A Cry For Justice

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

Comforting My Church With the Comfort They Gave – by Julie Cleaveland

Julie Cleaveland was married to a very wicked man. When she sought help from her church, she got the usual bad treatments. She published this letter to her former church leaders to highlight the bias in their thinking.

Dear Former Church Leaders,

I was surprised to hear that your head pastor and you parted ways suddenly.  I daresay that one might use the term that you are now “separated.”  I understand that he left you suddenly.  I am sorry.

Image result for comfort hug

I also understand that he was a “difficult” person. Just hearing one of his earlier sermons about a call for unity in the church led me to understand that all might not be well behind the doors of this church.

After all, this shepherd of the flock explained from the pulpit that each attendee must agree with him, must not question him, and must not cause him any trouble, (oh… him and the elders he added).  Or else, he (and the elders) would see to it that that person’s reputation would be ruined.  He very carefully explained the ancient system of “credit” — back in the ancient marketplace, a person had a tile with his name on it.  Shopkeepers would break off corners of the tile, the pastor explained, as purchases were made.  However, if those debts were not paid, the shopkeepers would break that person’s tile.  So, the pastor explained, if anyone caused him (oh, and the elders) trouble creating “disunity,” he would make sure that a person’s “tile” was broken.  He would make sure that person’s “credit” — his credibility, his reputation — was ruined within the church community.

Hmmm… a person who threatens…

Also, I understand that a dearth of staff, church employees, and even several pastors suddenly felt the need to take early retirement or to find other employment since he arrived and dug in.

Hmmm… a person who makes others feel intimidated…

Also, I understand that upon his arrival, he took assessment of the church, and proceeded to rearrange staff, to change the church website, to change the church’s logo — essentially to compel the church into “rebranding” and remake itself to fit his tastes, his ideas, his “vision.”

Hmmm… a person who is controlling…

Hmmm… a person who pressures, threatens, and forces others to fit and fill his tastes, his whims, his ideas…

Sounds so much like the type of person I came to you about when I asked for help with my abusive then-husband…

Well… I am sorry to hear that you had to deal with that.

I would like to return to you the words of comfort that you offered me when I took my children and ran from my abuser.  Like II Corinthians 1:4 says, “… we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…”

Here are your words of comfort returned to you…

First, you must NOT separate!  I know he left suddenly, but you must seek him out!  After all, he is the leader of your “home (church).”  He may not have been the pastor you thought you were getting, but he is the head pastor you have now.  You chose him.  You should have seen any “red flags” before you signed on the dotted line.  After all, you “candi’dated’” him for a while.  So now that you have a contract/covenant with him, that makes him God’s man for you, whether you like it or not.  (Sorry that you didn’t understand that people like him do something called “lovebombing.”  You should look it up.  In a secular expert’s book.)

If the head pastor is willing to give a hearing to your earnest pleadings for reconciliation — for you must seek reconciliation earnestly — you must offer to submit to him quietly, reverently (re: I Peter 3:1,4).  Apparently, and unfortunately for you, he is and has been behaving in ways “disobedient to the word,” and therefore, you — as members of the body, sub-shepherds, under the head pastor  — must be submissive, “so that [he] may be won without a word by the behavior of [his supportive elders] as [he] observe[s] your chaste and respectful behavior.”  You must strive — no… bend over backward, no… give your all — to be winsome!  After all, as you comforted me with these words, you must be winsome to win some!

It doesn’t matter what he has done.  His actions are not relevant here.  His long-standing patterns of behavior and treatment of you are not relevant.  His actions are his actions, and he must deal with them before God.  You must do the right thing!  And that means submitting to the head (pastor) that God has put over you!  Joyfully!  Without grumbling!  After all, “You must not touch the Lord’s anointed!”

As a matter of fact, I was disappointed to hear of all those pastors and staff leaving recently!  They must be recalled.  All of you must be put into a room with him with a counselor, and it is essential that we talk this thing out!  That is what needs to happen!  You all just need to be put together in a room with him, locking the door if necessary, and you just need to talk this all out.  After all, I’m sure this was all just a big misunderstanding.  This whole thing has to simply be a collection of small issues that you did not deal with or talk through properly, and that grew out of proportion.  He, and you, are essentially just having a tantrum.  So, the solution is, we must put you all in a room together, and you need to talk it out!  Instead of “couple’s counseling,” we’ll call it “church leaders’ counseling!”

You say he threatened you?  You say he made sure you lost your jobs?  You say he removed your income and left you without money?  You say he’s ruined your references so that it’s hard to find a job anywhere else?  You say he’s damaged your reputation?  Left you with almost nothing?

Oh sirs… let me sit next to you as I say this.  Let me rub your back as I say this.  Let me tell you I love you as a sibling in Christ as I say this.


So what?

You probably took all of his words, his “jokes,” his behaviors wrong.  You had to have been holding grudges against him for you to see him now the way you do.  He’s hurting.  That’s probably why he does what he does!  Hurting people hurt people!  He probably had a bad childhood.  He most likely was not treated well along the way.  He probably had problems in former churches, with former elder boards.  He needs love and support now more than ever.  After all, he‘s without a job right now, without a church home!  He needs friends and kindness right now.  I will pray… for him.

