PODCAST: Why John Piper Should Stop Talking about Marriage

by | Jun 23, 2022 | Podcasts | 70 comments

John Piper Enabling Abuse Harsh Husbands

Recently John Piper had a podcast telling a woman how to deal with a “harsh” husband.

It was atrocious advice–especially since women in emotionally abusive relationships would listen to this advice and think that it pertained to them (since most women in abusive relationships would describe their husbands as harsh).

We’ve talked about this before in a blog post on Piper’s original article about harsh husbands, and Rebecca and I recorded a Facebook Live talking about it.

So many people asked us to upload it to our podcast so they could share it more easily that we decided to do that. 

So Katie edited it down, and here it is! Plus Keith and I added a bit on the end that will BLOW YOUR MIND about what it means to turn the other cheek. Seriously blow your mind!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Biblical advice?
1:45 Overview of the situation with John Piper
7:15 Thinking of the readers and not just the question writer
16:30 How could this be handled differently
19:45 Piper’s misplaced priority of advice
28:10 Ill-will?
46:10 What does it mean to turn the other cheek?
55:50 People deserve their dignity

John Piper and Harsh Husbands

Rebecca and I walk through the transcript of his podcast, and show the glaring red flags. Just as a reminder, John Piper also told women that they should endure being smacked around for a night, or endure abuse for a season, if it brought him to Christ. And he believes that the way you deal with abuse is to bring it to the elders of your church–even though his very church has excommunicated women who have divorced for abuse (Natalie Hoffman from Flying Free is a big example).

It is vitally important that pastors understand that when they quote John Piper, they implicitly condone what he has said about abuse. Women in their pews hear this.

We need to start standing up against the harm that is being done in our church communities. Instead of thinking someone is a man of God simply because he preaches well, can we please look at the fruit of his teachings with regards to real people, on the ground?

That’s what Jesus did. Christianity is not an intellectual exercise. Christianity is flesh and blood.

And John Piper is hurting flesh and blood. That should matter to us.

(AND ONE CLARIFICATION: In the podcast, I said that you can tell your husband to see a licensed counselor, and if he won’t you can go yourself. What I was picturing was him going ALONE and you going ALONE, but I didn’t specify that, and it sounds like I was saying you should go together. Seeing a counselor together when you’re in an abusive relationship is NOT recommended. Sorry for the confusion!). 

Let’s rethink “turn the other cheek”

I get the best stuff from readers, and one reader sent me this article from Dr. Alison Cook on what it means to turn the other cheek. Keith and i discussed it at length and read a lot of it, but here’s just a taste:


It’s so important to understand this passage on a deeper level. When Jesus says to turn the other cheek, he does not mean to invite more abuse. His message here is much more subversive than that.

Rather, in context, to turn the other cheek is a demonstration of strength. Theologian N.T. Wright unpacks a subtle, but powerful lesson on boundaries implicit in this passage. Here is what he says:

“To be struck on the right cheek, in that world, almost certainly meant being hit with the back of the right hand. That’s not just violence, but an insult; it implies that you’re an inferior, perhaps a slave, a child, or (in that world, and sometimes even today), a woman. What’s the answer? Hitting back only keeps the evil in circulation. Offering the other cheek implies: hit me again if you like, but now as an equal, not an inferior.”1

Think about that for a minute. Seen in this light, turning the other cheek is a brave countermove. It’s not being a doormat. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Turning the other cheek is a way of standing your ground, communicating “You will not belittle me. You cannot take my dignity.” It’s countering bullying from a position of strength.

Dr. Alison Cook

Should I Turn the Other Cheek?

You’ll love this discussion!

Check out our Be a Biblical Woman Merch!

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Things Mentioned in This Podcast:


On John Piper Enabling Abuse and Harsh Husbands Podcast

What do you think of that idea of turning the other cheek? How should we handle teachers like Piper who enable abuse? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. CMT

    Haven’t listened yet but the headline- “Whoa! Shots fired!”

    I’ve deconstructed a lot in the last few years and there are so many (mostly male) teachers I saw held up as great, wise men of God that I have had to stop paying attention to. I realized that if someone cares more about supposed doctrinal purity than they do about their impact on real, flesh and blood people, I don’t have to listen to them! It was such a relief and not an exaggeration to say it helped save my faith. You guys were a big part of that for me and I’m grateful.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I’m kind of done holding back. He was so very toxic and dangerous in that podcast, and we need to be firm and call it out. Pastors need to stop giving Piper cover.

    • Laura

      Agree! Flesh and blood people are more important than doctrine. Whenever I have shared my experience of being in an abusive marriage and getting a divorce, several people have pointed out the “God hates divorce” verse. Um, excuse me, but I think God cares more about His children than man made doctrine. I have pointed out how harmful some doctrine has been to women and get met with, “But the Bible says…” So I just stop talking. But, not anymore. It’s terrible that there’s so much division on all these man made doctrines. Fight for the livelihood of people, not doctrine!

      • CMT

        Yes! I’m so sorry people treated you like that. That must have hurt. I will say, I don’t think that doctrine, properly understood, actually conflicts with loving flesh and blood people well. But when people prioritize “being right” over doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, that is NOT ok.

  2. Mara R

    I really appreciate this.

    I love how this deeper understanding of “Turn the other cheek” overcomes evil with good. The old way of understanding it allows evil to overcome everything. I creates safe havens for bullies, narcissists, abusers, and pedophiles.

    This understanding of the “other cheek” doctrine is an amazing tool. It’s such a wonderful way of exposing the bad behaviors and bad attitudes for what they are.

