Perhaps the hardest question to answer, for a believer who is a victim of abuse, is “What do I do about this? Divorce is not an option for me. I can’t afford to leave–he controls all the money, and I’d have no way of supporting the children. I’ve never worked outside the home. He’s a respected member of our church and our community. He does well at his job. I’m afraid that even my parents wouldn’t take me in. I tried to talk to them once, and they told me I just had to submit and pray, and God would fix everything; but that under no circumstances could I leave my husband. I have nowhere to turn.”
Again, for the sake of grammatical simplicity, I’m going to use the masculine pronouns for the abuser and the feminine for the abused. I want to stress that sometimes it’s just the reverse. I know that.
The first question I have for the beleagured victim in my office is, “Are you sure your husband is a believer?”
Invariably, the answer is “Well, he says he is. He goes to church. He reads his Bible, and then tells me how it applies to me. But I really don’t know for sure.”
In II Corinthians 7:10, we read, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
It is pretty typical for the abuser to express remorse after his rage is spent and his wife is bruised, bloody, and broken. He may even promise never to do it again.
This verse makes it pretty clear that if his remorse (sorrow, grief) is of God, it will work in his heart even to the point of salvation, which he will never regret. However, if his remorse is of the world (full of entitlement, power, control, and justification; in other words, not at all sincere) then he does not know God.
How does this kind of phony remorse sound? Like this: “Ok, I’m sorry I hit you. I’ll try not to do it again. But you need to understand who’s in charge here, and quit doing and saying things that make me lose control. If you’d give me the respect you promised me in your wedding vows, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen!”
If you try to approach him with a scriptural reason he shouldn’t beat you, he’ll twist it and tell you it means something entirely different. You really can’t win. That’s because, in my opinion, he has a reprobate mind. He is closed to the Holy Spirit. He is not a child of God.
Does his spiritual condition make it ok for you to leave him? First, I believe that everything within a woman’s power, with the help of her church in whatever capacity possible, must be done to help bring the abuser to Christ. Leaving should happen only if she and her children are in danger or when other interventions have failed.
How many times must a woman accept a beating before she can leave? Well, personally, I think once is more than enough! In most cases, the first time is just that: The first time. It indicates there will be a second, third, and more. Violence almost always escalates. This is not to say she must divorce him; however, to protect herself and her children, she needs to leave.
Jesus stated, in Luke 4:18, His purpose in coming to earth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
I find great comfort and encouragement in that verse. It is not the heart of God that anyone not be set at liberty from physical abuse (or, in my opinion, all the other forms of abuse. There are those, I know, who will take strong exception to my use of this scripture. They are free to do so.)
Consider this. Assault is a crime. People are arrested, jailed, tried and convicted for assaulting someone else. Why, then, is it not an actionable crime in the minds of so many Christians for a man to assault his wife? Why, in this relationship alone, is it considered “God’s will” for a woman to accept the abuse?
I’ll never understand it. Never.
This is going to require more posts than I realized to explore thoroughly. My point today is that I believe we can safely assume that an habitual abuser is not, in truth, a born again Christian. Abusive behavior is contrary to the very nature of God. It is, however, totally consistent with the character and behavior of Satan.
Why would God demand that a woman stay married to such evil? I don’t believe He does. And for now, that’s where I’m stopping. Come back next Friday for more scriptural support for my position.