A Cry For Justice

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

False Vows do not a Covenant Make – by Pastor Dietrich Wichmann

Pastor Dietrich Wichmann contacted us after discovering ACFJ and we invited him to write a guest post on this subject of vows and covenant. Many thanks, Pastor Wichmann. He provided us with these biographical details:

I am an ordained minister of the Church of England in South Africa, currently serving two congregations in the province of Kwa-Zulu/Natal. I have a passion for expository preaching and biblical counselling. I received my theological education at an evangelical seminary in Basel (Switzerland) and the George Whitfield College in Cape Town (South Africa). 

I was born in 1977 and grew up on a farm among the Zulu people in South Africa. My German name betrays my Lutheran heritage, to which I am deeply indebted. In addition to my vocation as a pastor, I am a musician at heart with a great love for sacred music of the early baroque period. My favourite Christian author is Martin Luther. My favourite Christian artist is Johann Sebastian Bach. I love going surfing with my brother-in-law. I also love the fly-fishing experience. I am equally hopeless at both.Here then is the post he wrote for us:

____________________

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me… (Isaiah 29:13a)

His marriage vows amounted to nothing but a blatant lie. Behind those sweet and solemn words, he had every intention to the contrary – every intention to harm, to cheat and to beat her. The abuse began within the first week of their marriage, and began a devastating story that has prompted me to ask a searching question about the nature of a true marriage covenant: in the case where marriage vows were made with false or malicious intent, would that constitute a covenant of marriage in the eyes of God?

The Bible provides us with clear principles by which this matter can be judged.

To begin with, we need to recognize that a false vow has been made. In God’s eyes, this is a serious offense. Not only has the offender acted deceitfully, in the case of a Christian marriage vow, he has taken the Lord’s name in vain. Notice how serious the offense is in God’s eyes:

“… you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God” (cf. Lev. 19:12, NKJV).

It is clear from this prohibition that a false oath in the LORD’s name amounts to a profaning of His name. It is worth noting that the following verse – vs. 13 – forbids abusive behavior: “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him” (ESV). God therefore sees a connection between false oaths and abusive behavior. (After all, why else would a man swear falsely if not for selfish gain?) With regard to the marriage covenant, the point is this: if a false vow has been made, the name of the LORD has been profaned. Biblically speaking, I would think that a true marriage covenant is always honoring to the LORD. It follows therefore that a marriage covenant, whereby the name of the Lord has been profaned, is not a true marriage covenant. If the name of the LORD has been profaned by the marriage ceremony, the ensuing ‘marriage’ would surely be an evil thing in the eyes of the LORD.

A true marriage covenant requires both parties to agree to the terms of the covenant. This agreement must come from the heart, as was the case with Rebecca (Genesis 24). In the case where young women are forced into marriage, giving outward consent to the terms of the covenant, it cannot possibly be said that a true marriage has been constituted. Surely, our God-given consciences would deem such marriages as a great injustice and an evil thing. The point that follows is this: the constitution of a true marriage covenant requires a true and cordial consent from both parties to the terms of the covenant.

It is worth reminding ourselves that, in any marriage covenant, the bridegroom agrees to be a husband to the bride, i.e. to care for, to protect, to nourish, to remain faithful to her. If the bridegroom is not agreeing to this from the heart, he is not agreeing to this at all. If he is not in agreement to being a husband to the bride, he is simply not in agreement with the terms of the covenant. While he might appear to agree to the terms – verbal consent with every intention to the contrary (as was the case above) – such a ceremony may constitute a marriage covenant in the eyes of man, but it cannot possibly be a true marriage covenant in the eyes of Him who searches heart and mind.

The victim described in the opening story has every right to question whether the abusive man in question is actually a husband. In God’s eyes, he did not agree to the terms of the marriage covenant. From God’s point of view, he is therefore not her husband. If she divorces this man, she may be consoled by the fact that there was no covenant of marriage to begin with. Abuse victims are often burdened with the pronouncement (and mis-translation of Scripture) that “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16).  But victims deserve to be consoled with the truth  that God hates a certain kind of marriage – the kind of marriage that profanes his name due to false vows. She would also deserve to be consoled that she has every right to a second chance for a true covenant of marriage.

I conclude as follows: In the case where marriage vows have been made with false or malicious intent, in God’s eyes the marriage is nill and void; what is more, such a marriage would amount to blasphemy on the part of the abuser who made the false vows (Leviticus 19:12).  The wronged spouse is free to take all necessary steps to leave such a relationship and to call upon the civil courts to recognize the invalidity of such a non-marriage.

69 Comments

  1. A Bruised Reed

    Wow! Now if this is not a breath of fesh air! Thank you Pastor Deitrich and Pastor Jeff for posting. There is true freedom in the truth. Like someone else has said, I would like to print this out and nail it to the doors of my church. Thank you thank you thank you.