    Back when I was still married to the narc, he was all about me knowing how to talk to him, about me having the right tone.
    But he could talk to me any way he wanted.
    When I called him out for his tone, using “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” pointing out that he would never want me to talk to him the way he was talking to me right now, it stopped him the first few times. But after a while he didn’t care. He actually had nerve to say that I ‘deserved’ to be spoken to that way.
    This exposed his Narcissism pointblank.
    It was him revealing who he was inside. He really did have a superior attitude even though he hid it pretty well most of the time.

    Wish I had the “turn the other cheek” tool back in the day to deal with him. It wouldn’t have changed him. But it would have exposed his warped view of the world sooner and I would have known sooner and better what I was dealing with.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry you endured that, Mara! So sorry. And, yes, it is an amazing tool. I think we all need to learn it!

  3. Jo R

    So, the bar for minimum decent husband behavior is now simply not being physically abusive? Wow, what an ask!!!

    As I asked the other day, which of the fruits of the Spirit would result in a wife describing her husband’s behavior as “harsh”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

    Which of the traits of agape love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 would result in a wife describing her husband’s behavior as “harsh”?

    Wives are told ***ad nauseum*** that their behavior can affect their husbands. Granted. I believe it’s at least theoretically possible. But my question is, why don’t these teachers, pastors, and authors EVER consider that HUSBANDS’ behavior affects their wives????

    “Well, honey, I’m sorry you don’t like sex, but I want me some right now, so spread ’em and act sexy, or MY experience won’t be as good as it should be.” How is that statement—his behavior—going to improve the wife’s attitude toward sex?

    Oh, that’s right, it’s up to the wife to do all the accepting and changing and accommodating. He, being the man, of course never has to do any changing at all. He’s already been made perfect. See?? He has a penis, so he’s already fully mature!

    I’m SOOOOO glad that my natural personality quirks are simply to be accepted!!!! That’s SOOO exciting! Because I’m a naturally hot-tempered, short-tempered person, and I’m just SOOOO tired of fighting against that. Because there’s no ill will behind it; it’s just the way I am. So everyone around me just needs to deal with it, and I’m not on the hook at all, ever, to control my behavior. Phew!!!

    How many men who comment here want their wives to just come out and say what they mean already? In other words, tell the truth with no pussy-footing around. Great! Thanks for that permission! But then don’t bitch me out if I’m not fawning and sweet when I say things bluntly.

    • Samantha

      [this commenter was attempting to share John Piper content, but because Piper has been so largely criticized for years about his abusive teachings and he has not cared to change or learn, we will not be allowing harmful wolves in sheep’s clothing to be platformed on our website. If Piper truly does not want abuse to happen, he can change his message instead of every now and then throwing people a bone.]

  4. Laura

    From the transcript of Piper’s podcast: “In particular, Paul commands husbands to ‘not be harsh’ with their wives. He says this in Colossians 3:19. You [Piper] say, ‘This admonition to men is owing to a peculiarly male temptation to be rough — even cruel — and to a peculiarly female vulnerability to that violence, on the one hand, and to a natural female gladness, on the other hand, to be honored with caring protection and strong tenderness.’

    So was Piper saying that being rough–even cruel–is a “male temptation”? This truly disturbs me. I will watch the podcast later.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, he is definitely saying that. He’s also in other places admitted that basically about his own marriage–saying that it was genetic in him. He took an 8 month leave of absence in 2010, and a lot of it was about his marriage.

    • CMT

      Yeah this is weird. IMO it’s not a gendered temptation. Humans who have power are generally tempted to misuse it. But say you do think this is a particularly male issue, and acknowledge that the Bible commands against it. Isn’t the logical conclusion, then, that the church must be vigilant and proactive in protecting women? Why argue this about men and then say that a woman whose husband succumbs to this temptation basically has no recourse?

    • Estelle

      I don’t believe that vulnerability to male violence is peculiar to the female sex.

  5. Nathan

    I would also suggest that Piper stop talking about how the “little fat bottoms” of children were made for spanking.

    And yes. The well being of people should NEVER be put on the back burner for doctrinal purity, specific biblical interpretations and male patriarchy.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, we’d all be better off if he stopped talking about parenting too!

    • Em

      I’ve been wanting him to stop talking full stop for at least 15 years. I do not understand the infatuation with him.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Actually, I reached out to a man who does work in the abuse survivor space with just how tired I was lately with these men who are saying awful things, and he told me basically the same thing–the way he stops himself from getting overcome with anger is to see them with pity. They’re obviously living such small lives if they don’t understand the fullness of life in Christ and they don’t understand real intimacy. I’ve been contemplating that a lot lately, and I appreciated him saying that to me. I think he gets it.

      • Nathan

        That’s a good view. Some people are just so wrapped up in maintaining outwards shows, doctrinal purity and power structures that they really don’t see Jesus for who He is and what He full represents. True intimacy, love and happiness escapes them.

        What’s worse, though, is that so many others give weight to their beliefs, but we have to keep trying to reach them.

      • Nessie

        Thank you for sharing how you reached out when you needed something. You identified your need, you took action to help yourself and try to learn more how to help yourself. Far better than most authors who just say, “Don’t do this or that,” without demonstrating healthy actions. Thank you for that model.

      • Mara R

        Sheila, back in the day, I did a blog series on small men. More on the smallness of their spirits than their stature, but I touched on their statures as well.

        I think I even has a post entitled, “A Sad, Strange, Little Man” or something like that.

        Being rather tall for a female, I’ve dealt with small man syndrome most of my life. So it’s not hard to recognize it in the spirit realm as well.

  6. A2bbethany

    Just spent 4 days with 9-10 toddlers for a VBS. This made me see how alike marriage fights are basically just a different form of toddler fighting. Some of them like to snatch toys, take food or cups. Others like to force hug and make them scream. And so on!
    Only difference is with marriage advice we try to make it be more complicated and “holy”.

