The Bible allows divorce for domestic abuse. The key text for this is 1 Corinthians 7:15:
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. For God has called us to peace.
This verse has been assumed to relate to simple desertion, i.e., when an unbelieving spouse walks out, abandoning a marriage with a Christian spouse without taking out a divorce. However, in the Greek text the word “depart” (chorizo) means “to place space between, to separate” and it was one of the standard terms for legal divorce in the first century.
Typically, perpetrators of abuse do not walk out of their marriages. Perpetrators want to stay in the relationship because they enjoy the power, privilege and control they obtain therein. Because the abuser rarely walks out, the victim of abuse thinks 1 Corinthians 7:15 does not apply to her. She thinks, “He hasn’t deserted me, so I have to stay with him!” However, when correctly understood, it is the verse which gives her freedom.
Note: Sometimes the genders are reversed.¹ I use the male pronoun for the perpetrator because that is the most common scenario.
In my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion, I defined domestic abuse as a pattern of conduct by one spouse which is designed to obtain and maintain power and control over the other spouse.
Here at A Cry For Justice, I use these definitions:
Abuse is a pattern of coercive control that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his target subordinated and under his control. The pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.
- mentality of entitlement
- pattern of coercive control
- power and control
A domestic abuser is a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one he chooses to mistreat. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away her sense of self. Learn more here: What is coercive control?
Traditionally, domestic abuse has been understood to be an incident or series of incidents of physical violence perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner. This is a grave misconception because it defines domestic abuse as only physical violence.
Domestic abuse always includes emotional and verbal abuse. It may also include financial abuse, social abuse (restricting the victim’s contact with family and friends), sexual abuse, physical violence, and spiritual abuse, i.e., twisting scriptures to justify the abuse. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.
Abusers who never use physical violence (and there are many) are still very frightening and controlling to their victims. They exercise a pattern of deceit and coercive control that may be composed of many ‘little’ things but the total effect is soul destroying and very confusing to the victim — which is how it is designed to be. Confused people are easier to control. After the victim separates from the perpetrator, he usually continues abusing the victim, often with the added element of legal abuse. This can lead to protective parents sometimes losing custody of the children to the abuser.
The perpetration of domestic abuse effectively pushes away the other spouse and divides the marriage. The fact that many victims eventually leave abusive relationships testifies to this pushing away. Perpetrators usually protest that they want the marriage to continue, but their evil conduct conveys the exact opposite – it effectually pushes the other spouse away.
When applying 1 Corinthians 7:15, the key question is not “Who walked out?” but “Who caused the separation?” Would it be sensible to say that David was the sinful rebellious one when he left Saul’s court? No, he left because of Saul’s abuse. David left, but Saul was the cause of his leaving. If we translate the word chorizo as “separate” we see this more clearly: if the unbeliever separates, let him separate. The unbeliever is doing the separating; the believer is commanded to let it be done. This tells the believing spouse (and the church) to allow the marriage to be over, because the unbeliever has destroyed the covenant. It permits the victim of abuse to take out a legal divorce.
Let there be chorizo = let there be separation = let there be legal divorce, because the word chorizo means both separation and divorce.
In Not Under Bondage I also show that since the brother or sister is not under bondage, the victim of abuse is free to remarry a new partner. This is in contrast to the instance in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 where marriage to a new partner was forbidden. See here.
This idea is not new
Before no-fault divorce came into vogue, there was a ground for divorce under English law called “constructive desertion.” Constructive desertion was deemed to have occurred if one spouse so ill-treated the other that the victim was justified in leaving the abusing spouse, having been driven to do so. The act of desertion was understood as having been caused by the abuser. Constructive desertion was recognized by some Puritan theologians who taught that 1 Corinthians 7:15 allowed the victim to divorce the abuser. Therefore, my interpretation of that verse is not new, it had just been lost (buried under male-privilege?) for several hundred years.
What if the abuser is a professing Christian?
In all abuse, efforts may be made to bring an abuser to repentance. However, it is important to be aware that most victims of abuse have already made many efforts in this direction before they seek help from a pastor or other professional. Indeed, the victim has usually borne too much for too long and the pattern of abuse has become deeply entrenched, the victim’s health may have been badly affected and (post) traumatic stress disorder is common.
It is naive and dangerous for pastors to recommend couple counseling for cases where they even suspect domestic abuse. Couple counseling is not appropriate in domestic abuse (also see here and here). It is far better to err on the side of caution and not advise couple counseling if domestic abuse is suspected, because couple counseling is likely to expose the victim of abuse to more danger. In domestic abuse, the victim’s safety and well being must be the first priority of anyone who is seeking to bring help (see here). There are many counselors who say they understand domestic abuse but they don’t really; they give harmful counsel to victims and / or get enlisted by perpetrators.
It may be dangerous for pastors to confront suspected abusers without having permission from the victim first, but even then, they should get advice from expert domestic abuse practitioners before confronting a perpetrator, because a victim who is just waking up to the fact that she is being abused might underestimate her level of risk from the abuser, and be starry-eyed about the abuser changing if only he is told by the pastor to shape up.
Most pastors do not have sufficient training and understanding of the dynamics and safety issues in domestic abuse to wisely confront a suspected perpetrator of abuse and to recognize and resist the abuser’s invitations to collude with his abuse-supporting narratives. Many church leaders are unable to see through the abuser’s lies and half truths. Many are unwilling to believe the alleged abuser is really an abuser. This is an indictment on the church as a whole and seminaries in particular. Even those Christian organizations and authors that purport to be offering such training, are, in my opinion, often falling very far short of what is required.
It is best for pastors to consult with trained domestic violence practitioners before they confront the perpetrator and perhaps put the victim in more danger. But pastors can be very valuable in helping hold abusers accountable when they do so in conjunction with the secular justice system (police, courts, parole officers) and any other specialist agencies that may be trying to hold the perpetrator accountable. Pastors can help victims by referring them to the expertise of domestic abuse practitioners (women’s centers, shelters, police). See our Safety Planning and Hotlines pages for links.
An abuser who doesn’t demonstrate genuine repentance should be treated as an unbeliever. For a digest of articles on why an abuser can’t be a Christian, see here. Rather than apply the step-by-step process of Matthew 18:15-17, it is more appropriate to carry out church discipline along the lines of 1 Corinthians 5 (see here).
It’s not okay for pastors to take a neutral stance vis a vis perpetrator and victim. Neutrality is not neutral. Neutrality effectively means you become an ally of the abuser because if you take the view that both parties are contributing to the marriage problem, then you’re effectively saying “It’s not abuse” — which serves the agenda of the abuser. When responding to domestic abuse, the proper feeling is outrage, and the only righteous stance is to fully support the victim, while holding the perpetrator accountable.
Because abusers are great at feigning repentance and enlisting allies among clergy, an abuser’s supposed repentance should be cautiously evaluated and stress-tested over time, just as Joseph tested his brothers’ repentance before reconciling with them. Repentance is not mere words, it should be demonstrated in changed attitudes and behavior over time. Good behavior and attitudes can be faked (for a season) without having a real heart change. See this Checklist for Repentance which can help evaluate an abuser’s repentance.
Church leaders should always check with the victim to know how she sees her abuser’s demonstrations of reformation, and whether she thinks he is really reforming or just feigning it. This principle of checking with the survivor’s perspective has been followed for years by best-practice secular programs which run behavior change groups for abusers. Clergy who are assessing an abuser’s repentance need to follow the same protocol: they should respectfully seek to check in with the survivor of the abuse (the partner or former partner of the perpetrator) at all stages, including and especially post-separation, because the abuse often escalates post-separation and the abuser may use new tactics that are even more secretive and intimidating to his partner, while masquerading as a “reformed new man” in the church.
Liberty, but not license
The principles outlined here don’t open the floodgates to all divorce. Allowing divorce for abuse, on the principle of constructive desertion under 1 Corinthians 7:15 is not the same as allowing divorce for any disaffection. Because abuse is defined as a pattern of conduct designed to obtain and maintain power and control over the other, my teaching cannot be misconstrued to allow divorce for the catch-all excuse of “incompatibility”, or for the occasional instances in non-abusive marriages where one spouse shows a lack of consideration for the other spouse.
¹ In some cases of spousal abuse, the man is the victim; but for wisdom in assessing the claims of a man who says he is a victim of domestic abuse, please read these two links:
- Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim
- Assessing men who present as victims of family violence but who may actually be the primary aggressor — a PDF of the Powerpoint presentation that went with a professional training session by Nathan DeGuara, Victims Support Agency, Department of Justice, Victoria, Australia, at a conference run by No To Violence in 2012.
[April 1, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to April 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 1, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 1, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
For Further Reading
What about divorce? — one of the FAQ pages at this blog
A post by Barbara Roberts having the same title as this one was first published at restoredrelationships.org [restoredrelationships.org is now restored-uk.org Editors.]
In January 2016 that post at Restored Relationships was updated by Barb.
The link is The Bible does allow divorce for domestic abuse [This link has been updated to reflect the new website for restoredrelationships.org, restored-uk.org Editors.]
The text in that link is somewhat different from the text above, but the overall message is the same.
138 thoughts on “The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse”
“In all abuse, efforts may be made to bring an abuser to repentance. However, it is important to be aware that most victims of abuse have already made many efforts in this direction before they seek help from a pastor or other professional. Indeed, the victim has usually borne too much for too long and the pattern of abuse has become deeply entrenched, the victim’s health may have been badly affected and continuing traumatic stress disorder is common.”
Such an important, important point!
When someone starts going to people outside the marriage for help, it’s usually not the beginning but the breaking point.
“When someone starts going to people outside the marriage for help, it’s usually not the beginning but the breaking point.”
Yes, so true! And so often, counselors (and pastors) seem to assume the opposite…to assume they’re in a position to head things off at the beginning before they get really bad…
Yes, I think it’s something about people of faith where we (because I know I do this) like to approach people with the assumption that if they just hear and understand what we say, then all will be better. I suppose it’s part of the evangelistic spirit (after all, we all come from a place of knowing a profound truth that the world has rejected), but we have to be careful not to apply that attitude every situation (or really to any situation- humility should be a part of us even when sharing the Gospel).
But to the point, just because we know the Gospel doesn’t mean we are experts on things like abuse, and the effects are disastrous if we think WE are going to be the magic cure-all for an abusive marriage.
Jeff S –
Yes, as people of faith, we tend to approach every issue with a confidence that Jesus is the answer. And there is a lot of truth in that simplistic view…depending on what answers we are seeking.
For our personal salvation and for personal deliverance from the bondage of sin, Jesus is absolutely the answer. And, yes, Jesus is also our faithful friend who walks with us thru all of life’s difficulties.
But Jesus did not come for the purpose of resolving every personal conflict, nor has he promised to reconcile every failed relationship. Quite the contrary, in fact:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” (Matt 10:34-36)
Barbara – Thank you for this insightful breakdown on 1 Corinthians 7:15. Good stuff!
Since we are told to treat rebellious believers as though they are unbelievers, I see no need to waste a lot of time and effort trying to discern the difference. If someone is abusing their spouse, treat them as an unbeliever. If they desire repentance, God knows how to work repentance in their lives…it is not the responsibility of the abused spouse to bring their abuser to repentance.
I think it’s also worth noting the underlying principle in the phrase “…But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart…” This is simply showing proper respect for the dignity of the individual…for their God-given free will to choose. God, Himself, holds human free will as being so sacred He will allow us to choose eternal separation from Him rather than violate our free will. By their behavior, an unrepentant abuser is clearly choosing to operate outside the bounds of the marriage vows…to not be restricted by the sacred oaths of love and loyalty. They are choosing to not be bound by covenant. Therefore, the godly response (the response modeled by God) is to let them go…to not attempt to hold them captive to a covenant they have chosen to forsake.
As a man who previously endured an abusive marriage, I feel compelled to point out that female abusers are equally adept at feigning repentance and masquerading as desiring godliness for the purpose of manipulating…and are equally adept at masquerading as the victim. The pdf you referenced for discerning male masequeraders could, I believe, be used effectively for discerning female masequeraders with very minor tweaking.
And, if you would like to read a differing interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, based on contextual reading within the complete chapter, you might enjoy this post on my blog: Free to Remarry [Internet Archive link] as well as the book by Rubel Shelly that I reference at the end of the post.
Thank you and God bless!
Thanks for this,
“Since we are told to treat rebellious believers as though they are unbelievers, I see no need to waste a lot of time and effort trying to discern the difference.”
