God’s view of women who get targeted by abusive men (2 Timothy 3:6-7)
Men who abuse women tend to target women who are:
- weighed down with sins
- led astray by their desires / passions / feelings
- always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth
- ‘little women’ (the Greek is a single word which is the diminutive of women)
Ps Liam Goligher says¹ that the Greek word translated ‘desires’ mean feelings – whether positive and negative. It doesn’t necessarily have an immoral connotation. For example, Jesus used it positively when he said “I have inwardly desired to eat this Passover lamb with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). So in 2 Timothy 3:6, that word just indicates that these women are led by their emotions.
A woman can be led by her emotions in desiring to put other people’s needs before her own. And skilled male offenders prefer to target women who put other people’s needs before their own. It seems that what Don Hennessy teaches about domestic abusers is in line with the Bible yet again!
The Bible says these men take women captive (aichmalotizontes). The Greek word means to subdue, ensnare, subjugate, gain control over, get power over, make prisoners of. What a perfect word for how skilled male offenders operate! Don Hennessy has explained in great detail how the skilled offenders do this.
Hennessy says that when selecting a woman to target, these skilled male offenders prefer a woman who is kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful.
A woman can be kind, loyal, dedicated and truthful, while at the same time being weighed down with sins, led by her feelings, ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
So does the Bible disparage these women? Does God blame these women for being taken captive by evil men? Are these women unstable before the evil men target them? Can these women ever learn? Or are they doomed to be perpetually vulnerable to evil men?
These are tough questions because they have the potential to be dismissive and shaming of women who are victimized by abusive men. But we need to grapple with these questions. What does the Bible mean when it describes women this way?
Many professing Christians assume that Paul was disparaging the kinds of women who are taken captive by covertly evil men. It’s easy to disparage abused women. It requires less courage than standing up to the evil men who abuse them. (see Ps Crippen’s excellent post When We Believe the Wicked and Dismiss the Oppressed, We are Guilty of Cowardice)
Paul cannot be telling Timothy that these women are unworthy of pastoral attention and care. Writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul – who described himself as the chief of sinners – would not have shown such contempt for victims of abuse! He must be alluding to other things: things that (generally speaking) result in complex trauma to females more than males. Things such as
- adverse childhood experiences
- the trans-generational transmission of trauma
- sexual harassment and abuse
- male-privilege assumptions in society
- the readiness to blame victims rather than have compassion for them.
Liam Goligher says:
It’s not all women by any means. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul talks about mature and godly women who are able to instruct other women. And in this letter (2 Timothy), Paul reminds Timothy of what he learned from his mother and grandmother who were his chief instructors in the things of God.
But ever since the Fall blighted this world, the majority of girls and women have been trained to accept that their gender is second-class so they must become accustomed to being treated as sex objects, not to mention being distrusted, suspected and blamed for what is not their fault. (See my thoughts on Genesis 3:16 here) Often every choice or option available to a woman has been fraught with danger. Woman has historically been trapped and stigmatized no matter which way she turns. If she belongs to a ‘higher caste’ (e.g. white, rich, born in a wealthy country, born into a privileged family) it might mean her choices are somewhat less bound, less restricted. But sexual abuse and domestic abuse occur in all societies and all demographics.
False guilt and real guilt
Women are often burdened with a lot of false guilt. They are blamed for the sins of others, especially the abuse which evil men have done to them.
And many women – especially women who are kind, truthful, loyal and conscientious – have real guilt for their sometimes sinful responses to the oppression they have endured. I’m talking about the sins women may have themselves committed in responding to the constrictions which abuse and male privilege have confined them to.
Let me relate my own experience as an example; many of our readers have heard my story before, but we never know when new readers look at to our website. In my teens and early adulthood, I was carrying a heavy burden of sins I had committed against myself and others: bulimia, drug abuse, promiscuity, working as a prostitute when I was 19/20, then going into the occult and the New Age because I thought it was giving me answers. I now know I did all those things in attempting to avoid the pain of having been sexually abused in childhood…and I thank God for rescuing me from that morass by revealing Jesus to me and showing me that He loves me and has paid the price for all my sin!
Real guilt needs to be confessed. We must cease that sin, casting our burden on Christ who cleanses us from all sin.
But a negative feedback loop happens when a person has a sense of their own real guilt yet the real guilt isn’t disentangled from the false guilt which that person is also carrying.
Real guilt for one’s own real sin is difficult to disentangle from the false guilt that one has been conditioned to accept.
When legalistic religion and society has given you the impression that all resistance to oppression and abuse is ‘wrong’, it is a long and arduous process to do this disentangling.
And here’s the trap: If we are carrying false guilt mixed with real guilt, our burdened consciences make us only too ready to grasp at any offer of easement – including the offers from evil men who are skilled at covertly manipulating our emotions to take us captive, while persuading us they are giving us the easement and peace and love we desire.
To expunge false guilt from our minds, it helps to have lots of rest, time with God and with compassionate human companions, and decent teaching from wise Christians who can expose and explain in plain language all the false teachings that brought us into bondage.
False guilt needs to be identified, shed and and thrown off like a plague-infected garment. And when one has carried false guilt for years, one usually needs to fight and cast it off repeatedly (Romans 12:2). It is a spiritual battle to get rid of false guilt. The journey is often two steps forward, one step back (see my post on the backstitch analogy).
But God helps us!
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal things, but things mighty in God to cast down strongholds, with which we overthrow imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity all understanding to the obedience of Christ, and are ready to take vengeance on all disobedience, when your obedience might come to an end.
