Shows Main Idea – If a pastor abuses his wife by beating her, is he wrong? Is there justification for hitting his wife? If you had oversight over him, how would you respond?
The scenario: Pastor beats his wife because she disobeyed him, plus she embarrassed him in public. The cause of the beating was his perception that she neglected their child, which could have caused harm to the child. The child is fine. The wife went to friends who saw the bruises the pastor inflicted on her.
The question: Should the denomination discipline the pastor/husband?
The concerns: The pastor has shown to be arrogant and authoritarian. But his church is flourishing. He has had an objective positive impact with some of the people in the community. When confronted, the pastor said there was nothing wrong with what he did since it was a custom in that part of the world to beat wives. Some people believed he should be disciplined while others did not. The divided opinion weighed heavy on the denomination decision makers. Furthermore, some believe suffering abuse is part of the Christian life, hence it’s okay.
Here are eight concerns, though this is not an exhaustive treatment of all that is wrong with this pastor, his marriage, and the denomination leadership.
- The burden of proof – The burden is on the person to demonstrate what he did is holy rather than unholy, which means are there any Scriptures that would support the pastor’s actions.
- Christian first – He is a pastor in a role but a Christian as it pertains to his ontology. His role is a secondary consideration. He’s a man with problems.
- Beating his sister – The pastor’s wife is his sister, in addition to his wife. Would he be okay if someone punched him in the face if he made a mistake?
- Heart problem – Behaviors come from the heart, so the first point to consider (after making sure his wife is safe) is his heart.
- Righteous anger – Anger can be righteous but that kind of anger has a certain feel to it, and physically hurting/bruising another person is not righteous anger. Read my article on righteous anger. Righteous anger is restorative to people, not destructive. It comes from a humble heart, which is what Jesus had in the temple. His anger built community among God’s children, as you see in the text (Matthew 21:12-16). To say Jesus would have hit people is a loud argument from silence. He abused tables, not people. This pastor was not (1) humble, (2) restorative, and (3) communal—his wife is terrified of him. Those three things are characteristic of righteous anger as seen in the text about righteous anger.
- Pragmatic-centered – Perceived outcomes cannot influence decisions, i.e., what will the people think; how will they respond to our decision? The decision must be made because it aligns with the Word of God.
- Transcending Word – God’s Word transcends customs, opinions, and collateral damage. This is an opportunity to demonstrate the restorative power of God’s Word to a community, not a time to be swayed by a man’s popularity or influence.
- God-centered theology – The pastor does not have influence, but God does. God is working through the pastor. A man-centered theology will elevate the man, which will put the pastor, his family, the church, and God’s fame in jeopardy. A God-centered theology releases everyone from giving too much power and leverage to any person. God will raise up who He wants to and put down who he wants to. It appears if the denomination were in tune with God rather than community polling data, then they would see with more clarity.
Scriptures in play here:
This is not an exhaustive list of Scriptures and they are not in order of priority. You can hover over the verses to read them in a popup box.
- Matthew 21:12-16 Read my article on righteous anger.
- James 1:20 – Anger produces the righteousness of God. This man is not producing righteousness; he produces chaos, division, and fear.
- James 3:9-10 – Even our words should be governed by the fact that the other person is made in the image of God. We don’t “curse” or hit people.
- Ephesians 4:29 – Words build up. They do not tear down.
- Luke 6:43-45 – Actions come from the heart. His dysfunctional heart has produced violence.
- James 4:1-3 – The cause of his anger is the war inside his heart.
- Hebrews 3:7-8, 4:8; 1Timothy 4:2; Romans 2:14-15 – The danger of hardening and searing the conscience. Listen to Episode 46: Four Things People Do to Feel Better about Themselves.
- Galatians 5:22-23 – He should be exemplifying these characteristics, which includes self-control and gentleness.
- Galatians 6:1-2 – You help restore people in a spirit of gentleness. His wife, like all spouses and every person, needs help. You do that in a spirit of gentleness, not with a fist.
- Ephesians 5:29 – You don’t hate your own flesh. I’m sure he does not beat himself after he sins. He should “nourish” (grow) and “cherish” (warm) his wife.
- Ephesians 5:22-33 Read my article on headship/submission and love/respect, specifically give some time reflecting on the chiastic structure of this passage. You cannot separate her submission/respect from his love/headship responsibilities.
- Ephesians 5:1; 1Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:9 – He should be imitating and modeling God while giving his wife a Christlike example to follow.
- 1 Peter 5:2-3 – He should not dominate people.
- James 3:1 – Leaders are held to a stricter judgment.
- Matthew 18:15-17 – He has been confronted but he rebuffed it. They should not stop pursuing him, even if it means disciplining him out of the church.
- 1 Timothy 3:1-7 – His home has fallen apart, thus he is not qualified to lead a church.
- 1 Peter 2:18-25 – Christian suffering as demonstrated in this marriage is never condoned by God’s Word. The greater body of the Word would point the focus on restoring the pastor and rescuing the wife rather than implying or telling her to suck it up.
- Proverbs 14:29, 15:18, 19:11, 22:24, 29:11; Psalm 37:8-9 – His anger is not righteous, thus it is sinful, which the Bible has a lot to say.
The most important thing!
His wife is being physically and sinfully abused by a mean man. He is not qualified to be in the ministry and those who have oversight over him should mandate he receive help or they must bring disciplinary action. His wife and child may need to separate from him until he gets the help he needs and shows that he is being transformed by Christ.