To insist that abusers must be unbelievers is to spiritualize abuse. This becomes a problem when the abuser has a strong public reputation as a believer. He therefore must have been falsely accused of abuse by a “crazy” spouse. How many times have we heard of abuse accusations against the church leader dismissed or minimized because everyone knows them to be a Christian and therefore incapable of abuse? Think of Bill Gothard. Dozens of girls reported his inappropriate sexual contact but were not believed. Why would people not believe them? Because Bill Gothard had accomplished so much for the Lord, he could never be capable of this, these girl are hysterical. But he did it.
More commonly it is the man who is the church elder or in strongly patriarchal churches just because he is male he is above reproach and the female accuser must be bearing false witness.
Christians are capable of anything. We are not immunized from self-deception and justification. Stating abusers cannot be Christians is in the least unhelpful.
“To insist that abusers must be unbelievers is to spiritualize abuse. This becomes a problem when the abuser has a strong public reputation as a believer.”
Yes. I see it as simply diverting attention from the primary issue…an opportunity which most abusers are masters at exploiting.
Is he saved but in rebellious sin in this one area of his life? Is he unsaved and unregenerate? Is he saved and therefore incapable of such horrific abuse as has been described?
I’m not saying these are unimportant…certainly any person’s salvation is important.
However, they are complex questions with no clearly objective answers and are completely irrelevant in regard to appropriate action.
If he is abusing his spouse, treat him as an unbeliever! Let God decide the state of his heart and let God deal with his need for repentance. Whether a believer or unbeliever, clear true repentance is necessary before relationship can be restored…if ever…
Thank you, LorenHaas!
Loren – You probably suspect already that I disagree with your position here, as I have stated many times that there is no way that an abuser can be a Christian. Now, we must define our terms clearly in making this statement. An abuser is a person whose very mentality is one of entitlement to power and control over others and who feels very justified in using whatever means are needed to effect and maintain that power and control. This is who the abuser is. It defines him. Can a Christian abuse someone? Yes, but then the Holy Spirit will always bring that Christian under conviction and lead him to repentance. Because Scripture is plain that how we habitually walk (in the Spirit or in the flesh) reveals who we really are. Consider:
Romans 8:5-9 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (6) For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Romans 8:12-13 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. (13) For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Galatians 5:16-24 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
1 John 2:3-11 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (5) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: (6) whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (7) Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. (8) At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. (9) Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (10) Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (11) But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
1 John 4:19-21 We love because he first loved us. (20) If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (21) And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Matthew 7:17-21 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (21) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
And I could go on and on. It simply is not true that Christians “are capable of anything.” A Christian is not capable of walking habitually in sin, hating his wife, being characterized by the very mindset of self, self, self without any evidence of repentance. Such a person does not know Christ.
Now as to doing damage if we say that an abuser cannot be a Christian because, as you mentioned, people just don’t seem to want to believe that a wolf does wear sheep’s clothing, I would suggest that what you are saying actually causes far more damage. Namely, if we claim that an abuser could be a Christian, then what is that going to do to victims and to churches that enable such people? It is going to throw them into confusion and keep them in bondage to the notion that old Fred the abuser is really a brother in Christ and therefore if we just keep praying for him and hoping and keeping our fingers crossed, one day he will see the light. I have found that it is extremely freeing for a victim to come to the realization that her abuser is NOT a saint at all, not a Christian, and then the pieces start falling into place for her. Much of what is wrong with our churches today is that pastors and members are making the claim that a Christian can walk in sin, show no sign of repentance, and yet truly belong to Christ. The verses I cited above disprove that definitively.
Finally, I do agree with the point that you and Joe hit upon – namely that if a person is an abuser, we must treat him as a non-christian. Absolutely.
“An abuser is a person whose very mentality is one of entitlement to power and control over others and who feels very justified in using whatever means are needed to effect and maintain that power and control.”
Substitute slave owner for abuser. This would seem to perfectly describe a slave owner in North America in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. This was one of the most abusive institutions in the history of mankind. Thankfully, the abolitionist movement, led mostly by Christian pastors and believers prevailed and slavery was ended.
An uncomfortable part of that history is that pastors and other believers were also the defenders of slavery. Two champions of American evangelicalism, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield owned slaves and defended slavery. Both wrote scripture filled defenses and promotions of the institution. They were not alone as many denominations adopted the defense of slavery as a core value. The Southern Baptist Convention did not repent of this until 1995!
If slave owners were abusers, why were they not convicted of this by the Spirit? Did Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield defend this abuse because they were not Christian? Were Southern Baptists not Christians for 150 years because they did not publically repent of their support of slavery?
It just is not as simple as whether or not someone is a Christian. My point is to judge people on the basis of their behavior and let God judge their relationship to God.
Loren – You have not dealt with the Scriptures I presented you with, and I have to go by God’s Word rather than anecdotal stories from history. What you need to do is demonstrate to us from the those verses I cited for you that a person can indeed walk habitually in sin without repentance (according to the flesh is how Scripture puts it) as abusers most certainly do AND be a regenerate person. It simply is not possible.
Indeed, Scripture DOES call upon us to judge a person’s relationship with God. Absolutely it does. We do it by examining the fruit of their lives. See 1 Cor 5 for example. You see, the fact is that your position on this matter damages people. I know that is not your intent, but it does nevertheless. How? What you are saying is that a Christian is not really what Paul says a Christian is:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:3-9)
Now, is this true or not? Your position which maintains that a person who is living and walking, who is identified by an “according to the flesh” dynamic, could also at the same time be a Christian. Because that is indeed what an abuser is. He is a person who walks according to the profound mentality of self-entitlement. He walks according to it. He lives according to it. He acts according to it. The thing is, according to God’s Word, impossible. And why is such a notion damaging? Because it tells us all that the gospel really is not God’s power to salvation (Romans 1). The idea that the wicked could be Christians declares that Christ does not really make us new creations after all. In addition, it declares that the abuser will one Day, on the Day of the Judgment seat of Christ skate totally free. Why? Because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.
I could refute your anecdotal data about Edwards and Whitefield as slave owners necessarily meaning that they did so as abusers and that they had a profound sense of entitlement, thus they owned slaves. That is a logical fallacy and their own writings demonstrate that though they still had sin in their lives, though they weren’t perfect, they in no way walked according to the flesh nor were they as persons defined in their essence by sin. But that aside, it really doesn’t matter. The fact is as I have clearly shown with these many Scriptures, your statement that a Christian is capable of committing any sin and even of being an abuser defined in their very mentality by wickedness, is plainly false. Christ Jesus changes us! He gives us a new heart, and new identity, and a new love. He teaches us to love one another and to love His Law. The abuser fails on all these points. The abuser is not, and cannot be a Christian and that is good news to me and to the abuser’s victims.
I appreciate you giving my comments this much attention. If you feel my comments stumble others, then remove them. I will carry no ill feelings.
I have an appointment with my pastor in a couple days to talk about these issues. I need help clarifying my thoughts and then I would like to get back to you.
Meanwhile, I want you and Barbara to know that I love this ministry and think highly of you both and appreciate how much insight it has given me.
I would like to weigh in on this. I agree with both sides here. I think Jeff is right that an abuser is not a Christian. I also see that the question of the abuser’s salvation can be a very distracting and useless debate.
In the circumstance I was involved in the salvation issue definitely came up and it was the victim who was “treated as an unbeliever” because she filed for divorce, which as we all know thanks to the (ahem) fantastically amazingly biblical teaching of Piper, et al (I jest, if anyone is wondering) the real unbeliever is the one who wants / files for the divorce. Because of course no real Christian would ever think of doing such a thing.
The victim in this circumstance was treated as an unbeliever to such an extent that she was actually evangelized as such (in a manner I cannot see as anything but abusive). It was incredibly insulting and deeply offensive, and for her quite hurtful to say the least. I felt myself too to be subtly on the receiving end of the same treatment, though nothing was ever said in so many words and I cannot prove it to be the case.
At one point I was asked by someone high up in the chain about my take on the matter. I forget how the question was asked but I did know instinctively that if I allowed the topic to go in that direction, the matter of the salvation of the victim was going to be called into question. I believe the questioner’s desired point was to do just exactly that. I believe the questioner wanted to evangelize me to the “acceptable” point of view and/or was going to make me defend the salvation of the victim even though she had done this “evil” thing. I didn’t allow it and answered regarding the abuser about his character and the unreliability of his words, that they cannot be taken at face value. I did not discuss the salvation status of either party. I also believe my answer was not expected and the questioner didn’t really know where to go with what I said. In effect, I had the last word on the matter in that conversation.
Regarding Loren’s assertion that a Christian can do anything, I think that is true. I think a Christian can fall into any sort of sin for a period of time. But I do not believe they can remain there, and while they are there they will have a troubled conscience. They will know they are out of line and that God is eventually going to call them out on it. I believe such a person will be dealt with as a son per Hebrews 12 until they do repent, beginning with a troubled conscience and moving on to reaping what they sow circumstantially. The Lord does make it known to them that He is opposing them because they are opposing Him and He deals with them in the manner that will effect their repentance, which is different for each person in type and degree. He knows His sheep and how to reach them. He is a faithful Father and Shepherd who will go after the wandering one that is His own. But wander they can and wander they do.
As far as the salvation discussion / debate, it is a matter of wisdom. Sometimes it is unwise to direct or allow the conversation to be about the salvation of either party. Other times that is a necessary topic to cover. But in my experience the salvation topic will not benefit the victim, especially if the debator is a Piperite, or some such. They are likely just dying to bring the matter in that direction so they can “teach” and “correct” those who do not have it “right.” Salvation status is determined not by who is doing the abusing, but by who is doing the leaving; not by who is doing the separating in driving the other person away, but who is doing the separating by being “unforgiving.” Thus, the victim who files is always the real culprit here. They are the unforgiving, abandoning party who is unfaithful to the covenant, thus proving their unsaved status. That is how they are regarded and how they will be presented to everyone in private and in public, even from the pulpit — which has the power of spiritual authority, no less, and the lowly congregant in the pew has no such public voice in defense of the guiltless.
That was my experience.
I’ll perhaps say more later but have to go now.
“Scripture is plain that how we habitually walk (in the Spirit or in the flesh) reveals who we really are.”
Jeff – I feel confident you already know I completely agree with this statement. Someone who habitually walks in unrepentant sin, denying both the Lordship of Christ and His power to deliver, has no scriptural basis for assurance of salvation.
The issue comes in dealing with the sin of abuse. First there is the issue of the abuser typically being a master at false repentance and meaningless apologies, which can be very confusing to those unfamiliar with abuse. Then there is the question of salvation…is the abuser an unbeliever? Those with close emotional ties to the abuser (family, pastor, etc.) will lean heavily in favor of believing he is saved but having issues…because that’s what they want to believe…they love this person dearly and very much want to believe that deep down in his heart-of-hearts he is a good person who loves God and loves people.
My point is that this can quickly escalate into an endless debate that is really irrelevant to the appropriate action. If someone wants to continue believing that he is a true believer in need of repentance and help in this particular area, fine…keep believing it…for some specific situations it may even be true. Either way, it does not change the appropriate action.
If he is abusing his spouse, we are to treat him as an unbeliever…and we are to continue treating him as an unbeliever until such time as he shows consistent fruit of true repentance over an extended period of time…and true repentance NEVER includes insisting that the person he abused must reconcile with him…that sort of insistence is, in fact, one of the surest signs of lack of repentance.
Joe – Understood. Treat them as an unbeliever. I agree.
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
Loren I have difficulties with this sentence of yours:
“To insist that abusers must be unbelievers is to spiritualize abuse.”
It doesn’t make sense to me, and I really don’t know what ‘to spiritualize abuse’ means in that sentence.
I agree with Jeff C’s responses to your comments.
And BIT, I really appreciate your comment and agree with it wholeheartedly. All the points you made were very good and I may quote some of them in a post I’ve got bubbling in the back of my mind. 🙂
it’s been an interesting discussion thread. Thanks everyone for keeping it civilized and respectful. 🙂
If you hold that Christians cannot perpetrate abuse because of the Holy Spirit working in their life, then no one percieved as Christian can be effectively accused of abuse. ie Bill Gothard and many more.
Loren, this is a bit of a tangent but not totally unrelated, since it’s a post about what Bill Gothard is up to now:
Bill Gothard’s New Program/Ministry: Total Success Power Teams [Internet Archive link] (from Spiritual Sounding Board)
The key word there is ‘perceived’. Just because someone is perceived as a Christian does not mean he or she necessarily is a Christian. I am taking the word ‘Christian’ here to mean a person who has been born again, regenerated (John 3). Maybe you are taking word ‘Christian’ in a different sense to the way I am taking it.
