October is a month dedicated to domestic violence awareness, and recent events have brought this atrocity into the media’s eye. It’s high time it was brought to the attention of the Lord’s church. The Light Network has devoted this month to producing material to combat this plague upon our communities, and The Preacher’s Favorite Passage is partnered with them in this endeavor. The church cannot remain silent on this issue.
Domestic violence is UNDENIABLE
Domestic violence is a growing problem. One reason that the problem continues is its presentation as a normal behavior in the media. Recently the media has come down hard upon offenders, but it has not always been the case. Movie stars, musicians, athletes, and all manner of public figures have been accused (and some convicted) of domestic violence. These issues have been quietly swept under the rug and they have continued their careers in the public eye—suffering no more than a two-game football suspension or a lawsuit that can be afforded on a week’s salary. These atrocities have not deterred the public from purchasing concert, movie, or sporting event tickets whatsoever. Our young men see this heinous act depicted to them as “no big deal.” Domestic violence is also easily seen depicted on the big and small screens, and reflected in the lyrics of popular songs. Parents allow their children to watch these movies and television shows, and to listen to these songs, further perpetuating the indoctrination of our young men to assume that this is normal and acceptable behavior.
This problem also continues because these crimes often go unreported, and therefore unpunished. Only about 1/4 of all physical assaults, 1/5 of all rapes, and 1/2 of all stalking perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police. Victims’ minds are bludgeoned into believing that they somehow deserve to be abused, or that their attacker really loves them and will not do it again. These crimes happen behind closed doors, and we neglect to address them in our day-to-day lives, so victims are scared or embarrassed to seek help. As already stated, it is a common problem, but you would not know it by the way we ignore the issue. Those who do not receive chastening or punishment will simply continue in the same pattern of behavior until someone, or something, stops or corrects them. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccles. 8:11).
Domestic violence continues to be a problem also because it is passed on to the younger generations as acceptable behavior by their parents. Children witness domestic violence in their own homes first-hand. This is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their partners and children as adults. 3.3 million children witness domestic violence in the U.S. each year. Children also learn this behavior by being abused themselves. 36% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. Those children who are victims of abuse grow up thinking that abuse is normal. How many times has a child grown up to be just like his parents?
Domestic violence should not be normal behavior, but it is all too common. It is an illness triggered by something that has gone wrong. Causes and triggers include the following: learned behavior, low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, unresolved childhood conflicts, stress of poverty, misogyny, misandry, personality disorders, mental disorders, psychopathy, jealousy, genetic tendencies, sociocultural influences, or stress. It is rarely the case that just one trigger has caused the problem, but is more likely the case that the individual has a number of issues that trigger abusive behavior. If you are a victim, or abuser, seek help immediately and break the cycle of evil behavior.
Domestic violence is UNJUSTIFIABLE
1 Peter 3:1-6 commands wives to “be in subjection to your own husbands (verse 1), have a “meek and quiet spirit” (verse 4), and consider the example of the “holy women” (verse 5) such as Sarah, the wife of Abraham, who “obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (verse 6). The abuser will read this passage to say that his wife has to do as he commands and honor him as king. The first thing to be noted is this: if God commands the woman to be in subjection, then it is her responsibility to do so, NOT your responsibility to make her. Second, it should be noted that verse 7 commands “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). While subjection is the wife’s responsibility, the husband’s responsibility is twice that of the wife—dwell with her according to knowledge, and honor her. To dwell “according to knowledge” is to forever attempt to grow in knowledge and appreciation for her. The husband should ever strive to learn what his wife needs, and what will make her happy. Quite often, the abuser is focused upon his wife’s need to fulfill her responsibility to him; however, he should put more focus upon his own responsibility to her. He should also honor his wife—something he is not doing if he is abusing (in word or deed) his wife. How many husbands that demand the respect of their wives have respected their wives? Respect is a two-way street. Disrespecting your wife will NEVER make her respect you—only fear you. Husbands are told to love their wives for three reasons: 1) they are the weaker vessel, 2) they are fellow-heirs of God’s grace, and 3) a lack of respect for your wife will hinder your prayers. A wife should be handled with care, like a delicate and valuable treasure. If a man possessed a priceless vase, I doubt he would push or hit it; why then would a man do so to the “weaker vessel” that is his wife? How can a man expect to obtain God’s grace as his child when he has beaten and shamed another of God’s children? How can a man expect God to answer his prayers when he has so vilely mistreated one of God’s most precious children?
