This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.
Chapter Fourteen is titled, “God’s Provision: Resources for the Wife’s Protection.” This chapter is adapted from Lou Priolo’s talk entitled, “Biblical Resources for a Wife’s Protection.” Lou Priolo, a nouthethic counselor, is Director of Biblical Counseling at Christ Covenant in Atlanta, Georgia and trains biblical counselors around the world with Competent to Counsel International. I will refer to Peace throughout this review since she is adapting Priolo’s information.
I thought about breaking up this chapter over two posts due to its length, but I’d like to keep moving through. These eight resources are listed in order for how a wife should go about addressing conflict with her husband. Bear with me; this is a tough chapter. Some of Peace’s words may be triggering, so please make sure you take care of yourself.
#1 Learn to Communicate Biblically
What exactly does “communicate biblically” mean? I got the feeling when I read this that it meant a wife would need to limit her words. I wan’t too far off. According to Peace, a Christian wife needs to ensure that she is speaking appropriately in all circumstances. This means guarding your words.
This will take much practice and prayer. If a wife is frightened, frustrated, or angry, at first it may be difficult for her to think straight about what she should say or do. But, by God’s grace, she can learn. A wife can learn how to biblically respond to her husband in a God-honoring way.
She continues with:
God-honoring responses are gentle, loving in tone, and edifying to the hearer.
The worst part of this “resource” is that Peace states if a wife doesn’t communicate biblically, she is sinning. This is victim-blaming and a lie. It gets to the heart of nouethic/biblical counseling: what sin did the wife contribute to her situation? A wife who is being abused should never be asked this question. Abuse is about power and control by the perpetrator. A wife’s biblical response is not going to change his abusive behavior.
#2 Overcome Evil with Good
The next step for a wife instructs her to respond with the right actions and attitude. A godly wife should respond to evil with blessings for as long as it takes.
Often, the only thing that stands between obedience to the Lord and not being overcome by evil is endurance. The wife is to endure and continue overcoming evil with good; however, many wives give up too soon.
This makes me wonder how many women have been told that they are giving up too easily. Teachings such as: “Hang in there, be obedient to God, things will change,” only play into the hands of the abuser and keep women in harmful marriages. And for what purpose? The preservation of an idolized institution of marriage or the harmful message that God’s name and the church will be shamed.
#3 Make a Biblical Appeal
Next, a wife is told that she should appeal to her husband if she has a better idea. However, this may not always work in the wife’s favor because ultimately she needs to follow what her husband wants her to do. Why even make the silly appeal in the first place? The intent of the appeal should be as follows (Provided are the main points):
First, the appeal should be done for the purpose of achieving the husband’s objective or desire.
The second point is related to the first. The motive of the wife must not be manipulative.
Third, the appeal should be made in a respectful manner and with a spirit of submission.
Fourth, the appeal should be done at the proper time.
Fifth, an appeal should be made once.
Sixth, an appeal should always be prefaced or concluded with a statement by the wife that she is willing to do whatever her husband decides.
Seventh, if her husband is asking her to sin, she should propose a viable alternative which seeks to accomplish the husband’s intent.
#4 Give a Biblical Reproof
Peace talks about reproof throughout the book, so I won’t go into long detail on this. If you are new to this series, the idea is that a wife should point out to her husband that what he is doing goes against God’s word and try to help restore his relationship to God. I’m sure you can see how well received that would be by an abusive husband.
A husband, whether he is a believer or not, has a responsibility to receive his wife’s reproof in a gracious manner. However, this does not always happen. Sometimes, a husband may refuse to receive a reproof from his wife or may even respond to it in a harsh, angry, blame-shifting, or threatening way. In that event, the wife must stand firm and focus on fulfilling her biblical responsibility. God will give her grace at that time to respond to her husband’s anger or intimidation.
#5 Respond Biblically to Foolish Demands
Immature Christian husbands may act foolishly from time to time by making harsh or unreasonable demands or accusations about their wives. Likewise, a wife can be foolish in how she responds to her husband’s foolish demands. Husbands may particularly act this way in pointing out their wives’ failure to carry out responsibilities. This may be especially true if the husband has not yet learned how to lead his wife biblically. Instead of leading her in a loving way, he may resort to intimidation, manipulation, harsh criticism, or hostile teasing to accomplish his purposes. This abuse of his God-given authority often throws a Christian wife into total confusion.
Oh, you think so? I’ll be honest here…I’m at the point of yelling out choice words. Peace says a wife should respond to this behavior by first acknowledging her husband’s abusive words to recognize her own sin. Then she is to respond with wise words, not foolish words. I’ve lost my patience with this chapter at this point.
#6 Seek Godly Counsel
Oh, good! Maybe a wife can actually reach out to someone to find some help!
…it is important to make sure that you seek help from a faithful, godly person who knows the teaching of Scripture and is committed to living by Scripture. Such a person will believe that the Bible can not lead people astray if it is properly understood and obeyed. They will also believe that the Bible is given to man that he might know how to live a life pleasing to God. And finally, they will believe that the Bible contains practical guidance for all of life’s circumstances.
Basically, Peace is saying that if you’re going to seek guidance from someone in the church, that person needs to rely upon the Bible to guide their advice, needs to focus on restoration, should be a church leader or an older woman, and if you desire to seek counseling, should be a certified nouthetic/biblical counselor. To which I say, “Run!”
#7 Church Discipline
The next resource is to reach out to church leaders to follow the Matthew 18 process of church discipline. A wife is to make sure her intent is to restore her husband’s relationship with God, not slander against her husband, and gather witnesses to his behavior to take before the church leaders.
At the meeting, she should accurately report the facts of her husband’s sin. She should not exaggerate the facts nor underplay them. Otherwise, she would be deceptive. Wives should realize that wise witnesses will always give the husband an opportunity to tell his side of the story in keeping with Proverbs 18:17. ‘The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.’
Peace points out that depending on the church, the Matthew 18 church discipline process may not be available to the wife and doesn’t offer any suggestions if this is the case. I suppose she assumes that all churches should follow this biblical process.
#8 Involve the Governing Authorities
If a husband threatens physical abuse or is sinning against his wife by verbally attacking her, she should not hesitate to involve her church’s leadership to initiate the process of church discipline, or contact the governing authority (if appropriate). Letting her husband bear the consequences of his sinful behavior at the hand of either church or governmental authorities is an act of loving obedience to God since God Himself has appointed these authorities for her protection.
Every example given in this chapter of a husband’s response to his wife included abusive behavior. Why was this information not provided as the first step of this resource process? Peace made it very clear at the beginning of the chapter that these steps were to be followed in order, that certain steps not done correctly were sinful, then has the gall to say “do no hesitate” to reach out to the police. Also, she limits reaching out to governing authorities only if the abuse is physical or verbal attacks. She lacks acknowledging that abuse includes sexual, digital, financial, spiritual, and emotional offenses.
What frustrates me about hard-core complementarians is that they will throw in wording such as, “contact the police if you fear your life is in danger” to make it sound like they truly care about Christian wives. It sounds good, but there is a deeper message that is horribly wrong.
My advice to Christian wives is to not go directly to your church leaders unless you absolutely know that they care for victims of domestic violence. You will know this if the pastor addresses domestic violence in sermons, if the church partners with community resources dedicated to victims of domestic violence, and church leaders actively mention that victims will be believed and supported.
Of all the chapters in this book, this has been the most difficult for me to read. My heart grieves for those who have been harmed by this book’s teaching. Unfortunately we still have seven chapters to go.