  2. Isaiah40:31

    Bravo! Thank you for that!

  3. Ann

    During our dating I discovered my then boyfriend looked at pornography. He also had a few out-of-the blue outbursts of yelling at me for the smallest of things or no reason at all. He wanted to get married, but I told him as long as he viewed pornography I couldn’t marry him. He said he would stop and I believed him. We got engaged and I sensed all was not well, I asked if he was looking at pornography again, he said yes. I told him I didn’t want to marry him, he cried alot and asked “can’t we just work it out or just stay friends,?!” My own guilt from being physically inappropriate with him, I stayed engaged. He promised to get help and I was so naive believing if he confessed it to God and a few counseling sessions that all was well. He always said afterwards that he no longer looked at it and I believed him. A day before the wedding I could tell that I was not wanting to marry him. There was not only doubts about him, but his mother was definitely against it. He started with verbal abuse a day or two after the the wedding. As I see it then I am equally at fault for this false marriage. I vowed when my heart was not in it.

  4. truthmatters

    This article is such a blessing to me. I left my narcissistic husband after almost 30 years of marriage, have been separated for a couple of years and am now divorcing him. I just recently began to question whether or not he was EVER all that committed to me. It is a painful realization. He has talked a good talk….still does. He cries, “Why are you breaking your commitment to me??!” But his behavior over the years has said something quite different. It says, “I will only be “loving” to you as long as you allow me to have inordinate control and power over you and as long as you help me keep up the facade that I am a godly, principled father and husband.” Making the decision to divorce him was very difficult. But I am more and more convinced that I am being obedient to God’s will for me. I sense His calling to separate myself completely from a man who wants me to allow him to be my god in place of the one and only True God.

    • Dietrich Wichmann

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Lynn

      Truthmatters
      I am at that point in my marriage also. I agree with you and your husband sounds very familiar to mine. It is validating to hear someone from a long marriage admit all this, and I feel the same that God is calling me to separate.

      • Hope

        Me too. I found this article tonight in answer to prayer. It has taken me a long time to realize that I believed lies, loved a liar, lived more lies. Well, better to “wake up” late than never at all!

      • Dear Hope

        ((((hugs)))

  5. This is just . . . . excellent. Thank you thank you thank you, Pastor Wichmann. I am sharing this on our Give Her Wings page.

    • Dietrich Wichmann

      “Giver Her Wings” – a beautiful name for a beautiful ministry! – Thank you so much!

  6. Ann

    Forgot to add, because I feel equally at fault for this false marriage I have stayed feeling that I would just try to be a good wife and hopefully he would love me and show he cherished me. I began to think the verbal, emotional, and some physical abuse along with his flirting and gaslighting were in some way justified for my heart not being totally into marrying him.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Hi Ann – It sounds like you are wearing a lot of false guilt. Every abuse victim we talk to was duped in some way by their abuser early on. It is not a sin to be deceived, and anything you have done that was sinful is washed away by Christ when we confess and repent. The Lord does not continue to hammer and punish His children. Seeing the abuse in your marriage as in some way the Lord’s continuing punishment of you is wrong thinking. I have been drawn into that kind of thinking myself before, so you are not alone. But it is wrong and you can in all confidence reject it. The abuser’s abuse is NEVER justified. It is never deserved.

  7. Ann

    Thank you Pastor. The guilt I believe is why I could never step back and admit to myself that I was being abused and it caused a lot of confusion. I was homesick a lot and one day shared with a dear Christian woman how much I wanted to go back home. She is the most non-judgmental I person I know. She said, “Ann, it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with.” I crumpled to the ground and sobbed uncontrollably; it was the first clear revelation of the reality of my situation. Our children were very young and I stayed and here I am 20 years later, but now with confession and repentance that Jesus so graciously offers and pointed out by you Pastor, I can look to God for the direction He wants me to go in. Thank you.

    • Wow that pastor sounds marvelous. Very few pastors understand domestic abuse well enough and have the moral courage to help a victim come out of denial and self-blame!

      Maybe you would like to suggest that he visit this blog. We love to hear from pastors who get it. It’s tremendously encouraging for our readership. He might also find some of our Resources helpful.

  8. Sunflower

    This is interesting. We had ‘agreed’ to write our own ‘vows’ for our wedding. After about 7 years of abuse, at a time when my h had been waving a copy of his ‘vows’ in front of me, telling me he really meant them and was wanting to work on them (I think the pastor was behind this act), I was crying out to God about all of it when a still small voice said, “Type the first line of his ‘vow’ into the search on the internet”. I would have never thought of that. And, there it was. He said it was no big deal, he still meant it, but something really felt off about his saying it was from his heart when it was just copied. (never mind all the promises of not being into porn that were lies, etc., and his driving off with another woman right after our wedding for a few hours then taking her into ‘our’ bedroom for an hour to ‘witness’ to her…..need I go on?)

