Top Three Texts Used To Abuse Faithful Spouses

Having started Divorce Minister: Taking Adultery Seriously just last summer, I have had the opportunity to read and hear a variety of faithful spouses’ horror stories with the church. Literally thousands of individuals visit this website monthly from over 110 unique countries around the globe. Themes are starting to emerge.

The following are the top 3 most misused passages utilized to cause considerable spiritual distress to already distressed survivors of adultery:

1. Malachi 2:16–i.e. the God hates divorce verse.

This verse is usually utilized to control the faithful spouse and unbiblically limit his/her choices after discovering their spouse’s adulterous betrayal(s). To be clear: God and Jesus allow for divorce following even just one instance of sexual infidelity per Jesus’ own words (see Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9). However, this verse from Malachi may be the first thing a faithful spouse is told after discovering adultery. And such a focus communicates to faithful spouse that the divorce is more shameful than the lies and adulterous betrayals, which actually destroyed the marriage. This is really backwards. Furthermore, the focus on God hating divorce exudes shame after the fact of divorce for any Christian must be a second-class Christian or pastor if he/she did something God hates!

It breaks my heart to see how God’s Word has been so twisted in the church so that Christians attempt to prohibit an action even God executed metaphorically (Jeremiah 3:8) in response to adultery thereby declaring it not sin. This is done while practically ignoring the always sin, adultery. Somehow, the evangelical church has forgotten–or never understood–that God hates adultery more than divorce.

Finally–and most importantly–this use of Malachi 2:16 forgets the context of the verse. God is calling Jewish men to account for abusing the mercy of divorce to legitimize what amounts to adultery in the eyes of God. Remember, the prophet Malachi would not be talking to them if they had committed adultery in the traditional way as they would have been killed (e.g. Deut 22:22). Malachi is addressing the wickedly inventive ways of humans who would obey the letter of the law while violating the spirit. So, the objection here is really over Jewish men choosing to commit adultery and God calling them to account. Adultery is the primary issue; not divorce.

2. Ephesians 5:22-33–i.e. the passage calling for wives to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives.

I tackle the misuse of this passage here and here as well as other places on the blog. Essentially, this abuse of Ephesians suggests the marriage survives or dies based either upon the performance of the wife in executing her submission/respecting duties or the performance of the husband executing his loving leadership duties. This is a lie. Christian marriage is a covenant not a contract honored only for duties rendered! Personally, I see this misuse of Ephesians 5 as just a religiously dressed up version of the “Share Responsibility Lie.”

Furthermore, I will point out nowhere in Ephesians 5 is a guarantee from God that your marriage will be adultery free or safe from divorce even if you do love and respect the way it outlines. Also, I cannot think of a more disrespectful or unloving act than committing adultery against one’s spouse and God (as God is always party to a Christian marriage). This fact is usually absent in the discussion of this passage among evangelicals as well.

3. Hosea–i.e. the Bible book where the Prophet Hosea is told by God to take back his adulterous wife, Gomer.

This book is often invoked to manipulate faithful spouses into taking back adulterous spouses. The reasoning is that God takes back us, adulterous sinful people, as Hosea took back Gomer; therefore, a faithful Christian spouse must do the same to be godly. This is an abuse of the book, in my opinion, and constitutes spiritual abuse when employed in this way.

I say this because such Christian leaders misuse their spiritual authority to control in a way that is inconsistent with the full witness of the Bible or even this specific book itself. They fail to pay attention to the copious amounts of verses in Hosea calling for repentance from the adulterous “spouse.” Furthermore, verses where God divorces Israel over adultery are usually conveniently ignored (Jeremiah 3:8 and Isaiah 50:1). Such verses teach us that Hosea’s buying back Gomer–which is another discussion in itself–is not the only response God has to adultery.

Most glaringly missed is how this call on Hosea’s life is unique and given to him by God. It is an error to imply a special call on a person’s life is therefore normative for everyone else. The same reasoning used to do this with Hosea could be applied to the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. We do not teach Christian fathers to offer their sons as physical sacrifices as Abraham was called to do. And we do not make this a test of “godly” fatherhood either. I suggest we adopt the same sort of sanity when it comes to the book of Hosea. It is past time we realize this was a very unique call given to only one prophet in the Old Testament. I share more extensive thoughts on this book here.


When these texts are employed to manipulate and shame faithful spouses, Christian leaders using them are participating in spiritual abuse. They are misusing their spiritual authority and the texts to control and wound already wounded people. This is unacceptable in God’s people and doubly so in His anointed leaders.

