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Let’s Encourage the Church to Stop Enabling Abusers

I sometimes hesitate to highlight well-known speakers/pastors/writers here. While I am praising one of their works, another blogger is trashing them for a different thing they have written/said elsewhere. But, I press onward. So, forgive me if you have read other things by Gary Thomas, (pastor, author) that you think are wrong. I have not read all of them. But when I came upon his blog entitled “Dear Church: It’s Time to Stop Enabling Abusive Men,” I just had to comment upon it and share some of his thoughts. Hearing a well-known Christian author say things like,

“If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.” Tweet This

is just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Gary tells of a recent women’s conference he spoke at. During the break, many women came forward and asked for his advice about whether they should stay in their marriages.

One woman was married to a persistent porn addict. He neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He kept dangling divorce over her head, which made her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she felt guilty.

Gary’s thoughts (and mine!) were: This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists. Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.”

Another young wife, barely in her 20s, held a baby in a blanket. Her husband had a huge temper problem. He had made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby, twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when Gary looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem, that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

Gary’s thoughts were: “When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway, the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will. As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, ‘Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.’”

Another woman told Gary about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over 40 years. Gary was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So, when he talks to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Gary says: Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up. How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us.

We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it. Tweet This

“I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual and physical health.

“Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue, it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

“Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over,” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

“Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say, “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives, and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

“I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

“Enough is enough!”

Phew!! That was intense! It was also awesome! It is one thing for former victims to speak out against abuse. We should, LOUDLY! But sometimes the voice of a well-known Christian (male) pastor can carry more weight with other Christian male pastors. My hat is off to you Gary for this blog. Please don’t stop here! Please keep sounding the gong for those of us who have no voice.

Question: What do you think of Gary’s points?

What do you think God thinks of a spouse who would treat his/her spouse like this?

Proverbs 6:16 – 19 says:

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
        haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
       a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
       a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

1 Corinthians 5:11 says:

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

And Galatians 5:19 – 21 says:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

For those of you who find yourselves in a relationship with a person like this, I implore you to seek help

I pray you find the help you need, and feel God’s love for you today.

Blessings,

Caroline

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. 🌺 Michelle 🌻 says:

    Thank you for this powerful article. I can definitely relate. I stayed in a marriage 10 years even after realizing he had eyes on other women. His abuse was insidious in that it wasn’t physical. He tried to be very sneaky.

    I stayed with him because I thought he was a good father. I thought he loved our child. I couldn’t let him touch me after I it was revealed to me that he didn’t love me. I felt that I was being raped.

    I started spiralling down. By the time he divorced me, I was drinking heavily and had zero self worth. The only thing that kept me alive was my fear of the Lord and that my child needed me.

    It’s been eight years since the divorce. I am just now coming out of it. My clean and sober date is August 2, 2017. God has been amazing me by healing me. For the first time ever I am confident that I will get the job I want. I have an English degree, but I felt I was only worthy to work as a cook, a daycare worker, or a waitress. It has been a long process of healing that went back to way before I married him. I picked this man. He was totally right for me in my brokenness but totally wrong. Today, I am confident that I am healthy enough emotionally and spiritually that I will gravitate towards people who love and value me.

    • I can relate to the journey you experienced. I also picked my abusive husband out of my own lack of self worth. I stayed way too long, twenty years because of my kids and my faith. When I left I was depressed and anxious and my self esteem was rock bottom. I applaud you for the work you have done in healing your life. It is hard work but so worth it!

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