(2 Cor 10:4-6, New Matthew Bible ²)
They were always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth
They wanted an answer, they were looking everywhere for an answer, a way out, something else, something else. They were reading all the books and downloading all the programs and going to all the conferences. Always learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth – probably because:
- they were looking in all the wrong places
- these teachers were telling them stuff and playing on their guilt.
The devil always plays on your guilt. God never does. God never plays on your guilt; He never uses your guilt as a motive or incentive or a driver to anything better or brighter or greater. But the devil will play on your guilt. And many bible teachers will play on your guilt. It sells their books and their videos. And gets you to their conferences. And makes you dependent on them, on what they will say next. They’ll play on your guilt, your fears. Play on your sense of neediness. Manipulate your feelings by offering you a better feeling for a while perhaps.
A diet of memes will not make you into a mature Christian
Here’s something I (Barb) have observed with female victims of abuse. Some (note I say some, not most or all) of them seem to live on a diet of memes. Facebook is pretty much the only place they engage on the web. They read headlines on FB posts and those few words which facebook gives under the headline, but they may not read the whole item which has been posted. When they comment, they do so on FB rather than commenting at the blog post or article which was linked to that FB post. And they are drawn to graphics which show things like butterflies, wings, princess crowns, and flowery “feminine” fonts. They are enticed by soothing, encouraging promises and fairy-dust statements like God treasures you! and Your are valuable to God!
But they don’t often read the more deep Christian teaching which might challenge them mentally or spiritually.
And sadly these women tend to un-discerningly imbibe lots of counsel from people who teach about marriage and relationship problems who give bad advice how to respond to domestic abuse. I hold Christian leaders accountable for that plethora of bad advice.
And when abused women do read Christian blogs about domestic abuse, many of the bloggers they follow use a very ‘friendly’ tone when writing for their readers. Personally, I find that kind of overly-friendly tone presumptuous and cloying. How does Blogger X know that I, her reader, consider myself to be her ‘friend’? Of course, some people might think we do the same kind of thing at ACFJ. But while we can be friendly to each other here at ACFJ, we do try to discourage presumptive expressions of friendship that are based more on sentiment than on sound understanding of each other.
Back to Liam Goligher:
Paul’s emphasis is not on the victims. It’s on the victimizers.
Paul likens these false teachers – and they’re masculine by the way – to the Egyptian sorcerers Jannes and Jambres who opposed Moses and tried to replicate what Moses did. And these magicians have come to stand for this historic movement – from the beginning of history right up to these last days – of people who set themselves up in the church and oppose God deliberately.
We don’t know exactly what these wily men were doing who were sneaking into the church to undermine these women. But it’s quite possible they taking secondary things and making them first things. Taking unimportant things and making them important. Taking unnecessary things and making them a priority. Focusing on behaviors and practices and little rules that are not in the Bible. Pontificating about all these issues that are not in the Bible.
These false teachers [these evil men] want to undermine people’s confidence in God, their joy in God, their love for God.
You’re in danger of these kinds of people if you mind has not been formed and is not guarded by the truth.
If you’re not being shaped by the truth you’re an easy target. You’re in danger if you’re being led by your feelings or curiosity or affections.
You’re in danger if you can’t get over your past and haven’t really grasped that the Gospel is full and free. No matter what your past is; no matter what you have on your record; no matter what you have done or what has been done to you – God loves you! He loves you. Embrace it. Believe it. The Bible says God is the only ultimate Father who you can trust. He won’t abuse you. He won’t mistreat you.
You’re in danger if you accept everything you hear without bringing it to the court of Scripture which is God’s Word written. There are areas of conscience where individuals have the right to exercise their conscience within the principles of the Bible.
But notice verses 8-9. Though the days are dark, though false teachers proliferate, though they disturb the peace of God’s church, God’s church will not fail. At the end of the day all such deceivers will be exposed for what they are. They will not bring down God’s people. The church will remain.
Summary… and encouragement for bruised reeds
God condemns the practice of sin. God holds the conduct of abusers in contempt and He tells us to avoid abusers. But God isn’t contemptuous towards bruised reeds – birds with broken wings. He is compassionate and protective, whilst calling us to discernment, greater maturity and righteousness in the future. God calls us to govern and temper our emotions with the soundness of mind, prudence and self-discipline that grows from a right and balanced understanding of scripture.
With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks. (Psalm 18:25-27 NKJ)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. To preach the gospel to the poor he has sent me, and to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captive, and sight to the blind, and freely to set at liberty those who are bruised (Luke 4:18)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30)
Therefore let us also (seeing that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses) lay away all that presses down, and the sin that hangs on, and let us run with patience to the battle that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him suffered the cross, disregarding the shame, and is seated on the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)
¹All references to Liam Goligher’s teaching have been taken from his sermon Discerning the spirits.
² Unless otherwise stated all scripture references in this post are taken from the New Matthew Bible (NMB).
Here is a potted history of the NMB. By 1535 William Tyndale had courageously translated the New Testament from Greek into English when it was deemed a capital offence to have a Bible in any language other than Latin. Tyndale’s translation was printed in Europe and smuggled into England. Tyndale wanted every literate ploughboy in England to be able to comprehend the Bible by reading it in his mother tongue. But English has changed a lot since the early 1500’s, so Tyndale’s translation is pretty hard for most of us to comprehend. Thankfully, Ruth Magnusson Davis has gently updated the early modern English of Tyndale’s New Testament so we can now read it easily — she has called it The October Testament. She is working on the New Matthew Bible which will be the entire Bible gently updated from Tyndale’s translations and the portions of the OT that Tyndale didn’t translate before he was executed which were translated by his friend Miles Coverdale.
Co-dependency as bondage to and participation in evil – blog post by Ps Jeff Crippen