Churches and Domestic Abuse Policy

Some churches have approached me regarding domestic abuse policies and while I do not have a standard response yet, I will be creating a process in the future, I do find it helpful to see what others have done. Below is an example of a first draft proposal created by one local church.

Domestic abuse, or intimate partner abuse, is the desecration of the image of God in the abuser’s spouse or intimate partner through a pattern of intentionally misusing power, overtly or covertly, in words or actions, to gratify self.

  • Abuse is an assault upon the image of God in another human being.

  • Abuse usually occurs in a pattern that is typically increasing in frequency and/or intensity. 

  • Abuse is intentional, though the abuser may not be self-aware enough to recognize the intentions of his or her heart. Abuse is never perpetrated on accident.

  • Abuse is about the misuse of power to control or manipulate another for selfish gain. It is an act of oppression.

  • Abuse can involve physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, economic, spiritual, or psychological means.

  • The goal of abuse is self-gratification – to get what one wants at the expense of another.

Domestic abuse, which can be used interchangeably with the term “domestic violence”, is pervasive in our culture. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic abuse is under-reported, so those statistics are conservative. We know statistically that domestic abuse is just as pervasive at ______________ as it is in the culture, and so we must be alerted to it.

Domestic violence in any form – physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or spiritual – is an assault upon the image of God in a fellow human being, and is therefore an assault upon God himself. When it is between a husband and a wife, it further violates the one-flesh covenantal relationship that God established. Under no circumstance is abuse ever justified. Neither is it ever the fault of the victim. Domestic abuse severely damages relationships and often destroys the relationship beyond repair. An act of abuse is never an act of Christian love. Christ's self-giving love encourages the full growth of the individual, while domestic abuse seeks to stifle the victim's autonomy through dominance, replacing love with violence and fear. Given this acknowledgement, ________________ Church affirms the following:

  • domestic abuse in all its forms is sinful and incompatible with the Christian faith and a Christian way of living;

  • all abuse is spiritually damaging for both the person being abused and the person who is abusing;

  • domestic abuse is a serious problem which occurs in church families as well as in wider society;

  • domestic abuse is not primarily an anger problem, a marriage problem, the victim’s problem, or even a legal problem, but rather a sin problem;

  • domestic abuse is primarily perpetrated by men, against the very people whom God has given these men to protect and shepherd - women and children.

  • we will listen to, believe, support, and care for those affected by domestic abuse;

  • we will urge abused persons to consider their own safety and that of family members first and to seek help from the church, professional counseling, and legal resources, to bring healing to the individuals and, if possible, to the marriage relationship;

  • we will discipline abusers and remove them from the church if they are unrepentant;

  • we will work with local domestic violence support agencies, will learn from them and support them in appropriate ways, and will publicize their work;

  • we will teach that domestic abuse is a sin;

  • we will teach what it means to be male and female image-bearers of God, equal in value, dignity and worth;

  • we will train all pastors/elders, ministers/deacons, and lay leaders;

  • we will seek to utilize trained professionals to encourage best practices and keep church members and leadership trained on and informed about the implementation of this domestic abuse policy.

Hopeful: My Response to the ACBC Conference

Light in the Darkness, Biblical Counseling and Abuse. This was the theme for the 2018 national conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. I must admit that when I heard about the theme I was bit concerned. Biblical counselors have not always had the best reputation when it comes to addressing the problems of abuse. In fact we tend to mirror the church at large which has traditionally misunderstood and mismanaged the issue. My concern was shared by many in the work of intervention and prevention, as well as, many victims and survivors that have reached out to us over the past year anticipating the conference. ACBC announced a record attendance of over 2,000 for this year’s conference I believe highlighting both the interest in the topic and intrigue in our response. So, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the event and summarize where I think we stand as a movement.

First, allow me to reiterate how much I love Biblical Counseling and how desperate I have been to see this wonderful movement and the people who call it home become better equipped and competent when speaking and counseling on abuse. These are my people, this is my tribe, and I dearly love them. I want to share with you three highlights that encouraged me this week.

Highlights

  1. Dr. Heath Lambert gave the opening plenary session entitled, “What every victim needs to know.” Dr. Lambert skillfully walked us through the story of Joseph highlighting all the ways in which he was abused by those more powerful than he such as his brothers, potipher’s wife, and the Egyptian prison system. Dr. Lambert drew very clear lines from Scripture, and possibly from his own experience as a survivor to free Joseph and therefore any other victim of the responsibility for the abuse. Clearly, precisely, and often Dr. Lambert reminded us that abuse is not the responsibility of the victim, but solely the sin of the perpetrator. He then offered words of hope to those who suffer abuse knowing that even when sinned against “what others meant for evil, God can use for good” by declaring…

    “By the grace of Jesus, wonderful things can come from the horror of your abuse.

    There are some things that God teaches his children in the school of affliction that he will not teach them anywhere else.

    God uses the horror of your abuse to increase your ministry faithfulness. Ministers are forged in the fires of affliction.”

  2. Survivor Story: One of the things I have found lacking in most, not all, Christian responses to abuse are survivor stories. Most events feature keynote speakers who will define terms, unpack cases, or walk the audience through a related passage of Scripture, all of which are good but lack the power of story. ACBC correctly asked my friend Pam Gannon to share her story and the hope she found in the gospel. Pam delivered a near perfect blend of personal narrative and Scriptural insight to clearly show the devastation of abuse and the greater hope of redemption. This was for me the key event of the conference and well worth the time and investment if this plenary is offered. And, to my knowledge received the first standing ovation ever at an ACBC conference.

    Just as God can grow a pure white daisy from the charred remains, so can he grow a soul from the charred remains of abuse.”

  3. Dr. Dale Johnson is the new executive director of ACBC. He was installed Tuesday afternoon and had the pleasure of offering the last plenary of the conference, “Counseling the abuser.” I’ll admit that when I heard that someone else would be delivering this talk I was a bit taken aback, didn’t they realize this was my wheelhouse? Honestly I had never met Dr. Johnson, and this topic can offer so much hope or can really rob people of hope. I sat nervous as the session began but was soon over taken with emotion. I can honestly say I’ve never heard the content delivered better. I was struck by Dr. Johnson’s high view of accountability and responsibility, his call to Biblical repentance, and insistence that we (Biblical Counselors) take the lead and cultivate safety in our churches. Two-thirds of the way through his presentation I sunk into a sense of relief and following the closing prayer I rushed the stage to thank him.

    An abuser is someone who demands his wants rather than submits to his responsibilities at the expense of someone else’s dignity.”

    It’s inappropriate to declare Biblical counselors in general safe for victims of abuse, but after this week I do feel confident saying there is much reason to hope. I know there are no perfect interventions or counselors, and that we have a long way to go. But, if what I saw this week is any indication of where the Biblical counseling movement is headed, then I AM HOPEFUL.

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Pastor Chris and Dr. Johnson following the last plenary session.

Helping the Church Respond

This week I have the privilege of presenting at the national conference for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors in Ft. Worth, Texas. Last year ACBC announced that their annual conference would focus on the issue of abuse and since then I have personally been contacted by many victims, survivors, and advocates who are excited and concerned about this decision. Biblical counseling has not had the best reputation for addressing domestic abuse in particular and while a focused conference is welcomed many are curious as to what will be said. While I cannot speak for all presenters I am excited to be presenting at this conference and believe Biblical counselors are uniquely positioned to lead in the area of intervention and prevention. It will require humility, faithfulness, and a teachable spirit but I’m confident that we can be known as confident and competent people helpers in this area.

My talk is entitled “Domestic Violence in the Christian Home; Helping the Church respond Con’t” This will serve as a follow up presentation to the plenary address I gave at the Faith Biblical Counseling Training Conference in February. I’ve include a copy of that presentation for you below.

Please pray for all the presenters week, as well as all the victims, survivors, and offenders who may be attending, as well as the Biblical Counseling movement.

Peace, -Chris

Abuse: Domestic Violence and a Call to Repentance

This post recently appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Blog.

