Daily Observer (Jamaica)
WIFE-BEATING in the CHURCH
by its cover, but if you asked me at the time, this was a decent ‘good up-good up’ Jamaican man, kind enough to patiently help out a sister with car troubles. His nostrings-attached help renewed my hope in a kinder, gentler Jamaica where we serve and help each other. Clearly however, his home life was not kind or gentle.
That is the two-sided mystery in which our communities — inside and outside the Church — find themselves. In the public domain, wife beaters are oftentimes ‘nice’ men — helpful, gentle, kind, and generous. In their private lives, they seem to be barbaric villains. With husbands and wives forced to spend more time together because of the COVID-19 restrictions, it is useful to reflect on the biblical framework for how a husband should treat his wife, especially within the context of domestic violence or wife-beating.
Here is just a sample of what the Bible requires in terms of how a husband should treat his wife in a Christian marriage:
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” – Colossians 3:19.
There is no ambiguity here. I would imagine that this instruction to “not be harsh with them” includes no shouting, shoving or slapping. Christian husbands who are harsh with their wives must be held accountable.
“Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.” – Ephesians 5:28-29.
So if a husband loves his wife like his own body, he wouldn’t beat her, unless of course he is sadistic. Also, Christ loved the church in a sacrificial way — giving his life for her good. This is a tall order for a husband, but it is the biblical prerequisite in marriage. This type of sacrificial love is antithetical to wife-beating or abuse of any kind.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” – 1 Peter 3:7.
So the wife is a joint heir, equal to the husband and not his slave or punching bag! Additionally, it is interesting to note that treating your spouse poorly or unfaithfully can hinder your spiritual life. Malachi 2:13-15 reinforces the point: “You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favour on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant…so be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.”
So the good book has a lot to offer on how a husband should treat his wife. The problem is the hearts and minds that have not yielded to the instruction of Scripture and are masquerading as righteous men in our midst. In Jamaican society we can liken this situation to having adequate laws for a crime, but weak enforcement. The church must call a spade a spade and stand by what the Bible teaches about how a husband should treat his wife and use that biblical framework to build an adequate response to domestic violence.
Of course, there are instances, although far less prevalent, in which husbands suffer domestic violence at the hands of their wives. Those wives too must be held accountable.
In the end, may every husband who beats his wife truly repent (stop beating her) and find biblical counselling that both rebukes and counsels him; and may every wife who suffers in silence find the courage to escape and find good counsel that restores her self-esteem, health, and overall well-being.
And may she also find a friend in me and you, ready to provide hope, healing, and help.
Shelly-ann Harris is the author of several titles including her latest, God’s Woman. Connect with Shelly-ann on Twitter @ Harrisshellyann