A Cry For Justice

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

Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt

Some people teach that when an abuse victim is rebuking the abuser, the victim must do so in a way that shows evident love and respect for the abuser. Is that teaching in the Bible, or is it a doctrine which people have invented?

Let me show you an example of that teaching. I adapted it from this article by Ps D Scott Meadows, Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed), Exeter, New Hampshire.

Here is the example (trigger warning):

“When I address my husband about his responsibility for faith and duty as a man, a husband and a father, I must speak the truth in love, with evident love and respect for him as my husband.”

I can see two problems with this.

Who judges whether I have spoken the truth? Me? Or my husband? Or the pastor who has been buddy-talked and manipulated by my husband so that he takes my husband’s side and accuses me of being untruthful?

A second problem is the word ‘evident’. Who judges whether my love and respect is ‘evident’? Who sits in the seat of the Almighty and declares whether or not I am evincing ‘love and respect towards my husband’ in sufficient measure?

The word ‘evident’ imposes a standard that is not in the marriage verses of the NT. The key verse which talks about a wife respecting her husband is Ephesians 5:33: “Let. . . the wife see that she respect her husband.”

Note well: the wife is the one to see that she does this. It doesn’t say, “Let the husband see that his wife respects him.” Nor does it say, “The husband must see evidence that his wife is respecting him.” Even less does it say, “The pastor must see evidence that the wife is sufficiently respecting her husband.”

Ephesians 5:33 says it is up to the wife to evaluate and be satisfied in her own conscience that she respects her husband.

In the case of abuse, her respect may look different — be expressed in different behaviours and words — than how it would look when a husband is not an abuser.

An abused wife’s respect for her abusive husband may entail her:

  • standing firmly against his evil ways
  • leaving him
  • deciding to divorce him
  • having a ‘low-contact’ or ‘no-contact’ policy towards him
  • doing her best (in the face of his persistent attempts to abuse and stalk her) to try to show him that she respects him so much that she will do her very best to prevent him indulging his sinful habits at her and the kids’ expense.

Rebuking a corrupt institution

A similar principle applies when the abuse is being perpetrated by a denominational hierarchy, or by national governments and international organisations. Again, the victims are urged to rebuke the abusive institution and not partake in the sins of that organisation. Look at these translations of Leviticus 19:17-18:

You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself (HCSB)

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself (ESV)

You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. (NET)

Never hate another Israelite. Be sure to correct your neighbor so that you will not be guilty of sinning along with him. Never get revenge. Never hold a grudge against any of your people. Instead, love your neighbor as you love yourself. (God’s Word)

Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (NIV)

We are to reprove and rebuke frankly and directly. It is not frank or direct rebuke if we pretend to revere directives that are life-destroying.

If a denomination or government or international organisation is oppressing people, the organisation will likely have brainwashed or coerced a lot of its members to comply with its oppressive dictates. Those who are awake to that oppression can strive to speak the truth in love to the brainwashed members.

Stiff rebuke for oppressive leaders. Gentler rebuke and correction for the brainwashed and coerced.

Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostles spoke frank and fearless rebuke to the officials of the Roman Empire who were treating people unlawfully. They were even more fierce in rebuking the religious elite — the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who were treating the Jews unjustly. At the same time, they corrected the common people who had been mis-taught, brainwashed and coerced by the religious leaders. When rebuking oppressive leaders, their tone was fierce: they set their faces like flint to denounce the evildoing of the oppressors. When correcting the ordinary people, they took a somewhat more gentle, more educational tone.

I’ll leave you to think about how you might want to apply these principles in your current situation.


Further reading

Barbara Roberts rebuts A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism

Blindness as a result of being deceived by others

Blindness exacerbated by group choice and group-leader choice


  1. Cristina

    It is worse in other languages. For example, I grew up with this translation. Can you imagine the abuse many women take?

    Let each one of you love his wife as himself; and let the wife be afraid of the man.
    Ephesians 5:33 (VDC)
    Efeseni 5:33 (Cornilescu 1924 – Revised 2010, 2014)

    [Formatting done to enhance readability and to include more details on the Bible referenced by the commenter. Editors.]

    • Wow! Thank you for your comment Cristina. 🙂

      I did some digging and found that the Bible version you cited is in the Romanian language. Over the years I’ve read several accounts from Romanian women about how, in Romanian culture, it is very common for husbands to abuse their wives. That Bible translation helps explain why that is so.

  2. Suzanne

    One of the most frustrating things for me as an abuse survivor is the idea so many have that refusing to enable the abuse is unloving.

    My abuser is my narcissistic mother and going no contact with her has brought the accusation that I don’t love her. But the truth, according to Scripture, is the opposite. I could have continued until one of us was dead to tolerate and enable her sin of abuse. But that would not only have caused more damage to me; it would have allowed her to heap up even more sins against me and removed any possibility that she would contemplate the behaviors that led to the separation. And that would be unloving.

    She may never admit that she was wrong and repent. Most narcissists don’t. But that doesn’t relieve me of my obligation as a follower of Jesus to do what is best for her spiritual well-being. We are never to enable sin in anyone, not even family members or a spouse. And if that means no contact, so be it. Her eternal destiny is paramount, and I won’t do anything to endanger her soul. She’s hurt me for decades, but I don’t want her to spend eternity in the lake of fire. It’s why I remain no contact with her and pray for her salvation every day.

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

  3. Sojourn

    Just as a side note, I went riding my bike the other evening in a semi-rural area and on the verge of the road was a Biblia – sfileda either thrown from a moving vehicle or dropped, but the cover was broken and smeared with mud. It was a Romanian Bible.

  4. Finding Jesus

    No one wants anyone to have body autonomy if it inconveniences them. My husband gave me Covid-19 after getting a breakthu [breakthrough] case. He swears it wasn’t him but he “forgets” to wear his mask. He moved into the finished basement at the beginning to be a hero. Tell me how could I get it if I haven’t been anywhere or seen anyone for a month. I informed my kid at [the] beginning and got the “do you need anything” response then nothing for 9 days. I texted her and called but kid refused to answer. I called her on it and she told me she would call when she called. No call yet. I almost called the ambulance out twice, I just wanted some concern.

    I really shouldn’t be surprised as I have been putting out major boundaries in regards to my covert narcissist husband.

    I know this is God as He told me in prayer to let her go a week before when she was being grumpy about some other boundaries. OH GOD If I knew how hard this was and how hard it would hurt to get me back, I would have run in fear. But He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear has He. I will be free, I’ve gone too far know too much not to be!!

    [For accuracy, Covid changed to Covid-19 by Reaching Out. Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

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