The Bible talks frequently about people have been perceived as Christians (or in the OT, perceived as believers) but are not. There are people who say they are Christians and who have some of the cultural accoutrements and habits that we traditionally might expect to see in Christians but they are not actually Christians in the sense of being regenerate and indwelt by Christ, having been brought from the kingdom of darkness into into the kingdom of light. Church going, tithe giving, prayer making, theological qualifications, ordination as elders or ministers, Bible reading. . . none of those outwardly obeservable things necessarily mean that the person is a Christian (in the sense I’m using the word).
We can and should discern whether a person is indwelt by Christ on the basis of what we can observe from outward behavior (1 Cor. 5). Even though we may not always make 100% correct discernments we are still called to do so, especially when the person’s profession of faith stands in scandalous contrast to the rank wickedness of their regular behavior patterns.
I would say with a pretty high degree of confidence that someone like Gotthard is not a Christian. And even if I cannot say that with 100% certainty, I am still told by the Bible to treat him as an unbeliever and put him out of the church publicly, and that public discipline and excommunnication ought to be prominently publicized in a case like Gotthard’s, because he was a leader, so that others (i.e., others who may be toying with secret sins and thinking they can get away with them) may fear.
BIT – I always enjoy your comments. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience.
Yes, I completely agree that each situation requires prayerful consideration.
You make a very good point about when the victim is treated as an unbeliever. It sounds like you handled that situation well.
Barbara, by all means, use whatever you like. 🙂
Joe, thanks. There was really no way to handle that situation well but I did the best I could. God eventually brought deliverance, thankfully!
We had lunch with the victim today and the topic came up. We got talking about the abuser’s salvation status (none of us believe he is saved). I asked the victim what his salvation testimony is and she said he didn’t really have one. I won’t say more than that for anonymity reasons, but suffice to say he does not get the gospel. His response(s) have not ever been responses (notice the plural) to the inward work / call of the Holy Spirit in convicting him of his sin, and salvation through Christ alone. It has always been an outward show / reaction to get something from God besides reconciliation with the Father, just like Simon the Sorcerer. No reason to believe that’s changed. No doubt he’s still trying to get God to do things for him. Just like a magician, really. “If I do this, God will do that. I can get God to do this by doing that.”
He is a fool.
LorenHaas, Where is the best place for a crazy person (abuser/Narcissist) to hide?
Answer: In CHURCH!
Thank you Ps. Jeff for making these strong statements, using Scripture. The most confusing thing to a Christian wife living in abuse can be that the abuser claims to be in Christ. No way! Your statements are what victims living in abuse need to hear. The truth! No one who abuses as a lifestyle can be saved, anymore than the habitual adulterer can truly be saved. Time for the Church to stand up and rightly apply the Word to these false professors and my thanks to you for doing exactly that.
Many will be freed from the abuser who falsely professes Christ, by this right interpretation and application of Scripture. There are many victims who are so lost in the cycles of abuse, that they cannot even see anymore that they are living in constant abuse. Poor pastoring and counsel keeps these victims locked in, because the abuser claims to be a Christian and everyone just keeps waiting for him to come to understand his “sin”. He needs to be labeled what he really is, an unbeliever.
We cannot apply Scripture that applies to us as victims for dealing with an unbeliever in marriage, (1 Cor. 7) if we keep wrongly identifying abusers as Christians.
On the matter of abusive pastors I recommend you find Dr. Langberg’s videos on YouTube. She is an expert in trauma and abuse.
She is supported by the Forum of Christian Leaders. She is well respected.
She is greatly concerned about the glorification of and defense of those leaders who are charming and held in too high esteem. Pastors who intentionally make people feel good about themselves to get what they want instead of focusing the gospel. I found her because I wanted information about Narcissistic systems. The fact she also addresses the church is good too.
Here is a link to her video “Narcissism and the Systems it Breeds”.
Narcissism and the Systems It Breeds – Diane Langberg
Yes, we know about Diane Langberg’s video “Narcissism and the Systems it Breeds” — we put it on our recommended resources years ago.
Joe, thanks for this comment of yours. You’ve made a good point about how “if the unbeliever departs, let him depart” shows respect for the dignity of the individual. By extension, it also shows respect for the individual’s choice — and it hands them over the the consequences of that choice — it lets them reap what they have sown.
1 Cor. 5:5
But although the above verse says ‘so that’, I don’t read that as a guarantee that the individual will be saved. After all, when Paul was advising Timothy how to deal with opponents, he wrote:
The word ‘perhaps’ is significant.
I completely agree with this, Joe. 🙂
And I agree with you there too, Joe. Thanks for saying it. I’m sure the creators of that pdf would agree with you too. I attended the workshop where they presented that pdf, and I can assure you that they spoke in that way — giving the proper caveats about how sometimes the genders are reversed, and that the characteristics of female abusers would be quite similar to the characteristics of male abusers.
BTW, I have not read the link you gave to your own post yet. Sorry, so busy, I’ll try to get to it.
Thank you, Barbara! I appreciate your feedback.
This: “Since we are told to treat rebellious believers as though they are unbelievers, I see no need to waste a lot of time and effort trying to discern the difference. If someone is abusing their spouse, treat them as an unbeliever. If they desire repentance, God knows how to work repentance in their lives…it is not the responsibility of the abused spouse to bring their abuser to repentance.”
I have been feeling guilty wanting to leave my spouse because I have never sat down and said, “you have hurt me by doing these things: …….” I felt it was a hoop I had to jump through to justify my wanting to divorce. In all actuality, he knows our marriage is on the rocks, and he is behaving himself in certain areas, but I know it is not a heart change from things he has said. There is still abuse, it has just lessened in particular areas. I have been afraid to confront him and chance more backlash. And honestly, he is not a Believer and hates God right now. He has called God a choice name which I will not repeat. He does know some of the things he has done to hurt me, so it is not like he is in the dark.
So what I gather from what you are saying, the abused partner is not the one who is responsible to try to bring repentence to the spouse. I don’t know that I have the courage to ever confront him like that without repurcussions, mostly emotional. Is this correct?
“So what I gather from what you are saying, the abused partner is not the one who is responsible to try to bring repentence to the spouse. . . . Is this correct?”
Yes, that is correct, Tsungilosdi. 🙂
Tsungilosdi – Yes, you have correctly understood my intent. It is not your responsibility to bring your abusive husband to repentance. Indeed, such a thing is impossible. Only the Holy Spirit of God can transform a human heart…and He will only do so when invited.
Blessings to you, as you traverse this difficult journey. Please have a safety plan in place. Your local women’s shelter and/or abuse hotline should be able to help you prepare a plan.
This one paragraph, to me, encapsulates the position churches should take when presented with calls for help by the victims of abuse. It should be printed out and handed to every church leader and it should be taught in seminaries.
For victims…is there any further linguistical evidence that the following interpretation is accurate “a marriage partner who vacates the relationship in SOUL or body”?
Quote: 5563 /xōrízō (“vacate”), as in the papyri, refers to divorcing a marriage partner who vacates the relationship in soul or body (cf. Moulton-Milligan, 696). End Quote.
Taken from http://biblehub.com/greek/5563.htm
Wow, thanks for that link and quote, Anne. I had not come across it before. I shall try to research it more. Maybe Jeff C an weigh in here too since he knows biblical Greek.
I looked at the link. Good stuff. When I was writing my book I did not know about the HELPS (TM) word-studies.
“Vacates the relationship in soul or body” is such a apt description of what abusers do. And it very much fits with what I discovered about the word ‘chorizo’.
Hello all: I have a question. My abuser is my MIL. Obviously, we each have only one mother, & we all want to love and cherish her. But when it becomes clear that she is abusive, and that abuse has never been admitted to nor repented of, then what choice are we left but to “divorce” her? I have gone NC [no contact] from my MIL for over 2 years….and yet. And yet. My DH continues to hope for reconciliation, hopes for one last “maybe now she’ll get it” ” moment. I am hurting and struggling with this b/c it says to me that if I were willing to continue to absorb the abuse, to excuse the abuse, to “take the high road” & be “the better person”, then DH would be okay with that. He has been willing to learn, and he has read ACFJ, but he still is compelled to “find a way” to co-exist. (I might add at this point that my MIL has exploited our adult-disabled son, and that was the final straw for me. There is NO going back from that).
He recently approached me about wanting to contact her to determine her response to yet another letter to her showing the pattern of her abuse (she never replied). But here’s the kicker: he is “concerned” about my anger…he sees me as “angry” and having anger issues. After I picked up my jaw from the floor, I responded to him by saying, “My anger is real. It is long over due. No one ever gave voice to my anger or my outrage over her unprovoked aggression toward me, especially when I was down. NO one held her accountable. Everyone gave her a pass. She attacked and slandered me for decades and NO ONE came to my defense–especially the church. No one has the right to treat me in the ways she has done, and I will NEVER agree to go back to that life.”
So—where am I going wrong? Why can’t he see this? What am I doing wrong? Why must I continue to explain and justify my [righteous] anger while she is allowed to get away with murder? Why can she behave with impunity while I am accused of being angry? What do I do? I am grieved to my bones that the reality is if I caved in and gave up and quit resisting that he would prefer that over this estrangement. Appeasement over peace. Why?????
Hi StandsWithAFist, This may not answer your question but at least you know you are heard.
It sounds like you do not have the family support that you deserve
Hopefully you have a friend in the wings that understands your plight…
I only have one friend that did not abandon me when everyone else at the church did.
And that was only because she lived through abuse herself, and understands its insidious nature..
I don’t know why it is that the abusers seem to gain support and allies all the while mistreating someone..(perhaps the people are plain intimidated by them)
It seems as if there could be a lying spirit involved, for close family members to become affected/polarized by their views…when they should be outraged, or at least empathetic.
Perhaps someday you can find the wherewithall to confront your abuser on some of these issues, if you haven’t already done so.
Is there any room for boundaries to be set?
That’s what I had to start doing, although I am not a confrontational type by nature, when it comes to seeing my family being led down the road of demise, I decided to start calling my abuser out on some of his unscrupulous tactics, and setting boundaries..
And I too was slandered and accused of every conceivable thing from being angry to bitter, but I kept calling him out on his evil tactics, and refused to be distracted by his false accusations about me, with his enlisted allies..
After a while the attacks subsided and has backed off of trying to control me, as he knows I wont tolerate his abuse anymore, but now use it as an opportunity to call him out on it. ..
I will pray in the meantime that you can find strength in God and courage and wisdom to appropriate the right strategy to effectively address your situation.
I am so sorry you are going through this with her, especially without the support of your spouse. I can’t answer any of your questions, but I can relate.
My soon-to-be MIL is abusive. Fortunately, my fiance sees it because she came out of an abusive marriage and so she recognizes things in her mother that were in her ex-husband. We’ve noted that between she and all of her siblings, she is the only one who has been able to “cut ties” and draw a boundary with her mother. She and I have both gotten ill advice from well meaning Christians and family about the duties to reconcile with family. Meanwhile, we watch sadly my fiance’s mother just tears up her siblings and they don’t know how to deal with it. I suspect they feel beholden to flesh and blood.
One of the first things my fiance and I did when we started dating was to read the book “Boundaries” together (an activity I can’t recommend enough for couples). Over and over again my fiance was able to relate what we were reading in the book to boundary violations by her mother. I gave her strong support in drawing healthy boundaries, and with that things have been peaceful for us.
Her prior experience, reading the book “Boundaries”, my support, and my knowledge about abuse from ACFJ all worked to be able to keep her out of our lives, but it isn’t an easy thing at all. So many people just don’t understand, and I’ll admit it’s hard to when you haven’t been there. I hope your husband can see the nature of what’s going on and learn to draw some healthy boundaries that protect your family.
I am learning that coming out of the fog reveals more than I ever wanted to know. I believe my DH loves me, but is torn between me and his loyalty to her. On his death bed, his own father made him promise to “look after her”—which has caused much confusion. Why didn’t his father take that moment to bless him (as did the ancients) rather than curse him with the impossible? This so-called promise has the force of a wedding vow in his mind, and one that I am growing weary of opposing. It never ends, and I have reminded him that there is no peace with darkness–he may as well try to negotiate with terrorists. In MIL mind, it’s “convert or die”: she would just as soon behead me to have her golden son all to herself. It is beyond reason, beyond the pale, beyond me. I had the spine to go NC, but he does not. He keeps trying to find a compromise, but there is no compromise with the devil. It’s like Stockholm syndrome or something.
yes. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, the truth will set you free, but it may make you flinch first. That’s not my saying; someone else thought it up.
