1 Peter 3 Does Not Command Victims to Remain in Abuse — Help from David deSilva
David deSilva provides us with some real help here in properly understanding the Bible’s instruction in 1 Peter 3. This passage has often been misapplied in cases of domestic abuse, being used to tell victims that they must continue to be subjected to that evil. deSilva’s article is worth reading in its entirety (see it here) but we quote just the following where he addresses domestic abuse:
Perhaps no New Testament book is as dedicated to helping believers come to terms with, and respond to, suffering as 1 Peter. We must be very clear here about the precise kind of suffering about which the author speaks, or else we will come to misapply this resource. The author addresses people who have encountered resistance, insult, censure, and even physical abuse because of their commitment to respond to Christ and to do what God commands. It is their obedience to the commandment to avoid worship of other gods that, in the main, has led to the pressures being brought to bear on them in the household (in the case of wives and slaves) and in the street. The author is not speaking about suffering in general, encompassing all disease, chronic illness, domestic abuse, or political oppression in his statements about suffering.
I must especially stress that domestic violence and abusive marriages are not “sanctioned” in some way by this text. The proximity of instructions to wives in 3:1-6 and discussions of suffering abuse (2:18-25; 3:13-17) has led to such problematic applications, with the result that some pastors or other Christian friends will advise a spouse to remain in an abusive relationship because this is God’s will (3:17; 4:19). Physical abuse between spouses, however, was not sanctioned even by Greco-Roman statutes, and so persevering in an abusive relationship cannot have been an aspect of the witness to the unbelieving spouse encouraged in 3:1-6. Rather, the author is speaking very specifically about suffering endured for “doing what is right” (2:20; 3: 14), for “doing good” (3: 17), “for the name of Christ” (4: 14), and for “bearing the name” of “a Christian” (4: 16). Suffering “in line with God’s will” (4: 19) is quite explicitly limited by this author to suffering encountered because obedience to Jesus’ call, teaching, and example has brought one to that point of conflict with those who resist God’s vision for human relationships.
[excerpt from “1 Peter: Strategies for Counseling Individuals on the Way to a New Heritage” by David A. deSilva]