    • Ann

      Wow Sunflower, Praise God for His leading you to type that!

      That “witnessing” is just off the charts”!!! Guessing he said it with a straight face too.

    • Brenda R

      Sunflower,
      God surely works in mysterious ways. All was a lie. Nothing was from his heart. There were no vows or covenant. I am so sorry.

      I rejoice each time I hear another Pastor who “get’s it”. Thank you Pastor Wichmann.

      My pastor said in his sermon this week that pastor’s are held at too high of standards and are like everyone else. Sometimes they can’t always love their neighbors they have in their own homes much less those outside of it 100% of the time. He also said that every one of us marries for love, but since we have a 50% divorce rate is shows that one party tries to outdo one another whether it be good or bad, mostly bad and that is why marriages end. I emailed him to tell him that he gave a good sermon on the Good Samaritan EXCEPT: All people do not marry for love. They marry for countless other reasons, mostly bad reasons. I feel no remorse or guilt in divorcing the X and am at peace with that decisiion, because the X did not keep covenant and we were never really married rather than on paper. It is amazing how God works. This post today proves that.

      I also asked him if he would pray with me as I continue a project that I am working on to help abuse victims. He did NOT respond to that email but has to another one which was not at all of such high importance.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Thank you for correcting your pastor. I reread his statement a few times before reading further. I did not agree that everyone marries for love. His idea of outdoing each other doesn’t set right with me either. That is a flippant comment about a very serious matter. When we tried so hard to make our marriages work, I find it very hurtful for someone to explain that it was simply an end to two people trying to outdo one another.

        Tell me if I am over reacting as I am working hard on the phase of anger regarding my N ex. And at the same time, he has surfaced in his old ways regarding an important matter with one of our adult children. I am feeling weary and sad. I suppose these feelings ride on the shirttails of anger.

        Brenda, you seem to have a good relationship with your pastor, but I am concerned about your last paragraph.

      • Brenda R

        Carol,
        I am not sure that I do have a “good” relationship with my pastor. He is cordial and I question him often about things that are said. He says kind things, like “we all need one another”, but doesn’t seem to “get it” about abuse or want to say anything that would condone divorce for any reason. I have to wonder if his prayers aren’t against what I ask him to pray with me.

        I believe that saying “vows?” with a forked tongue does not a covenant make. I struggled with this for a long time before saying No, God has not sealed this mess. He does not condone a marriage of lies because a piece of paper has the state’s seal of approval on it. I don’t have children with X and I do grow weary of his on going attempts to try to manipulate me into thinking that he has changed and slither himself into my life.

        Carol find your strength in the Lord. I will pray to that end. I will pray for your child as well. We all can be taken in by the N’s smooth talk no matter how old we are at times. There are red flags everywhere if we really look for them. Peace and (((Hugs))) my sister.

      • Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

        I am also wondering about the 50% divorce rate. It has come out recently that this statistic is false. The divorce rate has never been 50% and among Bible believing Christians it is something like only 20%. This false statistic might be behind some of the harsh demands that churches make for counseling and no divorce.

      • Brenda R

        Cindy,
        I don’t know what the real stats are on divorce, but I thought 50% was extreme, too.

      • Jeff Crippen

        StillScared – Interesting. So it may be that the lower divorce rate among conservative Christians is not necessarily a good thing? At least in some cases, because it simply means that abusers have their way and victims are forced to stay with them.

      • I’m not an expert on divorce statistics, but I do know that statistics in general are hotly contested in the field of domestic abuse. That is one reason why we have a policy of keepng the blog free from statistics regarding the relative incidence of male perpetration versus female perpetration. Some of the men’s rights groups put a lot of energy into citing statistics and research selectively in order to bolster their claim that victims.

        I would not be surprised if I read some good research that demonstrated that divorce rate statistics have been massaged or falsely presented in order to frighten conservatives (esp. Christians) into holding a hard line against divorce and making an idol of the institution of marriage: that agenda very much supports the hidden agenda of domestic abusers who want to continue to maintain control of their victims . . . However, I am not sure whether such research has been done, or whether it could ever be done and proved conclusively. And I don’t have the time or interest to find out whehter it’s been done. I leave the stats field to others who are much more qualified and interested to engage in it.

      • Brenda R

        Barbara, you said:
        I would not be surprised if I read some good research that demonstrated that divorce rate statistics have been massaged or falsely presented in order to frighten conservatives (esp. Christians) into holding a hard line against divorce and making an idol of the institution of marriage.

        That is just how I felt when my pastor was giving the 50% divorce rate. I wondered where he got that statistic and why it mattered. I also thought was this a piece of paper marriage or a true vow on both parties. I don’t think that a lot of people really think about what they are agreeing to do and is probably why my youngest daughter doesn’t see the point in marriage at all. She doesn’t think people are ever going to stay together for long periods of time and aren’t suppose to. I don’t agree with that thinking and I know God doesn’t.

