Many advocates see religion as part of the domestic violence problem because they know someone who has used Bible verses to defend abusive actions. When a man uses scripture to justify holding a dominant, authoritarian position over a woman it is called spiritual abuse or religious abuse, a form of domestic abuse. That reasoning is also a horrible misinterpretation of scripture and a misrepresentation of God’s will for our relationships.

If you read even a few of my posts, you know I often point people who have hurt their partner toward a relationship with God. I’ve seen how it can be a catalyst for change, not to mention the key to living a life full of peace, joy, and blessings. God, who is good and loves all of his sons and daughters, would never instruct someone to secure their role by hurting another.

God would never instruct someone to secure their role by hurting another.

So how does something so good (a relationship with God) get used in such a harmful way (spiritual abuse)? It could be an innocent misunderstanding of centuries-old literature that takes a deeper look to get right. More likely, it is (mis)quoting the commands of a supreme power as a convenient way to support a particular desired outcome. Either way, misapplying the words leads both parties far away from the blessing God intended for their relationship.

Relationships designed by God

Exploring what God intended for men, women, and their relationships is helpful. He gave men and women different yet equally valuable characteristics and roles. They offset and compliment each other, and ultimately bless both when done well.

God gave men and women different yet equally valuable characteristics and roles.

God designed men to be natural leaders—typically strong, brave, and seeking justice. Jesus demonstrated masculine traits by leading humbly and serving in love. His headship role meant he died sacrificially for his bride, the church. Similarly, God calls men to love, honor, and cherish their wives without limits.

Women are created to nurture, usually possessing an abundance of tenderness, mercy, and patience. Jesus also demonstrated these characteristics as the healing, compassionate, sustainer of life. Combining these male and female roles results in safety, peace, comfort, harmony, and joy in the home.

We see a more complete image of God by looking at the two genders together than either separately. To follow Jesus, which is the true definition of a Christian, both genders are to take on both his masculine and feminine traits. This could mean that men stretch themselves in characteristics like compassion and patience, while women work to build their leadership and bravery traits.

In spiritually healthy homes, men and women are spiritual equals before God, and therefore, equal to each other. Husbands and wives serve one another in love. This results in both demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit abundantly: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Spiritual abuse

On the other hand, if we misinterpret the Bible or commit spiritual abuse, the picture is very different. Say a man uses harsh language or attempts to control his wife in some way to achieve the picture of their home he wants. This fails all leadership tests because it is simply exercising his power over his partner, not leading her. Jesus led by attraction, not power.

Jesus led by attraction, not power.

Claiming these acts are a man’s role as the leader and head of the household perverts the Biblical definition and is called hyper-headship. Excusing this behavior as his God-given right or responsibility grossly misrepresents the Bible. I’m convinced God hates someone using his words as a way to gain power for themselves—like what occurs with spiritual abuse.

Causing harm to our partner breaks the covenant of marriage. In fact, it is domestic abuse, which is a sin. Sin is simply anything we do that falls short of what God calls us to do. His commands are for our protection so we can receive the full blessing he desires for us. In this case, the relationship fills with hurt, fear, and strife—far from the blessing he intended men and women to enjoy.

Your leadership approach

How do you lead in your home? If it looks more like the spiritual abuse I described here, know there is a better way. I’m not shaming you, just encouraging you to improve. We are all works in progress. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get the help of some Godly counsel to better understand your role as the head of the household.
  • Surround yourself with others who demonstrate leading well and can encourage you as you make changes in your approach.
  • Learn to lead with gentleness, which means you allow your partner to choose not to follow.
  • Demonstrate compassion. Sacrifice for her. Be patient. Allow her to make mistakes. Compete only to out-serve her. I’ve been working on doing these things for years, but I can always do better.
  • Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. To discern his guidance, remember that it will always be gentle and good for both you and your partner.
  • Allow yourself to feel guilty or “be convicted by the Spirit” when you fall short.
  • Sense God’s pleasure when you lead well.

I’m praying that you can and will become the “head” of your household that God has called you to be.


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