How Churches Can Help Fight Abuse

This week we are re-publishing a PeaceWorks University member submission.

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.

Sexual harassment and assault have been headline news a lot lately. As tragic as these episodes are to read about, it’s even more tragic to realize that mistreatment, oppression and abuse are also found in our churches. However, the church is also well-positioned to prevent, identify and intervene in unhealthy relationships. What are some practical steps that churches can take to help fight abuse in the church and among its members?

Prevention

Obviously, the most helpful approach is to prevent sinful behavior rather than deal with it after it happens. Churches should take seriously their responsibility to screen and train pastors, staff members, and those who volunteer with at-risk populations, such as children, the elderly, and the disabled. This should include everything from background checks for all church workers and volunteers, development of policies to protect the vulnerable, and ongoing training and oversight to ensure compliance. Resources such as On Guard by Deepak Reju can help church leaders think through practical steps to make their churches resistant to those who would harm children and other vulnerable people.

Prevention of abuse among church members is more indirect, but no less important. This would involve clear teaching from the pulpit about servant leadership, the proper use of authority and clear denunciations of misusing one’s role. One of the best observations I’ve heard in a sermon is, “If you’re enjoying the perks of leadership, you’re doing in wrong.” The value and worth of all people, regardless of nationality, gender, age or gifting must be emphasized. Naturally, such teaching must be accompanied by wise and humble exercise of pastoral authority.

Church membership is an important factor in helping a church know its people more intimately, and gives it authority to act when troubling situations arise. Cultivating a grace-filled ethos that encourages transparency, being known, and mutual confession of sin can also make it harder to hide all types of sin.

Identification

Since preventive steps are not foolproof, churches must also take steps to identify problematic situations as quickly as possible. It can be helpful to have booklets on abuse and information on women’s shelters and services in the ladies’ restroom, where resources can be more discreetly obtained. Such resources should be accompanied by a clear message to seek help if they have any concerns about their relationship. Women who have been told that they just need to forgive and submit need to hear that the most loving thing they can do is to interrupt the oppressive cycle in their relationships.

Training for pastors, staff and other church leaders helps identify oppressive relationships by equipping them to recognize problematic patterns of behavior. While formal training is ideal — such as CCEF’s course on abusive relationships — this will not be possible for everyone. However, there are also a number of other books and resources that provide guidance on the nature of abusive relationships, such as Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s Is It My Fault?, Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and GRACE (www.netgrace.org). These resources open the category of mistreatment beyond physical or sexual abuse to include verbal/emotional abuse, financial control and intimidation.

Intervention

Once an abusive relationship has been identified, the church needs to determine how it can help address the situation. Ideally, churches would have pastors and/or staff who are qualified to work with both parties to untangle complicated and confusing situations and address the complexities of abusive behaviors and relationships. Since this clearly won’t be possible in all cases, church leaders should not hesitate to seek outside help when needed and connect those involved in the troubled relationship with law enforcement, women’s shelters, legal or financial planning services, or addiction or mental health treatment, as appropriate. If you learn about a worrisome situation and are uncertain how to proceed, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-7233), which is open 24/7 for assistance. Even when care must be sought outside the church, church leaders, at a minimum, should be prepared to walk alongside both parties to address the myriad spiritual needs that exist on both sides of troubled relationships. The gospel speaks to both the oppressor and the oppressed, offering hope, comfort and the possibility of true change and restoration. All of the books mentioned above, as well as Chris Moles’ The Heart of Domestic Abuse, are helpful resources for addressing issues faced by both the abused and the abuser.

When possible, diaconal funds can be of great assistance to help with practical needs, especially if outside care or separation are appropriate. As you consider steps forward in a difficult relationship, remember to be patient with women who are wrestling with decisions about how and when to address their situations. Allowing an oppressed woman to make her own choices helps to reestablish her sense of self and her own agency in the relationship.

While churches will vary greatly in the ways they can address this difficult issue, all churches should seek to be proactive in the fight against abuse in all its forms, remembering the Lord’s heart for the oppressed (Judg 2:18). Although it is difficult work, church leaders can be encouraged and hopeful as they fulfill their call by “patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:24-25).

Note: While men can also be victims of abuse, this article refers to women and children for the sake of simplicity and because they represent the majority of victims of domestic abuse.

