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Today’s Question: My husband and I attended a Baptist church for many years. My husband has a Catholic background I have a Methodist/Presbyterian background. I followed my husband to this church where he found great contentment. I figured I would love the Lord no matter where I was. Many things took place that were emotionally destructive over the years. We were on our best behavior at church. But at home and in front of our blended family we were not what a Christian marriage should be.
Repentance or remorse just wasn’t a part of the 10-year marriage and like cancer, it grew into its destructive state. I am now legally separated from my husband. I promised the pastor well over a year ago that I would meet with him after the separation was final. Now that it is final I needed to follow through with my commitment to meet with him.
When I did the pastor asked me to read Romans 12:1-2, and he wanted me to think about it and talk to him about it. My first thoughts are:
(1) I feel this church supports oppressive marriages.
(2) I do not trust my husband. I think he would use this scripture to protect his belief that we should not be separated, although this scripture can refer to the renewing of my mind with help understanding why I had become so bitter and resentful after hearing and reading some of your counsel.
(3) I do hope to live a holy and acceptable life pleasing to God, separating from my husband mentally and emotionally to protect me from his manipulation and control.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to comment. Your comments will help me contemplate what I need to discuss with the Pastor.
Answer: Your pastor chose an interesting passage for you to contemplate and if you’re in the kind of church you describe my guess is your pastor wanted you to latch onto Paul’s words in this passage where he said: “Don’t be conformed to this world’s way of thinking.”
It’s just a guess based on my experiences with well-meaning pastors but he probably wanted you to reach a conclusion something like this:
The world tells you that you should protect yourself from your abusive/destructive spouse by separating, but that’s not God’s way. You need to have your thinking transformed in order to think God’s way if you want to live a holy, acceptable, and pleasing to God kind of life. God’s way is to suffer patiently for Jesus by staying in your marriage because that’s what brings him the most glory.
This is the kind of counsel where well-intended but horribly unequipped pastors and Christian counselors can cause women in abusive/destructive marriages harm and spiritual confusion. You’ve said you want to please God and live a holy life before him and you’ve been aware that your own pain has led to some bitterness and resentment.
But if your pastor is saying what I think he might be saying, from his point of view there is only one way to do that when you’re in a destructive marriage and that is to stay, no matter what.
That’s not true. [Tweet “When you stand up and say “no” to abuse and sin and refuse to allow it to reign in your heart or your home you ARE doing God’s will.”] Placating an abuser or pretending and lying to cover up sin gives God no glory. It destroys the marital relationship as God intended and it gives the abuser the false idea that his sin is not that bad. If you choose that path, how could your husband possibly see the truth that he needs to repent? We are called to expose the deeds done in darkness, not cover them up or indulge them (Ephesians 5:11).
Scripture amply supports God’s stance against abuse and the tactics of abusers. He says he hates injustice, oppressors, liars, hypocrites, and those who abuse their power to hurt and take advantage of others.
Here is just a sampling of some verses:
“The Lord examines the righteous but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” Psalm 11:5
Then I said,
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel.
Should you not embrace justice,
you who hate good and love evil;
who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;
who eat my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces;
who chop them up like meat for the pan,
like flesh for the pot?”
Then they will cry out to the Lord,
but he will not answer them.
At that time he will hide his face from them
because of the evil they have done.
This is what the Lord says:
“As for the prophets
who lead my people astray,
they proclaim ‘peace’
if they have something to eat,
but prepare to wage war against anyone
who refuses to feed them.
Therefore night will come over you, without visions,
and darkness, without divination.
The sun will set for the prophets,
and the day will go dark for them.
The seers will be ashamed
and the diviners disgraced.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
[Tweet “God will hold accountable those who abuse others and misuse their power, so why doesn’t the church?”] (See Psalm 10, especially verses 13-18)
Therefore, you are not being “conformed” to this world’s way of thinking when you seek to protect yourself and your children from an abuser. You are conforming your thinking to God’s thinking. First by valuing your safety and sanity (which God values), and second, by holding the abuser accountable and calling him to repentance in order for true reconciliation of the relationship to be possible, which is also God’s will when relationships are broken.
You may also want to read my blog Does God Want me to Suffer Silently According to 1Peter 3 and Lessons from Sarah’s Story.
Friend, what Scripture verses have helped you “see” that God cares about you and hates what’s happening to you? Let’s try to gather together as many Bible verses as we can that support God’s view so that confusion is cleared up around some of these false teachings so that spiritual oppression isn’t as easily masked as Biblical truth.
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