One of the reasons I believe biblical counseling can be an effective response to domestic abuse is our emphasis on the biblical principle of putting off and putting on. If a man who has made abusive choices claims to be a believer, then it is required of us within the church to call him to repentance by holding him accountable to completely abandon the wickedness of abuse and embrace a new and better way. Simply put, when we are striving to promote change, we must not only call the counselee to cease the destructive behavior, but also to replace it with God-honoring behavior. The end result of this confrontation should produce either evidence (fruit) of repentance or confirm his unbelief and the need for continued consequences.

Let’s say we have a man who consistently yells at his wife, and as we question him we uncover additional practices of intimidation, such as body language, pounding his fist on the table, and threatening gestures such as clenching his fist. We establish that he wants his wife to conform (give in) so badly that he is willing to scare her to do it. His pride has led him to value getting his way over treating his wife properly. Certainly, we want him to put off the intimidating behavior, but what can we ask him to put on for the glory of God? What are we looking for that will evidence the new patterns of repentance? We realize the need to confront him with passages such as Ephesians 5:25-33 to address his lack of Christ-like love, and Colossians 3:19 in dealing with the harsh treatment of his wife. Instead of causing his wife fear in order to control her, we call the intimidating man to love his wife in such a way that she is not only no longer fearful, but safe, sane, and secure.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

Passages of Scripture such as this remind us that love opposes fear and instead seeks the well-being of the other and does so with patience and kindness, not intimidation and fear. As such, we should expect the man who once intimidated to now be intentional in regards to expressing love and safety.

Note: this takes time.

I’m not suggesting that a single blog post, counseling session, or confrontation will suddenly produce Christ-like love. Moving from intimidation to Christ-like love will require hard work, consistent long-term accountability, and concrete goals designed to measure movement.

More specifically, we can highlight an abusive man’s behavior, contrast that with Scripture, and through the process craft and call him to biblical alternatives. While there are a multiplicity of passages we could reference, here are a few examples from my book, The Heart of Domestic Abuse.

From Violence to Gentleness

We can encourage men who have used violence to participate in a variety of God-honoring alternatives, but one area we can highlight is gentleness. I have encountered many men who cringe at the thought of engaging in gentle responses to challenging circumstances, and yet that encouragement is offered consistently in Scripture as an alternative to violence.

  • As a matter of following Jesus: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

  • As a result of the Spirit’s work: “But the fruit of the Spirit is…  gentleness” (Gal. 5:22-23).

  • As a requirement for leadership: “…not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1Tim. 3:30); “…to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:3).

From Ridicule to Encouragement

Words are powerful and the venom of verbal abuse seeps into the spirit of its victim. This behavior is not consistent with the person of Christ or the people He has called us to be. Scripture admonishes us to speak words of truth and life into those we communicate with.

  • As a means of building others up: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:29-30).

  • As evidence of holiness: “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matt. 15:18-20).

  • As a means of practicing wisdom: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6).

From Minimization, Denial, and Blame to Truth

Truth and a willingness to speak honestly are key components within the Christian life. Deception and misleading behavior are valuable tools to the abusive man who consistently deceives himself, lies to his wife, and attempts to mislead everyone else. He is a master of manipulation, and that must stop and truth must come forth.

  • As a means of accountability: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

  • As a means of sanctification: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

  • As a matter of obedience: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Eph. 4:25).

It has been said that the greatest indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Change is difficult, some would say impossible, unless we use the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Without intervention, it is rare to see the kind of significant heart, desire, and behavior changes we are calling for. It is all the more imperative that we as leaders and people-helpers engage in confrontational ministry that holds abusive men accountable and calls them to repentance.

Questions for Reflection

Are you and your church equipped to engage in confrontational ministry? Have you considered continued education in the area of domestic violence intervention and prevention?

Rev. Chris Moles (M.A.B.C.) is a Certified Biblical Counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). He is also a certified group facilitator in domestic violence intervention and prevention. Chris is the author of The Heart of Domestic Abuse; Gospel Solutions for Men Who Use Violence and Control in the Home and founder of PeaceWorks University, a membership website that exists to help train, commission, and support biblical counselors and others to address the problem of domestic violence with the gospel of peace.

Domestic Violence: Not An Anger Problem

“I was just so angry.”

“I couldn’t help myself.”

“I just snapped!”

Words like these are common in the work I do with men who use violence in the home. Many of the men I have worked with will insist that they are not abusive, but simply need to learn how to control their anger. Unfortunately, it’s not just the guys I work with that see violence as an anger problem. I’ll occasionally hear of men being court ordered to anger management classes following domestic abuse.  My conversations with Pastors and ministry leaders will also include descriptions of abuse in terms of his anger and the solutions that are offered revolve around self-control and addressing anger. The rationale may go something like this, “violence is the result of anger and therefore, we must address the perpetrators anger and anger cues in order to properly end the violence.” Now, I’m not suggesting that we avoid discussions about anger but rather that we place it in the proper context, especially when we are addressing domestic violence. I’m afraid we miss the heart if we only address anger and anger cues. After all abusers will certainly blame the victim for their anger, and cite them as the most prominent anger cue. This strategy runs the risk of leaving the heart untouched encouraging patterns of control that are nothing more than “respectable” forms of abuse. How may pastors and ministry leaders view an abusive man’s anger? Here are a couple suggestions.

1. Anger as an excuse

Anger can easily be used as an excuse for sin. Statements such as “I snapped” “I lost control.” or “My temper got the best of me.” may be accurate descriptions of the man’s emotional and behavioral responses but they are, by no means, excusable simply because we can recognize that he was angry. This is especially true for pastors who are working with husbands who have abused their wife. Scriptures like Ephesians 4:26-27 give us clear instructions on anger and its relationship to sin and the implications of sinful anger in the life of a believer.  “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Men who use anger as an excuse need a clear reminder that regardless of emotional pressure, abuse is sinful as well as a careful warning of the impact of their sin on both the victim and themselves.

2. Anger as a tactic

Pastors and ministry leaders would do well to see outbursts of anger and expressions of rage as potential tools used by an abusive man to intimidate and control his partner. I have heard many men admit that fear through threat and intimidation is as effective as physical assault. A man’s rage will often illicit the same result as physical violence.  This form of anger is not simply an emotional response but evidence of oppressive desires. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Proverbs 15:18 I have encountered many men who create a climate of fear within the home. An abusive man will use his anger as a tool to intimidate and manipulate his spouse into conformity with his desires.

Final Thought

Lastly, let me encourage you to view anger as a window into a man’s heart. Don’t ignore his anger. We are not listening to confirm an allegation, or understand his side of the story we are listening for the heart. Listen for the themes that will pinpoint the nature of his desires. His anger will likely point us to desires for control, tendencies to manipulate, and beliefs of entitlement?  Restate stories back to him highlighting his behaviors, his desires, and the impact of both. His anger may very well reveal his beliefs about God, himself, and others.

 

Don't Confess Your Sins?

HOW COUNSELING VICTIMS TO CONFESS THEIR SIN EMBOLDENS ABUSERS

Last week in our support group for survivors of domestic abuse, one of the participants approached me after class to tell me about a counseling session she had with a biblical counselor at her church a few days earlier. This dear lady is living with a very harsh husband who constantly berates her. He tells her how worthless he thinks she is regularly, so she went to counseling in hopes of finding a way to have peace in the midst of a very destructive marriage. Her counselor rightly told her that the only person she can change is herself, and then began to help her uncover her sins and shortcomings as a wife. The focus was on the marriage, and in the end, my friend left with a popular book on how to be a godly wife. As she relayed the story tears came to her eyes. She explained how she had spent years trying to be a better wife, and looking at her own sin, but that only seemed to worsen her husband’s sense of entitlement.

My friend also told me about the many counseling sessions she and her husband had attended together over the years, and how the counsel in those sessions was nearly always the same. Somehow she was made to feel responsible for her husband’s sin. If she would just be more submissive, more “quiet and gentle,” and more loving maybe her husband would be won without a word. She was always encouraged to look at her own sin, and never to keep a record of the wrongs done to her. For over 2 decades that is what she has done, but things have only gotten worse.