Brenda Pauken

The Trouble with Victims

This week we are sharing a post by our friend and PeaceWorks University Faculty member Joy Forrest. Joy is the author of the book "Called to Peace: A Survivor's Guide to Hope and Peace after Abuse." You can order your copy here CALLED TO PEACE

I lived over twenty-five years my life as a victim. From the time I was 14 until I was nearly 40 I was involved in an abusive relationship, and breaking free was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. During those tumultuous years, I lost nearly everything I owned and barely escaped with my life and my two girls. In the years that followed, I faced great financial loss, angry children, and continued threats on my life. I had nightmares, and found myself freaking out at things that had nothing to do with me. When I heard people around me complain about everyday struggles I wanted to laugh in their faces and say, “Are you kidding me?! That’s nothing!” I wanted the world to know that I had been wronged, and somehow come and make it right.

The odd thing is the more I complained, the less people wanted to listen. They seemed to alienate themselves from me, which made my situation even more miserable. I could have stayed in that pattern forever, but as I cried out to God I began to realize I would never be an overcomer until I dropped my victim mentality. I realized that people did not know how to handle the severity of my losses. I am sure it made them uncomfortable—perhaps even guilty that they had been blessed with an easier life. I realized that I needed to stop making my unfortunate past my identity, and made a decision to pour my complaints out to God rather than people. I chose to believe his promises towards me rather than my feelings. Although that decision did not immediately change my circumstances, it did make all the difference in the world. Today I am a victor rather than a victim, because I decided to believe him.

In the years since I transitioned from victim to victor, I have many opportunities to work with other victims. I have seen some apply themselves to the truths of God’s Word, and basically blossom before my very eyes. In those cases, it has truly been like watching butterflies come out of their cocoons. From all outward appearances their situations have seemed hopeless, but God has performed miracles for those who have learned to trust him. Trust like this involves a decision to believe God rather than emotions and past experience. I have never seen God disappoint those who have chosen to really trust him. The outcome has always been beautiful.

On the other hand, some of the women I have tried to help have refused to let go of that victim mentality. When I direct them to God’s promises, they give me a thousand reasons not to believe them. Their attitude reminds me of the man Jesus healed at the pool in Bethesda in John 5. Even though he stationed himself in the place where the angel stirred the water to be healed, he basically told Jesus it was impossible, because somebody always beat him to the water. He was full of bitterness and excuses. When Jesus healed him in spite of his negativity, he showed no joy, nor did he stop to thank Jesus. Instead, when the religious leaders rebuked him for carrying his pallet, he blamed Jesus. Jesus knew his heart and came to him later with a warning, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (5:14).  But he simply went out and reported Jesus to the leaders. Jesus set him free, but he chose to remain bitter.

That’s the problem with so many victims, they fail to see and appreciate God’s provision in their lives. Instead, they choose to remain bitter, and make excuses for hanging on to their anger. They basically cut themselves off from God’s blessings and blame everyone around them (even God) for their negative circumstances. I love to contrast the story of the man at the pool with the healing of the man born blind in John 9. When Jesus healed him his life was changed immediately. He became a believer, and was willing to profess his faith in spite of harsh opposition. As far as outward circumstances go, he probably fared worse than the man healed at the pool. Yet, he was filled with joy over what Jesus had done for him. Like King David (who spent years running for his life) he chose to praise God in the presence of his enemies rather than cling to bitterness.

The truth is that bad things happen in this world. Many of us end up at victims at some point, and it grieves God’s heart. We suffer unjustly and it isn’t fair, but God knows exactly how that feels (Heb. 4:15). Our God is a redeemer, and nothing is wasted when we know him. He can turn our mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11), and use tribulation to mold us into the image of his son (Rom. 8:29). But in the midst of our troubles we must choose to trust him. We must choose to let go of the bitterness that poisons every relationship in our lives and keeps us in bondage (Heb. 12:15). The problem with victims is they are often not willing to make this choice. Instead, they hold tenaciously to their right to be miserable and angry, and unwittingly finish the job their enemies began.

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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

What is the "Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused" curriculum?

This post was written by Brad Hambrick and first appeared on the ERLC website. The original post can be found here “Becoming a Church that Cares Well”

Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused (churchcares.com) is a training experience designed to equip the church on how to respond well to the initial report of abuse. This free resource brings together top experts in the areas of social work, law enforcement, trauma counseling, abuse counseling, legal advisement, and pastoral care. Its purpose is to help pastors and ministry leaders equip their churches to be able to provide excellent care in the initial stages of receiving a disclosure from someone who has experienced abuse.

