Sexual abuse in marriage – what should a Christian wife do?
You can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Cor. 6:13-20 (New Living Translation)
In this passage, Paul warns believers to flee sexual immorality. As believers, our bodies are parts of Christ, and we know that God values our bodies highly because he will raise our bodies from the dead, just as he raised Christ.
In verse 15, Paul says Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never!
The word ‘prostitute’ is the feminine noun porne, a word that has a masculine equivalent, pornos. When the masculine word pornos occurs in the New Testament (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 6:9; Eph. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; Rev. 21:8; 22:15) it is generally translated as immoral person, sexually immoral person, or fornicator – without the masculine gender of the word being explicit in the English. This is standard translation practice, because Greek uses masculine nouns to denote generic (any gender) subjects.
But since our purpose here is to assist wives who are sexually abused by their husbands, let us recast Paul’s illustration in verse 15 so that the genders are reversed. Let’s imagine that rather than Paul talking about a Christian man who is being joined with a prostitute, a porne, he is talking about a Christian woman who is being joined with a sexually sinful man, a pornos. This is a legitimate way of applying Scripture, because in many other places (for example, the marriage teaching in 1 Cor. 7, which immediately succeeds the passage quoted above) Paul goes to great lengths to make it clear that whatever applies to men, applies to women too.
Should a woman take her body, which is part of Christ, and let it be joined to a man who is sexually immoral? Should she let her husband commit sexually sinful, pornographic acts upon her? Should she allow her husband to commit sexual sins upon and inside her body? Never! For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For a man’s sexual immorality is a sin against his own body. And when a man sexually abuses a Christian woman he becomes ‘one flesh’ with her, and so he befouls her with his sexual immorality. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So honor God with your body. And to honor God, you are not only permitted, you are urged to flee from that man who sexually abuses you.
One more point: this passage talks about how no other sin affects the body so deeply as sexual sin does. That is why it is so hard to heal from sexual abuse. It pollutes the body, mind and soul at mysteriously deep levels: the cellular level, the nerve pathways, the emotions and psyche, almost every part of the person is polluted and contaminated.
But there is healing in Christ. And in another post, maybe in a few weeks time, I’ll open up the discussion about how we can find healing from sexual abuse. In the meantime, take care of yourself, especially if this post has brought up bad memories.
And in case readers are wondering “What IS sexual abuse in marriage? What kind of acts does it comprise?” I’m giving a link here to a previous post Do You Tell Others About the Sexual Abuse? which defines and describes sexual abuse in marriage. Be aware that if you read that post, it may bring up painful memories.
You might also like to check out Aphrodite Wounded, a site which provides secular support for survivors of intimate partner sexual assault, and their supporters. It has heaps of material, including this gem:
Partner rape is real rape.
It may happen once or many times.
It may involve coercive pressure or battery and torture.
It happens in very violent relationships, or in those that are otherwise respectful.
Women are raped by men they love.