We’re going to be opening our doors to new CONQUER members on April 12. If you know a woman who has been anxious to get in, please have her join our waitlist and attend our free workshop on April 12, “How Long Do you Keep Trying? And how do you know change is real?” Click here to register.
Today’s question comes from a comment on our recent blog about the validity of emotional and verbal abuse. I thought her question deserved a larger response so I’m adding it as a separate post.
Today's Question: How do I get my church leadership to respond to the reality and validity of emotional abuse?
Answer: I’m sorry you are experiencing this from the very leaders God has put in place to help the oppressed. [Tweet “The Scriptures never invalidate or minimize the effects someone’s harsh actions and cruel words have on another person’s soul, spirit, and body.”]
A cursory reading through Scripture amply illustrates God’s disdain for mockers, abusers, deceivers, those who misuse their power, oppressors, revilers, ragers, hypocrites, and slanderers. For example, the psalmist says, “Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you’re an expert at telling lies. You love evil more than good and lies more than truth. You love to destroy others with your words, you liar!” (Psalm 52:2-5).
David cries out to God, “Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles…..My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.…. It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me— I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend” (Psalm 55:2,4,5,13).
Sadly some church leaders have failed to validate the destructive consequences of living with a foolish, argumentative, angry, deceitful, contentious, indifferent, hard-hearted, or evil person when the Scriptures are quite clear that the effects are real. The psalmist said, “Their insults have broken my heart and I am in despair” (Psalm 69:20).
I wonder if we haven’t valued honesty as much as we preach it. When a woman goes to her church leadership and discloses what’s going on at home, she hopes to be supported and protected. But for some women, that’s not her experience. Instead, she’s been scolded, shamed, or shunned. She’s been told to bring her husband in for his side of the story.
But how can she speak honestly with her husband present if she’s afraid of what will happen when they get home? She’s been told that she needs to be more submissive and try harder to make things work. She’s been told that there is nothing in the Bible called emotional abuse and therefore what she’s experiencing has no validity. She’s been told that God wants her to somehow figure out how to make her marriage work because God hates divorce. She’s been told what’s happening to her is not abusive.
By our words are we telling her we don’t want to get involved or help her? That we don’t believe her? We encourage her instead to pray hard, keep quiet, placate, and pretend. And, if she refuses and gets persistent or demanding in her plea for help, we start to label her aggressive, contentious, rebellious, unsubmissive, deceitful, or unstable.
I think sometimes church leaders are afraid to get involved because if they open their eyes to the truth of what’s going on in some homes, they’re not sure what to do. The church has usually valued the sanctity of marriage over the safety and sanity of the people in it. Therefore instead of offering refuge and protection, church leaders have encouraged Christian women to suffer for Jesus, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, persevere in love, forbear his sin, extend grace meaning put up with what most would label as emotional abusive actions and attitudes rather than speak up or stand up and have the church’s biblical ideologies challenged.
Yet we see in Scripture Jesus commending the persistent widow in Luke 18, who kept pestering the judge for legal protection against the injustice she was experiencing. God has put the church together not only to model a loving family to a broken world but also to model justice and protection when one of its members is destructive and unrepentant toward another. God said,” I was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm.” (Isaiah 63:5).
Deitrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” [Tweet “You can’t “get” your church leaders to see or to act, but you can invite them to and challenge them when they don’t.”]
Friend, what strategies have you used to invite your church leadership to “get it” when it comes to emotional or other kinds of non-physical abuse in your marriage? Did it work?
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