      • Annie

        The divorce rate is rather irrelevant, unless one maintains the position that divorce is sin. It’s not the statistic we have to worry about, it’s whether divorce is sinful. If it is, then gosh, there’s something dreadfully wrong that believers are divorcing at the same rate as unbelievers. Perhaps pastors are afraid that it might reflect their lack of effort in getting across the sanctity of marriage. So they ramp up their efforts. But alas, that doesn’t seem to produce much fruit since the faithful are still divorcing at rates close to what is seen in the world.

        On the other hand, if the act of divorce is not sinful per se, then the rate should not be of concern, except to alert us that many people are needing help in their marriages, with a significant proportion of those being traumatized in abusive relationships. The question then is, how do we help them?

      • Amen, Annie.
        You put that perfectly!

      • Brenda R

        Annie,
        You bring out a very good point. The statistic doesn’t matter and with pastor bringing up a specific number he seems to be saying that all of those divorces are sinful. I don’t agree. It also seems that it is a tactic to say to those that may have a legitament reason to divorce, “don’t do it”. God Hates Divorce–I do believe that he would rather it be the way he intended, but he also collects the tears of those who find it the only way they have left.

    • HappyToBursting

      That is remarkable, Sunflower. My XH had to “approve” the vows I wrote. These men are all the same, aren’t they?

    • Dietrich Wichmann

      Hi Sunflower. I’m really glad you found A Cry for Justice. Keep in touch with them!

  9. joepote01

    Your thesis would appear to be in keeping with the words of Christ in Matthew 7:21-23:

    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

    Covenant is in the keeping of the vows more than the saying of them.

    • Dietrich Wichmann

      Thanks for this good point. It is noted for future reference.

  10. I’m grateful to hear a sound word regarding a marriage covenant! Thank you so much! I used to call it the “Marriage Trap” because my church kept telling me “give your husband more grace” – and I did – for 20 years too many. The pastors knew he was threatening to mutilate my body and kill me, and they kept telling me, “Can’t you give him more grace?” It was insane… all due to “God hating divorce” … but cheers and high five’s to your declaration of freedom to a spouse who is psychologically and physically tortured! Thank you for being a pastor and using your voice to free the captives of the Marriage Trap!

    By the way, I’m happily remarried – and have a true marriage covenant now. But it took much private study to come to the conclusion that covenant love is the antidote to our modern marriage vows, that a predator can easily use to drain his victim dry. Thank you so much for speaking up!

    • Brenda R

      Susan Schiller, That was insane. Show more grace to someone who threatens your life. I believe that is when it is time to find the nearest exit. I am so glad that you have found true covenant marriage. PTL

    • Dietrich Wichmann

      Thank you, Susan, for sharing your story. I know of a woman who was actually murdered by her abusive husband. The pastor had also told her basically to “give him more grace”… . She was, in fact, the pastor’s daughter. So sad.
      “covenant love is the antidote to our modern marriage vows” – Amen and amen!

    • Hope

      Your freedom and remarriage give me…hope. Thank you.

  11. Valerie

    I appreciate this post very much yet it raises some confusion for me. Maybe I am missing something. ?

    I have often felt that my husband essentially had his fingers crossed behind his back when me made vows to me. I have often felt that we never had a marriage in the sense that he never intended to be a partner to me but for me to serve him in whatever way he wanted at the moment. This post very much resonated with me. That line of thought has given me some validation in recent months, since some have suggested to me that possibly he “just changed” over the years. Yet as I look back the signs were there from when we were dating.

    Here’s where the confusion comes in. If there was never really a covenant, no real vows, then by that same token should I not be outraged and the church not hold him accountable for not providing for his family as it states in 1 Timothy 5:8? Would it not be considered an affair if he saw another woman during the marriage? If there was no true covenant then what about him being held accountable for not fulfilling the terms under the terms of the covenant vow?

    How do I reconcile this?

    • dihewi

      Hi Valerie – thank you for raising this important question.

      If you are holding your husband accountable to the terms of the covenant vow, you are acting on the assumption that he meant his vows. That is acting in good faith. (You are actually paying him a massive compliment by doing so!) My impression, however, is that his behaviour has forced you to a point where you can no longer act in good faith. If his behaviour has proven that he never intended to keep the vows to begin with, then he must be held accountable for making a false vow.

      Does this help you at all?

      Dietrich

      • sorry about the multiple replies – I didn’t think they were all appearing!

      • No worries, Dietrich; we moderate all comments on the blog, so no comment goes live straight away. We do this to keep the blog a safe place for our readers. Otherwise a comment from an abuser might get published, which would be triggering for most of our readers. Comments go live when one of our team gets to check the “Pending Comments” folder.