  7. Jamie

    Another good teaching on turning the other cheek that describes a little more about the intention of Jesus’ teaching here can be found on The BEMA podcast, https://www.bemadiscipleship.com/96?t=1327 (start at 21:46)

  8. Phil

    Sheila – I haven’t finished the podcast yet but I wanted to share a perspective. You and Keith were talking about this a little bit at the beginning of the podcast and then you said something a little later that I would like to address: In the beginning of the Podcast you and Keith were talking about using the bible to re-enforce your thinking rather than using the bible to create how you think. Later in a quip you said something around the topic of doing what the bible says. I see that as problematic. Here is what I have found out. Don’t worry Sheila – I just found this out so its news to me too and I thought you would like it! Here is my new train of thought that I am going to ride! Romans 8:29 we are to be like Jesus. At the end of the day the Bible is a book of history and if we actually do what the bible says particularly the old testament – well then we are SCREWED. There is ALL kinds of things we should not do that are recorded all over the bible including putting Jesus to death. The Bible is a book that was created to document the most significant event in history! That is The Resurrection of Jesus. Without this event we have no Bible. (Ref -Andy Stanley). Essentially, Jesus is the story and really what the Bible says in summary is SO simple its astounding. Here is the quick summary of the entire Bible: God made the world and made man and woman in his own image. The point of the Bible is to show us that we are to grow in our spirit and relationship with God because he loves us and wants us to love him back! He sent his son Jesus to show us his love and he wants us to be just like him! And God will fight for us to be with Him and love Him and be just like Him. Thats it in a nut shell! Do what the bible says? NO! DO WHAT JESUS SAYS! The bible is the record of the example. Thats my train Sheila and Im gonna ride it. I hope you and others will too. It makes sense!

    • Jane Eyre

      I love this. Maybe we should bring back the WWJD bracelets and hand them out to those giving out ridiculous and hurtful marriage advice.

      • Phil


  9. Marie

    If you guys are willing to look into it, I’d be interested in what you think about Walt Henrichsen. There is a small but very persistant group that has some extreme fundamentalist teachings. They have a retreat at Lost Valley Ranch every year. The teachings in this particular group started with Walt several decades ago and have continued to evolve since then. Here is a link to this year’s retreat talks. If somebody has the time to dig through the talks here and write an opinion, I’d really appreciate it. https://mimcolorado.com/lost-valley-ranch-2022/

    • Laura

      I was just browsing through Walt’s website. Sounds very problematic. In one of their workshops is the topic of “How to Lead Your Wife.” Like she’s a child and doesn’t know what to do. They advertise their ministry as something for men only. I looked through their list of books and you can tell by the covers, the information is outdated yet they want to keep using it. I wish I could devote more time to critiquing this, but I think it’s just going to make me sick and make the migraine worse.

  10. Bre

    This is…Ugh. I’m honestly just emotionally dead after listening to this after what happened today. I shared Sheila’s short FB post about “what if we talk about sex better in church?” and got a text from my childhood best friend’s mom and got…well it was essentially a gentle rebuke but she said that sex should be private and not shared in church and I should find an elderly church women mentor. I know she was probably just worried about me, but it was very triggering. She’s pretty…conservative/ literal when it comes to women and the family and stuff. Actually, while my friend and hubby have more of an open mind about those topics, her parents quit going to the church we grew up going to because they decided that, while the Bible says women can’t be official preachers, they can be elders and teach and speak in other visible ways. It was a great moment for me that that church recognized what the Bible and God’s heart really said (even if I believe in female pastors), but my friend’s parents thought it was way too far. I’m just…having an anxiety day and that text conversation triggered it… we mostly talked about my life and I just tried to dance around it so she wouldn’t worry. I don’t want to get into a debate cause I don’t think it will go anywhere and even Sheila in the post and the comments shared that there needs to be nuance and protections for young ears and didn’t have all the answers. And I feel like I flubbed it by saying that I want to stay single for the rest of my life and foster kids because I feel like she might have something to say about that. She said we’d talk again latter and continue the conversation but I’m TERRIFIED that she’ll bring it up. Like, I know it doesn’t matter but I”m paranoid that I’ll have to justify myself or be seen as “straying” and, even if she’s a sweet woman and my friend’s mom, I don’t even want to talk about any of this with people who basically think women were created to be a sideshow subject to men’s whims. I don’t even know why I writing this it’s just…I’m just so anxious and terrified of that and can’t stop it even though it’s dumb, and it just compounded by listening to this podcast. Like, in a comment above, Shelia shared what a therapist said to her about pitying people who believe this stuff to offset the anger and despair but, for me, it’s like a visceral desire for all those people, even though I don’t hate them, to go away so I never have to encounter one again cause I’m so done with it. I guess I’m just struggling with these sorts of topics and the church’s toxicity in them again lately and it just makes me feel depressed and down about the whole universe… and I needed a rant. Sorry for this…I just needed to get it out and I feel like people here understand and I don’t sound like a heretic. I’m just in a funk about this stuff.

    • Jo R

      I’m so sorry for this situation in your life. That’s absolutely horrible.

      I’m just going to be blunt (!) and suggest to you, quite seriously, that you do not owe this woman anything. ANYTHING. She’s your friend’s mom. She is not your friend. Or, at least, she doesn’t have to be—that’s your call. You can be polite, but you can also choose what topics of conversation you will or will not have with any particular person.

