An abuse victim needs to stay and pray for their abuser until the abuser changes.
Sadly, this is what many churches and counselors teach. I think they believe they are scriptural, but they are incorrectly applying scriptures from 1 Peter 3:1-6, while completely leaving out verse 7, and then tack on Malachi 2:16 as a one-size fits all verse.
Any abuse that a husband perpetrates against his wife is sin, not only against her, but against a holy God.
Any pastor who sends a wife home knowingly to an abusive husband sins against a holy God. Diane Langberg, PhD
Almost every day I read of yet another Christian leader who believes divorce is sin…period. I could blog full-time on this one issue; however, my calling is to minister to abused women. But today, since this headline involves a leader high up in a denominational setting, who has leadership over hundreds of thousands of Christians (one report I read listed the membership at 15 million), I want to address this as a courtesy and protection to abused women.
I want to validate what survivors are living through and affirm that they are strong; not emotionally unstable, loving; not going against scripture, setting healthy boundaries, not being hard-hearted, caring for themselves and their children, not turning their back on the abuser out of vengeance, and correctly applying scripture; not sinning against God.
This current headline refers to a leader who has for a decade received backlash from survivors of domestic abuse over his legalistic, uncaring counsel that has further kept victims in abusive relationships. He refused to believe 25 cases of sexual abuse against one man. He sided with and protected a serial abuser by mandating that any woman who wanted to bring charges against the man must have witnesses to verify the abuser’s behavior of her. The audacity of that is undefinable! He and others who have been known to teach that abused women need to stay and pray for their abuser until God changes his heart, or until the abuser changes, don’t understand the nature of abusers.
Fact 1: The Holy Spirit won’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do.
Fact 2: According to specialists in the field of domestic violence there is little to no proof that abusers will ever change. In fact, these abusers have been referred to as Psychephiles and are ranked in the unhealable category as are pedophilic offenders.
That’s a hard dose of reality to add to a sick and lazy approach many church leaders take when ministering to abused spouses; an approach which cost some victims their lives. It’s easy to give lip service and do nothing. It’s difficult to helplessly listen to descriptions of abuse and even more difficult to offer intervention, a safe place to live, practical gifts of service and financial help to the oppressed.
The stay and pray slant is a popular instruction in many churches and institutions. If the subject were a normal marriage with two healthy people; going through a difficult time, disagreement, or fight then ‘stay and pray’ would be sound advice. In this case it’s dangerous instruction. The women I minister to testify how difficult this is for them and their children. Church leaders put them in an unbearable position and when the women sit down to talk to me they all relay similar thoughts of feeling crazy…depressed…confused. Remember, they have already been beaten down at home for years; if not decades by the time they muster up the courage to tell their story to their pastor or church leader. They are often expending their last ounce of strength so when they are told to ‘stay and pray’ they have no strength left to challenge their pastor. They are traumatized at home and retraumatized by the church.
The above mentioned pastor sent a women back to kneel beside the bed and pray for her husband. His counsel resulted in the woman receiving two black eyes from her husband.
She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”
This was abuse of authority. When the woman walked into church with two black eyes the pastor should have called the police and had the man arrested.
The woman later said that her husband was sorry for what he did and their marriage became better. This is perhaps the only time I’ve heard a success story. In most cases of domestic violence the abuse escalates with time; not diminishes
“This Wade Burleson article, along with yesterday’s Spiritual Sounding Board article, provides a great summary of the issues at stake with Dr. Paige Patterson and the Southern Baptist Convention. Our distaste for divorce or love of the institution of marriage cannot – must not – surpass the safety of the abused. This is not just a Patterson issue, although Patterson cannot be ignored. It’s time to get this right. No one hates divorce more than someone who has experienced it, but it always has a moral context and it is not always wrong or to be avoided.” Cheryl Bowles Summers
“To these brothers who may have ears open enough to hear from a sister who has come to love you and see glimpses of hope in you that maybe you’ll be willing to grapple with the tension glaringly present in the New Testament regarding women, I say to you with respect: Fix this, in Jesus’ Name.” Beth Moore
Physical abuse is not the only type of domestic violence. Emotional, spiritual, financial, sexual, and verbal abuse are also real types of domestic violence. If you are in an unsafe situation, please know that more than God hates divorce, He hates that you are being abused. God approves of you leaving and finding safety. In the margin of this website you will find links to help you decide if you are or are not safe; as well as, links to help you leave safely, or stay safely in the relationship while keeping a sound mind and a healthy heart.
Next time I will continue with, For Your Consideration: A Woman’s Role…Biblically. Jesus had some radical teachings in response to the patriarchal system that had deeply rooted throughout history and continues to lend itself to marital, societal, and spiritual abuse. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t have an unbending view of marriage any more than He had a narrow view of the Sabbath. Jesus is about relationship and putting people first. Jesus wouldn’t leave a woman living in a personal hell; He would help her find freedom. He even helps the sinful woman find freedom. Doubt this? Read how He was counter-cultural in John 8:1-11.