Contributors include (alphabetical order):

  • Rachael Denhollander

  • Mika Edmondson

  • Brad Hambrick

  • Samantha Kilpatrick

  • Diane Langberg

  • Chris Moles

  • Andrea Munford

  • Karla Siu

  • Darby Strickland

  • Leslie Vernick

Each of their bios can be found at churchcares.com.

Four key emphases

This team worked together with intentionality in order to create the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum. Here are four key emphases in the curriculum development process.

  1. We wrote collaboratively. Every team member helped edit the content at each stage in the process. We wanted every section to benefit from the expertise of every member of this team.

  2. We were focused. In a 12-lesson curriculum, with each lesson being 20 minutes, we could not say everything that needed to be said. We focused on two things: (1) initial responses and (2) getting people involved. Our belief was that if churches start well and get the right people involved, then the collaboration between pastors, social workers, law enforcement, trauma counselors, and other relevant professionals would ensure holistic care was provided.

  3. We strove to model what we are advocating for. Our team was comprised of the key professionals who need to be part of the care process. As ministry leaders watch the videos, we want them to get a foretaste of the benefits that will come when they speak with comparable professionals in their community.

  4. We wrote conversationally. We didn’t want to use technical language from various professional fields. We tried to write in ways that ministry leaders talk. Our hope is that by listening to the videos that accompany the handbook, ministry leaders will get a sense for what it sounds like to have uncomfortable conversations with survivors. It is not comfortable to talk about abuse, but it is a conversation we cannot avoid.

Three ways to use this resource

What is the best way to use or study this resource? Here are three ways, listed chronologically, you can use this resource for maximum impact.

  1. Study: Watch each video while following along with the handbook. As you study, focus both on the content and tone. We need to know what to do, but it is equally important to hear that content shared by people who have had hundreds of these conversations. In ministry moments, we want to represent Christ accurately in tone and content.

  2. Share: Ministry leaders are encouraged to share particular videos with key lay leaders in their church. This is to ensure that all the key leaders in your church—paid staff and volunteers—know how to respond when someone discloses their experience of abuse.

  3. Listen: Finally, and this may be most important, invite a survivor of abuse to study the curriculum and share with you what stood out most to him or her. Hearing how these principles would have made a difference in his or her life will cement them in your memory and convictions. Getting to share his or her story with a pastor desiring to learn from and care for him or her can be an incredibly healing experience for the survivor.

Our prayer is the churchcares.com resource will be used by God to significantly improve how ministry leaders—local church or parachurch—care for those who have been abused and respond to reports of abuse. If the church is going to be the refuge that God intends, these are areas where we must grow.

Is Change Really Possible

If I could simplify one of the most common questions I receive it would be, "can destructive people really change?” I want to honestly offer a few answers to this question by changing the words slightly.

Can They Change?

Simple Answer – Of course they can.

I have heard the sentiment many times that people cannot change. The understanding is that thieves are always thieves, liars are always liars, and abusers will always be abusive. I believe the Bible teaches that change is not only possible but necessary. God desires the unbelieving to practice repentance and experience transformation. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) He desires the believer to practice repentance as well, calling us to put off the old man and to “Put on your new nature, created to be like God–truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:24)

Honest Answer – Anyone can change but the potential for change does not guarantee that it will happen.

Do They Change?

Simple Answer – Yes…Well, kind of…It depends.

I’ve been doing this work for some time now and I have seen many men make changes. Sometimes those changes are radical. It’s exhilarating to watch men make such dramatic shifts in thinking and behavior. I’ve also seen men make some necessary behavioral changes to avoid consequences or pain. This may make things safer in the short term but lacks the power that the gospel promises. Lastly, I’ve seen men attempt to manipulate everyone with superficial changes designed to deceive others into leaving them be.

Honest Answer – They do when they choose to, but motives are important in understanding the validity of these changes, and initial 'changes' do not guarantee transformation. 

Will They Change?

Simple Answer – Do you have someone in mind?

As I read this question again I have the tendency to hear this, “will the person I love change?” The honest answer is I don’t know. Unfortunately the individual most desperate for change is often the one who is being victimized. The last thing I want to do is give false hope that your positive attitude or faith that change is possible will lead to your loved one’s transformation. The truth is you are not responsible for their changes but for your own safety, and sanity. While you may desperately want them to get help that is a decision they alone can make.

Honest Answer – I do not know if the person you love will ever change.