      I have the EXACT same feelings as you: “it’s like a visceral desire for all those people, even though I don’t hate them, to go away so I never have to encounter one again cause I’m so done with it” and all the way to the end of your comment. I too feel very alone in things, and right now this site is the only group of people (well, most of them) on the planet who make me feel safe, who don’t doubt MY experiences, who support me as I struggle, who are helping me heal from thirty-five years of gaslighting by “Christian” teachings which only wound up making me gaslight myself, to the extent that I don’t know who I am, what I like, what I want, what I need. I’m just existing at this point because I’m so absolutely empty.

      So, a zillion hugs to you, Bre, and just KNOW you are under no obligation to continue that “conversation” with that woman. Since she’s texting, you can just block her. And no, you are also under no obligation to explain why!

      • Laura

        Bre and Jo R,

        I feel the same. I’m frustrated too. It’s so hard for me to get many people I know from church to understand that some of these doctrines have been very harmful to women. I am so sick of hearing this cliched phrase, “But the Bible says…” What I ask myself are “What did Jesus say?” and “How did Jesus respond?” Jesus never once talked about male hierarchy in marriage, He never made women feel responsible for how they dressed, the first person who told others about Jesus was the WOMAN at the well, WOMEN were the ones who stood by Jesus as He was being crucified while most of Jesus’ male disciples (except for John) did not show up, etc. Whenever these evangelical pastors like Piper, MacArthur, Doug Wilson, or Driscoll say that male hierarchy in marriage is God-ordained, notice they don’t mention anything about Jesus. Like Sheila has discussed before, “They can’t.” That would insult the character of Jesus.

        So Bre, listen to Jo R’s advice and do not feel you have to explain yourself to your friend’s mother. She sounds like someone who is very set in her ways.

        I feel you both as I feel alone in my thoughts about deconstructing these harmful teachings which I always thought were harmful even when I got saved at 17 nearly 30 years ago.

        • Mara R

          Laura: ” Whenever these evangelical pastors like Piper, MacArthur, Doug Wilson, or Driscoll say that male hierarchy in marriage is God-ordained, notice they don’t mention anything about Jesus. Like Sheila has discussed before, ‘They can’t.’ That would insult the character of Jesus.”

          They also can’t mention Jesus when they build their doctrinal house because they have rejected the Chief Corner Stone, Jesus. If they would have included Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone and Foundation, building on Him as the Rock, then it would expose the error of the doctrine they want to push.

          They reject the Vine and the branches growing from their doctrine are dead and dried up because they don’t have the Living Sap that comes from abiding in the Vine.

          I could keep going, but I’m sure everyone here gets this.

          This isn’t the problem. Not here.

          The problem is that this hierarchal house of cards, this dry branches/bones doctrine being shoved down people throats has traumatized people, especially women. And being traumatized like this means that you MUST back away from the crap that has been traumatizing you so that you can heal.

          So, agreeing with Laura and Jo R. Bre, you don’t have to talk to your friends mother about any of this. She apparently can’t understand the trauma you are trying to heal from. And it is NOT your job to make her understand. It is your job to take care of yourself and heal. And you don’t just have the right to put up this boundary with her, you need to put up this boundary of protection around yourself. Your spirit and soul need this so you can be whole again.

          And you will be whole again. Then you do become whole again, you will be equipped to speak to people concerning these things.

          • Mara R

            Thinking about this further.

            First, Bre, if you never want to have this conversation again, even once you have been healed of you trauma and no longer feel triggered about having such conversations, you are free to not have it. I did not mean to imply that someday you have to have this conversation with her. You don’t. I was just trying to say that there is a place of healing that you can get to that you would be able to have that conversation, from a place of power and strength. And you can be so healed that even if you try to reason with her and she refuses, it won’t hurt you. You might be sad for her. But you won’t be in pain or triggered.

            Second. As mentioned above, this hierarchal teaching traumatizes people. We see it all the time. But what is so maddening about it, is the refusal of the indoctrinated (and those doing the indoctrinating) to allow people to have their feelings, to have their trauma.
            They maintain that you can’t be traumatized by it because it’s the Bible. You aren’t traumatized, you are just in rebellion. Your rebellion is the source of your pain, not their teaching. If you would just repent from your rebellion and submit to the teaching the right way, it will be a healing balm to you.
            It’s the gaslighting and minimizing of women’s experiences, emotions, hurts, and trauma that is so infuriating.

            It is sickening. I’m tired of it. I can only imagine how God feels about it. This is why we can’t grow weary in well-doing. It’s why we have to keep sounding the alarm, like this, on how soul destroying these teachings are.

            Thanks Sheila for having and maintaining this place for this work. We’ve come pretty far. But we have further to go.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            This is such a fruitful conversation! I think I’ll take it all and turn it into a blog post. Thank you, Bre, for your bravery in sharing, and thank you for all who have so patiently and wisely and compassionately shared your thoughts.

    • CMT

      Hey, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I know what it’s like to dread a conversation like that. This subject is so hard and fraught. It’s not dumb and you don’t sound like a heretic, but you do sound exhausted and like you feel powerless. Like if this woman brings something up you have no choice but to engage. I’ve felt like that sometimes too, and it’s really helped me to learn that I’m not powerless. I can say to someone, “hey, we disagree about this and that’s ok. I don’t have the bandwidth to talk about it right now, though.” And then change the subject. If the other person doesn’t respect my boundary, well, I don’t have to continue the conversation. And neither do you. Take care of yourself 🙂

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Bre, I’m sorry about all of that! I can see how that would be triggering. Honestly, I had one of those days myself.

      I would just say that you don’t owe her your time or anything. If you feel like you want to run from her–then that’s a sign that she is not safe for you. It’s okay to say, “I’d prefer not to talk to you about this.” I mean, you know the conversation won’t be fruitful because she’s not interested in hearing from you, and you’re certainly not interested in hearing from her. So it may be that you need to try just saying, “I’d prefer not to.”

