that no one already in the flock, should be mistreated, in order to bring one outside the flock, into the flock of God. Jesus never did this – He always protected the sheep, even when He left them to go after a sheep “outside the flock”, in other words, to bring a new “sheep” into the flock. John 10 states that Jesus, by His own choice and authority, (wish I could hi-lite AUTHORITY) laid down His life. First of all, we do not have this authority, because as Christians, our lives do not belong to us, they belong to God; and secondly, it we use this Scripture to say that wives of abuse should stay, even if their husband kills them, then we are totally misguided and misusing Scripture. Ephesians 5 says the man lays down his life, not the wife. A pastor who would say that the wife should give up her spiritual, emotional, physical, and/or mental health, because the man has authority over her body, is completely out of order in doing so, because no one truly has that authority, except God. Not the pastor, not the husband, not anyone, save God. And as you say here, Ps. Crippen, a truly saved man, will withstand the correction, repent, change and begin to lay down his life and it won’t take 20 years to do that. I bet they wouldn’t say the same thing, if the wife were cheating and called herself a Christian and had been cheating for 20 years. They would never tell that man to wait it out and make that sacrifice for her, because she was a Christian and God commanded him to stay with her! Only God knows whom He will save and when. Those decisions are not ours. We do not get to decide what God’s will is in some of these areas and we must stop pretending that we do. I am still trigger happy today – sorry. : (

      I hope I am staying on topic here.

      • Anonymous

        Meant to explain that biblically, we do not have the authority to decide for ourselves to stay and let our husbands kill us, whatever way that may be (physically, mentally, emotionally, economically, spiritually, sexually) because our lives belong to God, as Christians. We, wives as well as pastors/leaders, must allow God to decide that and speak to us concerning it. Hope it makes sense.

      • yep, you’re on topic!

  5. K

    “And lest any followers of CBMW think “Hey, there is a Statement on Abuse at CBMW, and they have a pretty balanced and qualified definition of wifely submission, so what’s the problem?”

    So CBMW is against abuse. Congratulations. The problem is that everyone says they’re against “abuse,” but abusers never consider themselves to be abusive. As the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Bancroft puts it, to some men, hitting your wife is abuse. To others, hitting her with an closed fist is abuse. To others, sending her to the hospital is abuse. And so on. The definition of abuse is whatever suits them.

    So preventing abuse within the church requires a lot more than just a general statement about being against it.

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Below is a quote from my ex’s pastor to me and how I would have replied now if I had my wits about me. You have to say more than that you are against abuse. You have to understand it like “K” says and take a stand!

      “I’ m well aware of the abuse in marriages, both mental and physical. I’ ve had to deal with it on several occasions and it is very ugly. I do not minimize i’ts importance. If I gave you the impression I do I’ m sorry.”
      Hmm, you claim to be “well aware of abuse in marriage” but think you canʼt judge unless you meet with us together. You donʼt get it !! You really donʼt get what it is like to live with an abuser and be manipulated by him. You do not get the fear. You end the above letter talking about shepherding your flock but you are ill-equipped from your words displayed in just a few emails. I think you need to think long and hard and pray about how your
      words and actions last year displayed how little you really know and how vital it is for the people you are shepherding

      • Memphis Rayne

        I have many people in church give me the false up they actually do get it. One lady that was the ONLY woman counselor would tell me to keep a log, because the incidentces were so high and so many mind tweaks in one day….so I did, and it did help…until he found them.

        Then the same lady told me a story of another person she was helping she said “Well lots of women claim abuse(meaning she believed the men who told her this) and I just talk with another gal who claimed abuse because she wanted to leave the house and take the car, and her husband would not let her” …….it was as if I realized i was seriously officially on my own because this lady who had been conseling, and most likely still is for over 20 years DOES NOT GET IT!!!!

        Also one time i felt brief comfort when her and another pastor were on my side when I was hiding in the sanctuary after I had just filed my 8th restraint order against my spouse, and they both concurred I did the right thing……until they got the chance to speak with the MIW that is. Then the guy who seemed so supportive for a moment ended up being the same guy who claimed “”It was perhaps God’s will for me to go home at the hands of my spouse””…..same person that held me accountable if my MIW left bruises on my children, then and ONLY then was it acceptable for me to leave for a time, and if I did not THEN what the MIW did was my fault!!

        Because its NEVER the perpetrators wrong doing, there is always a back door within church walls. 😦 so sad.

  6. Now Free

    “Misrepresentation of the doctrine of wifely submission (and to a lesser degree, husbandly self-sacrifice) is helping enable covert spouse-abusers to parade as true Christians, and is causing a massive disregard of the plight of victims of marital abuse.”

    This twisted doctrine really helped my husband to parade as a charming and pious man in the eyes of the people of the church we attended years ago. As he was extremely covert in almost all of his abuse, he very easily fooled people.

    “So preventing abuse within the church requires a lot more than just a general statement about being against it.”

    Rubber stamping is a lot easier than trying to understand and help the abused victim. In the minds of these churches, it is also also advantageous and lucrative to be neutral. Revelations 3: 15-17.