      • Valerie

        Dietrich, you are correct in saying that I kept the assumption throughout the marriage that he meant his vows, as did I. We are currently in the process of divorce and my concern/question arises as to what he can be held accountable at this point with the new information I have regarding his abuse that would reasonably conclude he entered the marriage in bad faith. I have gotten used to people’s critical responses, esp within the church body. To that end I would like to feel firm in my position that though he entered the marriage in bad faith and didn’t uphold the covenant, he can also be held accountable (in theory…no one has actually held him accountable) for the obligations he didn’t uphold in the marriage as well as being held accountable for the position it will leave me as a result of him divorcing me (financially and a myriad of other ways). I do believe he should be held accountable for the false vow, I just question if I take that position then consequently what does that do for the obligations of the vow itself if the vow was a farce to begin with? For example, if there was never a true covenant, then if he is with another woman while still married is it adultery? I still feel it is but some would say if I claim there was never a real vow (which I believe) then technically he also hasn’t broken the marriage vows (if there is no true vow as the premise I beginning with) How could he be breaking the vow that never was? Did I explain that well?
        “Baie danke” for this post, Dietrich!

      • Hi Valerie!

        I understand your question and I would be the first to admit that it is a difficult one to answer. This is my tentative answer: From a human point of view, I think you are right for now in holding him accountable to the actual terms of the covenant. If, in so doing, it then becomes evident that he made his vows with intentions to the contrary, then the matter becomes clear: it was not a true covenant of marriage to begin with. Once that is established – and his intentions can only be established by holding him accountable to the terms of the covenant! – you can then know and take to heart that God would see your divorce as the termination of a false marriage covenant.

        In principle, the human perspective on the matter must be distinguished from God’s perspective. For the time being, wisdom suggests that you proceed from what you know to be true: he did not keep his vows. If it then becomes clear that he had no intentions to keep the vows to begin with, you may then draw conclusions about God’s perspective on the marriage. I do not say this lightly!

        Hope this helps!

  12. Thank you Ps Wichmann for writing this post for us. 🙂
    All the way from South Africa, too! I hope you continue to follow our blog and contribute to it.

    • dihewi

      It is only a privilege, Barbara 🙂
      Greetings from Dietrich

  13. Oh yes, the dreaded non “vows” ridiculousness! To be very honest, I do not remember our wedding. No recollection, except for pictures that prove we were there. Is that odd? I mean really odd? Don’t ever underestimate the power of persistence! My N (nanny goat) was so good at what he was and did, looking back, I actually believe he just convinced me we should get married. I can’t believe I am actually saying this right now, but it is true. I do not remember (because I didn’t) falling in love with him. It was just an “idea” I guess. I do remember telling him over and over and over on many, many occasions and in different places that we should not be together. And I listed all the reasons why, many times to no avail.

    Wow, this post has triggered something in me! Neither of our sets of parents attended our wedding, yes you heard that right. My brother gave me away. Why on earth would I not see that as a huge blaring red signal? I remember one thing, very vividly…..we stayed at my place briefly before the wedding because his lease was up, (we never lived together) and I will never forget, I was cooking dinner, there was a disagreement of some sort, and he shoved me really hard onto my bed, with such force I have never felt before. I was in shock, didn’t know what to think, confused, hurt, mad, and eventually, sadly, in denial. That was my wake up call…..and I ignored it. Wow! I have always believed there will most definitely be a sign (God) to help you and show you which way to go or not to go. NEVER underestimate the power of PERSISTENCE!

    • Brenda R

      SV2,
      Your story has some very big similarities to mine, however this was not my first marriage. The current X kept asking me to marry him over and over and over again. One day I finally said ok fine. I did not want to get married again. The minister was 2 hours late. God saying Hey I’m giving you a way out!!. My soon to be then sister-in-law was the culprit for tracking him down. In the meatime, me- a woman who doesn’t drink had 5 straight shots. The minister in good conscience should not have married us. Out names were not even in his planner. God intervening once again? There was no truth in the “vows” only manipulation and my ignorance. X now states that he never took vows. So all we had was a signed piece of paper and many years of abuse.

      • Dear SV2 and Brenda,
        I am deeply saddened by your stories. You were both manipulated into marriage. As saddened as I am for you, I am grateful that you had the courage to share this.
        It is a good lesson for others who might be reading this. If a man manipulates you into marriage – now matter how subtle or charming he may appear to you, if you feel manipulated into something, this is a clear sign of bad news. If the guy manipulates you into marriage, how do you think he will treat you when you ARE married?!
        Another thought: if the guy manipulates you into marriage, he has no concept of what marriage is. Marriage involves respect. The manipulator does not understand that concept. If he manipulates you into marriage, he will manipulate you into a false marriage.
        SV2 and Brenda, thank you for sharing.

  14. laurie

    Word!