      If you’re able to do that, come back and comment and let me know how it goes! But one thing I found empowering when I was becoming an adult was that the people who spoke into my life as teens? I was allowed to decide now whether that was going to continue!

    • Jane Eyre

      Hi Bre. A hug across the internet.

      A LOT of people think they can chastise grown adults. They are very offended and upset when shown their way back to their own lane. That doesn’t make them right; it makes them powerfully delusional.

      Tell her that you are an adult and are not listening to this. Block her number. She will br mad. She will stomp her feet. She will talk smack about you. That is all a “her” problem.

    • Stacey

      Hi. Never comment but this got me upset for you. It’s not her job, or her right, to change your mind. It is 100% ok to say, “I’m not comfortable talking about this with you.” There is nothing disrespectful about that. And I’m someone who hates conflict, but even I got lines you can’t cross. Forgive me Jesus if this is too harsh, but I feel like she needs to understand that it’s not up to her.
      One time a long time ago, I was in a really crazy situation and not even really in relationship w/God, but He was pursuing me. I had to confront someone and I remember the phrase “ set a watch over the doors of my mouth” coming to mind. And when this person tried to tell me I couldn’t spend time with a friend, I just said, “It’s not up to you.” And dude backed off. (There’s WAY more to that but post is already too long!) I do believe the Lord helped me.

    • Jo R

      Bre, I agree with what the others have said to you as well. ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ 👍 👍 👍

      You used the phrase “people who basically think women were created to be a sideshow subject to men’s whims.”

      That is an EXCELLENT summary, and I think it would compare and contrast very nicely with this funny saying I read once: “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”

      Your phrase doesn’t sound remotely like an abundant life. Well, except maybe for the man with such a woman at his side. 🙄 🙄 🙄

      Your phrase also compares and contrasts nicely with another funny thing I read once or twice: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

      Again, hard to square your phrase with this passage.

      One suggestion, so you can always be ready to make an answer with gentleness and respect (and, by the way, hopefully keep your sanity): write down on an index card (or a note app in your phone) your lovely phrasing, along with either or both of these passages (and any others that directly contradict your phrase), then when someone makes such a ridiculous statement as your friend’s mom, pull out your card (or phone app), read out the pair, and say that you’re going with the one that gives you the freedom that Jesus came to give you. Then announce that the matter is closed for further discussion. Period. Next topic, or else end of conversation.

      Oh, and if she or anyone else wants to force a conversation, just remember that “No” is a complete sentence.

      HUGS TO YOU!

    • Jo R

      A couple more apt phrases:

      Not casting pearls (i.e., yourself) before swine.

      Shaking the dust off your feet when you leave a person who won’t listen.

    • Bre

      Oh wow! Do this blew up! Thank you so much everyone! I just wanna say that my friends mom wasn’t being mean or anything. A lot of it was me being paralyzed with fear over what she’d think or say next. Mostly we just talked about the last 4 years of my life. I was shocked that she actually messaged me about sharing the post…it just seemed weird. Like what she was saying wasn’t far off from stuff Sheila might say but it just felt…weird. And I was worried what she would think about me as a single college aged person reposting on Christian sex all the time. A lot of it was probably me. And I haven’t had the past of most people here. I’ve never been married and I wasn’t raised in a aggressively patriarchal environment. It’s just, with my disabilities and mental health, when I found out what a lot of Christian’s believed, why it was wrong, and basically that I was lied to…I struggle to trust anyone and am constantly waiting for anyone to buy into harmful theology on the role of women. I don’t even know why it became traumatic for me cause I haven’t actually gone through anything traumatic. But I’m very greatful for all the support and advice. I feel a lot better now…this site really is a great safe space, even for people like me who aren’t the targeted demographic. Thank you so much everyone.💜💜💜

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        You know, Bre, I feel this stuff as traumatic even though I haven’t been through that much that is traumatic either! I think the messages themselves are traumatic, and the fact that the higher ups in the Christian world won’t listen–all that is traumatic too.

        I’m glad she’s good to you on the whole! I’d still like to use this conversation as a post because it’s got great advice in it! 🙂

        • Bre

          Go for it! If it helps anyone else, I WANT it to be shared!

      • Nessie

        I’d guess that you have a very strong sense of right and wrong, and you feel the trauma of others in a sense because you see how wrong it is. That is a way of being empathetic and that is a beautiful thing. So glad you feel safe enough here to vent away. Thank you with trusting this community with your realness.

        I have felt the same way re: anxiety over potential conversations, etc. I hate that feeling.

        Trust is earned. It’s ok to not trust everyone in the “Christian” community. Some might even say that is wisdom in action.

        Recently, I’ve have to say things like, “I appreciate your concern over me on this matter, but I have my own way of seeing things. Thank you.” But I love the, “No is a sentence on its own.”

  11. Samantha

    [Ed. note: thank you for your comment, but it was 1,500 words long. We have a comment policy to not allow comments longer than 300 words because of how it interferes with mobile users’ experience. Our apologies, we are planning to run your comment as a blog post with commentary later. You can see our comment policy at the top of the comments section.]

  12. Mark

    Whereas, I agree in large part with the podcast on John Pipers advice, I am not comfortable with your treatment of I Peter 3.

    I don’t think the passage is only for those married to unbelievers. It references those who do not obey the word. This could be an unbeliever, but it could be a believer who is failing in part of their life.

    But, even if this passage where only about a believer and an unbeliever, then what is Peter saying about win them over.

    I do not think wives, or husbands should be silent if mistreated, but I do believe reverent behavior can be a powerful witness that may indeed catch the attention of a insensitive, or harsh spouse and potentially bring them to repentance.

