Spousal Abusue….”In the Church… Part One” (2009)

First and foremost the goal of Agape Worldwide Ministries is to bring men and woman to the true knowledge of Jesus, salvation with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost is their lives.  But after that, we as believers still have to deal with everyday life and the trials that it bring.  Unlike modern teachings, we do have problems in life, but we teach that unlike the world we have a savior who can give us peace in the midst of the storm.  So Agape secondary goal is not to hide from life problems, but face them, knowing that we have deliverance in Christ.

Like many issues in the Church that has been covered up with a shout and an offering, spousal abuse does happen.  We as leaders, must not be afraid to face this fact, we must teach that in Christ we have the answers to a trouble home, a trouble relationship, and deal with the problems through biblical principles and intelligent choices.  For one of the motto of this ministry is that we offer a “Real God, for Real Problems, for Real Answers”.  So let us in the lesson tackle the issue of “Spousal Abuse” in the church.

Spouse Abuse – What is It?

Spousal Abuse is a difficult behavior to define because it encompasses a set of symptoms that involve both physical and/or emotional abuse. When it takes the form of emotional abuse, it is characterized by verbal ridicule and/or putdowns that demean and patterns of neglect. Physical abuse involves the threat of physical violence and may include slapping, shoving, and deliberate physical assault.

Spousal abuse is a pattern of behavior that may be the result of a number of different factors. It may be a learned behavior that a child observes occurring between parents and later repeats in his or her adult relationships. Studies show that abusers are often motivated by feelings of powerlessness and insecurity. Spouse abuse inflates the ego and provides a false sense of control. It may be the result of a misguided sense of love that results in unhealthy possessiveness and/or jealousy.

Society is now becoming more aware of spouse abuse than it has been in the past. Previously, even if gross abuse was reported to the authorities, the law was reluctant to get involved. It was assumed that the man was ruler in his own castle and the authorities had no business there. At best it was viewed as a misdemeanor. That view has changed. If a man or woman feels abused, there are now many organizations ready to help. There are also many websites that offer information, help, and advice.

Spouse Abuse – Just How Serious is it?

Spouse abuse is a very serious form of exploitation that will escalate when left untreated. There is a cycle of violence that often begins with a pattern of verbal denigration and emotional abuse and intensifies until it manifests itself as a form of physical abuse. Verbal abuse is perhaps more sinister than overt physical abuse. Long after the black and blue bruises and broken bones from physical abuse heal, verbal abuse continues to silently erode its victim’s self-worth.

The classic abuser conveys a message to his victim that she is responsible for his negative behaviors; that she is a failure in most or all of the roles that she is fulfilling; and that, apart from him, she is helpless. Victims of abuse eventually come to believe that they are powerless and objects of shame. Statistically, reports of women being abuse are more common than that of men.

Spouse Abuse – What does the Bible say?

Nowhere in scripture do we find God sanctioning any form of spousal abuse. In Colossians 3:18-19, men are instructed to pattern their love for their wives after Jesus’ love for His church. This is described as a sacrificial kind of love; the kind of love that seeks the very best for the one who is loved. Emotional and physical forms of abuse are diametrically opposed to the concept of sacrifice; such behaviors are selfish and self-seeking. 1 Corinthians 13 teaches what genuine love is all about and has much to say about what love is not. According to this passage, love is not self-seeking, is not easily stirred up, and does not behave hatefully. Clearly, abuse is not a demonstration of genuine love.

Misinterpretation of Ephesians 5:22 has led some to believe that the role of submission permits abuse of power and/or mistreatment of a spouse. The true meaning of this passage is a demonstration of a husband’s role as initiator of unconditional love, which results in the wife’s role as responder, willingly placing herself under his headship. Submission is not something to be taken, but rather something to be given.

As one who is seeking knowledge and does not know it all, I am working with a sister who has a ministry based to help those women in the church that has been abused.  In her educating me she lead to a another ministry and their website called the Rave project or raveproject.com, in which I have found the statistics which are below based over a 15 year period.

  • Pastors believe that one in five couples in their congregation is violent;
  • 9.3% of pastors have counseled five or more abused women in the last year;
  • 83.2% of pastors have counseled at least one abused woman;
  • 8% of pastors feel well equipped to respond to domestic violence;
  • 31% of pastors report that they have preached a message on abuse;
  • 40% of pastors discuss violence in premarital counseling.
Evidences of a Holy Hush operating amongst Clergy
  • Most pastors have never visited the transition house in or near their local area;
  • Most pastors do not know by name any of the workers in the local shelter;
  • Most pastors have never preached a message that explicitly condemns wife abuse and/or child abuse;
  • Clergy are reluctant to refer to outside community resources those that come to them for help;
  • Referrals are least likely from clergy reporting little knowledge or training in domestic violence.
Evidences of Shattered Silence in Congregational Life
  • Most clergy have counseled a woman who has been battered;
  • Most church women have helped a battered woman they knew;
  • Many church women’s groups have supported their local transition house by financial or in-kind donations;
  • Some churches have information provided in the church washrooms or other safe places that outline what to do if you are an abused woman.

What do these data tell us?

Questions to consider:

  • I wonder how men get the idea that the Bible permits them to bully their wives or be dictators in the home.  I wonder if we are doing enough as clergy to confront such false ideas about the Bible.  Have I addressed those issues clearly enough in my teaching and preaching?  Have you?
  • I don’t know about you, but as a pastor I haven’t felt adequately trained to respond to domestic violence by myself.  What can we do as clergy to work in partnership with those in the community who seek to help victims of abuse?  Have you ever contacted the local transition house?  Will you this week?
Building Bridges Between the Steeple and the Shelter…or the church and the community
  • Responding to abuse requires both the language of contemporary culture (where issues of safety and practical resources are paramount) and the language of the spirit (with its focus on healing and wholeness);
  • The celebration of family life that occurs in many religious circles suggests that women and men of faith stay longer in relationships, even when they are unhealthy;
  • Faith leaders have an important role to play in supporting victims through the healing process;
  • Abused women of faith find it very therapeutic when their faith leaders condemn the violence they have suffered;
  • Faith leaders have an important role to play in calling men who have acted abusively to accountability;
  • When pastors suggest that abusive men seek help in an intervention program, whether court mandated or not, they offer hope to the men (and indeed the entire family) of a life where violence is monitored and (eventually) reduced;
  • Men of faith who have abused their wives need to have the violence condemned in a therapeutic environment that understands the nuances of their faith perspective, its language, its sacred texts and has an established referral network in the community.
  • 95% of church women report they have never heard a specific message on abuse preached from the pulpit of their church;
  • 58% of church women have helped an abused woman—one in four have offered her a bed for the night;
  • 69.8% of church women have sought the help of another woman in their church regarding a family related problem;
  • Many Christian women who have been violated do not feel that the term—abused woman—applies to them.

OK! We have the facts, now what do we do about it, what does the Bible has to say about it, where do we go from here.  Next blog we will deal more into this hidden tragedy inside the church.  For it is Agape mission for Almighty God to deal with the whole man or woman, with a belief that the God we serve is more than able to do that which is exceedingly above anything that we might think or ask.

Published on August 14, 2009 at 3:37 am  Leave a Comment  

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