My heart is with you. I experienced the same with my MIL. She has made fun of my heritage, said horrible things about my own mother, bossed me around, called me all kinds of foul language to her family, and told her side of the family that my husband should divorce me (and that was very early on in the marriage).
My husband has said over the years he knows she is mean, but wouldn’t directly confront her. Than a few times he approached her with things she said or did, but it was never with a clear message that it was to stop and he wouldn’t tolerate it. Then as years passed he had the nerve to blast me that it’s all my fault that the relationship is strained and he can’t have a peaceful relationship with her.
I’m the one that use to call her, buy her presents, etc. I stopped all that. Just told him it’s his mother he should do it. He slipped one time and revealed that his sister told him that his mother said I abused her when she came to our home for a visit! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!!! I treated her like a QUEEN! I went out of my way to make sure she was comfortable, had all her favorite foods, took her site seeing. From then on out I told him I would NEVER again go visit her, EVER! And she was NEVER to step foot in our home again. I would not allow those horrible lies to threaten having my children taken away.
My opinion is that your husband like mine is wrong. If he won’t see fit to protect you from her because he needs his mommy’s approval or doesn’t want to be seen as the one to rock the boat then he is a coward as far as I am concerned. He is not honoring his vows. Don’t allow him to make you the scapegoat. Hold your ground.
StandsWithAFist, you asked “Where am I going wrong?”
I don’t think you are going wrong in your responses to your MIL and your choices of how you deal with her. I think you have made right and wise choices there. I also think your anger is fine.
I think that if you are going ‘wrong’ at all it is in your propensity to default to the “I must be going wrong” position. I think that your husband is the one whose perceptions and thoughts about his mother are wrong, and whose way of dealing with her is unwise. I also think he is unjust to criticize your anger. By his appeasement of his mother and his endless long-suffering of her wicked behavior . . . giving her another and another and another chance. . . he is condoning and enabling her to continue in her poor character and wicked ways. Giving her pretty much a free pass. And whatever mild resistance he may have been giving his mother, or pleading for her to change, it is obviously making not enough difference and she is just the same.
I suggest you stop questioning yourself and (you may have already been doing this) insist gently but firmly to your husband “I do not believe my anger is wrong. I believe that you need to stop judging me for that anger, and instead, start thinking about you can how to deal with your mother in a way that is less appeasing to her, and more realistic about her defective character. If you change the way you deal with her, if you set firmer boundaries against her, I believe that would help you, and it would also help me because it would mean you and I were more united on this, and therefore I would feel less distant from you, and more protected by you.”
In short, I suggest you don’t blame yourself or doubt yourself so much. Put the ball back in his court. Gently but firmly admonish him for his unjust criticism of you. And call him to take a different stance towards his mother.
BTW, it is easier to insist such things gently but firmly, if we have come to the place inside ourselves where we are sure that we are not wrong. I know that when I am stewing in self doubt or have pricks of uncertainly about my whether I’m taking the wrong tack, I am more likely to be snappish or overly harsh when I admonish someone. But when I am quietly confident that my conscience is clear and I am seeing the situation correctly, then I can admonish in a spirit of gentleness, rather than with snark and bristle.
Would your husband read George Simon’s book In in Sheep’s clothing [Affiliate link]?
Thank you all for your insight[s] & comments. Barbara–yes, I think he would read Simon’s book. He has read ACFJ and is not resistant to other books as well. But what I notice is that he often “regurgitates” what he has read, yet seems dispassionate, disconnected….like he can’t connect the dots. He can’t “let it in” that his own mother is evil and cruel. He is rather stoic by nature (as was his Dad) and that stoicism is also a cultural trait of his European heritage, so I have often overlooked that, in reality, perhaps it is rooted more in the fact that MIL never allowed him to fully express his own emotions. He was always expected to consider HER emotions above & before his own, and this was of course allowed, encouraged & even required by the family. His emotional responses to many things seem blunted and shallow, like he doesn’t know what to do with them. Yet, he self-describes his nature as a “peacemaker” and not a “fighter” [referring to me, of course, as the notorious fighter–in the pejorative.] One day while in a heated discussion, he said it again (“I am a peacemaker, you are a fighter”) I suddenly told him that he was never allowed to be anything BUT a “peacemaker”! Because only HER needs, wants, & demands were primary and everyone else’s were subordinate to her, there was no room for anyone to assert their own–in fact, to do so was treated as some kind of betrayal against “mommy dearest”. Her narcissism is so entrenched, so engulfing, so insidious that no one even realizes the long-term damage done to them. No one seems to feel any pain. Except me.
Your comment, Barbara, “I would feel less distant from you, and more protected by you.” is spot-on. I DO feel distant from him, b/c I am not worthy of being protected. As long as I was able to tolerate her abuse, he was content to allow it. “It’s just the way she is” was the excuse. The “fog-lifting” brutal reality that has me thunderstruck right now is that if I were to wake up tomorrow and say, “Okay, I give up. I don’t care. I’ll quit resisting. I’ll quit fighting”, he would be okay with that. In fact, he’d probably be relieved. How can that be? I wouldn’t take my beloved dog to a boarding kennel if every time I did she was wounded or hurt or attacked, and especially if she whimpered or resisted going there. I wouldn’t force my sweet dog to submit to abuse. And yet I am supposed to submit to the same treatment??!!
I recently read that, “those who excuse abusers are themselves abusive. No matter the appearance of a mild-mannered nature — if a person excuses abusers it is because there is some space in their minds which accedes to the notion that in at least some cases abuse can be justified.” (Anna V.) That sends me reeling–as tho on some deep, dark level my DH may actually believe I deserve the abuse b/c I have the spine to oppose it. I am “a fighter”, therefore, I am the guilty one.
I am in a very sad place right now in this process.
I don’t if this will help or not…if not just disregard…
It sounds to me like, in this situation, you need your husband to be your defender rather than peacemaker. You are being attacked and are in need of defense.
Would it help to explain this to him?
Great post Barbara,
I especially appreciated the part about the neutral stance.
It’s not okay for pastors to take a neutral stance vis a vis perpetrator and victim. Neutrality is not neutral. Neutrality effectively means you become an ally of the abuser because if you take the view that both parties are contributing to the marriage problem, then you’re effectively saying “It’s not abuse” — which serves the agenda of the abuser.
This is so true, and is another” lying spin” that the abuser wants to fabricate about whats going on.
If we can confront and dispel that lie, (that both parties are contributing to the marriage problem) Then we can start to dismantle the abusers agenda to further incriminate the victim, and thus pull her down the “share the blame road”.
I have learned that when asked by my abusers allies,- if I am guilty of anything..
I should be honest and admit that “I am guilty of being abused, and wanting free of my abuser.”. These words expose the abuser, with his allies because they are true.
Then if the allies persist in their demise, I then warn them to “be careful” -as they would not want to be found fighting along side of those who are afflicting the wounded and oppressed that God cares about.
This type of admonition has caused a few of these misled christian allies to rethink what they were doing, and suddenly their enlisted pressure stops.
“I have learned that when asked by my abusers allies,- if I am guilty of anything..
I should be honest and admit that “I am guilty of being abused, and wanting free of my abuser.”. These words expose the abuser, with his allies because they are true.
Then if the allies persist in their demise, I then warn them to “be careful” -as they would not want to be found fighting along side of those who are afflicting the wounded and oppressed that God cares about.”
WOW! Soldiergirl! You just supplied a GEM of an answer! I’m so tired of trying to explain the whole abuse thing when confronted with “well what part have you contributed to the situation?” (what can anyone “contribute” to give anyone the right to abuse you?!) “Has anyone actually seen him do these things to you?” (like an abuser doesn’t try to hide what he is doing.) “Why don’t you go to marriage counseling?” (you mean like the horrid other 10 times I went?!)
This is sweet relief!!! Thank you for showing me how to unload the burden of defending myself to my abusers allies.
I love this response, Soldiergirl! Perfect!
Thanks for sharing!
I would like to know why, why, why women in this position of trying to get, not just justice but, advocacy in an abusive relationship, and the very right to be BELIEVED is void! Who do people, men, Pastors, etc., think we are? Are we not women of the 21st century with intelligence, education, heart, values, morals, ethics, common sense and for those who profess to be believers, at the very least God fearing? I feel we have been relegated to some other time in history, not that it would be correct even then, but we all know women have had to come a long way in a man’s world, yes, even Christian men. Doesn’t one’s character, integrity, daily practices both business & personal, our own constitution, values and mental clarity come into evidence that when we speak this truth, with our hearts breaking, and as is quoted at that point it’s “not usually the beginning, but the breaking point” constitute being taken seriously, thus deserving of protection and solution?
I love this post, you have intricately explained those verses that have been misquoted (preached from pulpits) and have man’s meaning (not God’s), and I pray for widespread understanding. I also appreciate all that you do with this blog, books and other efforts. But, I suppose I get agitated that some believe we are not worthy of being taken at our word. I know there is a quantity of education to be done for those who would disbelieve victims about their abusers, but, I for one, get righteously indignant about it!
—Totally relate! Trying to get her other children and family to get him to divorce me was her hopeful “beheading”. We didn’t have children then, so in hind site, how I wish it happened instead of the unfolding years of misery.
“They exercise a pattern of deceit and coercive control that may be composed of many ‘little’ things but the total effect is soul destroying and very confusing to the victim, which is how it is designed to be.”
YES! My abusive husband used:
Deceit by outright lying, leaving out pertinent information, or embellishment. Whatever works to get his way and throw me off track. Often guilt inducing overtones that left me feeling how could I not agree.
Coercive control in the forms of screaming, threatening, physical intimidation & drumming up fear inducing scenarios.
Barbara, this is by far the singlemost powerful, concise, and clear description of the basics of abuse, divorce, and Christianity I’ve ever come across. It is beautiful. I wish I could share it with every Christian I know! I can’t wait for my divorce to be finished and my life to be settled down, so I can begin to share links to this page. Thank you.
Aw gee, thanks Marah!
Jeff C., – I could not find a better place to reply, so I will put it here.
I do not want to drag out this discussion so I will wrap up my point of view.
From my perspective, I did respond to the Bible verses you provided. I gave a real life historical example of men that I assume because of their role in American Reformed evangelical thought, you would consider Christians, but who owned slaves and promoted slavery. If slavery under this brutal system is not abuse then what is? Why did not the Spirit convict them of their ongoing persistent sin? Then am I refuting the verses you gave that emphasize the role of the Spirit in transforming believers? Hardly. Other Christian men who had participated in very profitable slave trading and slave owning did give it up and consequently devoted themselves to fighting it. Two would be Bartolomé de las Casas and William Wilberforce. If only Edwards and Whitehead had done the same.
I believe that these examples just demonstrate that we as Christians still have free will to sin, even persistent abusive sin. You can disagree with me if you want, but I see people continually acting on their financial, cultural, political and religious self-interest instead of heeding the Spirit. The Spirit has no more power in our lives than we are willing to give up.
I imagine that we will never agree on this as you are in the Calvinist camp and I am in the Armenian camp. (both sides of my family were Anabaptists who fled Switzerland and Germany to escape Catholic and Reformed persecution)
So if we cannot agree, how about we make space for each others viewpoint?
I am with Joe and others (and scripture) that we should treat abusers as unbelievers, denying fellowship until appropriate repentance, restitution and humility is demonstrated.
I believe we both working towards the same goal.
I Just want to share my peace regarding the idea of a “practicing abusive Christian.”
My abuser continues to maliciously and intentionally do things to me that I cannot believe a transformed Christian is capable of doing..
He loves to apply the physical, mental, financial, or psychological thumbscrews to me, and watch me squirm or sweat while he waits in the bushes to undermine me again when least expected, sick or distracted.
He is my true enemy in the bushes..
His favorite form of warfare is Covert aggression,
Hidden attacks that no one else sees. (as he sits back like the innocent puppy dog that appears to the onlooker like he couldnt hurt a fly.)…
Make no mistake this is intentional abuse.
He enjoys creating agonizing situations for me that no one else sees.
The more information he knows on me, the more I am open to his covert attacks..
