Hope you have joined our Moving Beyond Challenge for this week. Today is Day Three, Moving beyond Unrealistic Expectations. The confusing part about our expectations is that often they are perfectly reasonable (at least to us). For example, it’s not unreasonable to expect our kids to listen to us, or our husband to be honest with us, or our parents to be supportive. But when that doesn’t happen, our expectations can get us into trouble. Join me in the rest of the Moving Beyond challenge and learn how to move beyond some of your most stuck places. Click here to join.
Today’s Question: Our pastor has said he is feeling pulled in both directions and being asked to take sides in a destructive marriage. He says he feels led to just love my friend and her husband while “they figure this out.”
Our pastor has refused to look at the documentation or listen to threatening voicemails left by the husband. He even called the husband to warn him that the police were looking for him after he violated a protection order! In the beginning of all this, he said my friend needed to drop the protection order so he could get them together for marriage counseling!
Should she look for another church? We love our pastor but he is making things worse. I asked him if he would consider viewing one of Chris Moles YouTube videos & he responded curtly with the whole “loving both of them & feeling pulled” thing.
We live in a rural area & the closest counseling from links on Chris Moles website is 3 hours away.
Thank God for YouTube & books! Thank you.
Answer: I get many of these types of questions regarding a lack of good church care. Pastors get very little if any training on dealing with abuse and often rely on the only thing they know and that is to try to love both the sinner and the sinned against and see saving the marriage as God’s highest priority.
But you’re right. Your pastor is making things worse and putting your friend in greater danger. God has put governing authorities in place to protect us from evil doers, even if they happen to be a spouse (Romans 13). The law has provided some safety and protection for your friend through issuing a protection order because of her husband’s own abusive behavior and now he has also violated that order.
By warning your friend’s husband that the police were looking for him and asking the wife to drop the legal protection God put in place so that he can do marriage counseling, your pastor has taken sides. He isn’t staying out of it and “letting them figure things out” but he’s gotten involved, even if he’s not ready to admit it.
There is no NEUTRAL stance a bystander can take when someone is in an abusive relationship. Click To Tweet
When a pastor, counselor, or even well-meaning friends try to stay neutral, what it ends up happening by default is a silent endorsement of the abuse. For God calls us to speak up against oppression in every form, not stay neutral. So when we say nothing, it implies an endorsement or an assessment of “It’s not that bad.”
Martin Luther King said it best when he said, “What hurt the most was not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” All the research on bullying behavior shows that neutrality from the bystanders only serves to reinforce the bully’s behavior. It’s only when the bystanders stand up for the victim, does the bully start to lose power.
From what you describe your pastor is acting as an expert in areas he knows very little about and he’s unwilling to receive counsel or be educated to understand what best practices are. Saving the marriage is not the first goal here. Your friend’s safety is, and the behaviors of your pastor could put her in more danger.
Does she need to find another church? Perhaps, although there are no guarantees that another pastor will be wiser handling these difficult situations. But it sounds as if there are good people like you in the church who want to see your church leaders be better informed and equipped to handle these situations.
It’s disheartening to me with all the recent media, liability, and publicity regarding the mishandling of abuse cases by the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churchs, as well as the daily news reports of a woman being murdered by her husband, that your pastor or any pastor wouldn’t feel a strong need to be better informed. Why wouldn’t he welcome the opportunity to get more education and help to manage these situations in his congregation that are going to come up? Don’t allow him to wiggle out of it by claiming neutrality. He’s already taken sides and muddied the waters.
I’d highly encourage you to share with your pastor the link below so he can download the free video training sponsored by the Southern Baptist Church that helps church leaders understand and learn how to wisely, safely and Biblically handle the abuse of all kinds. Safety always comes first, not duct tape repairs of an abusive and unsafe marriage. It’s at www.churchcares.com If he continues to refuse, I’d bring it to the elder's attention.
Friends, what have you done to try to find a safe church or educate your church leaders on these crucial issues?