  7. As I See It Only

    I’m not sure the question of [mutual!] submission is an unimportant or secondary doctrine. Even though that might have been a tongue-in-cheek statement, it bears reconsideration, for our enemy the devil knows it is easier to sneak into a garage door than to barge into the front door of the Church. He knows to slip in through these unimportant or secondary doctrines in order to avoid detection long enough to do significant damage. It is one of his schemes. What better way to pierce the heart of God than to abuse His Bride, manifested through spousal abuse within the Church? Satan laughs at those pastors and churches who are doing his bidding, attacking precious brides. Men and women of God–rise up and resist this enemy!

    • K

      I don’t think the author meant that submission in marriage is in itself unimportant, only that it’s not a core doctrine of Christianity.

    • It is a secondary doctrine in that it is not one of the essential doctrines for salvation. As I have been taught by many, including Martin Lloyd Jones’s little book What Is An Evangelical, the essential doctrines that all evangelicals hold are doctrines like the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Christ, his incarnation, his sinlessness, his substitutionary atoning death for sinners, his resurrection, his second coming, and such like. The things written in the Apostles Creed are all primary doctrines. Secondary doctrines are matters on which evangelicals may not all agree, such as gender roles, the mode and age of baptism, eschatology (the end times), church government, etc.

      I agree with you, AISIO, that secondary doctrines, and in particular beliefs about gender roles, can be a great way for the devil to white ant the church. Secondary doctrines are not essential for salvation, but they are not unimportant doctrines, and we do need to pay attention to them, especially when they have become ways for the enemy to undermine and derail the body of Christ and bring his workers in to wreak havoc upon the sheep.

  8. Anonymous

    Jesus says, “I am the good Shepherd; I know my own sheep and they know me… They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one Shepherd”. John 10:14-16

    There are a lot of false shepherds out there, who do not hear the voice of God and they lead the wives (sheep) to live in abuse, because they do not hear God themselves. I know that anyone who truly hears God’s voice, cannot condone abuse in marriage. Saying they are against abuse, is not the same as stopping it. Laying down their own lives as shepherds working for the great Shepherd, they would work to stop it and place themselves in front of the door of the “sheep-fold”, to protect the victim and her children. It seems that the majority of pastors currently fit the verse in John 10:13, “The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.”, or he is only concerned for the sheep who have no problems, or it is because he is not willing to pray and ask God and seek the truth as to how to deal with abuse in the Church – because he doesn’t want to be bothered with it. We are a long way from having God’s standard in the Church, concerning abuse and its victims.

  9. arwen2002

    I feel I must also say that misrepresenting the Fifth Commandment also is frequently twisted and misused to enable child abusers. It really makes me sick that there are so many Christians out there that send the deeply wounding and I believe downright WRONG, maybe even SINFUL message that parents must ALWAYS be honored, even if they’re neglectful and abusive and aren’t REAL parents to their children at all. And in an abusive parent’s mind, the Fifth Commandment really does turn children into their own personal objects who are less than human, toys even, to do with however they see fit. It is VERY deeply disturbing to me that the vast majority of Christians believe that such people should actually be HONORED by their victims. That kind of teaching only enforces lies that have already been drummed into abused children all their lives, that they are nothing, that they are so very worthless to God that He cares more about their abusers being honored than He does about their well-being. Being told to honor abusers goes COMPLETELY against the very nature of God because GOD NEVER HONORS EVIL. And I don’t understand how ANYBODY could swallow the idea that honoring abusive parents is somehow different from honoring their abuse. IT DOES NOT WORK. It is our DEEDS, it is WHAT WE DO, that shows who we truly are at heart, so showing honor to an abuser is no different from honoring the wickedness of molestation, rape, incest, and murder, whether that murder is physical or spiritual. If you go around abusing other people in your everyday life, guess what? You’re an abuser, a murderer, at heart. In order for the teaching to be promoted that abusive parents must be honored, we must have an EXPONENTIALLY LOW opinion of the worth of our children. I don’t understand why it is so hard for Christians to realize that just as a husband who is either physically or verbally beating his wife black and blue is NOT a true husband at all, it’s the same thing with abusive parents. Why don’t more Christians get it, that God looks at the HEART and KNOWS those who are TRUE husbands to their wives and TRUE parents to their children, and those who aren’t? Do we REALLY believe God is unable to see the difference between a real, loving, responsible, God-honoring parent and who is merely a sperm or egg donor, having NEVER been a true parent at heart? So many Christians out there want males (not real men!) who are wearing wedding bands but AREN’T true husbands to their wives to get to enjoy all the privileges of a true husband, but for parents, I think it is even worse. Why on earth is that??? Why do 99.999999999% of Christians want to give abusive parents (what an oxymoron!) all the full rights and privileges of parenthood who NEVER took care of and truly raised their children?

    • Barnabasintraining

      Excellent comment, Arwen2002. You are absolutely right.

  10. Finding Answers

    Barb wrote:

    And that’s only a critique of the rhetoric; the practice needs more than a makeover – in many cases it needs a complete overhaul.

    The surface gloss is easier for the spin doctors to produce than the heart change required to enact the words. The surface gloss is easier to display than the fruit resulting from His words etched on our hearts.

    The rhetoric may serve a purpose if a “c”hurch faces legal action. The path to blame-shifting has been laid…

    Rhetoric. Nicey-Nice. Glittery. Empty words. All reminiscent of the abuser.

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