In joint counseling sessions, her husband usually listened very intently to all the instructions the given to her, as well as her confessions of missing the mark in their relationship. It actually seemed those counseling sessions gave him ammunition when they got back home. The counselors had merely confirmed his beliefs about her incompetence as a wife, and proven that he needed to take a stronger hand in leadership. The truth is that their counselors had probably confronted his sin as well, but he simply chose to ignore those parts of the sessions. Besides, he was able to get his wife to freely admit to more than her fair share of the blame, so it was easy to turn the main focus of most sessions to that.

Abusive people are skilled at diverting the focus of counseling to less important issues. They also love to find counselors who will focus on marital roles rather than heart issues. Counselors who encourage wives to submit and yield to their husbands’ leadership can cause great harm. In all my years of working as an advocate, I’ve never seen a situation where submitting to sinful mistreatment saved a marriage. Usually, it has the opposite effect. It only serves to empower and embolden hearts that are filled with pride, while victims are left taking on the burden for the entire relationship.

No matter if the counseling is balanced, and equally focused on both spouses’ sin, an abusive person will only hear instructions aimed at his or her spouse. As a result, even the best marital counselors will find themselves doing more harm than good. They may not see it in a session where the offending spouse is nodding his head in approval, and acting extremely motivated for change. However, things change once the couple gets back home, and the abuser begins to taunt his spouse using the advice of the counselor. When it comes to abusive and destructive relationships, marital counseling just doesn’t work. Instead, it usually makes matters worse– particularly counsel that focuses on the victim’s sin in front of an oppressive spouse.* If you’re living in an abusive relationship (read more here if you’re not sure), I encourage you to steer clear of joint martial counseling, or any counseling that puts the burden of the relationship and the abuse on you.

Let me just say that I am a biblical counselor! I believe in the sufficiency of scripture, and acknowledge that sin is the root cause of the overwhelming majority of problems we see in counseling. However, as an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse, I’ve seen a very troubling trend when it comes to our counseling strategies in cases of abuse. We’ve been taught that we need to get to the root sin issues with our clients, and rightly so. The problem occurs when we fail to recognize clear patterns of oppression that are nearly always present in cases of abuse. When we put couples in the same room for marital counseling and ask victims to confess their sins to their oppressors, we are arming their abusers. God’s heart is for the weak and afflicted, and he opposes proud oppressors (Zec. 7:10, Ps. 72:4, Ps. 82:3-4). May he give us wisdom to do the same.

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Ps. 82:2-4

*Of course, victims are not without sin, but when we encourage confession of sin in front of an abuser we merely feed both spouses’ faulty assumptions that the victim’s sin caused the abuse. In my years of counseling, I’d have to say the victims’ sin is rarely what counselors assume– it’s not provoking the abuse! More likely, it is being ruled by “fear of man.” Counsel that puts the burden for the abuse on the victim is not only ineffective, but extremely harmful.

 

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Joy Forrest has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and held the position of Community Educator for Safe Space Domestic Violence Services in Louisburg, NC from 2000-2001. She has served as a biblical counselor in church settings since 2004. Her own experiences as a former victim of domestic abuse, along with her involvement with Safe Space and church counseling, caused her to see a major need for churches to become better equipped to help families affected by DV. In January 2015, she helped establish Called to Peace Ministries to promote domestic violence awareness, particularly within the faith community. Joy is also a Certified Advocate with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the author of the book "Called to Peace." Learn more about Joy at www.calledtopeace.org

Jonah, Judgement, and a call to Nineveh

Recently I had the privilege of presenting at the International Association of Biblical Counselors annual conference in Denver, Colorado. I had a wonderful time interacting with friends, colleagues, and participants both at our table and in the workshop time. As an added bonus, my wife and I drove down to Colorado Springs to visit some friends, see some sites, enjoy some Ethiopian food, and visit the headquarters of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (our church denomination). During our visit to Colorado Springs we worshiped with The Clay House, a C&MA church in town and I was struck by how timely the pastor's message was. The sermon was from Jonah chapter four, now I must admit I haven't spent a lot of time in Jonah, at least in my adulthood, but one thought from that message struck me as it pertains to the work we do. 

* Jonah Wanted Wrath Not Repentance

“He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”                                                                               Jonah 4:2-3

I appreciate Jonah’s anger here and I can relate to his frustration with the attributes of God. Grace, compassion, patience, and love are inconvenient virtues when, like Jonah, we want judgment on our enemies. A few years ago I was attending an event for domestic violence awareness month and a friend of mine introduced me to some folks around the table and when one individual gathered what my role on the team was their words and demeanor became less than kind. You see, this individual had strong thoughts regarding ‘appropriate’ responses to perpetrators, all of which were unrealistic and most were cruel. I listened though and didn’t offer much push back to them. I believed that this person was speaking out of great hurt and nothing I could say would soften the thought that our psycho-educational classes were somehow, “letting men of the hook.” Believe it not I encounter similar thoughts and attitudes from within the Christian world. In fact, many of the challenges and quite frankly attacks I have received for the work I do rushed through my head as the pastor said, “Jonah is content, in so much as he can dispense the judgment of God, but furious at the thought of God’s mercy, but you rarely have one without the other.”

We Preach Repentance - This is what we do. I can make no apologies for teaching and calling folks to repentance. Repentance does not, and I have been clear about this, negate consequences for sin, guarantee restoration of relationships, remove accountability, or demand immediate trust. If we are called to Nineveh then I’m suggesting we must preach repentance, and in doing so let’s be clear regarding the severity of God’s judgment without despising the availability of His mercy.

Note: I know for a fact that many folks who deserve justice have not, as of this post, received it. I am aware that churches and ministries have sinfully punished victims and rewarded perpetrators. We must guard against the temptation to demand only judgment as a means of satisfying the sins of the past. Repentance, mercy, and hope should remain in our vocabulary.

Was it Jonah’s poor view of God that led him to disobedience and despair? Actually, it seems he has a clear picture of God and it was in fact God’s character and the potential for mercy that angered Jonah.

Have you ever been there? Have you wanted fire from heaven so badly that when it didn’t come you’ve settled for fire in your own spirit in the form of hate, anger, or despair?  

 

“And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:11

How a Pastor’s Wife Came to Care about Domestic Abuse

This week we continue in our PeaceWorks University member submission series. Many in our membership are already actively engaging the topic of domestic abuse through their own writing and we would like to give them the opportunity for additional exposure as well as thoughtful feedback from our readership. Please be aware that the views presented in this series do not represent the views of Chris Moles or PeaceWorks University.

This week’s post was submitted by a PeaceWorks University member who would like to remain anonymous.

Tunnel vision is real. In a culture that encourages its people to prioritize the pleasure and progress of self, it is no surprise people are unlikely to care deeply about injustice unless they must. Until injustice affects them directly, marking them with a personal experience of pain or loss, most individuals tend to focus exclusively on their own lives and have little capacity to be concerned with the difficulties of others.

Growing up, I had been aware of domestic abuse in a very narrow yet nebulous sense. I knew it existed, but assumed it was rare. As a teenager I remember seeing various TV programs in which a series regular would happen upon a bruised and battered woman or child and rescue them through some selfless good deed, all within the span of a thirty-minute episode. These stories, while successfully pulling at my heartstrings, portrayed abuse simplistically: perpetrators were ugly, raging monsters quickly brought to justice and victims were people helplessly broken but easily healed. Watching these scenarios play out on my TV screen, I often thought, "How sad. I'm so glad my home is not like that."

