“When it comes to abuse, you believe there’s no way out. There is always help. There is always a way out.” ― Rev. Donna Mulvey
It’s hard to believe that Christian women are in abusive marriages but it is true. “Bible verses are often used to justify domestic abuse, such as those that refer to male superiority and female submission” (Wikipedia).
While it is true that wives are called to submit to their husbands, this in no way should be used to perpetuate spousal abuse.
The Bible clearly teaches that a man is to love his wife as himself. And the relationship between a husband and wife is likened to that of Christ and the church. A wife is to submit to Christ, the Head of the church as she does to her husband, the head of their home (Ephesians 5:22-33). It is to be a loving relationship based on trust, commitment and respect. No one should ever think that the Bible condones abuse of any kind.
What should a woman in an abusive relationship do? Should she follow the advice of some pastors to “continue to submit and to trust that God would honor her action either by stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it? Is abuse a legitimate reason for a woman to leave her husband or separate from him? Would God want her to stay in a relationship that is unhealthy and potentially dangerous? Abuse can lead to death.
What role should the church play, especially if women don’t come forward but continue to suffer in silence? Justin Holcomb, an Episcopal priest encourages all church leaders to acknowledge the reality of abuse within their own communities. “As a minister you have a lot of people’s attention on Sundays and other days. You can actually reference domestic abuse and sexual abuse. You can say, ‘if you need to talk about this, I want to be a person who will listen and serve you. I want this church to be a church that is a culture that is safe.’ That’s shocking to many people who’ve suffered abuse because they go to church and they don’t hear about abuse. They think it’s something that the gospel doesn’t relate to, and if it does, they’re not sure how it does. It becomes their own secret that they just suffer silently with.”
“The more that we choose not to talk about domestic violence, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose.” ― Russell Wilson
It’s hard enough being a church member who is suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, another church member but what about when you’re the wife of a minister? How do you cope when other women come to you for help and you’re in need help yourself? This was how life was for Michelle Armstrong who was in a 30 year abusive marriage. Here is her story.
It is very important that we listen and believe the person who has suffered abuse. We have to create a culture where they feel that they don’t have to suffer alone and that there is a loving community who will help them. The church is the body of Christ. When one member hurts all other members should hurt too. Domestic abuse affects everyone, not just the victim. The church must get involved. By speaking out and raising awareness and reaching out to the victims, hope and healing will be possible.
As a church and a community, we acknowledge domestic violence, rather than avoid it. We talk about it, raise awareness, put programs in place to help the victims and their families. And reiterating scriptures which speak of husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church, the sacredness of marriage and the oneness between the man and his wife would be beneficial. Explain the passages which husbands use to justify abusing their wives. They should be reminded that women were also created in God’s image.
The church needs to make it absolutely clear that it will not tolerate any type of abuse and that any type of abuse is in direct violation of God’s Word. If a woman is in a dangerous situation and in fear of her life, she ought to leave and the church should support her. Nowhere in the Word of God does it say that God expects a wife to remain in an abusive marriage. Marriage is a holy institution originated by God and it is founded on love and respect. It ought to be Christ centered. Abuse has no place in a marriage.
Men who abuse their wives are unconverted. They don’t have the Holy Spirit in them. If they did, He would be in complete control of their lives and they would be exhibiting His fruit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23, TLB). They would be living in the Spirit and not in the flesh.
Women should not be living in an environment where they are subjected daily to emotional, physical and verbal abuse. They should not live in fear of losing their lives. This isn’t the kind of life God had planned for them. Life is too precious and fleeting and for it to be a constant nightmare for so many women who are suffering in silence. Jesus came that these women and all us “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Here are 10 ways we can help to prevent domestic violence where we live:
1. Know the signs.
2. Don’t ignore it.
3. Lend an ear
4. Be available.
5. Know the number to a nearby shelter
6. Check in regularly.
7. Be a resource
8. Write it down.
9. Get the word out.
10. Put your money where your mouth is.
Together, we can fight this evil and help save many lives.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” — Maya Angelou