Even casual information that he finds out about me is stored in his mind for vindictive and malicious reasons to later sabotage and retaliate on me
So I have to live like a “secret agent”, keeping my plans, thoughts, ideas, and work schedule as well as my comings and goings to myself.
For personal safety I have to keep my belongings in a room where I have installed One keyed deadbolts on it, and secured the windows, so he does not steal what is important to me while I am out.
I wear my car and room keys always on my belt to keep him from having access at any time to them. This is the only way I feel safe.
Does he profess to be a Christian and go to church? Absolutely.
Does that make him a Christian? I hope not..
We are in trouble if those are the fruits that we look for to determine whether or not someone is a true Christian.
For God’s Word warns us of such unbelievers that creep into the churches unaware that cause many to stumble and create divisions. .
If these abusers can convince us that they abused us because- they “just didn’t know better”, or they were “just being uneducated about how to treat someone”, or perhaps because “they thought we didn’t care about the way they treated us”, then we ourselves are deceived and turning a blind eye to their atrocious behavior.
This type of abuser is not getting a Christian pass from me.
I hope you are away from this mess very soon. That is no way to live, but I have to hand it to you. You have your core strength going on and your wits about you.
soldiergirl, I am very sorry for the abuse you experience. I pray that you will be able to escape it soon.
Here is my short answer: Treat them according to their fruit. Leave the judgement of their soul to God.
Thank you for this post, Barbara. It explains this passage much more clearly than most pastors sermons get into.
Scripture instructs us to judge those matters that are within the church.
Judgment is to begin at the house of God.
We are to treat them as “unbelievers if they show the fruits of an unbeliever.
These pretenders are just hoping to continue the “facade” as a fallen believer, and “if we will just give them another chance”- they will reform”. (so they say)
Just like Discoll- their adjenda is to just get “their foot back in the door” and create havoc once more when they are back in a position of power over any one else.
This position of “Power over” is what drives them to continue the act.
I cant help but think of the example of how Saul had pity on King Agag insted of obeying God.
We need to recognise them as the sly and cunning decievers that they are..
Their ability to hoodwink the best of us is “absurdly uncanny”.
Remember that “most” pastors and therapists end up on the side of the perpetrator- working against the victims on the side of the abuser.
The mistake that well intentioned believers make is to believe that these abusers are just like us, and they end up supporting to the perpetrator which keeps the victim in a continual prison.
How true Lundy Bancrofts statement is “If we can erode the ability of abusers to gain allies, they will stand alone, and alone they are easier to stop.”
Let them go to the “world” to get their therapy- But not the church.
These abusers know how to level the playing field by relating to our own sinful nature so as to ally support from the church for their ultimate agenda. .
Abusers will identify with any sin that we ourselves struggle with to make us think that they are “just like us to get their coveted support..
Sympathy is what they are looking for as a tool to manipulate the situtation..
Only problem is “They are not just like us”.
Like a reprobate mind -“Their conciences have been seared”” by persistant unrepentant sin.
We cannot relate to them because they will do anything (including hoodwink the therapist) to gain allies to get back their “power over”
Why else do you suppose they are the only ones that want couples counseling?
We cannot relate to them because their agenda is to do anything including staying in the church ( as a wolf ) to maintaining the “facade of a struggling christian” until they have gained enough support to be falsely vindicated- all the while continuing the abuse of their victim / victims. . .
Soldiergirl, I just keep rereading your post and want to stand up and cheer! I would like to have this printed as “wall words” to afix to my wall!! Much truth spoken here. I have seen how my husband’s conscience has been seared- he never ceases to amaze me at the new levels of evil he commits. I also really relate when you describe him identifying with your struggle to get your support. He would often say things like he is just a struggling Christian or that he was weak but even as he siad these things you could tell from his attitude and body language he was not grieved by his sin, he was reading a script in his mind (which was simply regurgitating what he has heard other people say that has gained them support and validation). How it made me sick to see him being pat on the back by other guys as they saw him as just this “struggling Christian”.
Barbara, did you get my email?
I’m not sure. I am swamped. My dad is ill and I’m his carer. Try emailing TWBTC if you want a bit more reliable response. Sorry.
I’m sorry, did not know of your situation. I did email TWBTC and had not heard back, which is why I tried on here. No problem, I’ll just wait to hear back. Thanks
Is there such a thing as “too much patience” in these situations with an abuser? Or anything else in life when you need to take some kind of action?
Is it patience or enabling or both? How is it affecting you or your kids? Do you see signs of improvement. Are you setting boundaries that are being observed? I think it boils down to your perspective. In my case I was patient for years longer than I should have been.
Agreeing with what Brenda R. said, plus adding from my experience…
I think, for me, it depends a lot on what I am waiting for…on what my patience is awaiting. I was way too patient for way too long, in terms of waiting for the relationship to improve or for my abuser to change her ways. I would not advise anyone else to be as patient as I was in that regard…and, in fact, would advise taking concrete steps in terms of preparing to leave and/or defining and defending firm boundaries.
However, when it comes to waiting on God, on His plans, on His timing…and yes, even on His preparing my heart for coming changes…for these things I have learned to be more patient, not less.
Blessings to you, as you seek God’s heart in your situation!
Joe & ST2,
I left out the most important part. I spent 3 years in prayer, reading God’s word, reading books pointing to scripture that specifically revolved around my situation. His timing was incredibly obvious when I left. Everyone is different.
That is so key, Brenda! Every situation is different, because every person is different. Yes, there are amazingly similar aspects to most of these abuse stories, yet they are also each unique…with a unique need for God so speak in a unigue way to a unique individual.
When thinking about why I stayed as long as I did, I have a really hard time assessing, even now, years later. On the one hand, I would not advise anyone else to stay as long as I did, and I think that’s rather telling. On the other hand, I am profoundly thankful to be able to say I know I did absolutely everything possible to make that marriage work…that I fully lived out the covenant vows in every way.
And then, there is also the realization of the truths God showed me over the years, as I prayed over that situation, seeking His will. That was not wasted time. That was time God used to prepare my heart…to change my perspective…to teach me important truths I needed to know in order to move forward.
Like you said, everyone is different.
Definitely. Qualities such as patience; generosity of spirit; willingness to forgive; seeking to restore, nurture, redeem; extending grace, mercy, forgiveness are all beautiful things that can be taken up and twisted and manipulated and mis-used for the abusers own end.
Because these are good qualities, it is very counter intuitive to abandon them or willingly not apply them to your relationship with your abuser. They know this and use this as a means of power and control to bolster their position and keep you in the abusive relationship.
It really messes with your thinking and becomes so confusing. This is where you need perspective. Other voices- eg God’s word; at this blog; truly listen to the warning of friends / family; and you need space / distance form the abuser so that the fog can clear and you can see abuse as abuse and not go down the guilt trip path of “maybe it will change if I’m more patient….”
That has been my experience.
Wow! I should be asleep and NOT spending 2 hours on this site…BUT so glad I did. The conversation thread about unbelievers / abusers was incredible. You all should win some “Superhero Debater Award” or some such thing 🙂 I am still studying and learning and feel like I am on some unknown “cusp of truth” in regards to this. I appreciate the scriptural support that Jeff gives. I am fascinated by Loren’s historical connection (because I am a history nerd) and LOVE Joe’s “treat them as an unbeliever” which makes it a mute point for me, and therefore, very helpful.
I think the reason I am “still out with the jury” on Jeff and Barbara’s stance (not that they need me to give my “great and powerful Oz” judgement on it, I’m just sayin’ that’s where I’m at in my thinking right now) is because as a born-again believer, (18 yrs old, in my room, totally out of the blue, conviction hit me like a ton of bricks, followed by a deep feeling of remorse, followed by the most profound peace and joy I had ever had, i.e., it was REAL) I was lost in a mire of past abuse and wounds that I did not know how to deal with and I lived a lifestyle for a few years that was NOT pleasing to God. I DID feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit at times, but continued to walk in my own way (to escape the pain of “not being good enough” as a child issues) and eventually “recommitted my life” to Jesus and have been walking faithfully ever since. So, I think that is why it is so hard for me to completely and without a doubt accept the “anyone who habitually sins” is an unbeliever, because then, wouldn’t I have to put MYSELF in that category and I know for absolute certainty that I was saved?
I THINK maybe there is a difference between doing things that really only harmed myself and doing things that harm others? (as abusers do?) Mine was more of a “running away” or “defensive” behaviors, whereas abusers are more of an “OFFensive” or “moving towards” another human being and causing harm to them. Does this make sense? I will be rereading many times over these postings. Thank you all again for your considerate, well-thought-out responses and it is refreshing to hear people disagree so “agreeably” as living with an abuser who NEVER disagreed agreeably (and in fact, ANY dissension on my part would lead to something ugly) can make me a bit anxious when I hear people disagree. Thank you for setting an example of how TRUE Christian men dissent!
Debby, I relate to what you said. I was born again at the age of 26 and in the space of a few days I went from having zero interest in Jesus to KNOWING that He is real, He is alive, and He loved me! I was struck with a deep sense of my own sin (though I didn’t know the word for it then) and at the same time it blew my mind how much Jesus loved me and how He was close to me, closer than any closeness I had ever known or even dreamed of before.
At the same time, while I was in the effulgence of this new birth, I remember having episodes of bulimia, the addiction I’d had for years, ever since I was eleven. It is all a bit of a blur, but I remember binging and vomiting in the toilet several times, during this period of a few weeks when I was so close to Christ it was beyond words how amazing it was. Go figure, eh?
And after being born again, I was quickly sidetracked by the devil into following the Course In Miracles (a Gnostic book — very dangerous) for some years. I ended up falling back into bulimia worse than I ever had before, and due to that I twice signed myself into psych hospital because the bulimia was out of control. The second time I put myself in psych hospital was not just because of bulimia: I had formed and half carried out a suicide plan.
And even though I pulled myself out of that hole by the skin of my teeth (and with Jesus’ help, protecting me in the psych hospital from a horrible attack from something really demonic), it took me several years more, falling pregnant to an unbeliever and marrying him (not knowing it was forbidden to Christians to marry unbelievers, because I was not reading the Bible) and him becoming a typical abuser, and me in and out of the refuge, but afraid to leave him because I feared my bulimia coming back. . .> What a mess.
Only when the marriage ended the first time and I left him, did I start going to church and finally started to get my head sorted out and burn my Course in Miracles book and start WALKING as a Christian. A baby Christian who had been abandoned — by me, myself, of my own free will, from my own New-Age messed up mind — abandoned in the gutter right after birth, and who lived (almost as dead as a still-born baby) in that gutter/wilderness for nearly 14 years, till finally by the grace and marvellous working of my life by God, picked up the golden thread of my born again experience (which I had never denied, I KNEW I’d met Jesus!) and everything finally began to make sense. And I started to have joy again, like I’d had when I first met Jesus.
Sorry for the long story. That’s a story that does not often come out, but your story brought it out of me.
All of this is to say: I know from my own experience that someone can be born again and then live a pretty ungodly life for some time. But the Lord does not ever abandon those He has chosen to save, and He brought you and me out of our lives of ungodliness, and taught us how to live His way, the way of safety close to Him.
Now, were people like you and me ‘backslidden’? The word hardly seems to apply, since we had barely got on our feet. We were just out of the birth canal. Backsliding is a word that is usually applied to someone who had been walking as a Christian for some time, and then went off into the world. It doesn’t seem to describe people like you and me very well.
Like you, I think that the difference between people like us and abusers is that when we diverted to the world after being born again, our primary drive was not to abuse others. Our primary drive was to escape our own pain from whatever past traumas and chronic habit patterns we had entrenched in our lives. In my case, I’d been sexually abused as a child, and then became a heavy bulimic in my teens and on into adulthood, switching addictions sometimes (illicit drugs, promiscuity) but always eventually reverting to my primary addiction: bulimia. The person I was most hurting was myself. I was not dedicating my energies to using and oppressing others for my own sinful delights, I was harming myself first and foremost.
And after being born again, people like you and I lived a patently worldly life for a while; we did not pretend to be good church attending Christians while we lived those ungodly lifestyles.
I’m not sure how helpful it is to remember the six sins listed in 1 Corinthians 5, the list of heinous sins for which a ‘professing believer’ should be expelled from the church:
For me, in that period between being born again and starting to regularly attend church and walk as a Christian, I was guilt of sexual immorality (though much less frequently than before I’d been born again), greed (bulimia), and idolatry (bulimia, and believing in the Course in Miracles rather than the Bible). But I was not running amuck in those sins while portraying myself as a fine upstanding Christian.