Years later, as a recent Christian university graduate, I married my husband, who at the time was freshly entering vocational ministry. In the early days of our marriage, as my life naturally separated from my parents’, I began to recognize tactics of abuse in my upbringing. As I started living married life with a man who loved and served me, imitating the Christ he worshipped, I became cognizant of how warped my view of marital love and care actually was. Often noting the differences between my husband’s responses to conflicts, inconveniences, or mistakes I would make and the responses I had been accustomed to, I finally saw that much of my distorted thinking was a result of the abuse I had experienced. Realizing this, we sought out counsel and support from individuals well-equipped to address domestic abuse and its effects with the hope and help of the gospel. It took time as we slowly untangled my deeply ingrained ways of thinking and feeling. In Scripture I learned to see God's good plan for love and marriage. By his grace, I began to better understand the abuse I had experienced and began to heal. After two or three years of this much needed but tedious process, my husband and I were healthier and more whole. Through the care of God’s people and the truth of His Word, I had found healing for my wounds. As a couple we were that much stronger having worked through my painful experiences together. I will forever be thankful for my husband's patience, grace, care, and understanding during that time. Having gone through such an emotionally exhausting season of life, it seemed that we could now focus on living our happily ever as pastor and wife, ready to move on to a life of ministry with my pain and the ugliness of abuse behind us.

Unsurprisingly, this was not God's intention for our life or ministry. As I healed, though at first timid and hesitant, I began to share my story. Over time, as I became more comfortable and confident speaking about my experience of abuse and healing in everyday conversation, women responded by sharing stories of their own. As a pastor's wife, still relatively new to marriage and ministry, I began to hear story  

after story of abusive husbands and fathers who had used their power and position to hurt, humiliate, and harass these women. It seemed the more I talked, the more I was talked to. The more I was willing to be vulnerable, the more vulnerable women would become. It quickly became apparent I could not avoid the topic of abuse. It was part of me and because it was part of me, it was now a part of my ministry.

For many pastors and pastors’ wives though, abuse is not a part of your story, so you struggle to see why it should be a part of your ministry. The reality is, more than likely, you have already been directly affected by this issue. Statistically*, you already know [not a few, but many] women or children in your church community who have endured some form of abuse in their lifetime. Personally, you have many reasons to be concerned.

What is more, as a Christian, you have every reason to be concerned. Scripture is littered with themes of God’s active justice, care, and concern for the oppressed. These [primarily] women and children are image bearers of their Creator and as such they deserve the compassionate care and protection of their Shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4).

While tunnel vision may be the norm in our culture, it should never be a phrase used to describe God’s people, especially those in church leadership. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, as those who intimately know the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort” we are “able to comfort those who are in any affliction” regardless of whether we have been marked by that particular affliction. In the case of abuse, you don’t have to have experienced this injustice to care deeply about it. Care deeply because these are your people. Care deeply because this is your God.

*https://ncadv.org/statistics

 

Guest Post - This is the Face of Domestic Violence

This week we continue in our PeaceWorks University member submission series. Many in our membership are already actively engaging the topic of domestic abuse through their own writing and we would like to give them the opportunity for additional exposure as well as thoughtful feedback from our readership. Please be aware that the views presented in this series do not represent the views of Chris Moles or PeaceWorks University.

This week’s post was submitted by a PeaceWorks University member who would like to remain anonymous. The post first appeared on Called to Peace

“You need to leave…go to another state…get out with the baby…don’t tell your husband…go…!” I heard urgency in her voice. It was my first counseling appointment with someone outside the church after over 3 years in an abusive marriage. It was November 2017. Suicide was in my thoughts. Were it not for my infant son, I think I would have acted on such thoughts.

I married in the fall of 2014. I had no idea I was in for a ride of the worst sort.

Literally the day after our wedding, the daily abuse began, to my utter shock and confusion. He’d been so committed, it had seemed, to the Lord during dating. He got baptized, was going to church, doing Bible study, reading the Word, and would pray with me at the end of each phone call. Now we were married and the battering began. It started with verbal abuse – swearing, yelling at me, and threats of divorcing me.

For career reasons, roughly 6 weeks after marrying, we moved to California. The drive together across the country was torture, and I was the target. One night on our drive, he was falling asleep at the wheel but refused to stop for a hotel despite my pleas. It was the first time I called 911. I feared for my life.

Once in California, we found a church and began marriage counseling. Two years of marriage counseling commenced with our pastor. The pastor gave some of the best, deepest expository sermons in church that I’d ever heard, so I respected him, and he was someone my husband was willing to attend counseling with, so I wanted to make it work – even when it meant submitting to things I disagreed with.

The pastor was one of the only people I told everything to, often texting him amidst “events” as they happened. He told me not to tell other people about my marriage, because that made my husband feel disrespected. He told me I was angry, too, like my husband, it’s just that I didn’t demonstrate it outwardly; I needed to work on my anger. I needed to serve, just not be a doormat (how does that work with an abuser

who won’t honor boundaries?) He told me to say I was sorry to my husband, even if it wasn’t my fault, to regain peace. He told me to go back to my husband (after a brief separation, for example), and questioned me about calling the cops.

Once I called 911, about 6 months after marrying, to get police to just supervise my attempt to depart, since my husband was had grabbed both my wrists preventing me from leaving when I was trying to physically separate from his verbal attack. The pastor from then on questioned me, messing with my mind about engaging law enforcement aid in the future. “Why are you calling the cops? Has he physically hurt you? If not, why are you calling them? Your husband says he won’t physically hurt you.”

So, I stopped calling the cops. I greatly reduced my talking to others outside of the pastor and his wife.

About a year and half into counseling, my husband seemed to be changing - the abuse less daily and more infrequent. The pastor approved of our trying for a child. I got pregnant almost right away.

Once the baby came, it was not long, however, before the same violent man emerged with a new vengeance. Property damage to my stuff. Packing up with dramatic flair to “leave me.” Daily swearing in front of the baby. Yelling at the baby. Shaking the surface where the baby was sitting, causing the baby anxiety and fear.

And as a new mom, I was expected to still do it all – all the housework, help him search for jobs late at night, work full time at a high stress job, care for our son, iron his clothes, prepare his meals. And if my reading the Bible interfered with his plans, he tormented me enough that I could not read it in his presence. My marriage was a nightmare but I still didn’t understand why.

By November of last year, I started reaching out outside the church for help, and started to hear more than one counselor use the word “separate.” An in-home Christian nanny saw enough of the rising tensions to decide she wanted to inform me of something important: my husband was a narcissist. I found Leslie Vernick, and watched one of her webinars. That scared me, because I realized I was in the situation she was describing.

It was domestic violence and it had not been addressed as such. It was if a hidden, lurking monster suddenly loomed in front of me, saying, “Bahaha! You found me! I’m the root of all the confusion and chaos in your marriage!” Suddenly, the dots all connected and the weird seemingly unassociated behaviors made sense.

Fast forward to this summer, and between my son being older and some other logistical changes that made leaving more doable, an incident occurred with my husband that led to my separating back to the east coast.

It’s been nearly 8 weeks now. More clarity has come upon my departure. I understand how mind control and coercion are real. I could not even see the situation fully until I was out.

A pastor referred me to Joy Forrest Brown, who quickly connected me with a local domestic violence trained counselor. I found a local domestic violence organization and started receiving support. I applied for and was confirmed to receive welfare benefits. I wanted to cry showing up for charity food or sitting in the domestic violence building waiting for help. It’s been a low place, my place.

I went from working at a high paying job to leaning on charity and government programs. I was so ashamed, I didn’t want to tell friends or family I was back and why. It all seemed so surreal, so sudden, so unexpected. I hadn’t planned for it to really come to this. I always tried to keep believing the best, hoping the best, praying for my husband, forgiving and forgetting. But my husband wasn’t changing and leaving became necessary.

I’m still very much in the process of seeking stability in my situation, but for any out there in a similar spot, I want to encourage you with some things God has been ministering to me. First, he sees you – he sees the abused one. Just like Hagar who was cast out with her son. Sarah told Abraham to force her to leave, and God told Abraham to listen to Sarah. What?! God told Abraham to proceed? Yup. And sometimes the next step in God’s plan is not the one we wanted. But God showed up to Hagar in the wilderness as her provision ran out and she’d overnight become a single mom. He “heard the lad crying” and promised to also make her son a great nation. God took care of them when her earthly provision had come to an end. (Genesis 21:8-21)

And so God is doing for me, and will do for you as you wait upon Him. He’s encouraging me that my role is to rest in Him, trust Him, wait on Him (Psalm 37). Of course, I am to do my part to take actions to seek stability, but it’s up to Him to provide for my needs. He is – even albeit through unexpected means at times! – and He will do so for all who call upon and wait for Him.

