A Biblical Definition of Abuse

Biblical Counseling Coalition | 1/14/2019 | Greg Gifford
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Three years ago, a wife described for me how her husband would be hyper-critical and nit-picky and explained how he was constantly putting her down. Nothing she did was ever good enough. She described his words as a “verbal battery assault” and called him “verbally abusive.” When I hear that term, I’m always concerned for physical safety and I launched an assortment of questions to ensure she was safe and protected from him. She was indeed physically safe. However, I told her that she shouldn’t call his verbal assault “verbal abuse” or say that he was being abusive because he wasn’t threatening violence against her. My thought was that we should reserve that term for only criminal acts or threats of violence. I was wrong. The Bible does affirm that a person can, in fact, be verbally abusive—among other ways of being abusive. In this blog, I hope to offer a biblical definition of abuse with its corresponding categories and a small vignette illustrating the different categories.

Abuse is currently a trending topic in biblical counseling: I recently spoke at a national conference on abuse, the BCC has published four recent blogs on abuse, and Chris Moles published an excellent work on the heart of abuse and provided an outline of commonly agreed upon parameters of abuse/domestic violence.[1] Yet, we still do not have a biblical definition of abuse. Sometimes we talk past each other because we haven’t thought clearly about the nature of abuse before we offer counsel to the one who is abused. The Bible speaks about abuse and offers different responses based on the type of abuse. However, let’s start with a biblical definition of abuse:

Abuse - Violence - Threats - Violence - Eph

Abuse entails physical violence (Acts 16:19), threats of physical violence (Eph. 6:9), persecution (Matt. 5:44), sexual mistreatment (Judg. 19:25), reviling (Luke 6:28; 1...
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