Final Thought:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:13-17

Have you ever heard the saying, the proof is in the pudding? Biblically speaking we know that change has occurred when change occurs. I recently had an interesting discussion with an individual who couldn’t articulate the difference between confession and repentance. Acknowledging one’s sin is a wonderful first step but it is still a first step. When is a liar no longer a liar? When he says, “I know I lie” or when we witness him consistently telling the truth? Change is possible, but change is hard.

A few years ago I was invited to participate in a webinar through Our Daily Bread Ministries. This was the event where I first met my friend Leslie Vernick. Many important concepts related to change and the church's responsibility are covered in this webinar.   

Watch the Webinar Here

 

Six (6) Attributes That Can Replace Abusive Actions

This post first appeared as a guest post for my friend Leslie Vernick at www.leslievernick.com

Behavioral change without heart change is a kin to paying a tremendous amount of money for a new paint job on a car without an engine.

Changing the outer appearance doesn’t solve the real problem. Character development is essential to the process of transformation, but not just becoming nicer, or more compliant but becoming more like Christ. Ephesians 5 is a common passage used to describe a husband’s role in marriage and many pastors will use this passage to encourage certain behaviors. I too use this passage but suggest we begin in verse one which calls us all to “…be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.”

While there are many aspects of God’s character we can encourage men to adopt, allow me to suggest one passage which I highlight in my book The Heart of Domestic Abuse. Here God describes himself using six (6) attributes, which Jesus readily demonstrated during his life on earth and of which we are called to imitate. In addition, to an obedient Christian these six attributes have a direct impact on the Christian marriage. In Exodus 34 , Moses has returned to construct new tablets after smashing the originals following the discovery of idol worship in the camp. After completing the tablets God approaches Moses and makes this declaration about himself.

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” Exodus 34:6-7

While God shares additional information about his character in the remaining portion of the passage these six characteristics stand out as adoptable attributes consistent with the call to conformity.

1.Compassionate: God describes himself as compassionate and Jesus models compassion numerous times in the Gospels. In particular, Matthew 8, tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion as he looked out over the people. For the Christian, compassion is a necessary characteristic to embrace in response to being wronged or even perceptions of harm. Consider Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” In response to the temptation to become sinfully angry that can express itself through bitterness, rage, name-calling, gossip, and even violence, Paul calls the believer, among other responses, to act with compassion.

2.Gracious: In many ways the opposition from the religious leaders of Jesus’ day stemmed from their inability or unwillingness embrace his words of grace. The Christ-follower is compelled throughout the Scripture to imitate this characteristic. In particular, Colossians 4, instructs the believer to, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Imagine for a moment the husband who repents of the damaging effects of his words, recognizes the selfish posture of his heart and determines to conform the image of Christ in part by speaking to his wife with grace.

3.Slow to Anger. Jesus did not come to us with condemnation but hope and salvation. He patiently calls us to redemption and then calls us to love each other with that same longsuffering conviction. In the James 1, the pastor leaves little room for doubt in our conformity to this principle when he says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” The excuse, “I have a short fuse,” falls silent under the weight of our conformity to Christ who has time and again suffered long on our behalf.

4.Abounding in Love. Scripture resounds with truth regarding God’s love. We sing songs to His great love. We are recipients of His wonderful love. From an early age many of us recited that, “God loved us so much that he gave us his son.” God’s love is among the central themes of the Bible, and we are commanded to imitate him by loving others, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Love is our go to in the process of becoming like Jesus, and the characteristic most directly related to the husband’s interactions with his wife, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

5.Faithfulness. The faithfulness of God resonates in the stories of saints throughout the scripture, as well as, those we encounter in our lifetime. We rely upon His promise to be faithful in our temptation. Our faithful God has united us with Christ and called us into fellowship with him. Our families should be able to trust us as we consistently trust in God. We are faithful in part because He has taught us faithfulness. His Spirit reminds us of His faithfulness and in turn empowers us to be faithful.

6.Forgiving.  Our God is a forgiving God and Jesus models this characteristic beautifully as he forgives sinners and unmistakably when he cries, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Even while on the cross Jesus promotes the power of forgiveness. Why are we so hesitant in our circumstances to embrace this life of forgiveness? Where once an abusive man held his family hostage with selfish expectations, the mind of Christ calls him to surrender his past desires for a new Christ-like conformity which includes forgiveness. In light of God’s forgiveness through Christ, this man has little alternative than to follow the instructions given by Paul when he says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The most influential realization obtained by a forgiving person is the fact that he is himself forgiven. If the abusive man can experience forgiveness for the grievous sin he has perpetrated against his family ,than certainly forgiveness can be anticipated and even expected from him.

