Thanks for being here and part of our community. We need one another. Women all over the world are being abused and mistreated and sadly many churches continue to misadvise women on how to respond. If you need more connection and community with other like-minded women, CONQUER, my educational and support group is NOW open but will close at 11:59pm on Friday, April 22 and won’t reopen until the Fall of 2022. Check it out here if you’re interested.
Recently, The Roys Report exposed some wrong teaching from Dr. John Street, the head of the counseling department at Master’s Seminary (founded by John MacArthur). Dr. Street seems to glorify suffering and defines self-stewardship or caring for one’s body (by separating from an abusive spouse) as selfish and worldly-mindedness.
This teaching is dangerous and misapplication of Scripture. The Bible does tell us that God uses our suffering to mature us. (See for example Romans 5:3 and James 1:2,3). But it also tells us that we are to steward our body as God’s holy temple (Romans 12:2) and that when a wise person sees danger ahead, he or she takes appropriate steps for his or her own safety (Proverbs 27:12). David did this when fleeing King Saul (1 Samuel 21-23), and Joseph and Mary did this with baby Jesus when fleeing Herod’s soldiers (Matthew 2:13-23). Jesus himself did this when the religious leaders were plotting to harm him (John 8:59; 10; 39; 11;8).
When a pastor or teacher glorifies voluntary suffering and advises a wife that this path is more noble, more godly, and more Christ-like than leaving the situation, this pastor is wrong. He or she does not understand the whole counsel of God nor the character of God. God’s heart is always for the oppressed. He mandates his shepherds to care for the oppressed, not to enable the oppressor (see Ezekiel 33; Psalm 5:4-6,11; Psalm 9:9, 12; Psalm 10).
Yes, there will always be evil in this world. We see it right now in Ukraine. And the Ukrainians are suffering. But is it wrong or selfish for them to flee to safety? No. Yet, some are not fleeing because of a higher purpose. To help fight the evil. To help rescue the helpless. To provide food, medical attention, or transport supplies for those who are still there. They are serving God’s purposes by defending the helpless and standing up to the oppressor. Jesus describes this as “no greater love does someone have for another than they would voluntarily lay down their life for their friend.” (John 15:13).
On the other hand, the Bible shows us times when people did not voluntarily lay down their life. They did not willingly “suffer” because it did not serve a greater good.
For example, Paul appealed to the legal authorities in Rome when he was being unfairly beaten in Acts 25. He could have just suffered quietly as in 1 Peter, to “win them without a word” but that’s not what he did. In another instance, Paul was let down in a basket to escape those who were trying to harm him (Acts 9:26). Why? If the Bible truly teaches that self-protection is self-serving and not as virtuous as voluntarily suffering at the hands of one’s oppressor, then why did Paul not just stay passive and allow himself to be captured, “trusting the Lord” to protect him? He certainly wasn’t a stranger to suffering?
In addition, the Bible specifically tells stories about or warns us not to voluntarily sacrifice ourselves or suffer to bear a burden when it would enable someone’s selfishness, laziness, or irresponsibility to flourish. (For example, See the story of the Ten Virgins Matthew 25:1-13; See God’s stern warning not to co-sign on a loan for another in Proverbs 6; See Paul’s admonish not to allow a lazy person to get or get the perks of hard work when they refuse 2 Thessalonians 3:10)
Friend, there are also times you do not choose to volunteer for suffering. Someone robs your home. You get cancer. You are mistreated at work. You are a victim. Jesus reminds us in those instances of involuntarily suffering that you still have choices. In the often used passages of “turn the other cheek” or “walk the extra mile,” Jesus is reminding victims of injustice that they still have agency. They still have choices to make.
In other words, he says to all of us when we are unfairly mistreated,
Jesus knows that suffering changes us. But how? Will that change be formative (becoming more like Christ), or deformative (bending into hatred and revenge)? Carbon under pressure forms coal or diamonds. Both can be the outcome of carbon’s response to pressure.
To advise a wife to voluntarily stay in an unsafe relationship is not knowing the heart of God. Oswald Chambers says “To choose to suffer means there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering, is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.”
Choose God, not suffering, and he will instruct you and counsel you in the way you should go. (Psalm 32:8).
Friend, if you’ve been taught and lived with this wrong teaching, how did you begin to break free to see the truth?