After all, one of the titles of a book you made me read was, How to Act Right When Your Spouse (or head pastor, I guess) Acts Wrong.  So you need to start acting right!  Even if you think he’s acting wrongly.  Submit joyfully to the authority God gave you!  After all, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4)

This brings me to another huge point.  You must look to your own sin.  Obviously, both parties are at fault.  It takes two (parties) to tango, right?  It always takes two to tango.  Damage in relationships could never be one-sided, right?  Or caused by the actions of one party while the other tries desperately to heal, love, reach out, forgive and forget?  Please don’t tell me of his behavior.  Please don’t tell me anything of his offenses.  That only demonstrates to me that you are unwilling — unwilling! — to look at yourselves, to look at your own role in things going wrong.  You must look deep into your own hearts, and the collective heart of the church’s leadership, and find the sin deep within.  If you can only think about the notion that he may have caused the damage, and that you have really tried to be kind and patient and loving, then you obviously have secret sin blinding you that even you are not aware of.  You must repent of this secret sin you are not even aware of.  If you continue to insist that he hurt you, and that you tried so hard to make things better, then you are more sinful than even you can know.  “The heart is evil above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Throw yourself before the mercy of God!  Confess!  Confess!  In tears of repentance.  There must be tears!  I’ll sit with you and rub your back while you do that now.  Right now.  Do it now!  I must see your tears, your weeping of repentance… I’ll wait…

What was happening behind the closed doors of your offices?  What was your sin?  Did he threaten you?  What did you do to make him do that?  Were you harsh in your words?  Did you approach him at the wrong time of day?  Did you make sure he had a nice meal on his desk for lunch in the office?  And did his threats make you feel afraid?  Then your fear obviously shows you are sinning by not trusting or depending on the Lord enough.

Did he cut off some people from their livelihood?  Did that make you angry?  Did the injustice of it all upset you?  Did your feelings of helplessness overwhelm you?  Then you had sinful feelings of bitterness.  Confess!  Don’t let that root of bitterness take hold!

Was he controlling?  Did he yell angrily?  What did you do to deserve this?  Did he tear you down consistently?  Maybe what he said was true after all, and you really need to humbly look at yourselves.  Did he shame you?  Maybe you needed some more humility?  Did he laugh at you?  Did you need to learn to laugh at yourselves better?  Did he undermine you?  Maybe you were holding your ideas and opinions too tightly and you need to agree with him? Did he play mindgames with you?  Maybe you needed to let him win?  Did he move the goalposts constantly as you tried to placate him?  Did you try harder?  Did he make you feel small?  Maybe your opinion of yourselves was too big anyway?  Feel that you’re no good?  Maybe your ego needed knocking down a peg or two?  Did he make you feel worthless?

Then obviously, you just need to center yourself on Christ!  Center yourself on Christ and His opinion of you.  Despite what he does or whatever happens to you, then you will feel, and be, all better: no matter what tricks he plays, no matter how much he yells at you, no matter how much he gets others to laugh at you, no matter if he holds you up for ridicule, no matter if he makes cruel sarcastic jokes at your expense, no matter how he tricks you, or lies to you, or shames you relentlessly.  Just center yourself on Christ!  I’ll give you some verses to memorize.  I’ve still got the list you made me memorize and you quizzed me over week after week.  Oh, and pray!  Write out those prayers, and someone will be around to collect them and evaluate them and point out the wrongly-motivated, selfish things you’re praying for.  Lose your job because of him?  You’re centered on Christ!  You’ve got some verses memorized and you prayed!  Ignore what’s happening right before your eyes!  He threatens you?  Ignore what your ears are hearing!  Has he carried through on some of those threats just to show you he means business?  Just remember to say over and over to yourselves… “Jesus loves me!”  You’ll be fine!

If your stomach knotted whenever he came to the office, if you tried to hide from him as much as possible, if you tried to speak to him about the pain he was causing you, and it always blew up in your face, and you somehow ended up being shamed into being the bad guy (even though he hurt you!); your behavior demonstrates a lack of trust.  This creates a huge problem on your part.  You see, you must be “available” (you know what I mean, wink wink) to him at all times!  He is your head (pastor).  If he stops you in a corner of a hallway and wants to have a conversation with you (even if it feels like he’s grilling you for details that he’s going to use later against you or someone you care about), you must make yourself “available.”  If he comes into your office to ask about your life and digs in for personal details — blowing through your boundaries of levels of distance and social intimacy, you must be open to him!  Again, be winsome!  You must be “available” for whatever level of conversational or social intimacy he desires to approach you for.  If you are withholding, then you, sirs, are the problem!  You are closed off to his advances.  No wonder he is looking into other offices, searching out other sources of social or conversational intimacy!  No wonder he left you!  If he blesses you by coming back because of your begging, and he demands outrageous things that make you very uncomfortable, creep you out, or even hurt you(r wallet, your schedule, your private family time), you must make yourselves “available.”  Again, he is your head (pastor).  As you taught me all my life, you are under his umbrella of protection and leadership, as he is under Christ.