13 thoughts on “Top Three Texts Used To Abuse Faithful Spouses”

  1. We have been married for 30 years. I have heard “I hate you” from my wife for 20 years. It was after marriage and children that secrets from her past started coming out. Abused as a child, rebellious teen coming to Christ, homosexual behavior, and then getting married, all without telling me anything. Then the anger and hate started. Blaming her father for how she treated me. There have been layers and layers slowly pealed back, like an onion. Each new layer, more anger, more blame, more inability to forgive, some healing, perhaps a light. Then another layer as a new part comes out. She refuses professional help, claiming all she needs is the church. The church says all she needs is the savior and a better more understanding husband. The church is ignorant on how to help and says we just need to pray more. They haven’t been slugged in front of their children, woken up with a fist in the stomach, and beaten down everyday. They haven’t been in the emergency room with a concussion getting a line of staples put in to hold the scalp on. It has been hard on our children, growing up with hate. Instead of memories of a secure home, they have hate and anger, lies and blame, and going to church with Mom after seeing her nearly kill Dad; while Dad stayed home to hide the bruises and wash off the blood. If I do not go to church, I am asked why my attendance is so bad. If I go to church with a black eye, I am joked about with “What happened, wife set you straight again” Ha Ha Ha. The children had to hear their mother yelling about divorce and leaving, about being taken away and keeping them from Dad. One daughter has to deal with a memory of coming home from school to find blood on the door and across the kitchen floor, blood soaked bath towels in the bathroom, and Dad gone from the house. While I was getting my head stapled back together, she cleaned up the blood while Mom sat in the living room and did nothing. But the church asked me what I did to cause it. I had been attacked from behind my back, which she even admitted to, but they still asked what I did to provoke and deserve it. After all, they say, “she’s a woman, it can’t be that bad” and “you are the head of the house, so any lack of Love is your fault as the husband” and “if you just loved her more, as Christ loved he church, then this wouldn’t happen.” There is no help from church or community. One time I did call the police for help and an ambulance. In place of help, they automatically asked me to leave the house, even though I was the one with a black eye and bloodied face. She had no mark at all, and I was told to leave or face arrest. Obviously the male deserves it. Only woman are abused. Abusers are always, and only, men. Then there are the pretend apologies, the forgiveness, the repeat, the new layer of story, the new reaction of hate and abuse. I am not a professional therapist. I am completely worn down. Christians are supposed to help bear one another’s burdens; until there really is someone that asks for help. Then everyone drifts off. Then there are only accusers, saying I somehow must have deserved it. I used to even believe them. And there is not one that says to her, that maybe she needs to change something, that maybe, despite the past, she is responsible for what she does now, without excuse. No, it is easier to pretend to not see it. I don’t need another lecture on how to live with it, and if I were just a better Christian. I need help. You don’t tell a drowning person, “well if you would just swim better.” But that is the Christian church. But I guess when there is a bullet in my chest, someone will pray for God to forgive whatever I did to deserve it, if I am even around after that. But she isn’t to blame, not in the church’s eye, she had it hard growing up so it is understandable; and besides, everyone knows it is never the woman that is at fault.

    1. Jack,

      Wow. That is truly awful. I am glad to hear you “used to” and therefore NO LONGER believe you deserve this treatment. You don’t. No one deserves such awful, sinful treatment. That is certainly not loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Just because you are the husband/male does not make your responsible for her choices/actions. She has to answer to God (and the secular law if she breaks it) for her own choices/actions, not you.

      So, I obviously agree with you that “…she needs to change something, that maybe, despite the past, she is responsible for what she does now, without excuse.” She is 100% responsible for her choices and her actions now.

      Have you thought about finding a lawyer to get a restraining order or something to protect you (and possibly the kids)? I am concerned for you and their safety. Please takes steps to protect yourself and them. Here is a post from a website to support survivors of domestic violence that might give you some resources and direction ( I am not a social worker, but I think that website might be able to help or point you to some actual support.

      I am so sorry so many have clearly failed you in all of this so spectacularly. Do you have any other church options in the area? Your current church clearly has a twisted and unbiblical stance on personal responsibility for actions in my pastoral opinion.

      Wish I could do more!