Ephesians 5:22-24 is also commonly used in defense of abuse. Husbands will often focus upon the command for wives to “submit yourselves unto your own husbands” (verse 22) and the proclamation that “the husband is the head of the wife” (verse 23), but will often ignore the qualifying statement concerning how the husband is the head of his wife—“even as Christ is the head of the church” (verse 23). Every husband should ask himself the following questions: Would Christ beat upon a member of His church? Would Christ insult a member of His church? Would Christ force a member of His church to be obedient? The answer to all such questions is a resounding NO. Christ’s church is subject to Him by their own free will and Christ is head of the church by means of leading—not slave-driving. The remaining verses of the chapter are also needful for consideration—Ephesians 5:25-33. They indicate that the husband’s responsibility is to love His wife “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (verse 25). If a man loves his wife as much as Jesus loves His church, would he ever mistreat her in any way? The husbands should also “love their wives as their own bodies” (verse 28). What man would harm himself physically, mentally, or emotionally? Yes, the wife’s responsibility is to “reverence her husband” (verse 33), but that pales in comparison to the man’s responsibility to love.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:18-19). There are far too many men who have embittered themselves against their wives, and this problem has led to the prevalence of violence in our homes. Sadder still, some men actually believe that the abuse that they perpetrate against their wives is done “because I love her.” It would be well for such men to evaluate 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to discover God’s definition of love. Love “suffereth long,” but an abusive husband is short of temper. Love “envieth not,” but abuse is often motivated by envy. Love “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” but a man’s ego is often the source of domestic violence. Love “doth not behave itself unseemly,” but there is no more unseemly behavior than a man abusing a woman. Love “seeketh not her own,” but an abuser is seeking dominion for himself above his partner. Love “is not easily provoked,” but an abuser has a short fuse. Love “thinketh no evil,” but abuse often happens when a husband assumes the worst in his wife. Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth,” but most abusive husbands (and wives) would rather continue to abuse than recognize they are wrong. Love “beareth all things,” but domestic violence occurs when one partner is unwilling to bear what they perceive as faults in the other partner. Love “believeth all things, hopeth all things” but what abusive husband truly fulfills these commands? Love “endureth all things,” but far too many men would rather force adherence to their will than endure any perceived-mistake by their partner to go unpunished. God forbid that we should ever call abusive behavior an act of love! “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (Pro. 21:2).
Domestic violence is UNACCEPTABLE
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32). The bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice associate with domestic violence need to be put away and replaced by the kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness associated with being a faithful child of God.
“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21). Even with the vilest of enemies, our command is to not do evil to them in return for the evil they have done. It is to be our endeavor to live peaceably with all men, and how can that be accomplished if a man cannot live peaceably with his wife? A man should not feel the need to avenge every time he is wronged or perceives that he has been, but should treat even his worst enemy with kindness. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
According to James 3:13-18, a wise man will be meek and put away bitter envy and strife. The man who assumes he is right to be filled with envy and strife (such as an abusive husband) is calling something wise that is “earthly, sensual, devilish.” In application to the abuser, to be wise in God’s eyes, you will learn to be “peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated” (handle your problems calmly and kindly). There will be times when you are angered, but that does not excuse abusive behavior. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26).
If you are currently being abused, seek help and remove yourself from danger. Love seeks to do what is best for the other person, and what is best for an abusive partner is to receive professional help in dealing with the problem. If your heart is convicted as an abuser, seek out professional help immediately. Do not try to fight the battle against domestic violence alone. For more information concerning a biblical approach to domestic violence go to www.thelightnetwork.tv/stopviolence.