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Spousal Abuse © 2002 by OAIM

A major portion of OAIM's ministry is to women who are being abused by their spouses. This has become a growing problem throughout the world lately and is one that we believe the Bible is not silent on. (Here's an article on warning signs to avoid an abusive relationship.)

There are many Christians who believe that a wife is bound to stay with her husband no matter what he does to her. We do not believe this is biblical. Here is what we believe is a biblical procedure for a woman who is being abused by her spouse to follow.

Since Romans 13:1and Titus 3:1 call Christians to obey the civil authorities over us, when a Christian sees someone breaking the law, it is our duty, as a godly citizen to report that person. Spousal abuse is against the law. A Christian wife has the responsibility, however difficult it may be, to report an abusive husband to the police. In Malachi 2, we read of God chastising men for breaking faith with their wives. Many are quick to quote the first portion of Malachi 2:16, "'I hate divorce,' says the LORD God of Israel" but they forget to look at the second half of that statement: "'and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,' says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith." These two parts of the statement, God hating divorce and God hating men who cover themselves with violence in regards to their wives, are set up in an equality. While it is true that God hates divorce, He equally hates a man who is violent with his wife. (The entire passage is dealing with a man's relationship towards his wife so this is the only meaning "covering himself with violence" can have.) God's laws do not allow for a man to beat on his wife.

If the woman feels she does not want to make the initial call, then she should enlist the aid of her pastor to make the call for her, but she will have to be the one to sign the complaint against him. If she believes this action will put her in more danger, she should seek the help of her church to protect her and provide her with a safe place to stay during this time. If the church cannot or will not help her, she should contact the police to make arrangements to stay at a shelter.

When she reports her husband, he will either react with genuine repentance, false repentance or with anger. These three reactions show the state of his heart towards her. Genuine repentance means that he is willing to seek help so he can stop his abusive behavior. False repentance means that she will most likely be sucked back into the situation again (and sometimes several times over) before she can see that the only thing he's sorry for is getting caught at what he's doing. If a man reacts with anger, it is important for the woman to remove herself from him as soon as possible. His heart is hard and she is in danger if she stays.

If he is genuinely repentant, then we can assume that he is indeed a Christian and the relationship has a very good chance of being restored. If he refuses to repent, whether through anger or false repentance, and will not repent even when faced with police action, we suggest that the church leaders confront him with his behavior. If this still does not bring about a true repentance, then we have to assume that this man is not a Christian.

If the police will not remove the man from the situation, she should seek a court order to keep him at a distance. Because of his choice of violent behavior, he has removed himself from her, and according to 1 Corinthians 7:15, she is no longer bound to him. " But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace."

Please understand that it really is the most loving thing you can do for him to push him to see his sin face to face. If we allow an abuser to continue his behavior, then we are condoning his sin and not helping him move any closer to God in any way. Throughout this entire process, a woman should be in constant prayer for her husband. God does want to draw all people to Himself, but He is a gentleman and allows each person to make his/her own decision whether they will choose God's way or their own. God will not force someone to love Him. (If He did, that would be rather abusive, wouldn't it?)

When we refer to spousal abuse, we are not taking about burning the dinner or not taking the trash out one night. We are talking about serious, physical abuse here. Although emotional and mental abuse is very damaging as well, the process described above is not an option. The police will not get involved unless it becomes physical. If the abuse is mental, emotional or verbal, there are many things the woman can do to help him begin to confront the truth in his life. Begin with reading our article on anger to see why his anger is prompting him to be the way he is.

Sometimes a short separation can help to drive home the severity of the behavior that needs to be changed. Please use divorce only as a last resort.

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