You say he is not showing Christ-like qualities?  You say you wonder if he even really is a Christian, even though he leads in the church?  (Like I repeatedly brought up to you about my guy?)  His spiritual standing is not for you to decide.  You need to keep reaching out to him.  If he comes back to be your head pastor again, submit to his authority, surrender your will, ignore your doubts, your fears, and most importantly, squelch and confess your gut feelings that he may just be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Another point… if he is not showing Christ-like qualities — if he’s no longer acting like a Christian — then your office, your relationships with him, have just become your mission field.  And as you know, you must show yourself approved within your field of mission.  And how do we show ourselves approved?  By suffering!  Long-term suffering!  Patiently bearing up under the heavy, heavy load that his behavior has laid upon you.  That is how you will demonstrate that you belong to Christ.  Christ’s way is the way of the cross.  We are called to suffer along with him.  After all, a Good Father disciplines his children.  And as you have taught me all my life… “God is not interested in our happiness.  He is interested in our holiness.”  So stand in there.  Stand in the gap!  Pray for him who spitefully uses you!  Each one must bear his own load.  And this, sirs, is your load.  You must prove yourselves worthy of the calling by which you have been called!  By following in His sufferings!  And therefore, again I say, for all those who climbed down off the altar of sufferings, and took early retirement or another job, I say that you as leaders must recall them.  Have them return to the altar.  You must all prove yourselves by enduring the shame, taking up your crosses, suffering for Christ, loving at all costs (including the cost of your mental and physical health like you told me… [just trust God, don’t protect yourself or your health]), loving your enemies, submitting to the authority God has placed in your life, never giving any cause for the minister to grieve because of you, forgiving seventy times seven,  loving patiently, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things!  LOVE NEVER FAILS!  HALLELUJAH!

Remember… anything less, and we as your congregants will label you as bitter.  You must be joyful at all times — especially in his presence, should he deign to come back to you.  Don’t let bitterness take root “in your hearts” (you always added that when counseling me, even though that phrase and meaning is not in the verse) of Hebrews 12:15.  Forgive everything, even if he never asks for forgiveness or repents or shows any signs of lasting change.  (That’s not in the Bible either, but you used it on me, so I’ll comfort you with the same.)  Make every, and I mean every effort to reconcile.  Go back to him!  Reach out!

As to legal matters, like contracts or covenants, as you told me, you must keep reaching out to him, trying quietly, reverently, respectfully to win him over.  Do not accept his resignation letter.  Do not seek or file any termination of employment.  Keep reaching, praying.  Find yourself a closet to pray in every day.  Make this as ritualistic as possible to earn God’s favor.  Write them down so we can check that you’re doing that.  Make sure if he threatens you in any way, that you take absolutely no legal steps to protect yourself — you must not protect yourself physically, financially, legally, socially.  Be open.  Trust God.

If you do take steps to protect yourselves, we as the congregation will bring you up for a disciplinary hearing.   Then if you insist on trying to protect yourselves or your families, then we will put you under church discipline, and we will order your instant resignation from office, indeed from any form of service within the church that has been a huge part of your lives all these years.  And we will make sure that all concerned are notified that you are under discipline, and that they are to shun you.  And what’s more, we will make sure all of the aforementioned proceedings are kept secret, so that no one who would support you, who would stand with you, or who would be kind to you will know what’s going on and what we’ve done to you.

If you refrain from trying to protect yourselves legally and in any other way, and if you refrain from moving forward with any legal termination of the employment contract/covenant, then, we as the voting members of the congregation who put you into office, we will look over your efforts.  But you must give the whole process time.  You must be in prayer.  We will go to him in a group of two, like Matthew 18 says.  Then we’ll wait.  And pray.  Then, we will bring it before the (select committee that we will keep secret.  Listen, I know it says to bring it to the church, but as you have shown me, that passage really means a secret committee that you are not allowed to know about, may not appeal to, may not make your case to, or may not make any defense to.  Right?)  Again, you may not sign or accept any legal documents until we have reviewed the situation.  Even though we were never in your offices, never in your halls when he did the things he did to you, never really witnessed any problems (other than those odd, threatening, dark, controlling pulpit statements every once in a while…) we still know what’s best for you.  We must give the process time.  We must give God time to work.  In two to three years we will review everything.  Then we will let you know if you may start legal proceedings to accept his resignation.

In closing, I will return to you the words in the letter that you delivered to me as a team of two – a pastor and an elder (along with a church transcriptionist) — the letter that you blindsided me with on that horrible day that you put me under church discipline.  Here is the “comfort” (church discipline) that you handed me when I came to you begging you for help to escape our abuse.  I have simply reversed the references.

Dear [Church Leaders],

As [a member] of __________ Church, we desire that all [church leader relationships] found in our church body be strong, healthy, affirming and God-honoring.  For the [members] of __________ Church, we expect their [church leader relationships] to be models for others in the church to both witness and imitate.