How Can I Forgive Myself

Today's post is from my friend Joy.  The original post can be found on her blog at Called to Peace Ministries.

“How can I ever forgive myself?” It’s a question I’ve heard many times in my years of counseling. In fact, I get it! I know very well how it is to be plagued with guilt and remorse over a bad decision. When I finally broke free from a 23 year abusive relationship, I lived with regret on a daily basis. I couldn’t believe I had been stupid enough to believe the lies  that had kept me bound up for so long, and couldn’t believe how I had foolishly disregarded the harmful impact on my children. As much as I tried to tell myself that I did the best I could at the time, I was overwhelmed with remorse. The fact that I was still living with the consequences of my failures seemed to make it even harder to let myself off the hook.

As with the many other struggles I faced as a survivor of abuse, I went to scripture to find the answer to overcoming the guilt and shame I carried. First of all, I found nothing there that spoke to a need to forgive myself. The Bible urges us to forgive one another, and to receive God’s forgiveness, but never once does it tell us to forgive ourselves. Rather, it reminds us that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). It also lets us know that if we confess our sin He is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). My study of scripture led me to the conclusion that rather than focusing on myself, I needed to focus on His finished work on the cross. I needed to accept what He had done for me– anything less would be the equivalent of saying His work on the cross was not effective for my sin. It was also choosing to walk in condemnation even though He had set me free from it.

Although I finally realized I had no right to continue to condemn myself, I was still overwhelmed with sorrow about the consequences of my choices earlier in life. For many years after I left the abuse, I continued to watch my children struggle as a result of their tumultuous upbringing– and my failures as a parent. Over time, I finally learned to establish boundaries with them, but it seemed to be too little too late. In the long run, all I could do was surrender them to His loving hands. All my fear-motivated attempts to control them seemed to push them further away. One day as I was crying out to God about it, I sensed in my spirit that He was not done with them yet, and that He was even sovereign over my mistakes and failures. I realized that just as He was using my pain and suffering for His good purposes, He could do the same with my kids. It took many years to see things turn around, but as I surrendered them to His loving hands He worked in amazing ways.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the weight of guilt from your past, there are two truths that will set you free –if you apply them. First, you must choose to believe God’s proclamation that you have been set free from condemnation by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. He took the penalty for all your failures, and took the shame on Himself. If you have received Him, you are free from sin, guilt and condemnation. Telling yourself otherwise is to believe the lie that His sacrifice was not good enough. Second, you must trust God’s sovereignty. This means that He will somehow use the pain and sorrow you experienced for His good purposes (Rom. 8:28). Believing He is sovereign is worthless if you do not believe He is good, so if you doubt His goodness you must start by remedying that problem. Scripture is filled with proclamations of His lovingkindness, and suffering does not diminish His character!

He specializes in turning ashes into beauty (Is. 61:3). As you choose to embrace Him in your pain you will experience the reality of this truth. Full surrender to our good God will never disappoint, but holding on shame and self-condemnation will keep you in bondage. Freedom is a choice, and you will find it as you shift your focus from yourself (and your mistakes) to His abundantly sufficient grace.

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Joy Forrest has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and held the position of Community Educator for Safe Space Domestic Violence Services in Louisburg, NC from 2000-2001. She has served as a biblical counselor in church settings since 2004. Her own experiences as a former victim of domestic abuse, along with her involvement with Safe Space and church counseling, caused her to see a major need for churches to become better equipped to help families affected by DV. In January 2015, she helped establish Called to Peace Ministries to promote domestic violence awareness, particularly within the faith community. Joy is also a Certified Advocate with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Learn more about Joy at www.calledtopeace.org

Guest Post - How to Get Your Wife Back

This week we would like to introduce a new blog series consisting of submissions by our very own
PeaceWorks University members. Many in our membership are already actively engaging the topic of domestic abuse through their own writing and we would like to give them the opportunity for additional exposure as well as thoughtful feedback from our readership. Please be aware that the views presented in this series do not necessarily represent the views of Chris Moles or PeaceWorks University.

This week’s post was submitted by PeaceWorks University member, Rosanna Brubacker, and originally appeared on her blog, Thyme on My Path.

https://thymeonmypathblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/14/how-to-get-your-wife-back/

Here you are, abandoned and alone…wondering how you messed up your life so badly and wishing you could somehow miraculously undo the results of your actions.  You wanted a hint of hope, so you asked me.  I don’t know your story, but this is my answer.  I’m warning you.  It will be the hardest thing you ever did.  You will be beginning your life all over again and becoming a different person.  If you succeed, you will be a hero.  Here is how to get your wife back.

  1. Never say a bad word about your wife. Don’t shred her character. This is the most important step. Sure, you will be able to recall things about her or things she did that were wrong, but remember this: she can do the exact same thing about you. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

  2. Respect and honor her. If she felt disappointed and betrayed enough to leave you, work on this. Do not treat her like a wife, treat her like a potential girlfriend. Win her like you would a woman you never met before.  There is no place in your life in which you have a right to talk to her about her place in the home, her role in the home or her responsibilities to you as a wife.  She probably knows everything about that and if she does not, it is the role of a woman to teach her how to be a good wife.  Your job is to be the man she enjoys being around.

  3. Apologize and repent. If, and when she brings things up again, apologize and repent again.  “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”  It goes a long way.  Do this every time.  Yes, it may be often.

  4. Don’t minimize your offenses. In fact, go into detail about why your offenses were wrong. That way she believes you really mean it. If you don’t know why you were wrong, find out and whatever you do, don’t deny it. If an action of yours made her feel unsafe or violated, you had better find out how not to repeat it.  Your job is to protect your woman, not to dictate to her or to make her feel unsafe or uncared for. You are the leader.  Lead out by exemplifying the kind of person you wish she was.  Go ahead, be her hero.  Make her feel safe, valued, important, honored and loved.

  5. Be humble. Don’t talk about spiritual things, right now. Right now, you are not a leader. The woman who followed you started running the opposite direction because you made her feel threatened.  She knows all your faults.  That time you started belittling how she parented?  She remembers that.  That time you started shaming her for the way she talked to someone?  She thinks about that every time she sees that individual.  She’s trying to forget the pain your actions caused her.  She knows your faults.  Walk in humility and grow into your place.  Acting holier than her will not work.  She knows how holy you really are.

  6. Build your relationship with Christ. This could have been my first point, but I chose to put it under the point about humility which goes along with pretending to be holy. God knows you.  He knows your weaknesses and where you went wrong.  He wants you to love him more than you love your wife and he longs to build an intimate relationship with you, just like you long to build an intimate relationship with your wife.  Do not fail to seek him with all your heart.  He is the healing for your pain, the source of your joy, the intimate lover of your heart, the balm for your wound.  He is the ultimate leader who laid down his very life for his often way-ward bride.  Do you love your wife like that?  Would you die for her?

  7. Limit your contact with other women. You have no business building a relationship with other women. Be loyal to your wife. If you find yourself longing for a woman’s approval, remember you once had hers.  She once loved you enough to marry you.  She once trusted you.  Another woman has no place in your heart and God calls that adultery.

  8. Be accountable. When you are sweating out the loneliness and the gut-wrenching hard work of allowing God to reveal your sin and to learn new principles of how to live, you’ll need a good man or two or three in your life that will treat you like a son. They can teach you how to honor your wife and be loyal to her. You can go to them when you are angry and they can walk you through the repentance and the sorrow and get you back to being willing to climb the next mountain and scale the next wall.

  9. Don’t compliment other women. You have a wife to compliment. One day you saw that girl and thought, “She’s sweet and beautiful and I want to marry her.”  She’s still sweet and beautiful.  That girl is still there.  Date her when she begins trusting you enough to date again.  Compliment her.