    • soldiergirl

      Thank you Pastor Dietrich for saying in words that I have always known as true in my heart, but could never say.
      If more pastors would stand up like you and Jeff about marriage and abuse, I can only imagine how many unsaved people would “turn to Christianity” because the truth sets people free, and breaks the bonds of the enemy..
      Yes it would be revolutionary and astounding to see all the abusers having no where to hide, and the captives set free by bringing into the light these types of messages abroad.
      I hope and pray that more faithful pastors will see this truth, so that the gospel will no longer be preached with such blatant error.

      • Dietrich Wichmann

        Onward Christian Soldier! 🙂

    • Dietrich, thank you for your empathy, it is deeply felt….. those of us in these horrible abusive, Narcissistic situations rarely experience those emotions coming our way. It is amazing the actual welling up of my chest (and eyes) that those simple words bring when spoken, even from a stranger. It is such a nurturing and safe part of being human and yet it is devoid in our world. But, when I do feel it, God is reminding me and that these abusers did not take away what He has put in my heart to feel for myself and others. Which ultimately says that they did not win! Woo hoo!

      I remember a few years ago, my daughter and I were in an unsavory part of town (long story there!) and a bum came up on me and was getting too close and trying to talk to me and ask for things and when my daughter (who is an adult) saw him, she came over right away and said, hey, you get away from my Mom! Get back, you’re too close! Go away! Now! Go! First, I did not know what to think…..someone is actually protecting me? Why? How? And when it had sunk in, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion! I almost felt embarrassed, but it was an amazing feeling! I felt worth being protected! I don’t believe I had ever felt that in over 25 years of marriage. The feeling stayed with me for several days, every time I heard her words in my head. I never wanted it to go away!

      This safe place, this blog, Barbara, Jeff & others, beautiful people who share deep wounds, if we can help each other & find healing, peace and answers, we have found an oasis.

  15. A Bruised Reed

    Survivorthrivor2, I agree with your comment on persistence. I tried to break off the wedding a week before and my N came over and basically manipulated me into going through with the ceremony. Oh, & I married a man exactly like my father. My mother said he would not leave her alone for 7 years until she married him. I am also coming to grips now that my father was a narcissist exactly like my husband. Not a good thing for a daddy’s girl to realize. Persistence paid off for my father. I am convinced that I did not have a chance of escape once N sucked me into a relationship.

  16. Barnabasintraining

    In the case where marriage vows have been made with false or malicious intent, in God’s eyes the marriage is nill and void; what is more, such a marriage would amount to blasphemy on the part of the abuser who made the false vows (Leviticus 19:12).

    I too have concluded that abuse in marriage is blasphemy, though I came to that via a different route. I’m glad to have yet another reason to hold this view. Pastor Wichmann is absolutely right.

  17. ceekayellemm

    AMEN!!!

  18. Anonymous100

    Dear Pastor Deitrich,

    You wrote the following to Valerie and I have a question about it: “For the time being, wisdom suggests that you proceed from what you know to be true: he did not keep his vows. If it then becomes clear that he had no intentions to keep the vows to begin with, you may then draw conclusions about God’s perspective on the marriage. I do not say this lightly!”

    What if my husband did not keep his vows, but may have had intentions to do, then what?

    In my case verbal abuse started 24-36 hours after the ceremony. All the following communication happened over the years as well (thank you to Cindy Burrell for this list) “avoidance, deflection, deception, redirection, feigning ignorance, shifting blame or simply lying when the need arises.” There was some physical abuse too.

    • Dear “Anonymous100”,

      Thank you for sharing your story us. And thank you for your most important question.

      In the case where a true marriage has presumably been constituted and the husband subsequently fails to keep his promises (as described in your question), the marriage covenant has been broken. She then has the right to request the civil authorities for a recognition of this fact, i.e. to sue for divorce. In breaking his promises, whether he intended to keep them or not, he gives her the right to divorce him.

      Does this answer your question at all?

      Warm greetings,
      Dietrich

      • Anonymous100

        Yes Pastor it does. Thank you.

  19. TB

    This sounds so familiar. I did not leave my home with my five children to manipulate my husband into being a good boy–I left out of fear following a very disturbing incident that was different from all the other “usual” stuff that he did. I took a stand like never before in leaving, not ever expecting that I’d actually go through with being gone for several weeks and eventually divorcing him. The night I left I never imagined I would not ever spend another night with him, hold his hand, share a movie or dinner with him again.

    I, too, begged him to get help, and like you my pleas fell on deaf ears. He, too, after almost a year, appears to be completely without remorse. When he told me in a note early on to come home and reconcile (without any admission of fault or corrective measures in place), I told him I could and would not until he owned up to his repetitive bad behavior and had a plan in place to do something about it.

    He completely dismisses the REAL issue every single time we talk and blames our problems on me (or his job, or our finances, or, or, or) and my rebellion against his authority, my unsubmissiveness, my headstrong ways, my becoming a worldly feminist, etc. I told him it was heart crushing that his pride was greater than his love for his family. What man would be so stuck on this mindset that he would give up his wife and children over it??????????? Not once did he come to me with any remorse and/or acknowledgement of his wrong doings. He even sent out a letter to many of our family/friends saying he was glad I left and that he would rather sleep in his car than be married to me.