We are aware that you and [former head pastor] are separated and that, at least at the present time, you are not making progress toward reconciliation as a [Christian brotherhood].  Therefore, it is the decision of [this member] of ______ Church to remove you [* I only have the power to suggest that “you should remove yourselves”*] from your leadership position as [elders, pastoral staff] with our prayerful encouragement that you and [head pastor] work aggressively on the reconciliation of your [Christian brotherly working] relationship.

We stand ready to assist you and [head pastor] in whatever ways we can.  We would strongly encourage the [group] of you to seek counsel together from one counselor, to remove any and all obstacles to reconciliation (** hint… they meant my taking out the protection/restraining order to protect myself and my kids…**) that have been put into place in recent months, and to humbly seek God’s direction and healing for your life together as [pastor and leaders.]

It is important that you know that we care deeply for you and for your famil[ies] and that we are praying for restoration of your [Christian relationships].  It would be our great delight to hear that you and [head pastor] are actively working together to reconcile your [working] relationship and, therefore, [this member would] be able restore you to your leadership role.




Julie Cleaveland recently started her own blog. Read her original post here. Thanks very much Julie for allowing us to reblog it!

Divorce in Deuteronomy 21 gives dignity and rights to the woman

Men must NOT treat their wives as persons they can disrespect or demean. The law in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is designed to restrain misogyny.

Deuteronomy 21 stipulates that if an Israelite man took a female prisoner of war (POW) as his wife, he must first allow her time to grieve her losses. He could not just have intercourse with her before she had time to recover from losing her former home and family.

Having given her that time to grieve her losses, and then taken her to be his wife, if he later decided he didn’t want her as a wife, he MUST set her free with the same rights and dignity as if she were an Israelite woman he had married.

Deut 21:10-14 (NKJ )
10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, 12 then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. 13 She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.

Please don’t think that God endorses men raping women, or that God approves of men who compel female POWs to be their wives.

When a government legislates to regulate gambling, it that doesn’t mean that the government approves of gambling per se.

You might have the impression that the Old Testament is legalistic, full of harsh and unbending laws, particularly the law of Moses. You might think Mosaic Law is harsh to women and particularly harsh to wives. If that is what you think, I invite you to reconsider and re-evaluate.

A great deal of Mosaic Law deals with how people ought to relate to each other.

Mosaic Law has many principles which we, as Christians, can and ought to use in our interpersonal relationships today. We need to use spiritualised common sense when we apply the principles of Mosaic Law to our interpersonal relationships today. We want to discern and apply the principles of Mosaic Law to our own cultural context and situation, which is in many ways different from the cultural context where Moses was imparting God’s law to the people of Israel after they had escaped from slavery in Egypt and were making their way through the desert towards the promised land.

God, through Moses, gave several laws to restrain misogyny. Those laws were given to regulate the conduct of unrighteous men who were mistreating and disrespecting women.

The law in Deut 21:10-14 is one of the Mosaic Laws designed to restrain misogyny. This law was not endorsing male entitlement to oppress women. It was trying to restrain that kind of male entitlement.

In ancient Israel, prisoners of war typically came from heathen tribes distant from the land of Canaan (see Deut 20:10-18).

If an Israelite man decided to make a female POW his wife, Deuteronomy 21:14 said he must accord her the same rights as an Israelite. The reason he must accord her those rights was because he had treated her as his wife. He had been intimate with her as man to wife.

In the ancient world, prisoners of war were often treated as slaves by their captors. But this law says that if a man chose to make a POW woman his wife, he was not allowed at any time in the future to demote and degrade her by mistreating her or selling her off as a slave.

This idea is brought out well in the following translations of v 14:

Later, if you no longer want her, you are to let her go free. Since you forced her to have intercourse with you, you cannot treat her as a slave and sell her.  (Good News Bible)

But if it happens that you are no longer pleased with her, let her go wherever she wants. You must never sell her or mistreat her as if she were a slave, since you’ve already had sex with her. (GOD’S WORD® Translation)

And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall let her go where she will; but you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not make merchandise of her, because you have humiliated her. (KJV)

The custom of the divorce certificate in ancient Israel

In ancient Israel, the custom was that the husband gave a divorce certificate to a wife he was divorcing. We know this because ancient Jewish documents still exist that refer to this custom. (Dr Instone-Brewer cites many such examples – affiliate link).

The essential words in this divorce certificate were: “You are free to marry any man”.

In possession of this certificate, the woman could then marry any man she chose.

If she took a new husband, no one could accuse her of breaking wedlock with her former husband.

Let us review these facts

  • The Israelite custom for divorce was that the husband wrote a divorce certificate and gave it to the wife he was divorcing.
  • The certificate meant she was free to marry any man and she could not be charged with breaking wedlock for so doing.
  • Deuteronomy 21:14 sets the rule for an Israelite man who took a POW woman as his wife, but set her free from being his wife at a later stage.
  • In doing so, he must not demote her to the “foreigner slave” status that she had as a POW before he decided to be intimate with her as man to wife.

What can we logically infer from all this?

Deuteronomy 21:14 implies that an Israelite man who took a POW woman as his wife, could, later on, set her free from being his wife. But in doing so, he must accord her the same rights and dignity of any Israelite woman he had taken to wife.