And even though bulimia is not fully expunged from my life yet, it’s recurrence is very rare, and when I do fall into it I ask forgiveness and pray for help to eliminate it. I know the Holy Spirit can change it. Like all true Christians, I still sin, but I struggle against it and bring it to the Lord when I do.
Hope this helps. Sorry for the long comment.
Barb, you apologized for your long comment. Please don’t stop sharing what the Lord had done for you … it is of great encouragement to many of us as we desire to be free from bondage and love the Lord in freedom.
I’ve also appreciated Jeff Crippen’s honesty concerning spiritual abuse within the church and relationships. His exposition from the Word is precious food for the hungry soul 🙂
As someone with a binge eating issue and many others I relate. And although I’ve been a Christian for a few years now I’m still a baby Christian because I’m only just know understanding that I’ve had wrong teaching and I believed I could lose my salvation. I only have known for the last three months where I stand with God. In my eyes that makes me still a baby believer. So your testimony encourages me mightily.
Debby I relate so much. So much of what you say resonates. Bless you for sharing.
I’ve been married for thirteen years and I’ve cried for twelve and a half. I had two children with my abuser before I realized that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I left home six months ago, but came back because of my children. Everything that you’ve said about the pastors suggesting councelling and the spouse having made past efforts are very true in my case. Now my abuser seems to be calm, but it’s just part of a circle that we go around and around in. He knows that I no longer want to be with him. My spiritual leaders say, that I have no grounds for divorce and if I were to do so, I’d never be able to remarry. I’m so tired…
Welcome to the blog!
I’m quite sure that many of our readers can empathize when you say, “I’m so tired…” – myself included!!
May I encourage you to continue reading and learning about abuse on the blog. You may want to check out our TAG (on the top menu bar) for couple counseling. That will direct you to more posts on the dangers of couple counseling. We also have a TAG for ‘divorce’ and ‘remarriage’ that may be of interest.
And as a new user I encourage you to read our New User’s Page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.
Angel, Please be reassured that the ACFJ ministry and many commenters like me will be praying for you. I too, cried out, “I’m so tired …” The exhaustion is overwhelming as you grope around “in the fog”. I’m still not free due to more deceit from many players in ‘my drama’.
The so-called spiritual leaders you allude to do not have your well-being as a concern. I am sure you will glean more advice and counsel as you educate yourself with the resources here and by others. I pray that you have family or friends as a support system. Praying for you and ((hugs)).
Thank you very much for this post, Barbara. It’s so enlightening, and so complete. It touches so many aspects of leaving the abuser. I had to share it with my family members and my children. Now they get the whole picture. I feel more at peace now, knowing I did the right thing by leaving.
I saw our ‘counsellor’ and told them I had left and my marriage was over. He told me my abuser and I were both guilty in the failure of our marriage and there must have been something I was doing to trigger his anger. I let him talk, and when he had finished, I thanked him and left. That’s the last time I’ll see him. 🙂
I heard the sweetest words from the pulpit this morning that I thought I would never hear. “Divorced people ARE single”. I have stuck with this church for over 5 years now, spreading that concept to anyone and everyone who would listen. MY CUP RUNNETH OVER!! Praise God for His mercy, Hallelujah and AMEN!!! Many tears!!
Brenda R — Thank you for sharing such an encouraging word from the pulpit.
I rejoice with you and am overwhelmed with God’s sovereign timing in allowing us to hear this. I needed this today as so much wickedness abounds under the guise of Christianity.
I couldn’t wait to spread the joy.
That’s fantastic, Brenda! 🙂
I am posting this comment for a new commenter, Spinningjenny:
“If the husband appears, using the repentance checklist, to be making progress towards true repentance do you believe the wife no longer has grounds for divorce? Even if she cannot fathom ever really trusting him again and still feels like she “smells a rat” sometimes in his behaviors and attitudes?”
In reference to spinningjenny’s question: I, too, am in a similar phase and would love some feedback! I am separated right now and feel NOTHING for him but he seems to be following some of the steps. I am giving him NO quarter, and am at the point where I will STAY separated as long as I need to until it is no longer needed or financially feasible and then I will divorce at that point for financial stability if needed. If the time comes in the future, I will marry him again but I don’t see that happening for a very long time. Any advice would be so appreciated! Why do they wait to “improve” until you leave?!! Crazy!
Debby and Spinning Jenny-
You are under no obligation to him, whatsoever. He repeatedly treacherously violated the sacred vows of your covenant. He broke the covenant. You owe him nothing.
Furthermore, any attempts on his part to make you feel you owe him another chance are, in fact, manipulation and proof that he has not changed. A truly repentant heart would say, “You’re right not to trust me. I will leave you alone. Is there anything I can do to help you get a fresh start on your own?”
True repentance requires no participation, whatsoever, on your part. It is between him and God. And the less it has to do with you the more likely it is to be sincere.
My two-cents worth…
You put it short and sweet.
I know I am too verbose. . . and I appreciate people who can put it in a nutshell!
🙂 I appreciate you, Barbara. You usually give very thorough well-thought-out responses.
And thank you, for correcting my typing error! 🙂
Hi Spinningjenny and debby
Here is what I think. I am not the final arbiter of this, so feel free other readers to put your thoughts in here too!
If the husband appears to be making progress towards true repentance, but the wife still feels like she ‘smells a rat’ sometimes in his behaviour and attitudes, I would think it is HIGHLY likely that her ‘sense of smell’ is correct and that he is making a show of some progress towards true repentance in order to make his wife have second thoughts about separating / or staying separated / or divorcing him.
Many, many abusers put on pseudo repentance garb when they sense they are losing control of their targets. It’s just another weapon in their manipulative arsenal, and it is SOOO common that I would think it is the most likely explanation of the situation you have described, spinningjenny.
Dr George Simon Jr makes the point, over and over again in his writings, that CHANGE HAPPENS IN THE HERE AND NOW. If someone says they will change, or they intend to change, or they promise to change, or “I’m changing” or anything like that, it means little or nothing. If they are not demonstrating change in the here and now, it doesn’t count.
The tricky thing, as you point out in your question, is that rubbery term making progress. “Making progress towards true repentance” is not the same as being truly repentant in the here and now. Most Christians think that when they see any signs at all of an abuser ‘making progress towards repentance,’ then true repentance is happening and will keep happening on happening right down to the core of that person. But to think that is to live in la la land — to be naive about the characteristics of evil and the psychology of sin.
If the abused wife ‘cannot fathom ever really trusting him again,’ that is a very important fact. That fact, that reality, needs to be heeded by the abused wife, taken seriously, not discounted or brushed aside. It also needs to be heeded and respected by all the bystanders, friends and family of that woman.
The fact that an abused wife feels like that, indicates that she has been so crushed and hurt for so long that it will take a LONG time for her to regain her health, her sense of herself, her confidence in her own agency. It will take time for her to become fully aware of all the ways the abuser systematically disassembled her, and time for her to gain practice and confidence in setting boundaries and working out what she wants to do. The tough news is that recovery from abuse can take years, and if there is post-separation abuse from the abuser (as is usually the case when the abuser is the husband) this timeframe can be extended indefinitely because the wife is never really free of the abuser’s needling. Recovery obviously is impeded by ongoing abuse. Even if the abuse post-separation is of a lesser intensity or over fewer domains than it was before, it is still abuse, and the abused person still lives in a degree of fear.
So, if the abused person can’t for the life of herself envisage being able to ever really trust the abuser again, she can in all good conscience recognise that is how she feels, and give herself the liberty, the freedom, to NOT trust him. If at any time, way down the track perhaps, she finds that she starts, without being coerced into it by any guilt-inducing pressure from her own mind or from others, if she find that she does start to trust him again, well, she’s at liberty to exercise that trust and see where it leads in the relationship she may or may not have with him at that point in time.
The thing is, most victims of abuse feel under immense pressure (from the church, from ‘well-meaning’ friends and family, and from their own mis-taught consciences) that they ought trust the person who has formerly abused them as soon as that abuser shows any signs of becoming repentant. Those ‘oughts’ — those ‘shoulds’ — are dangerous. If you have suffered abuse and are feeling pressured by such ‘oughts,’ and especially if you have even a mild sense in your gut that the behaviour and attitudes of the person who abused you might be only superficially reforming, then I suggest you push away the ‘oughts’ and give yourself a lot more time.
And if, as part of giving yourself time and freedom from the pressure of the oughts, you decide to decide to divorce the person who abused you, there is no sin in that. You are at liberty to divorce because of how that man has already been so abusive to you.
The abuser is at liberty to reform if and when he chooses to do so. Your divorcing him will not take away from him one jot of his liberty to reform! And if he DID reform (which would only happen by a miracle: God bringing him from spiritual death to spiritual life) then you and that man would be quite at liberty to remarry each other if you so wished, so long as neither of you have married another person in the meantime.
But the abused person who has divorced doesn’t have to refrain from remarrying (so long as she marries a believer) just in case her ex might reform one day and want her to marry him again. The abuser has to live with the consequences of his choices. He chose to abuse his spouse. She might chose to divorce him because of his abusiveness. She might then choose to marry a new husband. For the abuser, all of that would just be consequence of his sin, consequences which he had to live with.
Thank you Barbara for the above comment.
I would suspect that there are many survivors who feel the pressure / obligation to return to a “repentant” abuser (from guilt, religion). Being told that we DO NOT have to, that we are free to divorce him because of the past abuse, even if he’s repentant is so freeing .
Obviously, this is not always the opinion of leaders / church / Christians. Not that we are going to convince certain people, but what would be a good defense (scriptures, etc) to have.
Hi Jane, thanks for your question. 🙂
I don’t know if you’ve read this post of just some of the comments thread. If you haven’t read the post I suggest you do so as it sets out the Biblical Grounds for Divorce for Abuse.
And if you want a ‘nutshell’ version, check out this link: Biblical Divorce for Abuse explained in a nutshell
I think I need to find a topic discussion on the tauntings of the abusers. For example the months preceeding the impending notification when they know that they are at risk of receiving notice that their wife has filed for divorce. Has there been a topic discussion that I can find on this site to read? Can you direct me to one or more topical discussions. I have moved away from the abusive situation however am still married and have frequent or txt or phone contact with my husband.
Has anyone confronted the hypocrisy and heard the reply “you have a different definition of hypocrite”? From my safe place I told him that his behavior over the years was hypocritical, or maybe I was so bold in the moment to call him a hypocrite. How many different definitions of hypocrisy are there? Is there any way to point out hypocrisy?
Do any abusers taunt their wife when she moves away to a safe place with “you are still the love of my life” or other words of endearment?
I just need to read some discussions on this site and do not know what to search. How to continue from my safe place (a long way from him) away to still fake loving him and manage verbal contact which is very short, empty, superficial each night then hang up.
[Eds: details of this comment airbrushed a little, to protect commenter’s identity.]
I think you may be falling into what is called ‘the explaining trap’ Selah. I got that term from Patricia Evans’ book The Verbally Abusive Relationship [Affiliate link].
I am wondering why you continue having phone contact with him. I know there may be good reasons why you are doing so, so I’m not judging you. But I suggest that if possible you stop having that contact with him.
EVERY time the abuser has contact with his victim, he tries to mess with her head. If the victim can have NO CONTACT (NC) with him, that is the best way forward, as he can’t mess with her head so much, and she therefore has more opportunity to get on with the things that are more important in her life.
However, I know that NC is not always possible, depending on the circumstances. For myself, when I still had to have contact with my abuser (we were separated, and the court order required me to give him visitation with our child, and the order allowed him to make contact with me for the purposes of arranging or discussing visitation and other parenting matters) this is what I eventually learned to do:
—When we were talking by phone, if he started bringing up ANY issue other than a parenting or visitation matter, I said to him “I will not discuss that. I will not discuss anything except parenting or child-contact arrangements. I am hanging up now.” And I’d hang up.
—And if during a phone call he began to falsely accuse me, I would say “STOP IT! STOP ABUSING ME. I’m hanging up.” And I would hang up.
Some survivors find it works better for them if they have NO phone contact with their abuser: only sms or email or letter. Of course, whatever boundaries or rules of contact you try to insist on, the abuser will try to bend and break them. So be prepared for that. And just keep refusing to do it his way. Like a stuck record.
