No, God does not call us as Christians to take all kinds of abuse. 99 percent of Christians would agree with that statement and I would be one of them. But very few Christians would agree with me on this next statement regarding abuse:
God does call us as Christians to take and bear SOME kinds of abuses.
What is the key word there? The word is “SOME”.
But in our world today we are taught, sadly even by many Christian teachers, that we don’t have to take ANY abuse from anyone.
However the Scriptures contradict this attitude of “I don’t have to take any kind of abuse from any one at any time”:
“19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”
I Peter 2:19-23 (KJV)
Our culture hates the passage I just quoted because it goes against our idea of a society where no one should ever have to tolerate the least amount of pain or suffering. We are living in a society of people with feelings as fragile and as easily damaged as egg shells.
We have actually reached a point where some people are so fragile that they cannot hear an opposing view point without being so mortally offended that they must seek out therapy.
About a year ago I published an article entitled “Why God wants You to STAY in an abusive relationship” and as I write today that article has received almost 70,000 views since I first posted it. If you just google the title of that same article you will find many YouTube videos as well as other sites commenting on it.
I received thousands of comments or emails most by people who did not read past the first few paragraphs and others who did not read past the title. I am not a stranger to receiving death threats for various articles I write simply expounding on the teachings of the Bible. But this article has generated even more hatred than usual.
But do I see myself as victim? No. I daily remember these words of Christ to those who preach his Word:
“11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Matthew 5:11-12 (KJV)
So, when I read negative reviews on both Atheist and Christian blogs or when I receive false accusations and death threats via email or comments to my blog because of I preached the Word of God and called out the sins of generation do I frown? Do I get upset?
Well from a human perspective I don’t like false accusations and I wish I could correct each and every one of them. But I know I can’t do that. So I must leave that in the Lord’s hands. And do I take the death threats seriously? You bet I do and that is why I started this blog anonymously and take great pains to keep myself anonymous. Even my closest online friends do not know my real identity.
But at the end of the day I strive, be it ever so imperfectly, to rejoice when I am persecuted as Christ admonished us to do.
Now does that not mean that I don’t get angry at the sinful ways of our society? Do I not get angry at the way people so easily speak blasphemy against God and his Word as I see on a daily basis in comments to this blog? Of course some of these things make me angry. But I do try and follow God’s rule to “Be ye angry, and sin not“ (Ephesians 4:26).
So why I am writing this companion article? Today I received a comment followed up by an email from the same person that was probably one of the most respectful disagreement emails that I have received regarding my article on abuse. And I felt this was a good opportunity to help clarify some important Biblical principles I have been trying to teach about how we as Christians should respond to abuse.
Christ Does Not Call Us to Be “perpetual victims and punching bags”
Below is the complete email I received from a concerned reader calling himself “John”.
“I read your article about God’s will to remain in an abusive relationship. You presented your argument in a well studied manner in which you used Scripture to justify remaining in an abusive relationship. At the same time I must disagree with you.
While the Bible teaches enduring hardships and tribulations, I don’t see anywhere Jesus expected us to be perpetual victims and punching bags. There has to be a point where either one of two things will occur: the abusive spouse will repent and begin to turn things around, or the situation will become worse to the point of either death or divorce.
At one time I would have agreed with you and even taught along similar lines. Then I went through the experience. I suffered marital problems where I was berated by my wife, criticized at every turn, denied love and affection, then it escalated to where my bank account was drained and finally adultery (the one grounds that we can agree on) was confirmed.
At what point do we say enough is enough? Are we supposed to continue to just take the abuse and never stand up for ourselves and our family members who also must endure this? How many households must suffer financial ruin, physical injury, mental anguish, or ultimately death at the abuser’s hands?
Having been at one time a minister in an abusive church, I witnessed first hand how these teachings hurt families. When we force wives or husbands to remain in an abusive relationship, we as Christians aren’t much better than the Muslims whose record of condoning violence against their wives is well documented. This is one reason why more Christians avoid church than attend. We failed in providing real solutions to help abuse victims. We just throw the victims back in the shark tank to be eaten afresh.
Moving from the marriage into the church in general, there are many accounts of believers forced to leave a church and pastor because of abuse. In some cases it was sexual. Other times it was emotional or financial. Some pastors exercised control over the congregants’ daily lives to where every waking moment revolved around the church and its leadership. God called pastors to be shepherds, but instead many so called pastors became kings over their own little kingdoms.
I followed the Biblical route here and brought my grievances to the elders and pastor. I even went to the point of proposing reform so ALL of us would be accountable. My ideas were completely rejected, and the pastors continued their abuse unrepentant. I was finally left with no option but to leave.
Years later I found myself in another church situation. I saw unbiblical activity and reported it to the leadership, only to the kicked out of the church. I could have suffered in silence and gone along with it, but God does not want me to roll over and be the perpetual victim.
Until we realize victims need real help and not just being told all this suffering is God’s will, more lives will be ruined.”
Now I will address a couple key concerns of this reader.
“How many households must suffer financial ruin, physical injury, mental anguish, or ultimately death at the abuser’s hands?”
No household must perpetually suffer financial ruin because of a spouse who abuses the family finances. But how this is dealt with is different depending on whether it is the husband or wife. As I stated in my previous article on this subject of abuse the Exodus 21:10-11 principle applies to a wife whose husband fails to provide (i.e. brings the family to financial ruin) either because of his laziness or some type of addiction (drugs or gambling). So, no, she does not have to stay and take this kind of abuse but rather she can be free of him in divorce.
Now does the husband have the right to divorce his wife because of her financial abuse such as overspending which may cause financial ruin for the family? No, he does not have the right to divorce her, but based on upon Christ’s example with his wife the church in Revelation 3:19 he does have the right to discipline her. And that means he gets a new bank account without her name on it and locks her out of the finances completely. Even if that means he has to do the family grocery shopping and clothing shopping.
Regarding serious physical injury or life-threatening situations, the “Abigail Principle” of I Samuel 25 applies. God brought Abigail to go against her husband’s evil actions which literally placed her family in mortal danger to save her family and he blessed her for it. And there is no reason this would not apply to men as well if their wife was engaging in actions that could bring serious bodily harm or death to them or their children.
So, in either the case of the husband or the wife, if there is a situation where one spouse is causing great bodily harm or placing the family in danger of death by their actions then the other spouse should get out with the children and contact the civil authorities.
But then what about mental anguish?
This one is different than the others. What did Christ do when he was in mental anguish? He went to be alone with his father.
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.“
Luke 22:44 (KJV)
The Bible does not allow for the dissolving of a marriage based solely on mental anguish. Are there some other remedies offered though for mental anguish caused by one’s spouse’s abusive behavior? Yes, we find a couple other remedies in the book of Proverbs:
“It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.”
Proverbs 21:9 (KJV)
“It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”
Proverbs 21:19 (KJV)
So, if you have a wife who berates you, constantly criticizes you and denies you the love and affection God commands of her the remedy is simple. First follow Christ’s example as a husband in Revelation 3:19 and “rebuke and chasten” your wife. If she fails to respond to your chastening with repentance, then find your “corner of the housetop”, i.e. your office or man-cave and leave her in her sin. Perhaps go to your “wilderness” whether that be hunting or other activities with other men. And when you get alone in these places – pray earnestly as Christ did in the garden.
A wife may also need to find her “corner of the housetop” sometimes if she is dealing with a husband who constantly berates her. She may need to go to her room sometimes or just take a drive to be alone with her thoughts and also pray and seek the Lord’s strength to do what he has called her to do in spite of her husband’s sin.
But in the case of the wife – she does not have the spiritual authority to rebuke and discipline her husband, but rather she is called to win her husband without the word by her reverent and submissive behavior toward him (I Peter 3:1-2).
What About Abuse by Church Leaders?
John made this statement about abuse he has witnessed in Churches:
“Moving from the marriage into the church in general, there are many accounts of believers forced to leave a church and pastor because of abuse. In some cases it was sexual. Other times it was emotional or financial. Some pastors exercised control over the congregants’ daily lives to where every waking moment revolved around the church and its leadership. God called pastors to be shepherds, but instead many so called pastors became kings over their own little kingdoms.”
I have witnessed similar abuses to this in many churches I know of both local and across the nation. Supposed Bible preaching pastors who are found to be sexually abusing young people in the church.
One of the Baptist churches I attended growing up had a Pastor who came up with a bright idea of “Paycheck Sundays”. Basically, he demanded that all his church members sign over their entire pay checks to the church ever so often – I think it might have been every two months. My father opposed such a demand and even told the church he disagreed and we left shortly thereafter.
I have heard of situations where Pastors tried to tell wives they had greater spiritual authority over them than their husbands which violates the explicit teachings of the Scriptures that the husband is the wife’s greatest spiritual authority (Ephesians 5:23-24 & 1 Corinthians 14:35).
And yes, I have seen churches that do exactly as you describe and you follow the Biblical process of bringing sin or concern to the church only to be turned down or have it turned on you as if you did something wrong for bringing sin to their attention.
But here is the thing about churches and marriages. Some things they have in common, but many other things are VERY different between these two God given institutions. What they have in common is that both have sinners in them and both are flawed because of the presence of sin. Both are to have their authorities exercise spiritual discipline over those under their authority.
But church membership and marriage are very different when it comes to how their association is dissolved. A covenant of marriage is not easily broken in God’s design. But God does not tell us we must remain at a particular local church indefinitely.
We might leave a local church for no more reason than we found one that is closer to home. We might leave a local church over differences in music style or many other reasons. God wants us in church, but he does not tie us to a particular local church. Now do I think we should church hop constantly? No. Church hopping is not good for our children. But if there are serious reasons or legitimate reasons for moving from a church than we can do that.
John – I hope this answers your concerns.