What principles from this law still apply to us today?

Deuteronomy 21:10-14 gives a law about divorce.

A husband must NOT treat his wife brutally.

A man must NOT treat his wife as a slave, even if she is a captured prisoner of war. Even if she was raised in a heathen/ pagan/ non-Christian ideology and belief system.

A man must NOT treat his wife as a person he can disrespect or demean.

A man must NOT treat his wife as someone who has less importance and value than him.

If a man chooses to divorce his wife because he no longer wants to relate to her as husband to wife, he must treat her with same dignity and respect that he would like to be treated with himself in the divorce process.

This means he must set her free to marry any man she wishes.

It also means he must not spread false reports about her.  If he decides to divorce her because he holds an elevated notion of his personal entitlement (and he therefore gives less value to her person-hood and dignity) he must NOT falsely accuse her of breaking the tie of wedlock.


This post is the sixth in a 6-part series

Part 1 The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce.

Part 2 The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.

Part 3 Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.

Part 4 The Jewish divorce certificate gave women the right to remarry, but some men used it rule over women.

Part 5 Does Scripture differentiate between ‘putting away’ and ‘divorce’?

Further Reading

What about Divorce? — an FAQ page on this website. It lists our most significant posts about divorce.

Instone-Brewer’s views on divorce compared to mine: Part 1, appreciations & agreements

Instone-Brewer’s Views on Divorce Compared to Mine: Part 2, Differences.

Does Scripture differentiate between ‘putting away’ and ‘divorce’?

A cack-handed way to cut the knot!

Some people claim we can cut through the knotty DIVORCE scriptures by simply differentiating words and their meanings.

Their argument goes like this:

(i) The Hebrew word shalach and the Greek word apoluo should be translated ‘put away’. Both of those words are used for the husband orally dismissing and sending away his wife without giving her a certificate of divorce.

(ii) The Hebrew word kĕriythuwth and the Greek word apostasion should be translated ‘divorce’. Both those words mean that the husband wrote and handed a certificate of divorce to the wife.

(iii) Seeing the difference between (i) and (ii) is THE KEY to un-knotting the divorce texts.

The people who promote this idea are mistaken. In Part 2 of this series I began to demonstrate how they are mistaken. This post follows on from what I said in Part 2.

In this post I will make my case by looking at the Hebrew word shalach as it occurs in Deuteronomy 21:14 and Malachi 2:16. So get a cuppa, slow down, and put your thinking caps on!

And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her. – Deuteronomy 21:14 (NKJ)

Even though English translations of this verse don’t use the word “divorce,” it MUST be talking about a proper legal divorce.

“..if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free…”

The Hebrew word translated ‘set her free’ is shalach. That word is used more than 800 times in the Old Testament. Only nine of those times is it used for what we moderns think of when we hear the word ‘divorce’: the ending of wedlock, the legal ending of a marriage between husband and wife. Those nine instances are Deuteronomy 21:14; 22:19,29; 24:1,3,4; Isaiah 50:1b; Jeremiah 3:1,8 and Malachi 2:16. In some of the nine instances, shalach is used alongside the word kĕriythuwth (which means bill/ certificate/ writ of divorce), but in others it is used on its own.

Let us look at Malachi 2:16. In that verse, shalach is used on its own – not in conjunction with kĕriythuwth.

“If he hates and divorces [shalach] his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Armies. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously. (Mal 2:16 CSB)

God inspired Malachi to use the word shalach in that verse. What is he talking about?  We have two options, only one of which can be correct.

  1. Malachi 2:16 is talking about a legal divorce (certified, legal, a writ of divorce).
  2. Malachi 2:16 is talking about a man ‘putting away’ his wife without giving her a divorce certificate.

If option 1 is correct, the verse is condemning men who hardheartedly (treacherously) divorce their wives.

If option 2 is correct, then it is only condemning the failure of the man to give his wife a divorce certificate when he dismisses her.  It’s not denouncing treacherous divorce per se, it’s only denouncing the failure to issue a divorce certificate.

Option 2 puts all the emphasis on the paperwork. In option 2, treacherous divorce is not condemned so long as the paperwork is issued.

Which makes more sense? Option one makes much more sense! It fits with what we know about God: His condemnation of treachery and hardheartedness.

To assert that shalach means ‘putting away without a certificate’ turns Malachi 2:16 into a rather limited verse: an admonishment only to husbands who fail to issue the paperwork for divorce. But this contradicts the context of the passage! Malachi 2:13-16 sternly warns men not to act treacherously against their wives. It condemns all men who hardheartedly cast off their wives, not just the ones who fail to write a divorce certificate.

This is yet more proof that it is simplistic to say that word meanings are the KEY to understanding the divorce texts in Scripture.

It is wrong to claim that some words mean the wife is put away without a divorce certificate, while other words mean divorce certified with a written document.

Those who would claim otherwise need to defend their case using logical argument. And if they do so, they ought to address the points I’ve put forward here.

The folks who claim that the key to understanding what scripture says about divorce is to Pay Attention To The Words have not followed their own advice!

