As she approached me I could tell that she was hurting. Then she rolled up her sleeve and showed me some serious black and purple bruises.
“So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused.”
I listened to her story. Based on the injuries she showed me, it was clear that this was not an isolated “accident.” I explained that when there is a pattern of ongoing abuse, it typically does not stop until there is a boundary upheld and a consequence initiated. I asked, “If you don’t take action to protect yourself today, will anything get better?” She said ‘no’.
What would Jesus do?
Every day, women like this are sitting silently in churches and across from us at work. They have no hope for how they will overcome the fear and darkness they live with. They have no one to protect them.
While most would agree that God has called us to be peacemakers, if we’re honest, we prefer that our peacemaking looks like chatting over coffee. But sometimes being a peacemaker means confronting evil. And one great, big evil that needs to be confronted by society today is domestic violence.
It is an enemy we have given untold power to by keeping it hidden.
We don’t talk about it with our teens. We don’t talk about it in premarital counseling. And we certainly don’t talk about it on Sunday mornings. National campaigns to end domestic violence tout the phrase “Break the Silence.” Yet the place where the silence often gets most strongly upheld is in church.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Seventy-five percent of all 911 calls are domestic violence related. One in three women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
God was never silent on the issue of violence, yet generations of women have given up on Him because the Church, either through its silence or its misinterpretation of Scripture, has told them God does not care about the cruelty and abuse they suffer. Many women were convinced to stick it out in marriages where they were emotionally, verbally and physically abused, at the expense of letting their hearts die and shutting out the possibility of a God who lavishly loves them.
Most domestic violence victims don’t consider the church a relevant place to go for help, because when they tried asking for help in the past, the response they got was weak or passive at best.
Sure, it’s human nature to want to avoid potentially explosive situations.
But we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus never backed down from them. He didn’t back down from uncomfortable conversations or violent people and always offered strong protection to women being mistreated or needing refuge.
With his Father’s love and authority, Jesus stepped right in the middle of hostile situations time and time again. He stepped in to confront and He stepped in to protect. And with His Spirit, He gives us the love and authority we need to do the same. When we really understand God’s heart on this issue, it becomes clear how we’re supposed to respond:
“He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him.”
Cruelty toward one’s wife is the same as unfaithfulness in God’s eyes. For any woman who has felt compelled to stay in an abusive marriage because she’s been told that adultery is the only biblical grounds for divorce, that is a misinterpretation of God’s heart. When God spoke about divorce in the Bible, he was usually speaking to men with a heart to protect women.
I want to be very clear. Being told you must stay in an abusive marriage because God hates divorce is wrong, cruel and inexcusable.
If you are being abused, please hear me. It will get worse. It will not stop until he kills you. He will not leave you. It won’t stop and he won’t leave because the issue is control and dominance. Please get to a safe place. Now. Find a friend who can help. Get to a shelter. God is with you.
The bottom line is, God is Love and Love always protects (1 Corinth 13:7).
As God’s ambassadors here on this earth, we are also called to protect the weak. A Christ-follower’s number one priority in a domestic violence situation is to take steps to protect the women and children from danger. We must equip ourselves to help victims acquire legal protection if necessary, and help them through the challenges of escaping an abusive situation.
Here are some other things we can do and not do to protect women who are victims of domestic violence:
DON’T tell her to be more loving as a solution to the abuse in her relationship.
DON’T say “God hates divorce.” She will shut down and not trust you.
DON’T suggest marriage counseling. She needs separate counseling for safety and autonomy.
DON’T send her to file a restraining order by herself. This is overwhelming to face alone.
DO help her understand that setting boundaries and allowing her partner to experience consequences is a biblical model of addressing oppression and abuse.
DO have a list of crisis phone numbers, local shelters and an action plan to help her.
DO decide if you willing to provide temporary housing for women who must leave an abusive environment.
DO be prepared with grocery or gas cards to cover her immediate needs.
DO commend her for her courage. Understand she is taking an enormous risk and has a godly instinct to protect herself and her children from further harm.
DO speak words of life over her to rewrite the lies she’s been hearing.
DO offer her hope and purpose...she needs to know God’s got a good plan for her.
DO offer her spiritual reassurance; declare that the violence done against her was wrong and that seeking protection, even from her own husband, is biblically warranted.
Leaving an abusive relationship is a frightening process for a woman.
She needs to know that someone will come alongside her, that she will be loved and protected, and that God will not abandon her, but will stay close and provide for her and restore her as she continues to trust in Him.
We as Christ-followers can make sure she knows this by bringing the evil of domestic violence out into the light, confronting it openly and taking decisive action against it. When we do this, we will strip away the enemy’s power to continue oppressing.
We must recognize that as Christ-followers we are uniquely and POWERFULLY positioned to be a protector who will end the tyranny of domestic violence. Yes, it is a dark and risky place to go, but who better to go there than those who have been given ALL power and ALL authority to confront, protect and rescue in Jesus’ name.