  10. Get counseling. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s the little things that lead up to the destruction of the marriage.  It’s the bad habits that creep in and run about unobstructed. When the habits grow up into full-fledged monsters, it has gone way too far. I do not advise couples counseling for deeply entrenched habits such as abusive relationships.  Individual counseling helps you deal with the things that come up in your life.  When you can handle your own personal issues, and deal with them wisely with knowledge and integrity, then you can handle your side of a relationship.  When your wife sees you working on the issues in your life, she can see that you are actually changing and becoming the man she knew you were behind the bluff you were putting on.  Go find the humble, kind, godly man you once were.  If you never were humble and kind, go find Jesus.  He will teach you how to be like him. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Blessings, my friend, as you become your wife’s hero.

 

PEACEWORKS UNIVERSITY

PeaceWorks University is our online community dedicated to practical, professional, ministry training designed to help you grow in your response to domestic violence in the Christian home.  PeaceWorks University is a perfect coaching option for pastors, ministry leaders, biblical counselors, and people helpers. 

Telling the Truth to Yourself

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

So often when I ask men to share with me how they came to be in a batterer intervention group I find they are eager to “set the record straight.” Generally speaking, most of the men I have worked with put forth a great deal of effort to convince me that they are in fact victims. Some will vacillate back and forth between excuses ranging from unfortunate circumstances to a feminist agenda bent on destroying families. Regardless of the rationale one truth remains consistent, they are being treated unfairly. The temptation for these men is to deny their own responsibility, usually by highlighting their partner’s problems. Many will insist she needs the class far more than they. Sometimes it may seem like I’m out to get them or that I’m unwilling to listen to their side of the story. The reality is that change will not happen in our own hearts as long as we continue to defend our own pride with lies or half-truths.

Put off Denial

Our pride convinces us that wicked behavior is sometimes necessary to maintain control or that malicious intent is justified when we feel wronged. This attitude may have led you to physically harm your partner or to call her ugly names. Perhaps you’ve thrown things across the room or punched holes in the walls to communicate you’re not pleased with her choices. If any of this is true than you may also find it necessary to hide certain details, bend certain truths to minimize your behavior while emphasizing the ways in which you’ve been wronged. This tendency toward denial is not going to help produce the change you really need. It’s a trap so devastating that it will not only destroy your relationship but will also ensnare your heart. I’m pleading with you to accept responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge the abusive behavior and the impact it has had on your partner.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  James 4:8-10

Change is a difficult and often times a lengthy process that requires, among other things, taking responsibility. You must acknowledge the truth about yourself and put off the denial. Would you be willing to speak truth to yourself today?

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”  Ephesians 4:25

Final Thought

If I were to ask you about your abusive behavior what would say? Would your story include statements like these?

“I’ve done nothing wrong!”

“She knows how to push my buttons.”

“This is all blown out of proportion.”

Let me encourage you to recount the story again, but this time only focus on your actions. Fight the temptation to justify them, excuse them away or gloss over them. Make a list of the ways in which you harmed your partner. Have you physically harmed her? Have you called her ugly names? Have you damaged her reputation with lies? Telling the truth will not fix everything that seems wrong in your life right now, but it is a far better choice than lying to yourself and others.

THE BEAUTY OF CONFRONTATION

Today's post is by my friend Beverly Moore. 

Many people cringe when they hear the word “confrontation.” Some say they prefer surgery to having to confront someone. You also have the other end of the spectrum—someone always ready to sniff out sin and get in someone’s face about it. As Christians, it’s very important to have a biblical view of confrontation.

A Biblical Definition of Confrontation

A biblical definition of confrontation is having a face-to-face encounter with someone in order to bring biblical truth to bear on an area of concern. This is to be done with humility and motivated by love for God and love for the person confronted. We are to speak the truth in love to glorify God and benefit the person.

Why Should We Confront?

We all fall short of the glory of God, and many times we don’t even see the sin that has us trapped (1 John 1:8). The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These verses make it clear that rebuking and correcting are to be taken seriously, practiced regularly, and to be done for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom.

When we confront, we’re demonstrating love for God and obedience to Him. We’re also demonstrating love for the person. We’re more concerned about honoring God and the spiritual well-being of the other person than we are about our own comfort. When we’re reluctant to confront we sometimes rationalize and justify with thoughts like: What if she gets mad? What if I hurt his feelings? What if she doesn’t like me anymore? This reveals what we’re truly worshiping—the love and acceptance of others. When we confront, we have to be willing to risk the person’s rejection or anger for the sake of God’s honor.

How We Should We Confront

Our goal should not be to inflict pain or seek revenge. Our goal is to honor God in everything we say and do, including confronting someone. Start by praying diligently for your own heart as well as the other person’s heart before confronting, and pray diligently after. Trust God to help you, knowing He will give you the grace you need to obey Him. Trust also that He will work in the heart of the other person.

Galatians 6:1 says that if we see a brother or sister who is caught in a sin, we should restore him or her gently. Restoration starts with loving confrontation. We need to be willing to go to this person and show him his fault (Matthew 18:15). I’m not advocating becoming this person’s personal conscience or play the junior Holy Spirit. But sin that is damaging the person’s testimony as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is clearly in violation of God’s Word, should be confronted firmly but with gentleness and respect.

Start by asking questions rather than assuming you know exactly what’s going on. Proverbs 18:13 tells us to listen first, then answer. If you’re concerned about something you see in a person’s life, explain what you see and ask for help to understand what’s happening. Do this with humility, not with a self-righteous, judgmental attitude. When we go with a humble attitude, we’re demonstrating we’re fully aware we don’t have it all together either and we need help just as much as them. We’re just one unworthy servant trying to help another unworthy servant glorify God.

Confronting an unbeliever of sin affords this person an opportunity to seek God’s forgiveness. In the case of child sexual abuse, confronting the perpetrator can bring reconciliation—with God and the one sinned against. (If this is the situation, please seek wise counsel on confronting a perpetrator.) View this as a golden opportunity to share the gospel with them. Explain how you’ve experienced God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and how you desire that for them too. We can’t personally rescue people from hell, but we can point them to One who makes forgiveness and salvation possible.

Points to Consider When Confronting

If we haven’t made it a habit to speak truthfully and lovingly to the people in our lives, practicing transparency and approachability, confrontation could seem very fearful. It’s important to focus on pleasing God rather than our feelings of fear. We have to set our hearts and minds on the things above rather than on the things of this earth (like our own comfort or ease).

The goal is to obey God by following His commands. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love, and Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to speak words that build up, not tear down. Our words should benefit the one listening. This doesn’t mean we should skirt around the issue to be confronted, avoiding calling sin sin. But it does mean that we speak the truth without compromise while at the same time not attacking the person.

Responses

Be prepared for unexpected responses. We have to keep our expectations in check. How we hope the person will respond can’t be the goal. We should be prepared for a response of anger or denial. We have to leave the results up to God. A person’s initial response may be one of anger or hurt, but allow time for the Holy Spirit to work in his or her heart.

Confronting others is not always easy and can seem unkind. Yet in reality it’s a loving thing to do. We can follow Jesus’ example as He demonstrated honor for His Father when He confronted while on earth. Lovingly confronting, rebuking, and correcting demonstrates we are living for the King and the Kingdom. In all things, may God be glorified!

 

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Bev Moore (M.A.B.C.) is on the counseling staff at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN. She is married to George and they have two grown sons. She co-authored In the Aftermath: Past the Pain of Childhood Sexual Abuse. 