If you are going to write a book or teach others, you ought to study and then think through the logic of your ideas to make sure there are no contradictions. I don’t know Hebrew, but I’ve figured this out simply from careful study using the Blue Letter Bible, Strong’s Concordance, and spiritualised common sense.

Authors like Walter Callison (Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love) and Stephen Gola (Divorce: God’s Will?) have not done this. They haven’t seen the contradictions in what they are saying. Neither have the well known abuse advocates who are recycling Walter Callison’s or Stephen Gola’s ideas.

Leslie Vernick is promoting this mistaken idea that word meanings are the key to un-knotting the divorce texts. In 2018 she said:

there are two different words for the term divorce throughout both the Old and New Testament. Our English bibles translate one word as a certificate of divorce and the other word is translated simply divorce. When you read what the Bible has to say about divorce, notice when it says certificate of divorce or just divorce because they mean different things in that culture. (link)

At least one other female author/advocate who is working with victims of domestic abuse is promoting this mistaken idea.  I have tried courteously and respectfully to get her to reconsider her admiration for Walter Callison’s book, but she chose not to engage in debate.

Why don’t people want to engage in reasoned intelligent debate? Maybe it’s got something to do with what our guest-poster James wrote about here. Logic. Multiple variables. Capacity or willingness to engage in Mental Effort.

Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is a law about divorce

We can apply the principles of this law to our own time, even though we are not living in the Old Testament era.

The law which Moses gave about divorce in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is not to be sneezed at or passed over. Even though English translations of verse 14 do not use the word ‘divorce,’ that doesn’t mean it is not a law about divorce.

And there is much in this law which we can apply to domestic abuse right here and now! I will talk more about what this law means in the next post in this series.


This post is the fifth in a 6-part series.

Part 1 The tangled mess of mistaken notions about what the Bible teaches on divorce

Part 2 The Bible uses different words for divorce but they all mean legal divorce. Those who tell you otherwise are mistaken.

Part 3 Jesus did NOT say “Hardness of heart is grounds for divorce”. Deuteronomy 24 has been greatly misunderstood.

Part 4 The Jewish divorce certificate gave women theright to remarry, but some men used it rule over women

Part 6 (coming soon) Divorce in Deuteronomy 21 gives dignity and rights to the woman

I may add a seventh part later, but it’s not in the pipeline at present.

For further reading

What about Divorce? — an FAQ page on this website. It lists our most significant posts about divorce.

A little more about Walter Callison and Stephen Gola

Walter Callison, Divorce: A Gift of God’s Love (2002) shows no evidence that he is familiar the extant ancient Jewish and ancient Near East documents which mention divorce. So he is nowhere near the scholarly competence and in-depth knowledge of David Instone-Brewer.

Stephen Gola, Divorce: Gods’ Will? (Divorce Hope 2003) argues that abuse is grounds for divorce, but he makes many logical and exegetical errors in his argumentation to arrive at that conclusion. His views on intercultural marriages are very strange, almost racist. And his charismatic approach to ‘soul ties’ lacks understanding of the way the abuser manipulates the victim to brainwash her. He recommends people I would never recommend: Marilyn Hickey, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Focus on the Family.

Both of their books are on our Hall Of Blind Guides.

Suicide Prevention

If you have ever felt suicidal, dear reader, what strategies have you used to avoid ending your life? Maybe by sharing our experiences we can help others.

Helovesme said:

I tried to kill myself because I had been abused for so long, and I couldn’t take it anymore. The Lord used it to get a hold of me, but attempted suicide can be a touchy subject. Even in Christian circles, there can be a great deal of ignorance about it.

It’s not the coward’s way out, nor is it the easy way out. Seriously—-there is nothing easy or cowardly about contemplating, and then trying to take your own life.

There can also be a stigma attached to it, just like a stigma may be attached to admitting your were abused. People may look at you differently, and the difference may not be complimentary!

There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ. Never ever believe His wrath is aimed at you for being abused. His wrath is directed entirely at the abuser who dared to hurt one of His precious sheep.

I understand why many people keep their stories about abuse to themselves. It’s very private and very personal. Without a doubt, you never have to talk about it unless you are 100% able and willing to.

Again—you have nothing to be ashamed of. If Christ holds nothing against you, neither should you.

James said:

Many years ago I picked up a young hitch hiker, maybe 18yo. He was going on about a family friend who had committed suicide and saying how they were weak, cowardly and selfish, etc. I asked a few questions and quickly realised that this boy was merely repeating statements he had heard the adults around him saying and now thought of as his own wisdom.

It was a bit of a sore point with me because I had spent many years contemplating suicide myself. So I asked him, “Do you think this person was in pain?” “Yes,” came the answer. So I then asked, “How much pain would you have to be in to take your own life?”

It was a quiet trip after that.

Helovesme said:

Those that do not contemplate or attempt suicide are not be seen as superior – as if they “handled” their trials or abuse so much better than those that did.

Anonymous said:

I know you have your workload cut out for you, and it’s your blog, but perhaps you might want to do a blog posting on “Why You Shouldn’t Suicide” for the really mangled, severely abused women out there. It’s something I continually deal with and I know I’ve read it in so many other abused women’s accounts, where suicide is very much on the minds of abused women.