Bottom line: you do not have to explain anything to the abuser. Whenever you try to explain things to an abuser, the abuser will simply twist what you’ve said to shape it into arrows to shoot back at you. You are not obliged to ‘teach’ the abuser what he is doing wrong or what his wrong thinking is. He doesn’t want to be taught, especially by you!
Having said all that, in case you still want some links to other posts, here are some that I think may touch on the kind of taunting you are experiencing:
Perception vs. Per”crap”tion
In opening my mind to my husband, I opened myself up to horrific scarring. A gaslighting story by Urszula
How Miles Davis misrepresented his assault of his wife Frances: a case study in the language of abusers
Another Badger, and a translation of his manipulative language
I found all these posts in our Language of Abusers tag — you can search the tags from the top menu bar of this blog. We currently have 71 posts with that tag!
Selah, I am experiencing the phony “you’re the love of my life” stuff lately too. He is allowed to call me during daytime hours for (the family) business matters only. I always let it go to voice mail; I refuse to talk to him. He calls every day and always starts with business then ends with the phony “I’m sorry, I miss you, I love you, etc, etc, ad nauseum.
I do not listen to the voice mails in the evening (I want to get some sleep). I wait and listen in the morning when I’m stronger emotionally and more distracted by the coming day. I respond back to him through a couple other people who relay messages for me. Usually this works pretty well, though I can see where someday I might need to actually talk to him.
He never retrieves to his voice mail, he doesn’t know how to text, and has never used a computer so communication is limited. If I need to, I email my attorney and she emails his attorney to get his attention.
I like Barbara’s advice about phone conversations. I am feeling stronger now and if I have to talk to him I think I would do better than in the past.
Just remember to stand up for yourself!
Speaking from personal experience…
When and if you do talk to him, remember you don’t owe him anything. You don’t owe him answers to questions. You don’t owe him explanations. You don’t owe him idle conversation or reminiscing. You don’t owe him laughter or jokes. You don’t owe him eye contact or response to smiles.
None if the usual rules of polite conversation apply.
You can simply refuse to converse on any topic you feel uncomfortable with…no explanation needed.
Joe —- AMEN and AMEN!
Joe, this was one of the hardest skills I had to learn. Its because we are DECENT people and we are dealing with indecency and we have to fight against our natural “decentness” to respond in a way that will protect us from being jerked around. It comes very naturally to abusers and thats why they always seem to have the upper hand. We are not very good at it, because it does not come naturally to decent people. Its not that we “become like them” (its a skill that gets pulled out when needed, while its a mindset with the abuser) but rather learning the ways of our enemy helps us level the field. Im GLAD Im not naturally good at it. But I’m getting better all the time.
Yes, that was a difficult lesson for me to learn, too, Debby.
It’s amazing how in-grained basic politeness is for us…and how adeptly abusers take advantage of that basic decency.
Relating to Joepote01 and the “not owing him any answers” etc.
A couple of years ago I discovered ACFJ after many years of covering and eventually living in a fog of despair. At this point we were still conversing and I started to share with ‘him’ how once again I had confirmation that ‘his’ behavior was abusive regardless of what others thought. I was once again pleading that “things needed to change.”
‘He’ started reading some ACFJ posts and then turned around and claimed that all it proved was that I was the abusive one because I displayed ‘anger’ towards him. As he continued to read the posts I was then met with him using advice given to the abused. When I tried to question him on something he would say, “I’m not getting drawn into this… I don’t owe you any explanation.” And then another quote, (paraphrased) He said, “Look, I can’t help you. Yes, I’ve abused you. I can’t help you. You’re just going to have to get over it or let your counselors help you. Doesn’t look like you are getting much help.”
This man has used most of the years of counseling to turn it around on me and the adult children have turned out the same way now that they no longer want to be affiliated with Christianity. So, here I live, non-verbal which is exactly how he likes it; just leave him alone and let us live out the rest of our years as he now “moves on” and is suddenly ‘visiting’ and spending time with family when he never used to care about them. I still have a difficult time grasping the evilness and would love to move out but don’t have a strong support system.
I know this is an old post, but as I was reading the part about “chorizo” and separating and who is really doing the separating, it felt similar to one of the things that God told me as He was waking me up to some very unhealthy dynamics in my marriage. I was really struggling with the submission verses in 1 Peter 3 (as a wife of an unbeliever). But, God started telling me to submit to where my husband was taking our marriage. So, I did. I submitted to the whole reality of it. My husband’s actions were causing major separation in our marriage and so I submitted to that by changing my behavior to mirror the reality of what his actions were doing to me and in our relationship. And told him several times that was what I was doing as I started making significant changes in myself and started making it very clear that no longer would I be pretending that things were fine in our marriage if he was going to continue to refuse to listen to me, my concerns, or value me as his equal partner in the marriage.
Oh, I love this, Content!
Yes! He destroyed your relationship and you responded by submitting to that reality…by letting him destroy it and acting accordingly.
Thank you for sharing!
This makes so much sense. And yet we try to “fight the craziness” as if it is OUR responsibility to get them to change. sigh…
In my case, the relationship has not ended. My husband, I think, has demonstrated considerable change. I was not in a physically abusive situation, but was in a mildly emotionally abusive marriage which still had some good points. I made it clear to my husband that I was willing and wanting our marriage, but definitely was not willing to remain in the relationship acting as if all was well. If he wanted to continue in the same old patterns, then we would have a loveless marriage (I believe God would have released me at some point if that were the case). When I went through that time, I knew there were no guarantees and that our marriage could end. It wasn’t pretty at first, but God was merciful to us. I know there are others whose situations do not end so well. 😦 God also used this time in my life to change my narrow views on divorce and remarriage (along with a ton of other things He did in me during that time!).
Content, that sounds exactly like my situation, although I would not call his abuse mild by any stretch. I stopped DOING anything to “make it work” and he had to pull himself out of the hole he dug all on his own. But I know how to discern true repentance and after 2 1/2 years, I have changed dramatically (in some of those views you were mentioning) and he has changed his behaviors and seems very much to value me and my input, opinions, choices, etc. I still don’t “recomend” that people “stay and try to make it work” becuase I think this change is quite rare and really, I was under NO obligation to wait him out. I wasnt waiting for him. I just wasnt in any hurry to do anything except get my own place to live. Barbara knows! I have been on here for 2 years now, sometimes venting, sometimes just reading, sometimes, dare I say it, sharing some wisdom (?) but ALWAYS learning.
Content, thank you SO much for this comment! I am going to mull it over deeply.
And welcome to the blog. 🙂
You might like to also read our posts about 1 Peter 3. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on them.
1 Peter 3:6 — Sarah’s children do what is right and do not give way to fear
Should wives submit to harsh husbands just like slaves submitting to harsh masters? (1 Peter 2 & 3)
1 Peter 3 Does Not Command Victims to Remain in Abuse — Help from David deSilva
Dear Nora: A Response to Questions about 1 Peter 3
Hi, Barbara! Thanks for the warm welcome. Really, I had to hear this idea about submitting to where my husband was taking our marriage from God before I could move forward with what other godly people in my life were saying that I could biblically do. I guess God knew I really wanted to submit, haha! I had memorized 1 Peter 3 and hung onto that passage for years and it is the most tattered place in my Bible. Which now I realize was an indication of how much my husband’s salvation had become an idol to me. Or the idea that I would be this perfect wife who pointed him to Christ. Even though I am convinced that only God can save a person and open their eyes, I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I still put a lot of pressure on myself and so I looked at those verses through the wrong lens. Oh, — and of course, it didn’t help that I soaked up all the distorted lies on the topic of submission and suffering for Christ that were abounding, especially among the homeschooling / housewife blogs.
I quickly read through the links you provided. So funny, on the last link, at the end of that comment, there is a hypothetical “What if the wife is a slave?” And we know that God desires freedom for the slave and tells them to gain their freedom if they can do so. That is another very specific phrase God spoke to me during my ordeal and I’m 99.9% sure I had never read that article and I certainly hadn’t been doing any Bible studies on slavery. But, those were the words I heard whispered to me… “If you can gain your freedom, do so.”
It is amazing how I will still be temporarily tormented by the enemy as I think back on the past few months. When he uses that old mindset against me, I have to go through the verses all again and remember what God has taught me so that I can stand in truth and against his lies. He also tries to condemn me for the anger I had during the ordeal. A wall went up (even after years of warning my husband that that would happen, I was still surprised when it started going up, because I was not trying to do it. I believe God did it for me.) The anger came and it came pretty strongly. There were times that I let it get the best of me. Thankfully, the pastor that I called to speak to at the beginning of it all told me these words…”Let your righteous anger motivate you to take the steps you need to change things in your marriage.” He also encouraged me not to fear my next step and not to overthink things, which I interpreted as not worrying about getting out of line. And, I was grounded enough in the grace of God that I was not worried about my mistakes and knew that He was not displeased with me over them. I knew that if I, as his sheep, wandered off the path, He was my Shepherd and He could get me back where I needed to be. I would apologize only very specifically to my husband (for letting my anger get the best of me and saying things that weren’t constructive but just demeaning and wrong), but never apologized for my anger or for speaking the truth. I knew God could take those incidents where I failed and still use them for good and I trusted Him for that.
And yes, now I know that speaking the truth and doing good were the very things that Christ was crucified and suffered for which changes dramatically how I look at 1 Peter 3. Christ did not die because He was passive or a doormat!
Looking back, I am still amazed at the very real ways God walked me through all of this.
I did the same thing when, as an adult, I confronted the person who had sexually abused me as a child. When I first confronted that person with the crime they had done to me, I was over the top in my anger. Later I went and apologized and asked forgiveness for having gone over the top, but I made it very clear when making that apology that I was NOT sorry for stating the truth and I was not sorry for the fact that I was angry about the crime, I was only sorry for having initially expressed that anger in an over the top way.
I have no words to tell you how valuable your comment and insight is to me. Thank you with all of my heart, times a million.
I want to comment that my pastor, my former pastor and the counselor he recommended were phenomenal in supporting me as were most people I confided in in my church, a friend from my former church, she is amazing.
So when I saw and found out a few months ago that a lot of people didn’t get emotional, spiritual support like the from pastors and fellow believers I was clueless l thought everyone did.
Just out of curiosity, how active was your abuser in trying to win allies in the church? Or trying to slander you to folk in the church?
I think it helped that he lost his temper with the pastor and said the same hateful things to him that he was saying to me, he blew his cover.
Ah that explains a lot! When abusers blow their cover to the pastor, the pastor is usually much more willing to believe the victim’s account.
So you were not only lucky with your pastor, you were ‘lucky’ that your abuser was a pretty foolish abuser.
This is a late comment in this discussion thread obviously but in my case, my first husband made a point of visiting at least one of the churches we had attended as a couple to try and sell his version of himself as the poor abandoned wonderful husband.
Thankfully in one church, a woman leader who knew my side of the situation called a friend of mine whose integrity she respected and asked her what she knew. I had also talked to this woman leader and she was aware that I had decided to give the marriage at least another year and do my best to meet the expectations of my husband and his abusive and controlling family half way. So when he attempted to sell his “shtick” to them he basically got an “oh no you don’t”. I was immensely comforted that at least someone could see through the Mr. Nice Guy bit. I was quite shocked that he would even do such a thing. Basically image control.
Thanks for your comment, jesusfollowingishard.
You were very fortunate. Yes, there are some people in the church who know how to respond to domestic abuse. Would that there were more of them!
Wow…just wow! Thank you so much for this site!! I truly believe that it was a Holy Spirit ordained Google search that led me here yesterday. And ever since, I have been reading and reading. And reading and reading!
But this was the first post I read–and my favorite I think, as that was when everything just kind of “clicked” for me–so I came back here to comment even though this is an older one. I’m not even sure what the difference was, since a lot of the information wasn’t exactly new to me. Although the bit about an abuser NOT actually being a regenerate Christian was very eye-opening and thought-provoking.
Because my husband’s primary weapon has been scripture-twisting accusations (he reads the Bible more than I do, even believes he is called to be a pastor) and because no one else seemed to notice his crap, I think I blamed his behavior on God or something; I allowed my view of God to become skewed and my relationship with Him grew distant, something like mild acquaintances. But that part had me in tears, and it was as if Jesus was saying, “See??! I am not in that; I do not like it either,” and like an immediate whoosh of fresh air my heart was again fully open to God and He breathed new hope into me.