    To me, that is what I Peter three is saying…whether to believers with an unbelieving spouse, or with a believing spouse who is failing.

    Thank you for your ministry.


    • Jo R

      Unfortunately, if you spend any time at all here, and if you read some of the other sites and the many books about marriage problems, what we see over and over is wives being more and more submissive, more and more respectful, more and more self-sacrificing and, what is more accurate, self-erasing, and THE HUSBANDS DO NOT CHANGE. They do not give up the porn, the bad behavior, the selfishness in bed or elsewhere.

      No, what happens is that the husbands just become more and more comfortable, more and more self-centered. And why wouldn’t they? They’re getting everything made easy for them, they’re not having to take responsibility, they’re not having to grow, and they’re sure not looking more like Jesus.

      Yes, it would be nice to think that gentle, kind, example-filled behavior by wives would induce change in their husbands. And maybe, in a man here and there, it does. But for far too many, it DOES NOT. Where does that leave wives as they stagger under the load of pain? Where can they turn? What can they do? They’re already at the limit. They literally have nothing else they can give.

      I don’t know how to make it any clearer. But if you’re not the one living it, day in, day out for literally years on end, it’s very easy to not see it. To think women are exaggerating. But we’re not. We are dying inside. We are having our souls crushed, and what our efforts show us as we try to do everything right is that we are having no effect.

      So shall we keep doing more of the same? I think not.

      • Mark Hansen


        I don’t mean to underestimate these concerns that you highlight.

        In large part I agree with Sheila and Rebecca’s critique.

        I also agree with you that there is no guarantee reverent behavior will get someone’s attention, but I think it has a chance.

        • Jo R

          And how long do you propose a wife continue trying? Is there a time when she can finally say “no more”? If so, who decides when that point is reached? If not, then are you truly and actually saying a wife has absolutely no autonomy at all?

          Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away. He told His disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they left a town that rejected their witness. Again I ask, when does a wife get to stop beating her head against the wall that happens to be a husband who thinks he has nothing he needs to change, no improvements to make, no growth to be more Christlike?

          Women are not bottomless wells who can give without resupply, and to have a husband who does nothing but take doesn’t in the least sound like a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church and gives all for her. In fact, most of this “advice” given to women, and the way that many women actually live as Christian wives, sure seems like it’s the ***wives*** who are loving their husbands with the self-sacrifice that Christ displayed.

          • Mark

            Yes, I agree. There is a point at which she should decide it is not working.

            Again, I agree with this podcast.

            However, I don’t think we should disqualify I Peter as an applicable scripture by saying that it only applies in situations when the husband is not a Christian.

          • Jo R

            Fine, 1 Peter applies to all marriages.

            How long does a woman keep trying? When does she finally get to acknowledge that her husband is not going to change?

          • Mark

            Only the woman involved, with her particular circumstances, as she is directed by the Lord can make this decision.

            Hopefully, she will have caring friends and/or trained counselors around her, who can help her as needed.

    • CMT

      Hi Mark. Re 1 Peter 3:1-2. I’m looking at the NIV and v1 refers to husbands that do “not believe the word.” That sounds like it means non Christians to me, but maybe other translations use “obey” as you said, instead of “believe,” which could change the sense subtly.

      But, probably the key to the scope here is really back in ch2. On a quick read I’d say the thought beginning in 2:11 or 12 carries right through the beginning of ch3. There are a series of specific examples of how Christians might fulfill v12’s exhortation to live exemplary lives among pagan people. The direction to wives seems to be part of this series of examples. Unless we can find some reason in the text to split off the direction to slaves (end of ch2) and wives (beginning of ch3) into a separate thought not connected back to 2:11-12. I don’t see a reason, but perhaps there’s something I don’t see. Would you share where you split this passage and why? That might help illuminate the different perspectives on this passage.

      • Mark Hansen


        I see your point regarding I Peter’s overall scope and how this lends support to the advice given being to wives with unbelieving husbands.

        The word itself which is translated believe or obey of course is a Greek word. My look at the Blue Letter Bible and it’s references tells me the word carries both meanings.

        I still think the advice given is applicable to a Christian marriage. Even if the primary focus is to a “mixed” marriage.

        • CMT

          Mark, we’ll probably end up agreeing to disagree on this. But we do agree that this part of 1Pet deals with how first century Christians countered the suspicion of their pagan authorities and neighbors. Let’s not forget the husband in ch 3 is legally an autocrat, not a partner. And probably thinks his wife got sucked into a subversive wacko cult. So I have to ask, what (healthy) Christian couple nowadays would face a situation analogous to this, where 1pet31-2 would apply? Do we even need it to, when we have so many NT passages expressly about what to do in conflicts or wrongs done between believers?

          • Mark

            Yah, it is tough to converse on these many faceted issues. I guess I am not really convinced this is only to a mixed marriage.

            I just finished reading a book called Rediscovering Scriptures Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts by Lucy Peppiatt.

            She discusses how I Peter encourages Christians to be examples in the Roman/Greek culture. I think this is a good way to look at it. It retains the connection of the context, without demanding an interpretation which says this is a mixed marriage.

            CMT. I appreciate your thoughts and feel that we can agree to disagree. Bless you.

  13. Samantha

    Hello, I just wanted to pop in here and say that I and my husband attended Bethlehem for a while before I moved and I still have many friends and some family that go there. It is clear to me, watching it from somewhat close up, that there is harm being done there, which is why I’m glad we left 10 years ago.

    However, I need to address the character assassination and dismissal of all of JP’s life work and ministry because of these statements on marriage. Unfortunately I think that there is some “baby with the bath water” happening here.