Then other readers can comment on what they do to get through the day, how they stopped themselves from suiciding, and people can support one another.

When Anonymous made this suggestion, I initially thought it was a great idea. Then I got cold feet. How can I dare risk publishing a post about suicide prevention? I might say something wrong, or say something poorly, which would lead to someone taking their own life. It’s too scary for me to do this!

For several nights after Anonymous had made her suggestion, I had awful dreams. Dreams where I was feeling frenzied churning. In those few days, when I was awake and reflecting on the feeling state I’d had in those dreams, I realised that the dreams were (i) my remembrance of the times in my life when I felt suicidal, and (ii) were also perhaps the Holy Spirit giving me windows of empathy into the feelings of many other victims of abuse who have, or will be, or are, contemplating suicide.

And in my daily Bible reading, these passages came up:

Psalm 6, CSB
, do not rebuke me in your anger;

do not discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am weak;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking;
my whole being is shaken with terror.

And you, Lord — how long?

Turn, Lord! Rescue me;
save me because of your faithful love.
For there is no remembrance of you in death;
who can thank you in Sheol?

I am weary from my groaning;
with my tears I dampen my bed
and drench my couch every night.
My eyes are swollen from grief;
they grow old because of all my enemies.

Depart from me, all evildoers,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea for help;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and shake with terror;
they will turn back and suddenly be disgraced.

1 John 3:18-22, NMB
My babes, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
For by this we know that we are of the truth, and can quiet our hearts before him.
But if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows all things.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, then we have trust before God – 
and whatever we ask, we shall receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

I put a verse of the 1 John passage in bold, because it might help some folks who are feeling suicidal. But if you are feeling suicidal and that verse I emphasised doesn’t help you, please forgive me.

I know from personal experience how convoluted and uniquely personal one’s thinking can be when one is feeling suicidal. Each of us is different. And just because I’ve felt suicidal at times in my life, doesn’t mean I understand all the ins and outs of your thinking if you are feeling suicidal.

From the pen of the man [William Tyndale] who later faced his own martyrdom without flinching, came words of consolation and encouragement to those who had recanted [those who, under persecution by the Roman church, had denied their faith].

In his “Obedience of the Christian Man” Tyndale wrote:

If any man clean against his heart (but overcome with the weakness of the flesh), for fear of persecution have denied, as Peter did, or have delivered his book or put it away secretly [book = the New Testament which Tyndale had translated into English or any other book which the authorities at that time had forbidden], let him (if he repent), come again, and take better hold, and not despair, or take it for a sign that God hath forsaken him.

For God ofttimes takes His strength even from His very elect, when they either trust in their own strength or are negligent to call on Him for His strength. And that doth He to teach them, and to make them feel, that in the fire of tribulation, for His word’s sake nothing can endure and abide save His work, and that strength only which He hath promised. For the which strength He will have us to pray unto Him, night and day, with all instance.

“God’s Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale and the English Bible” – Brian H Edwards, (Evangelical Press: Darlington, 1976) p 125.

I will end with another scripture, James 5:13a.
If any of you be vexed with sorrows, let him pray.


For folks who are not themselves feeling suicidal but want to know how to help people who might be contemplating suicide, I recommend the website Mental Health First Aid. It’s an Australian website and it has several PDFs that you can download.


Jay Adams taught counselors to side with male abusers and against female victims.

A guest post by Valerie Jacobsen.

Misogynistic bias is a real thing, and it is very obvious here. Painfully obvious.

from “The Christian Counselor’s Manual” by Jay E Adams

Jay Adams is TEACHING counselors to side with male abusers and against female victims. He is TEACHING them to overlook crimes.

So, if you have ever been in nouthetic counseling or “biblical” counseling and have been told that the problem is not that you are being abused, but that you are not dealing with it in a “Christian” (cheerful, pliant, uncomplaining, and pacifistic) manner, just know this: That was by the book.

And this book is STILL being used as a seminary textbook.

Amazon 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Sales rank indicates that it’s selling continually.

Goodreads 4.1 out of 5 stars

“A companion and sequel volume to ‘Competent to Counsel’, this volume includes indexes, a detailed table of contents, and many diagrams and forms, all of which make this one of the best reference books for Christian counselors.” — thomasnelson.com, current book summary

Featured title in LOGOS Bible software.

Used in many churches, taught in many seminaries, believed and supported by many.

We should weep and mourn. We should ask our pastors and elders if they are relying on this material to counsel people.

We should write to our denominational seminaries and ask if these books are still being used. My heart hurts, and I have read all I can for now.


The above text and photos are from this Facebook post by Valerie Jacobsen. Apart from the pics of what Jay Adams wrote, all the words are by Valerie Jacobsen and are published here with her permission. Thanks Valerie!

“The Christian Counselor’s Manual” was published in 1986. That is 33 years ago. It is reprehensible that it is still being recommended by seminaries!

