I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.”
And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.”
And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”
And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis.
And remember, when nobody else can help, God can. And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him.
The crux of the issue is not “abuse” but a worldly way of thinking over Christ-like.
The Scripture mentions several times that attitude that Christians should have when they are unjustly suffering. Christ suffered an unjust death on cross for us.
Phil 2:3 Do nothing [c]from [d]selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude [e]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [f]grasped, 7 but [g]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [h]on a cross.
1 Peter councils servants and wives to respectfully submit under unjust masters or unbelieving husbands:
1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are [t]unreasonable. 19 For this finds [u]favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds [v]favor with God.
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 [w]and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself [x]bore our sins in His body on the [y]cross, so that we might die to [z]sin and live to righteousness; for by His [aa]wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and [ab]Guardian of your souls.
1 Pet 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right [b]without being frightened by any fear.
There are also several more examples throughout the Scripture such as Esther who was under the threat of death multiple times:
- Edict to kill the Jews, which they didn’t know she was one but could have found out and she would be killed
- She was not allowed to walk into the king’s presence unless summoned
She chose to pray and fast along with her people and trust that God would act in her hopeless situation, and God came through just like He did for this wife who was being beaten.
Patterson counseled rightly according to the Scriptures and the wife was able to have the faith in God to follow the Scriptures and God came through. The lesser alternative in 1 Cor 7 was to separate (not divorce, not remarry).
The most you could accuse Patterson of is a bit of poor wording of his story making it seem like he was “ok” with the abuse, even though he wasn’t and not discussing the alternative which is separation. Neither of these are errors but slightly lack wisdom. However, after he apologized wrongly to feminists instead of sticking with the Scripture over their false accusations, that’s on his head.
Ultimately, the issue is not “are you scared for your life” but “can God use me in this situation.” This shows the faith or lack thereof of Christians in Scripture’s counsel and the power of God to turn the situation around. No one should be abused, but that doesn’t mean staying in an abusive situation is not the right course of action for a Christian.
To those Christians who supported the “MeToo” or have been abused before, this is an area where you can grow in faith by admitting that Patterson chose to counsel the better way and the wife chose to trust God fully in her situation. Or you can continue to be immature in your faith and admit your fear is bigger than God’s ability to use the situation for good. God came through for this wife and turned her situation around. It’s up to you, but obviously I hope you take the former.
We each have our own choices to make as Christians, and the goal is to be able to grow more Christ-like, which may mean suffering and persecution. If I had to make the choice to profess Christ and die or deny Christ and live, I don’t know which choice I would make now, but I hope that God would give me the faith in that situation to profess Christ. However, I want my faith to grow to the point where there is no question that I will profess Christ and don’t fear death because that is how God can use my life in any situation whether abuse, torture, or the like. I am getting there slowly but surely. I hope it does not come to that, but I want to be prepared just like Paul suffered many times through stonings, whippings, shipwrecks, beatings, and so on.
And yes, I would council a husband that is being physically and emotionally abused and possible under the threat of death by his wife to stay and try to win her to Christ. I fully expect that most husbands would take the separation route too, but it does display a lack of faith. Even if he were to die, it is not necessarily in vain; God uses deaths all the time to win souls to himself in the case of missionaries.
We don’t know how God uses each situation, but He always honors our faith in Him. See: Hebrews 11.