The word abuse has taken many meanings over time. Immediately, most assume abuse involves anger or some form of physical violence. This is a simplistic and often misleading view of abuse. Anger is an emotion God gave us to alert us to problems. Righteous anger is not sinful and should not be associated with abuse. Anger mishandled can certainly lead to a sinful, abusive response, but it is a sinful heart, not the emotion of anger, that is the root cause of abuse.
The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. We speak of abuse of trust, drugs, institutions, and objects. These forms of abuse are sinful for the same reason that abuse directed at people is sinful. Such mistreatment is motivated by selfishness and results in damage and destruction. People abuse others for a variety of reasons, but selfishness underlies all abuse. We tend to lash out when things do not go our way.
Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because, on the surface, there is no observable evidence of the abuse, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful or destructive. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal attacks, criticism, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, threats, and withheld expressions of love.
Anyone can be an abuser, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Victims of abuse can be ensnared in a cycle that is very difficult to break. Children have no responsibility for abuse suffered in childhood but often carry its effects into adulthood by repeating the patterns. Children need to be protected from abuse. Abusive parents are cursing their children rather than blessing them as they ought (Psalm 112:2; Proverbs 20:7).
The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (John 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. Several passages in the Bible strongly condemn taking advantage of or abusing others (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).
Everyone is guilty of abuse at some level, because everyone falls short of God’s command to love others sacrificially. Only the love of Jesus in us can truly love others; therefore, real love only exists in those who have accepted Jesus as their savior (Romans 8:10).
Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse (Psalm 147:3). Sadly, many hurting people are waiting for the abuser to come repair the damage he caused. While it is good for the abuser to take responsibility and make amends to those he hurt, it is Jesus who grants peace to those in pain. He is neither unaware nor apathetic to those who suffer, especially children (Mark 10:14–16). That should give us pause, knowing we are accountable for the suffering we cause to others. The Lord Jesus cares for His followers and has laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He will most assuredly comfort, vindicate, and heal them (John 10:11–15).
Believers need to own their abuse of others in order to break the cycle while receiving help to recover from past hurts. A safe place to do that is in pastoral or biblical counseling or in a small group of believers where people can help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1–10). The Lord will enable us to do what He called us to do, which is love one another as He loves us.
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.