A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Isaiah 58 – cry aloud, declare to my people their transgression

(Isaiah 58:1-12 ESV) with applications in purple by Barbara Roberts

(1) Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Declare to my people, the church, their transgression in not having dealt correctly with the issue of domestic abuse.
(2) Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they act like they seek me daily, but they have their heads in the sand over the sin of abuse
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
prayer meeting after prayer meeting, sermon after sermon, bible study after bible study,
(3) ‘Why have we fasted, [they say to God] and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

God gives the church His answer:
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
By your blindness or obstinacy about abuse, you oppress all those spouses who toil in their own homes trying to make their marriages work, struggling to keep up with the housework, juggle all the day to day problems, and nurture the kids in the fear of the Lord despite the selfishness of  the abuser.
(4) Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Behold, some of your leaders are abusers themselves: pastors, elders, deacons. And even those of you who aren’t abusers, your religious works are enabling abusers. Due to your messed up teaching, abusers can quarrel, fight, and assault their spouses and with impunity, because you don’t believe victims and don’t discipline abusers.  You ignore how easily the notions of headship and submission can be distorted and turn toxic. And you nail victims into coffins by proclaiming that abuse isn’t grounds for divorce.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
(5) Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
No matter how many fasts you call, how many prayers you pray for marriage and family values, how many movies like Fireproof or Courageous you watch, how many outreaches or seminars you hold, how many books your write or read, how many collection plates you fill, how many rules you have about right gender relations, it will not make much difference to the plight of the church and the culture unless you address the issue of domestic and sexual abuse.
(6) Is not this the fast that I choose
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
The church needs to fast like this: renounce the legalism and false doctrine which is strapping down the oppressed; teach right doctrine so that abusers will be exposed, rebuked and soundly disciplined, and the oppressed will be set free.
(7) Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house [or a shelter – where they will be protected and cared for]
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Opposing the abuser and taking sides with the victim is costly; but that’s what God requires of us.
(8) Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
(9) Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If the church took this stuff seriously, rather than giving it lip service, the revival we have been praying for could come about. Imagine that!

If you take away the yoke from your midst [by teaching about the psychology and methods of sin as Ps Crippen did]
the pointing of the finger [no more stigma for victims of abuse!], and speaking wickedness [no more saying ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace],
(10) if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted [believe the victims and respond to their desire for justice],
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
(11) And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
(12) And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
Yes. If it heeded this call, the church would see revival.

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    That was profound, although disturbing. I wonder how many traditional pastors would agree with that interpretation. I think a similar treatment could be applied to Isaiah 61, which the Lord impressed upon my heart early in my walk with Him, but I didn’t understand the implications.

    Without going into identifying details, I want to confirm what you are pointing out by sharing something I found out just over the weekend – that my abusive ex is being counselled and encouraged by Christian counselors and pastors who think they understand DV. People see him at many events, seminars or Bible Studies and get the impression he is a changed man. Meanwhile, only I know what goes on behind the scenes, like parental alienation and manipulating of the kids. Even then sometimes I get confused and wonder if he could be changing (for the hundredth time).

    The way the church at large currently deals with domestic abuse is just so damaging, no wonder the words in Isaiah 58 are as strong and disconcerting as they are. God doesn’t mince words and while we bury our heads in the sand, refusing to take heed to God’s urgings and warnings, we wonder why our methods don’t work and why families are breaking down like they are.

    • Rebecca

      Anonymous,

      I have lived in a very similar environement as you….where ex makes appearances and statements at church, and it’s automatically assumed he is who he is projecting himself to be.

      I’m going to make a bold statement, based on my own experience. Any pastor or counselor has been involved with both husband and wife in an abusive situation, but who begins to continuously only receives the abuser’s version of the story does not have an understanding of abuse. I believe it’s also an indication that the Pastor wants the problem to be neatly fixed and go away, rather than truly safeguard the hearts and souls of all involved. I find it disturbing when, as in my case, the Pastor who did meet with ex and I a few times, began receiving all of ex’s information but never once came to me to verify the information, be it truth or not. Or what was happening when no one was watching. Only one counselor has ever asked me that, but wasn’t an abuse counselor.

      This is a litmus test for Pastoral involvement and who I will trust. I completely understand why you begin to have self doubt when ‘everyone’ is seeing the side your ex wants them to see. But be reassured, this isn’t always the case either. True colors show through eventually, and those who are willing to be above the superficiality will see the truth, and probably already do. You just may not know or be advised of it. God see’s it and knows, and eventually, the sin will be found out. This used to have a stronghold on me…thankfully, God keeps reminding me that HE will and can handle it much better than I can.

      • Jeff S

        In my situation there was a couple who spent a great deal of time in our home and observed what was going on (in fact, the woman in the couple was aware of the damage being done way before I was due to me having my head buried in the sand). This couple was very well respected in the church, so I don’t think anyone would ever doubt any of their observations. And they were not doubted. Yet I distinctly remember an elder telling the man of the couple that he needed to be responsible for what he was communicating to me as he was trying to support me through my divorce. There was an undertone of warning in his voice when he said this.

        I guess every situation is different, but in my case they never tried to empathize. Their understanding of the Bible made empathy with me a danger and a weakness.

        I don’t know that my ex wife ever sold them on being a repentant Christian in good standing, but I do know she was the one at church and I was the one who left (after four years of her attending maybe seven or eight services total and me serving as the worship leader). But in the end, I guess I felt a twinge of justice was served in that she had to deal with them (and them with her) while I was free to find a fellowship in which I could truly recover and grow.

  2. Rebecca

    Barbara,
    This is an excellent perspective. Until the church begins to connect the dots and be willing to address domestice violence and do something, there will be no revivial.

  3. Finding Answers

    Here I am, Lord…send me.

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: