I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of domestic violence victims (usually women) whose churches did not support them when they finally separated from their abusive spouses. This lack of support had many different faces:
- Their pastor told them to their face they were wrong, and should leave the church, or step down from their leadership positions,
- Their old friends did everything in their power to “encourage” them to return to their “rightful place” – the home of the abuser, or
- Less obviously, they were made to feel like second-class citizens because they had divorced for “unbiblical” reasons.
What was the outcome of these situations? Sometimes, the victims actually returned to the abusers, (I shudder at the thought), bringing more abuse down on their heads. But, most often, the former victims simply suffered in silence, and quietly left the church. Often, they left God’s church for a long time, months, years, or forever.
I can think of few things more unjust in the church than an abuse victim having to choose between losing his/her sanity, health or life and losing their church family or believing they are losing God’s love.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
While the bible doesn’t specifically address domestic violence, a close reading and study of the bible affords lots of support for an abuse victim to leave his/her abuser. I describe several verses in my book A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom. In this book, I walk readers through the steps they might take to work with their churches to educate them and get the support they need.
Recently, I have come upon another great set of verses I had never seen. These were in a blog entitled “Scripture Support for Separation from a Destructive Spouse” by Leslie Vernick. For a complete list of the verses, go to Leslie’s original blog. Here is a summary:
In this blog, Leslie points out several verses where separation can be used as a consequence of serious unrepentant and/or repetitive sin, such as:
1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one…..Purge the evil person from among you.
Proverbs 1:30,31 They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes.
Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
The second set of verses are where separation can be used when the physical health of the victim and his/her children are in danger:
1 Samuel 18-31 In these verses, in spite of God’s general instructions to submit to the laws of the land and to higher authorities, when David feared for his life because of King Saul’s jealous rages, God didn’t instruct David to “submit to the King and trust me to take care of you.” Instead, David fled, always respecting the position of King Saul, but not allowing himself to be abused by him.
Matthew 2:13-15 When Jesus was born and King Herod sought to exterminate all the Jewish babies two years old and younger, God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return.
Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, The prudent see danger and take refuge.
The final set of verses are where separation can be used when the emotional and mental health of the victim and his/her children are in danger:
Proverbs 14:7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
Proverbs 16: 27-29 “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
If you find yourself in this situation, and would like some help navigating it, please contact me via Facebook, or my website’s contact form.
Also, I have created a Domestic Violence Guide for Churches. This guide teaches church leaders about the dynamics of DV and educates them on how to help those who experience it. Click here to preview it.
I pray the Lord will bless you today.