    There was one half-baked pathetic very general apology that was more of a blanket statement covering everything in an unemotional way. It was written, not spoken. And even after that “apology”, there was more verbal sewage that came my way and still does come my way regularly…so it was not a true apology by any stretch. I am coming to the place where I, too, wonder if he even ever truly loved me. No one could say the kind of stuff he said/says and call it love.

    He was fresh out of a divorce when we married. His first wife left him early on. I will never know why except he said she did not want to move away from her home state. I was a baby Christian when we married without many convictions. We had broken the rules together before we married. In looking back, I too wonder if our vows were hogwash. I just wanted to be married so I could wake up next to this cute, funny guy for the rest of my life. He was on the rebound. We were young and foolish. There were many things we did wrong (in sin) from the start. As I proceeded toward divorce I wondered if our beginnings were part of the “curse” that seems to have been on our union from the start. God did bless us with a lovely family, although many of our children are quite scarred emotionally from all the years of emotional dysfunction.

    I thought it would be good to go back to our marital roots, seek forgiveness for the way we started out, ask God to allow us a fresh start, even after 26 years. But ex was usually not in to doing that sort of thing and we were so close to our divorce date I didn’t even suggest it. He was not open to fixing things anyway…well not this way…he’d gladly have me come home and apologize for my rebellion against him and take me back. He said he’d help me get back to being a proper helpmeet. I think it might have been restorative for us to go back to our roots, and me in particular. I have repented to the Lord for my part in it and asked for God’s forgiveness.

  20. Estelle

    Ngiyabonga kakhulu, Umfundisi (Thank you very much, Pastor) for this explanation of false vows and for showing that some marriages are thus not true marriages.

    PS I was born in Durban and nowadays live not far from George Whitfield College.

  21. Sawubona, uEstelle! I’m glad you found A Cry For Justice – their resources are really excellent and much needed in South Africa.

  22. Outofdareness

    My husband claims that unless there is infedility, the law of the land (legal divorce) can not break a marriage covenant. When discussing divorce, my h mentioned that even if I divorced him legally, we were still married in God’s eyes and that meant he still had a right to me as his wife and he could make me come back. Latter on, he informed me that if I got a divorce he wouldn’t exercise his right to make me come back and he would let me go because that would be the right thing to do. Do you know anywhere in the bible that says a man has a right to his wife even if she chooses to leave?

    • I have finally got my old article Still Married in the Sight of God? back up on the web. I hope you find it helpful.

    • Do you know anywhere in the bible that says a man has a right to his wife even if she chooses to leave?

      No. Absolutely not! There Bible explicitly talks about the ‘right’ of one spouse to the other spouse. But the ‘right’ a man has to his wife — the conjugal right for sexual intimacy — is 100% balanced by the congjugal right of the wife.

      The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:3-4)

      So if you decide to not allow your husband’s body to have sexual intimacy with your body, your husband —if he is following 1 Cor 7 — must respect your decision, since you have authority over his body. His authority over your body cannot trump your authority over his body. It MUST be a mutual relationship, with the rights and authorities of both parties equally balanced in the bedroom.

      Your husband is citing the uninspired traditions of culture and the foolish imaginations of men; he is not citing the Bible.

      I deal with this subject in my book. If you would like me to gift you a copy, email me (see my addres in the About tab at the top of the blog). Or you can purchase it by clicking on the image of the book in the sidebar of the blog.

  23. StandsWithAFist

    twbtc linked to this post today. What an excellent post that takes seriously the word of God, both law AND grace, as Ps. Jeff and Barbara have often taught us.

    Yet, I am pondering something: when one law is violated (i.e.: making a false vow, oppressing others) then it seems to set in motion the violation of other laws.

    What I mean is, when false vows are given, or you are oppressed by an abuser, then it leads to coveting in your own heart: I find myself “coveting” not being oppressed. I covet friends who understand. I covet the lives of others who seem happy. I long to feel valued & accepted, to be included & to not feel like a pariah. Lately, those I once considered friends seem shallow & even perturbed by my “truth telling”….so they avoid me. I feel like I am on the outside looking in, and wonder where I “fit”. I don’t “fit” anymore.

    So, is that actually “coveting”? Or is it grief? Does does it displease God when I feel that way? I don’t know, but I DO know that today I feel abandoned and violated and longing for that which God Himself designed: harmony & beauty & affirmation.

    I feel supremely sad….full of sorrow & acquainted with grief.

    any thots would be welcomed.

    • I find myself “coveting” not being oppressed. I covet friends who understand. I covet the lives of others who seem happy. I long to feel valued & accepted, to be included & to not feel like a pariah. . . . I don’t “fit” anymore.
      So, is that actually “coveting”? Or is it grief? Does does it displease God when I feel that way?