    The truth is that both Rebecca and Keith misrepresented JP during the podcast, framing him as “obsessed with his own manliness” and as dismissive of harshness towards wives. People who have spent time with him, including my husband, would never say either thing about him. My husband said today that it’s rather strange… people within Bethlehem, even ones who disagree with his stance on submission etc… say that he is humble, thoughtful, and godly. But people who only see clips or portions from him online think he’s arrogant. 🤷‍♀️

    I have spent some time talking with two individuals over the last two days who have had direct dealings with JP for years. One has only good things to say about him, his wife, and their ministry, and the other was very hurt by the pastors under JP who did not believe her or do anything she she brought spousal abuse to their attention (this was 20 years ago). Even though she was hurt within Bethlehem, she told me today that JP himself is a humble man and she would never categorize him as “an unsafe man.”

    • Mara R

      Hi Samantha. Back in the day before I ever heard of JP, I would get frustrated with Dobson.

      With time, I came to the conclusion that Dobson did not understand the abuse dynamic, and as such, needed to stop giving advice in that area. I came to believe that his only understanding of abuse was as a non-abuser who would never hit a woman and was not inclined to be harsh and thought all/most men were like him. But when abuse came up, he usually would say something along the lines that it was never right to hit a woman. But some women made men want to hit them so those women needed to learn how to learn how to not be nags and be more submissive.

      When I first became aware of JP, I felt the same way about him. No, I have never thought that he was an abuser himself or that he would ever intentionally promote abuse against women. But as Dobson, Piper does not get abuse and tends to lean into, if a husband is harsh or abusive, what is the wife doing? And he seems believes that what would work on himself (a gentle and quiet spirit or whatever) would work on all men including an abuser.

      This is why he needs to stop talking about it. He does NOT get it. And his devotion to a few verses in Ephesians to the neglect of, like, the whole rest of the Bible, as the silver bullet cure all to all marriage problems is hurting people.

      And in case you haven’t seen it, here is Abraham Piper taking on misinformation Dobson put out back in the day.


      • Samantha

        I agree, I’m just trying to add some nuance to the conversation. He should stop teaching these harmful things. That isn’t what I take issue with. I take issue with canceling him entirely or painting him out to be “unsafe” entirely. The overstatement is in saying that becuase he doesn’t “get it” when it comes to domestic abuse, all the other things he’s written and peached on, missions, the gospel, hundreds of sermons on Romans alone, etc… are never to be quoted in a sermon again. If this is true than we never should quote Luther who was anti Semitic. We should never quote Washington because he owned slaves. We should never quote Augustine because he had horribly misguided views of women… get my point? Can’t we say that his teachings in X area are harmful, and here’s why, without the ad hominem attacks? Especially in such sarcastic tones? I know Sheila and Rebecca are weary after years of fighting these battles. But they still need to use good journalism in order to make their message clear and useful. Otherwise they risk losing their audience, not because of the message, but the delivery.

        • Mara R

          I do get your point and appreciate your dedication to clarity and fairness.

          The trauma his teachings cause are mentioned above.

          Here’s a little insight into one avenue of my trauma.

          Some years back, I attended a church with male leaders of good character. I picked it so that my children could see men with good character as opposed to their father. The leaders appreciated my teaching gift but there was a glass ceiling. I could teach children, youth, and adult mixed Sunday school but was never welcomed on the platform.

          I was okay with this because of their character.

          Eventually, the son of the associate pastor came in and started preaching Piper, someone he was introduced to while getting his Masters (I already knew of Piper and associated him with Driscoll at the time. Another Piper mistake). When Piper-boy came into adult Sunday school he openly opposed women doing much. AND he was streamlined to the platform. That hurt some. But what really hurt was seeing my kids turn away from that church due to their favor of Piper-boy over me and him becoming confrontational with me when I resisted his open Piper-anti-woman-in-leadership propaganda.

          I didn’t stay and fight. I was already trying to to divorce a Narcissist and didn’t need the added stress of Piper’s anti-woman teaching opposing me to my face.

          My point in all this: Piper may have good things to say. BUT those listening to him and hearing his great teachings in other areas are very much influenced by his stance on women. There is a lot of fall out and trauma. A little leaven leavens the whole.

          Piper may be as good as you say. But he and all those embracing his teachings need to take the trauma some of his teaching causes WAY more seriously.

          I appreciate that you are one of those that sees the error and appears to take this trauma seriously.

          • Mara R

            And, I want to add, I see the importance of you being here to help in this area.

    • Jo R

      He may personally be a good guy. I hope he is, if for no other reason than for his wife’s sake (though the anecdote about him installing some kind of buzzer so that he can on demand have her bring him tea three stories up rings alarm bells in my head).

      Why hasn’t his good behavior and stellar example rubbed off on his associate pastors who, by your own testimony regarding a woman who came to them, “did not believe her or do anything she she brought spousal abuse to their attention”? Why weren’t his, er, subordinates mimicking his good-guy qualities? Why didn’t those men, presumably being trained for eventual promotion to senior pastor, take seriously the word of a woman being abused in her own home?

      I’m just guessing here, but I’d bet she also had 1 Peter 3 quoted at her. I’ll guess also that she had been married quite a long time and wasn’t a newlywed just back from her honeymoon. For a woman to go to her church and make such a statement likely means things have really gotten bad. That she’d been doing all the praying, all the Bible study, all the looking for help everywhere else, and as nothing helped, she finally thought her only recourse was a little church discipline. Or at least a stern talking-to by OTHER MEN.

      People, and I’ll just say it explicitly, especially men, quite often act very differently in public than they do at home. And the whole hierarchical complementarian mindset would naturally make that worse. Because the one person who actually should most affect a husband’s behavior is essentially muzzled by the church into never questioning him, never disagreeing with him, never having her own opinion. So when a wife suggests her husband do something he doesn’t feel like doing, he can always whip out the “I’m the one in charge here” card and tell her no. He’s decided, and since GOD has put him in this position, no mere woman could possibly have anything to say to him about the matter.