    2. Jack-oy. My heart is breaking for you and your kids. Your church is full of bullshit, I’m just going to put it bluntly. Run. Run far, run fast. They track your attendance? They joke about your black eye? What the hell??? Physical abuse is NOT a headship issue, it’s nothing that can just be fixed by “praying harder.” Unless I’m somehow mistaken the pastor should have lost his job. Pastors are in a helping position, aka mandated reporters. To have even suspected abuse, much less blatant physical abuse, right in front of you is a call to the authorities within 24 hours. Period. Or you risk charges and losing your job. You have kids involved, it is a risky situation for them as well. A report should be filed on that pastor, whoever they are. There is imminent, physical danger present for you and your kids and you need to get out. Safety is the main concern. Same applies to the police. That is a major complaint and violation of their duty to protect. I bet they could also risk losing their job. Please file the complaint within the proper channel for that if it is at all a possibility. There’s gotta be someone that will hold them accountable and see through their BS. Look into local domestic abuse shelters. The ones in my state recognize that women can also be abusers. The university near me also has a program set up that raises awareness that women can be the abusers as well. You have the hospital records, your children as witnesses, those are important documentations, not to mention your daughter very likely would benefit from talking with a therapist about the blood incident. That’s a traumatic event. What’s to stop the abuse from landing on the kids instead of you? Are you familiar with 2-1-1? It’s a national program for the U.S. to connect you with the resources you need. Say your city and state and what you’re looking for, such as “counselors” or “domestic abuse shelters” and they can connect you. There’s also the National Domestic Violence Hotline available 24/7 The biggest thing is to get you and your kids safe and out of the vicinity of your wife.

  2. Violence against anyone of whatever gender is wrong, do listen to mrs DM and find someone to help you and your children. If you can’t get through on the phone google domestic violence sites for what to do. Get legal advice and as soon as you can get you and the children out of there, or get her out, if you feel this is safe, if it is safe enough get legal help first. You need to have custody of those children,i cannot imagine what it does to them to be mopping blood up. And yes find another church . A different denomination if need be.
    I’m a fine one to talk but wish I’d done that years ago

  3. Jack. What can I say this is absolutely appalling on so many levels!

    I was physically abused at times by my wife and I put up with this for far too long please please get you and your children out as fast as it is safe to do so. They need at least one sane ALIVE parent to raise them.If you stay any longer you won’t remain sane and probably won’t be alive very much longer!

    Think what incredibly wrong behaviour is being modelled to them by their mother.That it is ok to lash out and hurt you whenever she feels angry? To bad mouth you to. Your children? Reinforced and enabled by that sect that dares to call itself a Christian church I am so angry for you as I type this.If you ever see them again ( and I hope to God you don’t) ask them if it was a woman that was hit by a man would they say the same thing?You could also ask the Pastor if he was hit by a woman would he blaming himself for it ? I very much doubt it!!!

    Sadly this ” all men are aggressors all women are victims” seems all too prevalent in the UK and I gather the U.S., with absolutely no refuge centres for male victims of domestic violence anywhere in the world.I gather Joe Biden even blocked federal spending in the V. A.W.A! against men!Whilst shows like ICarly promote the idea that it’s ok to regularly hit her boyfriend, call him stupid all to a canned laughter track as if it’s cute and funny!

    Jack I will pray for your situation and as I’m 3000 miles away wish there was more I could do to help.I don’t have much but through D.M. I could let you have a few dollars if that could help you and your children.In the words of Winston Churchill paraphrasing the Psalmist , if you are going through hell keep going!

  4. Most glaringly missed is how this call on Hosea’s life is unique and given to him by God. It is an error to imply a special call on a person’s life is therefore normative for everyone else.

    On the other bank of the Tiber, this is called “a Private Revelation”. A Private Revelation is binding ONLY on the one who has the Revelation; others may also voluntarily bind themselves to follow it but this is NOT mandatory.

    And a bizarre Private Revelation coupled with demands that said Revelation is to be binding on ALL Catholics is usually the sign of a Flake CULT with Rosaries.

  5. Other verses that have been greatly abused for 2 years since I discovered my husband’s adultery (which has stopped and we’ve been working on reconciliation), are Philippians 4:6 & 7. I’ve been “counseled” too many times to count that the reason I am feeling anxiety, pain, depression, and lack of peace is because I am not praying enough. It’s “my” fault these negative emotions exist in me. It’ve had enough that I never want to receive “Biblical” counseling ever again. And I consider myself a strong Christian; I grew up in church, I’ve volunteered many years in church ministries, my husband was even a teaching elder in church (obviously not any more). So for me to have a give-up attitude regarding “Biblical” counseling, I feel, says a lot against said counseling.

    1. Sounds more like “Shaming” counseling…far from Biblical and downright ungodly, in my opinion.

      So, yeah, I am not a huge fan of such “counseling” either. God did not give us the Bible so that we could us it to bludgeon other hurting Christians emotionally or spiritually. The counsel you got sounds far from kind or gentle–ergo, seriously lacking in the fruits of the Spirit. It sounds controlling and shaming. Neither indicative of godly counsel here.

      Besides, those folks clearly failed to grasp basic grief 101 as well as how traumatic adultery is to a faithful spouse (i.e. I call it soul rape because that is the spiritual reality of what it is). Glad that you are no longer accepting such poor counsel!

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