      I think what you’ve described is your desire & aspiration for dignity, honor and acceptance because you have been dishonoured, treated with indignity, and rejected. I don’t think that you are sinning by aspiring and longing for those things. In the ten commandments, the sin of covetousness is described as the fleshly desire for aquirements and possessions:

      You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. (Exodus 20:17 ESV)

      Longing to be treated with respect and dignity, and to be accepted and included by others in the body of Christ, is not a sin. It is the natural aspiration of the healthy regenerate soul who wants to be accepted in the body without stigma. Jesus says

      The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

      Wishing to experience something of that abundant life now (not only in the afterlife) is something that is natural for all of us. If we do not experience it now we may continue to wish for it, pray for it, and appropriately ask and knock on doors for it. What was the Persistent Widow doing, if not that? — and she is praised, not condemned, for wanting it. We only verge into sin when we allow that wish to crystalize and harden into a canker of bitterness against God for it not having come to pass yet.

      So, in summary, I think what you are experiencing is not coveting, it is grief. . . . (((hugs)))

  24. Kimberly

    Thank you Pastor for clarifying the truth that a vow made under false pretenses is no vow at all!! When the Lord told me to divorce my husband, something which I struggled with, because of false teaching, causing fear and torment, I would somehow disappoint my Lord, whom I loved. It was this very truth the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit that set me free.

    God’s heart is that marriage be a breathtaking reflection of Christ and His Bride. Yet, if that husband is not loving her the way God commanded, hen the Covenant can not possibly stay intact the way God designed it.

    The Lord asked me one question that settled in my heart. I still remember it clearly. He said, “Kimberly, why are you allowing your husband to trample under his feet the sacred? Why are you allowing him to profane what i have called holy? Do not any longer cast your pearls before swine. Judge rightly in this. For marriage is MY idea and i have deemed it good since the beginning.” God taught me that a true and honorable marriage did not have the presence of abuse. Once abuse of any kind enters into a relationship it ceases to be a God-honoring relationship at all, (whether that was at the altar or soon afterward). To institute a Covenant, there is always a sacrifice. In marriage, the husband is called to, “give up his life FOR her”–(die to self). When a husband walks in his flesh and uses abusive weapons to “rule over her”, he has made the Covenant null and void.

    It is not that marriage is to be taken lightly, but rather it should be understood as being near to God’s heart, therefore, honored according to the design HE laid out in Scripture. The problem arises when the “Church” says, there is no holy reason to escape marriage and every marriage is permanent regardless of what transpires in that marriage. We honor God when we defend the true meaning of marriage. God’s heart is for relationship. The “whole shootin match”, even our Salvation is about reconnecting in relationship as God has told us it should be and not how we define it.

  25. debby

    How can you tell someone “isn’t sincere about their vows?” This is difficult for me. I DO think my h was very sincere when he said his vows. I don’t think he even realized the impact his dad’s modeling had on him until he had already said his vows and then tried to enact them in the only way he knew: outright and constant control. I am struggling with this right now. I don’t see some of these (what I would consider) really awful behaviors (lying, cheating, stealing, hitting, porn, etc) but his actions toward me (criticizing, controlling minimizing, yelling, gas lighting, ignoring, denying etc) caused much pain over 28 years. I am really asking God for discernment here because after being in the fog for so long, I don’t know what is SERIOUS enough to walk away and what I should be willing to “work with.” I have let him get away with a lot over these years out of fear, but now that I am standing up (living in another room for 5 months now) he is MUCH nicer and more helpful. The other times I moved into another room (usually for 1-4 weeks) as soon as I went back, he started up with the controlling again. I hate it all. I want to just buy a camper and go away and not have to deal with it anymore.

    • Jeff Crippen

      debby – you know by their fruits, not by whether they appeared to be sincere when they stated the vows. Now, if he vowed to constantly control you, criticize you, yell at you, gaslight you, ignore and deny you, then by his fruits he shows he has kept his vows. But of course, those are not the words he vowed, are they? I suspect he vowed to love you. But from your description, he certainly has not. Debby, sometimes we are in a circumstance for so long that we begin to think it is normal and if we sense that there is something wrong, we push that feeling away and blame ourselves and tell ourselves this is just how it is. But it isn’t. What you have and continue to experience is not marriage. It is abuse. The vows were broken long ago.

    • Brenda R

      debby,
      Whether or not your h meant his vows when he said them is not the issue. The issue is how he lives them out. If he is doing bad things to you, he has broken covenant with you. You need to see sincere repentance.

  26. Excellent! I agree completely. I would further state that one who is guilty of such a vile sin must be removed from the rolls of the church as an unbeliever. As the Heidelberg Catechism states, “no sin is more provoking to God than the profaning of His name, whereby he even commanded that it be punished by death.”

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