      • Samantha

        I totally agree, and had the same thought about the pastors under him. I’m just trying to add nuance to the conversation. Sheila says at the end of the podcast that she hasn’t listened to JP or followed him other than the clips she’s been sent. I just wish she knew what a drop in the bucket these clips are compared to a lifetime of content, pastoring, teaching, and writing, that he’s put out. And I think it’s important that, while we call out bad or harmful messages, we do so in such a winsome way that we don’t immediately turn off anyone who isn’t already on our side. This exact dynamic is why The Great Sex Rescue is our book of the year for 2021 in our home and why we’ve recommended it to everyone. It’s why we listen to each and every one of Sheila’s podcasts.

        But my husband and I know JP personally. We’ve worked at and in Bethlehem and have many friends and family still there. We were on the team that launched the BASE anti-trafficking ministry at Bethlehem. This is why we were taken so aback to hear the way in which he is treated in this podcast. Of course he’s not perfect. Misguided even. The man is going on 80. He’s idealistic. He’s completely committed to sound doctrine as he’s been taught from childhood by his pastor father. He was raised by a strong woman and married one. He’s more than what he’s being made out to be here.

        The true reason I’m saying all this is because this is true of everyone. Me, you, Sheila… and we deserve to be seen as whole people with imperfections. Take the wheat, and blow away the chaff. Call out the harmful messages, absolutely, but done lie by stating your opinions about someone’s character based on a few small sound bites as fact.

        • Sarah

          It’s an interesting point, and one I’ve wrestled with quite a bit. People, including Bible teachers and authors, are imperfect and will get some issues wrong, or at least we’ll disagree with some takes of theirs. But when do you just say ‘no, this person is so wrong on issues of fundamental human dignity that anything else they say is suspect’? To me, abusers like Jean Vanier and Ravi Zacharias fall into that camp, though I’ve met people and listened to people who think that although they were men of bad character (understatement!) we can still read their work and gain insight about God from it. I would say a firm no to that viewpoint! But Luther, JP, Origen, Augustine et al are more difficult. Many people find great worth in their theological writings, others think that because of their misogyny and antisemitism, they can have nothing of worth to say. For me, it’s been about moving from ‘these writers are trusted authorities on God so I can believe whatever they say without testing it’ to ‘these people were/are flawed humans who may have some helpful thoughts to add to discourse about God, but they are not authoritative and I’m not a bad Christian if I simply don’t want to read them, either for their misogyny or the fact that they’re a hard slog to get through and I’d prefer to read Jackie Hill Perry’.

          On JP though, as Sheila and team have covered before, there’s a seam of misogyny that runs through the grain of his ministry, which I don’t think can be just relegated to a side issue. It’s embedded in the theology (cf CBMW). A little leaven, after all …

          • C

            Agree about his involvement in the CBMW—how can appropriate marriage theologies come from someone who doesn’t think women should speak directly and plainly to men–whether it be in marriage or in the workplace.

          • Sharon

            If you won’t read Augustine, you’ll miss the great positive things he says to counteract teaching in his day about women who’d been raped in the sack of Rome. He says women who have been raped have no guilt and should feel no shame because they did not desire the act. They are entirely innocent before God. He was writing this in response to a situation where women who had been sexually assaulted were literally committing suicide from shame. These women had been victims of 4th century purity culture, and Augustine spoke up on their behalf.

            That’s the very same message She Deserves Better has said we should be telling women who are victims of sexual assault: It wasn’t your fault. You bear no sin because of what someone else did to your body.

            It’s in Book 1 of City of God. Go check it out.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Samantha! I’m glad you got out of Bethlehem. That’s great.

      “Unsafe” doesn’t mean “I’m going to hit you.” “Unsafe” in this situation simply means that the advice he is likely to give is unsafe. And when we give unsafe advice, we do harm.

      I think it’s important to ask why John Piper hasn’t learned, when this has been brought to his attention for twenty years now? He has been called out for years on his attitude towards abuse, and yet he still keeps saying the same things and hasn’t learned.

      He circled the wagons around C.J. Mahaney when Mahaney was credibly accused of covering up child sex abuse. He endorsed Driscoll and defended him, and still has not rescinded that endorsement. He has stated that elders should be called upon to figure out what an abused woman should do–when his own elders’ board has failed so miserably multiple times on this, and when elders’ boards are simply not safe for abused women. The right response is to seek secular authorities. In fact, a while back Bethlehem Baptist even had to hire an outside firm to teach them about abuse, because they had done such a bad job on it, and they’re still doing a bad job.

      So I guess I’d just say–he may be a gentle man in public (though he has admitted to being harsh with his own wife, and has had major marriage issues), but that doesn’t mean he’s safe. Not at all.

  14. Tim

    Loved the thing you said about 3/4 of the way through re how evangelical teachings on men being helpless against lust, unable to take constructive criticism from women etc reveal a really low view of men. That’s been annoying me for years!

  15. Mia

    In the YouTube video from 13 years ago entitled “John Piper: Does a women submit to abuse?” (it is misspelled like that), Piper is seen saying these exact words “…if it’s not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season and she endures perhaps being smacked one night and then she seeks help from the church.”

    You can go see it and listen to it for yourself. It is absolutely atrocious advice, not aligned with the heart of Jesus whatsoever.

    Piper should have stopped talking about marriage a long time ago.

  16. Aaron

    If a wife is being abused, the marriage vows have been broken, plain and simple. The wife has grounds for divorce because the vows have been broken. A husband who loves his wife will not abuse her.


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