I have recently finished a course on the Old Testament – so interesting! One of the things we studied closely was the 10 Commandments. I have looked at the 10 Commandments many, many times. But, this time, really studying them gave me a new insight on domestic abuse.
The first four commandments have to do with worshiping God; putting him first before all else. Commandment number five talks about honoring your father and mother.
The next five commandments are the “social laws”, or “shall nots.” The first “shall not,” (commandment #6), is you shall not murder. The next, (#7) is you shall not commit adultery. These are the two commandments I would like to focus on today.
In The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction,* author Richard Hess states that the order of the social laws is meaningful. Yes, all the 10 commandments are important. However, Hess believes God intentionally placed these laws in order of importance.
The first social law is the prohibition against murder. In biblical times, nothing would save you if you intentionally harmed someone by murder. No silver or gold could buy your safety if you took a human life. In exchange for the life you took, you must forfeit your life.
After this law, comes the prohibition concerning marriage, specifically adultery. According to Hess, the placement of this second social law places it secondary to the first law about the sanctity of human life.
I almost fell off my chair when I read this. I saw an immediate application for abuse survivors.
When a person is being abused, their physical, emotional and spiritual life comes under attack by their abuser. Abusers actively work to destroy their victims, who are made in God’s image. I liken this to murder. In fact, many abusers do murder their victims eventually. In some cases, abuse victims commit suicide because their abusers have made their lives intolerable. Many of us have experienced the slow attempted murder of our souls. Toward the end of my abusive marriage, believing death was my only way out, I began thinking of ways I could kill myself. Thankfully before it was too late,
I realized God cared more about me than my marriage. Tweet This
I believe the order God placed these social laws indicates that God values the life and soul of an abuse victim as more important than the survival of his/her marriage. Yes, marriage is important to society and God does not take divorce lightly. But preserving a marriage that is abusive is not more important than preserving the life of a victim.
Many churches fail to see this distinction. In an effort to limit the number of divorces in today’s society, they believe saving marriages is more important than saving the lives of individual victims. They often tell victims they must stay married to the abusers who are trying to destroy them. Many victims do stay, to their detriment and the detriment of their children. These children grow up thinking abuse is acceptable in marriage, which passes abuse down to the next generation. If victims leave the marriage, they are often shunned by their churches, which often kills the faith of the victim, causing them to turn away from God and the church forever.
It shouldn’t be this way. Tweet This
One of my main goals for blogging is to help the Church I love so much become more knowledgeable about domestic violence. My vision is that rather than being a place of increased harm for abuse victims, the church could become a real force for the prevention and healing of domestic violence. For the victim, yes, but even for the abuser. If the church takes their job seriously, and begins holding abusers accountable for their behavior, I believe there will be less abuse in our society. To this end, I have created a Domestic Violence Guide for Churches. In this guide, I dispel some of the myths about domestic violence, like:
- If a wife submits, her husband will stop abusing her
- Abusers cannot help their behavior, it is just how they were raised,
- He** acts this way because he isn’t a Christian
- He must be addicted to drugs, alcohol and/or pornography to behave this way.
I also help churches know how to respond when a victim asks for help. This includes:
- Believing her when she talks about the abuse she has experienced
- Helping her find resources in the community (like DV crisis centers)
- Helping her with finances, food, housing, and legal support
- Helping her understand what the bible says about abuse.
In addition, I help churches think through how they can make their church feel safe to an abuse victim by:
- Posting information about abuse around the church, in both open and private spaces (bathrooms)
- Preaching sermons that talk about equality between partners, and that domestic violence is a sin
- Offering information about DV and/or training a member of the congregation to be the church’s DV advocate.
I would love to get this DV Guide into the hands of as many churches as possible. The guide is listed at $29.99. If this is a hardship for you – if you have a church you would like to give it to, please contact me through my contact page, or through Facebook. It is more important to me that those who need it have access to it, than getting full-price for it.
In this blog, I barely scratched the surface of what the bible says about abuse. For a more complete list, please check out last week’s blog.
Proverbs 11:19-21 says:
Truly the righteous attain life,
but whoever pursues evil finds death.
The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse,
but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.
Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will go free.
Question: Do you believe God cares more about the individual victim than he does about saving the marriage?
I pray the Lord will bless you,
*Richard Hess, The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction, (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2016), p. 70
** Abusers and their victims can be male or female. In this blog, I portray the male as the abuser.