I urge all our readers to call on church leaders & Christian organisations to say whether they are endorsing this book. And if they are endorsing it, demand they stop! Call on them to publicly denounce this book for the horrible misogynistic advice it gives.

Further Reading

Shattering Words and Crying to God by Ps Sam Powell

Whose tears are covering the altar in Malachi 2? The Matthew Bible vs. the Geneva Bible, Puritans and Calvin by Barbara Roberts

Animal abuse and domestic violence

  • Approximately 60% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive relationships because they don’t want to leave their pet behind.
  • 15% return to violent homes because of fear for their animals.
  • Head trauma is one of the most common non-accidental injuries for pets in domestic violence.
  • Dogs are the most common type of animal to be abused. (cats second)

Those are facts I learned last week when I went to a free lunchtime training about animal abuse and domestic violence. In this post I will be sharing the things which the panel of presenters talked about.

So much more needs to be done in the intersection between family violence and animal abuse. But the things that ARE being done are inspiring.

A trigger warning might be appropriate for those who have suffered domestic abuse.

Lucy’s Project is the peak organisation for ‘the link” (between animal abuse and domestic violence) in Australia. Here is what they say about their work:

Lucy’s Project recognizes that we fail to save human domestic violence victims lives when we fail to address the whole family – paws and all. Companion animals are often cited as the reason a victim returns to an abusive home, the inability to secure pet friendly accommodation the reason for increased homelessness for predominately women victims and their children. We recognize the trauma inflicted when beloved animals are abused as punishment, as a threat or means of control . We recognize the very particular trauma this inflicts on children and the special approach needed to help children heal. We recognize the role of many different fields and professions in responding to the intersection of companion animal ownership and domestic violence including vets, doctors, animal welfare organisations, crisis response systems, police, refuges, housing bodies, transitional homes and government. We recognize that working together as a coordinated network is imperative to the overall goal of saving lives, improving the quality of life for survivors and helping child survivors to thrive into adulthood.

    • 53% of women who experienced domestic violence reported the deliberate injury or killing of their companion animal (Gullone, 1994).
    • 19% of women who experienced domestic violence reported that their children had abused a pet.
    • 88% of families receiving services for child abuse had also abused their pets (Davidson, 1988).
    • 96% of animal abusers had also abused children (Humane Society, 2002).
    • Children exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to engage in acts of animal abuse than their peers (Baldry 2005 and Currie 2006).

Founder, Anna Ludvik started Lucy’s Project on the 4th June, 2013 following the birth of her stillborn daughter, Lucy. [Anna says:]

I needed Lucy’s senseless death to have meaning and to make the world a better place. I realized during labour that although my first born, longed for baby would be born forever sleeping, I was privileged. I was safe and I was living, despite my suffering; not every woman was as safe as me that day, but many were also suffering.

I couldn’t think of a better legacy for my daughter’s name to be attached to. A cause that seeks to protect vulnerable women*, children and the animals who comforted me during the impossible darkness that follows deep emotional pain.

Every day I work hard in the hope that a child may live, a woman may thrive and an animal can happily frolic – because Lucy’s Project has recognized that animal protection is an intrinsic part of responding to the domestic violence crisis.

*Lucy’s Project acknowledges that although most victims of domestic violence identify as women, that men, people who identify as transgender or non binary can be victims too Furthermore, not all perpetrators are men or in heterosexual relationships. We do not discriminate.

Safe Pets Safe Families is an Australian registered charomeity. It is a network of people who understand the link between domestic abuse and animal abuse. Since 2014 they have been holding conferences which have led to lots of collaboration between organisations. Safe Pets Safe Families are:

—providing temporary/in crisis foster care for animals

—training and equipping foster carers for the animals

—running workshops for vets to raise their awareness of the link between animal abuse

—mapping holes in services

—helping with the transfer of registration of companion animals.
Why is this important? Because when the abusive human is the registered owner of the companion animal, and the abused human is far and away the best caregiver for the animal, getting the local council to transfer the animal’s registration can be tricky!

Pets in Peril is a program run by the specialist family violence service in Melbourne’s eastern metropolitan region. They provide crisis accommodation for animals and work with network of vets who assess the animals for injuries, provide vaccinations, assess the risk the animal is under, etc. They have only a small number of facilities for crisis accommodation. They wish they had more.

Cherished Pet Care is run by vet in Geelong, the largest provincial city in Victoria, Australia. It is a social veterinary service, i.e., vet social work. It provides care for:

  • animals and their carers who are in crisis because of family violence
  • those who have suffered the bereavement of pet loss
  • vets who suffer burnout.

Violence Against Women and Children is a website of the Social Work Group at the University of Melbourne. One thing they are doing is researching the intersection of animal and domestic and family violence (click this link for more info).

All of these services, charities and volunteers are unable to meet the need that is out there.

Sometimes it is the vet who is the first medical professional to see the signs of family violence – article by Stuart Winthrope, University of Melbourne.

Statistics about family violence and animal abuse were given in this handout:

The free lunchtime training was run by MAEVE  (Melbourne Research Alliance to End Violence against women and their children). I am glad I live in Melbourne where such good things happen.