A Word To Men Who Abuse

There is a section of the West Point cadet prayer that I recite in our classes occasionally and perhaps it will be a help to you today, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.” I know you want me to understand your point of view. I’m sure you’re desperate to have someone hear ‘your’ side of the story, but I want to challenge you to slow down for a few moments, to listen and choose the more difficult but rewarding road of responsibility. If you’ve been confronted for your behavior I know the temptation is to throw out the thousand and one excuses for what you’ve done, but that’s not going to help you and only adds to your partner’s suffering. I want to challenge you to take a break from defending your position and acknowledge a simple truth. Your behavior, attitude, words, and/or motives have hurt your spouse. True transformation requires accepting responsibility for you alone without the clutter of excuses, or justifications. Let’s begin by putting aside the tactics that tend to trap us in the way of easy wrongs. This may be hard to hear and you may find it difficult or painful to look in the mirror, but if you stick with it and take these words to heart there is hope. No, taking responsibility will not fully restore what’s been broken, it will not get you what you want and may in fact be painful, but it can be a step in restoring your soul, and possibly your relationship with God.

Final Thought:

After David’s sexual assault of Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah it was the sharp words of a friend who was willing to say, “Thou art the man!” that pointed David down the difficult road of admitting his sin, the harsh reality of the consequences he’d created and finally a spirit of humility. It was in that spirit that he penned these words in response, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” I pray you’ll choose the more difficult right today by accepting responsibility.

Peace, Chris

Sexual Abuse in Marriage Part Three with Darby Strickland

When God places women in our care who have been sexually abused in marriage, he is entrusting us with a tender and clear mission. These women face tremendous suffering and need us to care for them with gentle wisdom. They also need us to be strong—calling evil acts what they are—evil. This is not a comfortable calling, but it is a critical calling, one after Jesus’ own heart (Luke 4:18-19). Often it means we, ourselves, need to acquire additional wisdom and learn what it means to embody Jesus to these dear sufferers. The last thing we want to do is to inadvertently hurt them when we try to help. So, let’s start with the basics. We know we are to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), especially when someone is facing evil (Rom. 12:9-12). We are to be compassionate, gentle, and patient in our care (Eph. 4:21 Pet. 3:8). In addition to these basics, here are some practical ways to walk alongside and minister to these women.

1. Ask. Sexual abuse in marriage is frightening to reveal. Sadly, a large percentage of my counselees who experience physical and verbal cruelty are also experiencing sexual abuse. It is not something that women usually disclose because shame, stigma, and confusion contribute to silence. But speaking about it and receiving support is crucial to safety and healing. One way to help victims is to bring up the topic. I usually say something like: “More than half of the women I see in oppressive marriages experience hard and difficult things in their sexual relationship. Are there ways that you struggle with physical intimacy? Things that make you uncomfortable? Do you experience any unwanted sexual activity? Do you ever feel pressured?”

Sometimes victims are only ready to say “yes” to these questions but are not comfortable discussing the violations themselves. Do not press, just periodically check in asking them if they are ready to talk or have questions.

Consider, especially in a church setting, inviting a woman to bring a female friend and supporter with her to counseling. It can be overwhelming to discuss such abuses with a pastor or other church leader and the tangible comfort provided by such a person will reduce her sense of isolation and vulnerability.

2. Listen. Abuse is not something you can solve with words; there are complexities and evils that our words are inadequate for. Do not feel that you need to say something to make it better—you can’t. Sit with the suffering. Your presence alone is powerful, lifting shame. Keep in mind it is good and right for the victimized to feel hurt, fearful, and angry. Do not sanitize their speech but trust that, in time, God will shape their lament. Right now, the important thing is for them to tell their story. No matter what it sounds like, they are bringing the terrible secrets of their life into the light which is a beautiful act of trust and faith.  Continue reading at CCEF

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Darby Stickland joined Pastor Chris for a PeaceWorks University MasterClass discussion on sexual abuse in marriage. PeaceWorks University is our online community dedicated to practical, professional, ministry training designed to help you grow in your response to domestic violence in the Christian home.  Learn more about PeaceWorks University hereand here

 

 

Sexual Abuse in Marriage Part Two with Darby Strickland

Over the years, I have had hundreds of conversations with women who are being sexually abused by their husbands but do not realize it. They know something is wrong but do not know what it is. In fact, most of these women come to me seeking help for something else, usually anxiety, depression, or even a desire to foster a richer marital relationship. As I sit with them and learn more about their marriage, it’s often plain to me that they are being grossly mistreated. But they are confused, and often struggle to call the things they endure abusive or sinful—let alone evil. They worry they are exaggerating, believe they are responsible for what is happening, and doubt their own memory when recounting an abusive episode.

These women need us to help them understand the reality of their situation, but the fact that they do not perceive or portray it accurately can be a barrier to that. If you follow their lead, you will miss the larger abuses that might be taking place and focus on the personal problems they present. It is important that we work to cut through their confusion and see what lies behind it. If you suspect that abuse is occurring, continue to ask questions. If you discover sexual abuse, then great care must be taken to explain how these violations go against God’s design for marriage. Continue reading at CCEF

Darby Stickland joined Pastor Chris for a PeaceWorks University MasterClass discussion on sexual abuse in marriage. PeaceWorks University is our online community dedicated to practical, professional, ministry training designed to help you grow in your response to domestic violence in the Christian home.  Learn more about PeaceWorks University here and here

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Sexual Abuse in Marriage Part One with Darby Strickland

This is the first in a series of three blogs by counselor Darby Strickland on the sexual abuse of women in marriage. This post first appeared on the blog of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.  CCEF's mission is to equip the church to be this kind of transforming community. We see ourselves as an extension of the local church, and we want to serve and promote its ministry. The good news of the gospel is meant to be preached, taught, and counseled with relevance to individual people. Equipping Christians to live, love, and counsel is our goal. You can learn more about CCEF here. 

God created marriage to be something beautiful and sacrificial in which the hearts and bodies of a man and woman are united as one. Sex is supposed to be a culmination of this emotional and spiritual relationship expressing unity, peace, and love (Gen. 2:24; Prov. 5:18-19; Song. 7:6-12). Given this foundation, the possibility that marriage could be a place where sexual abuse or violence occurs is almost unthinkable. But sadly, it does happen—and with surprising frequency.

Though the recent #metoo movement has revealed the prevalence with which people are violated sexually, my heart remains heavy for wives who are victims of marital sexual abuse. Their stories remain untold, and I am concerned that many pastors and counselors are unaware of its occurrence. I hear many stories (too many stories) of women being abused, violated or even raped by their husbands. It is a frightening reality for these women—one that they usually endure in isolation. The Lord is not silent on such horrors, nor should we be. My goal, therefore, is to identify what sexual abuse in marriage looks like so it can be recognized more readily and these women can get the help they need.

Sexual abuse in marriage occurs when husbands make demands on their wives that are not based on love. These demands for sex are not sanctioned by 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, though the passage is often used as a goad to require a wife’s compliance. To be clear, the men who do this are troubled themselves. They usually have deep-seated problems including a weak or non-existent relationship with God and an inflated sense of entitlement. They believe that other people (including their wives) exist for them—for their comfort and to meet their needs, including sexual ones. When their wives fail to respond as desired, it often results in a pattern of coercive and punishing behaviors designed to force their compliance.

Sexual desire perverted by entitlement damages a couple’s sexual relationship in many ways. Here are a few examples of what it looks like:

Continue reading at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation blog.

 

How Abuse Affects You as a Mother

I have the privilege of speaking at a Church camp this week so I will not be offering new content on the blog, but I did want to re-post this piece by my friend Darby Strickland. You can read more of Darby's content at www.darbystrickland.com

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There are few things more precious to you than your children. They’re a gift from the Lord that we’re meant to delight in. That’s not to say that parenting is easy. It is as demanding as it is rewarding. Everyday stress, like demanding schedules and the never-ending nature of housework, affect all our abilities to engage well with the many parenting challenges we face.

However, when you’re in an oppressive marriage, the attacks on your person-hood are pervasive and unrelenting. On any given day you can hear controlling or cutting criticisms from your spouse. Crushing words, some that might cause self-doubt others that create unbearable tension. The stresses you deal with in your marriage are intense. It is likely that you don’t have help from your spouse, even worse, they might be working against you and your parenting goals. All these factors can be compounding and can affect your parenting in ways that you might not even be aware of.... Continue Reading Here 

What I Wish My Pastor Had Known When I Was Looking For Help.