So now I’m just reading a lot, and trying hard not to feel so stupid. And trying to quiet the second-guessing which is apparently still alive and well in me. Because even after all that I still find myself questioning whether or not I am appropriately submissive; whether I really do not respect him as I should; if I really do neglect him and his “needs” as a result of my own character flaws and not as a natural response to years of mistreatment. My grasp on the truth is very fragile I guess, but I am going to keep reading as I pray through what God’s next step is for us.
I don’t know if any of this even makes sense but I just wanted to express my appreciation and share how I believe God used you yesterday. Thanks again for this site and your work!!
Dear sister — welcome to the blog. 🙂
What you said makes perfect sense. And the second guessing is what all of us as survivors experience during the fog-lifting process. So we understand!
We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
I changed your screen name to Fresh Air as a precaution, because it’s not a good idea to use your real name on this blog unless you are really sure you are safe from the abuser and his allies. If you want us to change that name to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂
Bless you, and thanks for the encouragement. 🙂
Ok, thanks. That wasn’t my real name, but I like yours better anyway! 🙂 More indicative of where I’d like to end up living than where I currently am.
I fully intend to read everything on here if I can, so thanks for directing me to a good starting point. Also, I just wanted to make sure it is ok for me to be here? Like I said before, I just found this yesterday and I always say, since I never sought God before I married this man (and that has turned out to be a disaster!!), I will never make another decision without waiting for Him to make His will known to me. So I haven’t made any moves or plans yet; is this an ok place for someone who is still in their marriage?
Of course this is an okay place for someone who is still in their marriage. Quite a few of our readers are in that position. We don’t judge any victim / survivor for staying, or for leaving. 🙂
And btw, Fresh Air, in this last comment you submitted the screen name was part of your email address. If your device is inputting that automatically, I suggest you manually change the ‘name’ field to Fresh Air, before you hit ‘submit comment’.
Fresh Air, I, too felt this same way when i found this site! Same questions, same doubts, same eye-opening, light-bulbs going off new found knowledge. I have not rekindled my heart toward God. I dont really rmember “blaming” Him, more like I felt my prayers fell on deaf ears for so long. I know its a lie but I haven’t quite gotten past that. Thanks for sharing as it put into words why I feel so “neutral” about, well, EVERYTHING. Not depressed, just not “joyful.” I think I was so busy trying to ACT like everything was ok in the midst of abuse that now I don’t really know HOW I’m supposed to feel or act. So I don’t. I pray you will continue on your journey.
Yes Debby!!, I know EXACTLY what you mean about the deaf ears! Several years ago I finally felt like I couldn’t take it anymore and really started seeking God asking if I could get a divorce. Eventually, I felt that He answered me with a “no”–and I do still believe that was His answer at that time but maybe it was a more like a “no, not right now”, and I probably should have done some follow up like “well, what can I do??”–and so I just kind of kind of dragged myself off with a fine-but-I-don’t-really-like-it attitude and that was the end of that.
I’d keep praying for him to change, or God to change me so I wouldn’t mind, or to change something, ANYTHING, besides the sick dance we kept doing. And NOTHING…my husband has been consistently unkind and self-righteous, cruel and insulting and demanding, I kept hating it, and people in the church kept not seeing it and so continued in their support of his “calling” to the ministry (in their defense, I wasn’t saying anything about it and he can put up a good front, so they were not really given the opportunity to know the truth) until I finally found myself in that same neutral place…gosh!, I was in that place yesterday morning! I found myself saying often “Lord, do You even like me?!?” I completely understand what you are saying. It just doesn’t make any sense!!
I can’t explain what it was that happened to me yesterday. It was just like He renewed me — my hope, my joy. Nothing has actually changed…but yet EVERYTHING is different! If you don’t mind can I be praying for you? Because I know how awful that despair can be, and just discovered how absolutely refreshing and renewing to be reassured that He sees and He hears, and that He does care, even while I still don’t understand.
Hmmm…it seems to use my email no matter what I fill in. So I just made a new email special for this site, lol.
Hi Fresh Air,
This is TWBTC (the woman behind the curtain). I am a member of the ACFJ team. If you continue to have problems with leaving comments, feel free to contact me at email@example.com. It’s not uncommon for commenters to have issues with WordPress. I have helped many of our commenters with WordPress issues. 🙂
And Welcome to the blog!!
Excellent! Good thinking Fresh Air! I like your smarts!
Thanks for your insight. Yes, I would appreciate prayer. I am not by any means miserable right now. I am separated and so I dont feel ANY pressure to have to put up with ANYTHING and that has given me peace for the first time (in my life, really). I am slowly working my way back to church. I returned to my original church — the one I never talked to anyone about the abuse so I guess they get the benefit of the doubt, and now I dont NEED their counsel. But just the fact that they OFFER a class like Changes That Heal lets me know they understand that each person, even a MARRIED one, is an individual and can work on themselves and not always “the marriage” whatever that means. (My other church blamed me, and only offered an Intimacy Class— try THAT with an abusive spouse!— and a Divorce Recovery class. NOTHING in between.)
[I returned to my original church] and am taking one night class there going through the book Changes That Heal, just to be in the same room with other Christians and not bolt! My h IS making changes, and we are very amicable, however, he still goes back to certain behaviors that I simply have no tolerance for. If he WAS still doing the same things, I would be gone in a New York minute. But I don’t feel led to legally divorce right now (I have my own place) and if he divorced ME (which he wont) it would be ok with me. Like I said, I am very NEUTRAL and have little incentive to actually reconcile (for the 100th time?! Actually only 3rd time since I actually physically LEFT, all the other ones were because he guilted me into it without him having to do anything other than let time go by…glad those days are gone and I am so much stronger now!)
Anyway, I am finding my way as the REAL person I am (which I’m still figuring out who that is), not the fake one I had to be to survive. Woohoo! 🙂
This article is excellent because it uses wisdom when applying God’s word. It explains the purpose of the scripture, or the heart of God and takes in the wider counsel of God. It takes into account the higher good of preserving life. It was never God’s intention for marriage to be an environment for abuse. To stand against abuse is to stand for the heart of God, to stand for the beauties of marriage. To excuse abuse under the grounds of twisting truths is following the same tactics that Satan used on Eve and continues to use.
My daughter is an over-comer of abuse. We would have preferred if we could have followed the pattern of placing this man in sin but he sought sanctuary in another church and was able to be on their preaching roaster in three months. Also, he has a lot of enablers in his life and was able to discredit our family with lies and manipulation. Seriously, though I think that there was stony hearts involved. The lies were somewhat insane and you would have to be quite blinded to believe them. My daughter also suffered extreme physical sickness while been married to this person and she does not have the strength to fight and go through this process. Keeping her health well is the higher good in this particular situation. We have gone as far as we could in this process to only have us told that he was the one under bondage. If it was not so sad, I would laugh at the ridiculousness of this statement. The more opportunities you gave him to repent his lies became more outrageous. We leave him and those that support him in God’s hand and have even stopped praying for him to repent. Instead, we pray for our daughter and grandchild’s safety and wisdom in how to deal with the situation. We also pray that God will revenge our enemies and remove them from our lives.
Please pray for us, especially our daughter as she is fighting for custody of their child.
By becoming more educated we have avoided many common mistakes that over comers make. It is so easy to look like the crazy one. We keep our comments short, sweet and to the point. We use words that the court understands and supports. I won’t write it here as this is a great place for ‘these people to come to get educated on how to look like the victims!’
God bless all his children that are abandon and may the over-comers in Christ reach out in empathy to those that are suffering from the hands of these abusers.
Live in hope, walk in faith, and rest in HIM!
Thank you so much, Christine. Your comment encourages me and I am sure it will encourage and inspire many other over-comers of abuse and their true friends and supporters.
Thank you for this wonderful article! My ex was and is emotionally and verbally abusive yet my former church (the church in which he still leads and teaches at) supported him and ignored my pleas for help. I spent many years adrift spiritually, struggling not to drown in a sea of despair. It is validating to me to see that others know what is happening to those like me. I pray more church leaders get the messsage.
Welcome to the blog dear sister! I’m glad you found this post helpful.
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I’m curious who the Puritan theologians (or even Protestant authors generally) are who wrote concerning this.
I have completely left the faith over this issue, not being able to reconcile how God can be just and disallow for divorce when it comes to domestic violence. My ex-wife abused and neglected me and my children, and the PCA and the OPC failed me after 7 years of trying to get help. I resent always not being taken seriously because I’m a man. I hate the idea that my ex-wife would literally try and stab me in the gut with a kitchen knife, and I was told that I needed to pray more, have faith; but also, I wasn’t justified in wanting divorce and was not able to justify separation from the various interpretations of 1 Cor chapter 7. (I still think that only refers to fasting, and have a hard time doing the mental gymnastics to see how it means anything else.)
I’m revisiting the issue, because something in me is discontent with the decision I’ve made. Christianity seemed to have answers for literally everything, but has little or no answer [in] response to my very strange circumstances.
It would mean a great deal to me to get my hands on writings that are from the recognized leaders that we are supposed to look to for guidance. I’m willing to do research, but I’m a lazy and simple person.
It’s been 1 year since the divorce, 2 years since the separation from church and my abuser. It’s a fact of the matter that the state of ____ has more sense over my situation than does the PCA or OPC. I was awarded full custody (and almost had sole custody, still might….) of my kids.
An Apostate. 🙂
[State redacted by Eds, for the commenter’s safety.]
And before you tell me to go back to church to ask questions, take note that they already told me that I would be excommunicated for my actions. I just beat them to the punch. For them, I have gotten divorced and that’s all that seems to matter. It doesn’t matter that my children are in danger from this psycho. It doesn’t matter that I would come home from work and my children would be alone [ages redacted, very young, both now and then] and my ex would not come home for weeks, leaving me to scramble to find child care. It doesn’t matter that real abuse existed (when is it ever necessary to spank a [very young] child 17 times?!). It doesn’t matter that she would try and kill me even. I was told that I needed to just suffer through it.
I tried Matt 18 with her. Either I wasn’t believed, or I was believed and she would say “ok, ok, I repent” and that would be enough for them. She would quickly return to the same abusive habits months later and this lasted for years and years.
I seriously want to punch a few people in the face, but then I wouldn’t be around to be the dad my kids need me to be.
So yeah, I’m a big boy. I can find the authors and do the reading myself. I just want to know where to look. I want to reconcile in my head that either Presbyterianism has an answer for my situation, or it doesn’t. But I’m not at peace with it if I’m being honest.
[For safety and protection, the children’s ages were redacted. Editors.]
Hi again Bo, you are not the only victim of domestic abuse who has been threatened with excommunication by a Presbyterian or Reformed type of church. Quite a few other commenters on this blog have suffered that too. It is all too easy for bullies to work their way into leadership in churches and then wield ungodly power over the sheep….and they often target the victims of abuse in the flock because it’s easy to get away with crushing someone who is already oppressed and traumatized. And they wrongly see all divorce as a heinous sin, so they feel little compunction in excommunicating an abuse victim who is saying they are going to divorce their abusive spouse. These church leaders are very very wrong. They have wrong attitudes, they don’t know how to rightly divide the Scriptures, and they are following tradition rather than the Word guided by the Spirit. They do immense hurt to people like yourself.
Don’t worry, I will not tell you to go back to those churches and ask them questions!
I suggest you read my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion [Affiliate link]. In appendix 2 of the book I give quotes from three Puritans who argued that abuse was grounds for divorce: Theodore Beza (1519-1605), William Perkins (1558-1602) and William Ames (1576-1633).
I am so sorry about what happened to you and the spiritual abuse you got from the OPC and the PCA. It does not surprise me that those two denominations gave you short shrift. In my observation, there are many leaders in those denominations do not give justice to victims of domestic abuse. You are not alone!
But you don’t have to forsake Christ. You were right to reject and resist the mistreatment you got from those denominations. But that doesn’t mean you have to forsake Christ. Our Lord is very angry about the way so many ‘C’hristians are mistreating the abused, just like Jesus was very angry at the Pharisees.
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This is SO helpful! Thank you!
Thanks Jackie. 🙂 Welcome to the blog!
You might like to check out our FAQ page and our New Users’ Info page.
I like the explanation.
Many people have died because of lack of this knowledge.
For your safety and protection, I modified your screen name, as the name you submitted with your comment might have been too identifying. If you would prefer using a different screen name, please email me at email@example.com.
Hi Kasoka, welcome to the blog and thanks for the encouragement.
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What an enlightenment – as she’d Soo much light. Have been in an abusive marriage for 11 years, have walked away. This is such an affirmation. Thank you.
Bless you Susan! Welcome to the blog. 🙂
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