I'm re-posting a past entry from my friend Julie Owens. Considering the current climate within the church and the topic of domestic violence I thought these reminders may prove helpful. With that said I also want to encourage you to join me in praying for our friends in the Southern Baptist Convention as they hold their annual meeting this week which will include discussions regarding domestic abuse and sexual assault. May God grant wisdom and clarity for all involved and may we see the church become a safer place. 

What I wish Pastors had known when I was looking for help.

  1. What domestic violence IS – “A pattern of coercive, controlling behavior, exercised by one intimate partner over the other”; a belief in the right to absolute power and control; not just physical abuse, hitting, etc. Anyone can be a victim. Usually women are the victims, but men can be victims, too.
  2. What domestic violence IS NOT – not a “marriage problem” or “communication problem”, it’s not caused by anger, stress, alcohol/drugs or sickness (mental illness)
  3. How to screen/assess for DV signs – in pre-marital counseling, marriage counseling, family counseling, all interactions with couples. Possible signs: He won’t let her talk in counseling; he tries to control where she goes and what she does, he always wants to be with her; she may cancel counseling appointments if he can’t come too; He may “bash”/badmouth her to you, try to convince you she is the one with the problems, he may threaten to take the children from her; she may have bruises or unexplained injuries; she may seem depressed; she may use drugs or alcohol to cope.
  4. To assume that victims are telling the truth - because usually they don’t talk, and when they do, they minimize (not exaggerate). There is usually no value in lying, because she is usually blamed when she does tell the truth; Even if she is the one that’s been arrested, don’t assume she’s not the victim!
  5. To NAME the abuse - to call it what it is, educate her and not minimize.

  6. To maintain her confidentiality - to not confront or involve the abuser without her        clear permission or without warning her

  7. To maintain safety as the highest priority – to make sure she has a safety plan in place and knows about all of the local resources for abuse victims; to put her in touch with other victims and survivors who can provide support; to encourage the use of safe shelters vs. family homes if the danger is escalating.

  8. To avoid marriage counseling if abuse is occurring – marriage counseling assumes equality & safety; it assumes that this is a mutual “relationship problem” which can be fixed by both persons working on it, rather than one person’s abuse/violence problem; victims may be beaten for telling the truth; marriage counseling may keep the couple stuck in the tension–building phase of the “cycle of violence” for longer, but will not prevent the next (worse) episode. 

  9. To not assume that because there has been no overt physical violence yet, that it is not likely – the worse abuse & most murders occur at or after a separation. 

  10. To validate her feelings, respect her wishes & support her decisions – even if you don’t agree with her; she will come back to you later for help if you are non-blaming.

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Julie Owens is a survivor of domestic violence who has worked in the field of violence against women and women's empowerment since 1989. She has founded a hospital DV crisis response team, a transitional shelter, advocacy groups and training programs. She has worked with trauma survivors and addicted survivors, and was a research co-investigator, project director and trauma therapist on studies at the National Center for PTSD. Learn more about Julie at www.domesticviolenceexpert.org

 

Why Your Church Needs a Domestic Abuse Policy

Today's post is by my friend, and skilled Biblical counselor, Greg Wilson. Greg has been working to develop and implement policies and procedures for domestic violence prevention in the local church. 

Most churches have a child protection policy in place. If not, your church definitely should implement such a policy for the protection of your most vulnerable attenders and members – the children of your church. But there is another type of wickedness that afflicts many vulnerable children (as well as spouses and intimate partners) within the church, and far fewer churches have policies in place to protect them from it. This evil is known as domestic abuse, domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, or intimate partner violence, and it is rampant in our society. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience it in their lifetime, and 1 in 15 children are exposed to it each year (90% of those are eyewitnesses). While child and student ministry resource organizations have labored tirelessly to help churches understand the need to make child protection policies and procedures like volunteer applications and screenings, check-in systems, two-volunteer rules, and visibility guidelines standard practice, there are very few who are arguing for similar policies and protocols for responding to the disclosure or discovery of emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, psychological, or physical abuse between spouses or intimate partners. Yet this type of abuse is prevalent within society and within the church and is often also bolstered by systemic factors unique to and highly valued by Christian churches, such as our high view of marriage, our theology of suffering, and the belief held by many that God has designed men and women to function differently in the home and the church. To fully protect the families in your church from oppression, your church needs a domestic abuse policy as well as a child protection policy. A domestic abuse policy is going to help your leaders protect families in your church by answering two questions: “What is domestic abuse?” and “How do I respond to a disclosure or discovery of domestic abuse?”.

Recognizing Abuse. The reason that many churches do not respond well to domestic abuse is because most church leaders don’t know what it is. Your church’s domestic abuse policy must define domestic abuse in such a way that your volunteer and staff church leaders know how to recognize it. While it isn’t always easy to spot initially, Chris Moles, Leslie Vernick, John Henderson, Steven Tracy, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, and Diane Langberg, among others, have offered up definitions and characteristics to help church leaders discern when abuse is taking place in a relationship. There are very consistent elements to each of these definitions: a pattern of behavior, selfish intent, the misuse of power and control, and a wide variety of manifestations: economic, emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual, physical, and verbal. Your policy needs to clearly spell out what abuse is, and also what abuse isn’t (a marriage problem, an anger problem, a legal problem, the other spouses’ problem, etc.). You want those who read your policy – members, lay leaders, elders, deacons, staff – to know clearly what meets the requirements for domestic abuse and to be able to recognize perpetrators and victims in their midst.

Responding to Abuse. It’s not enough that your church be able to spot domestic abuse. They must also know how to respond appropriately. Your members and leaders must know, for example, that the safety of the victim takes precedence in the immediate wake of a disclosure or discovery of abuse. Who should be notified? Are there confidential means for victims to notify church leaders that they need help? Whose responsibility is it to come alongside and care for identified victims of abuse? What resources in your church and community are available to assist victims? What is a safety plan and how can one be developed and implemented? Your policy must also spell out when and how abusers are to be confronted. The general rule of thumb here is that a perpetrator should only be confronted after the safety of the victim has been assessed and reasonably secured, and only with the victim’s advice and consent. Whose responsibility is it to confront an abusive man? How would such a confrontation take place. (This is one of the most dangerous times for victims.) What church and community resources exist for perpetrators of abuse? How is the church discipline policy engaged? How is repentance discerned? Finally, your policy will need to address marriage reconciliation. You will want your members to understand that a perpetrator’s reconciliation to the Lord must precede their reconciliation to their spouse. Your policy should clearly state that individual counseling for both the victim and the perpetrator is advisable initially, and that couples counseling should only be attempted when both counselors and both partners are in agreement that the time is right. Your policy will also want to be clear about how the church will minister to both partners (assuming that both are members and both remain under the care of the church) in the event of a prolonged separation, and you will also want to be clear about your church’s policy on divorce in the event of unrepentant domestic abuse.

Caring for the Oppressed, Correcting Oppressors. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov 31:8-9) A well-written, well-executed domestic abuse policy and protocol tells your community and your members that your church is serious about the mandate God gives us to care for the oppressed and to lovingly and humbly confront and correct oppressors. It can make your church a safer place for the vulnerable, and a place where abusive people will not be allowed to continue their abuse.

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Greg Wilson (MA, LPC-S) is currently completing his Doctor of educational ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Greg has a full-time clinical practice, specializing in working with families, couples, adolescents and men. His experience working with families includes pre-marital and marital counseling for couples, as well as work with parents and teens. His practice includes work with male perpetrators of abuse/domestic violence, sexual addictions, adolescent life-stage issues, marital conflict, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Greg also serves as a deacon of care at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and is a certification curriculum facilitator for the Association of Biblical Counselors, where he is also a member of the advisory board for their Center for Professional Soul Care. Greg also is a trained mediator, and he has met all the state requirements to perform mediation services in Texas. He trains lay counselors in the church and through the Association for Biblical Counselors and consults with church leaders on matters relating to biblical soul care.

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