Let us strive to teach that change comes when we replace negative actions and patterns with better ones. 

Am I Really Forgiven?

Today's post is by my friend Bev Moore.

Jill thought for a long time about God’s forgiveness. She had spent so many years dealing with feelings of condemnation and guilt.  What she was experiencing now seemed like a dream—something too good to be true. She was nervous that something was going to go wrong, or that maybe God was waiting to heap on the guilt the next time she messed up.

Many of our counselees can identify with Jill.  When they are introduced to the gospel—that they can be forgiven by God’s grace—it’s almost more than they can believe.  But by God’s grace they do believe!  Yet sometimes they feel uneasy but they’re not quite sure why.

One thing that really helped Jill was reading how Jesus demonstrated His love for a woman who desperately needed His forgiveness. It wasn’t hard for Jill to identify with the woman in this story. Jill got to see the love and compassion Jesus freely gave to someone like her.

It’s the beautiful story found in Luke 7:36-50 where Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. While there a woman who had lived a sinful life came to the house with an alabaster jar of perfume and she wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She kissed His feet and anointed them with the perfume. Simon was repulsed by what he saw and couldn’t believe Jesus could allow Himself to be touched by this “sinner.”  

Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and told him a story involving a moneylender and two men that owed him money and how the moneylender forgave both debts.  Jesus asked Simon which man he thought would love the moneylender more. Simon knew that the man with the bigger debt canceled would love the moneylender more. Here is how the rest of this scene played out:

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:43-50)

What a striking contrast between two people—a Pharisee, who placed his faith in his own self-righteousness and goodness, who erroneously believed he had a very small debt he owed to God, and believed he could earn God’s favor by keeping the rules. And a woman who knew she had a huge debt she owed to God and she could never even begin to repay Him, but who put her faith in Jesus. This woman was well aware of her guilt and her need for forgiveness. She knew she had to come to Jesus for the forgiveness she desperately wanted and needed.

For some, believing that God will forgive every sin is difficult to accept as true. Why? Here are several reasons to consider:

• We doubt that God will ever accept us after what we’ve done. We think that our sin is too big or too awful for God to forgive.

• We continually repeat our sin, feeling trapped in a never-ending cycle of defeat and despair.

• We fail to grasp the holiness of God and His hatred of sin so we fail to see our sin as a direct offense against God.

• We attempt to establish our own standard of righteousness and feel defeated and unforgiveable when our performance doesn’t measure up to our satisfaction.

• We fail to grasp the depth of God’s forgiving grace through the sacrifice of His Son’s life.

Jill was grateful for God’s forgiveness, but wrestled with this thought: “I just can’t forgive myself for the things I’ve done.” Very often we feel regret, shame, and condemnation for the things we’ve done that have caused us and others pain and heartache. It feels like we need to forgive ourselves, but it’s a misconception that we have wronged ourselves. Our sin is against God (and possibly others), and it’s His forgiveness that we need. We may feel the need to forgive ourselves so that we can feel better about ourselves, but nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to do this. Forgiveness was purchased for us at the cross because ultimately our sin is against God.

In order to get past the regret we have regarding our sin, we have to keep our heart and mind focused on the cross and what Jesus did for us there. When the devil wants to remind us of battles lost and tries to rub our noses in our failures, we can confidently say to him, “I am worse than you think, but I have a GREAT BIG GOD who is bigger than all my sin. He has washed me and made me whiter than snow through the blood of Jesus Christ!”

But what if I don’t feel forgiven?  Forgiveness is a fact, just like guilt is a fact. I don’t always feel guilt when I am guilty, nor will I always feel forgiven when I confess my sin to God and He forgives me. There may be residual regret and possibly painful consequences that are reminders of our sin. But we have to focus on the truth of God’s Word: if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we base our forgiveness on feelings, what does that say about what Christ has done for us? Could we be saying that not only did He have to die for our sin, but now He has to give us the feelings we desire in order to believe and/or feel we are forgiven? Are we saying that what He has already done was not enough? We can certainly spend a lot of time trying to feel good about ourselves, but that should not be the goal. We are to humbly live by faith in the truth, not faith in our feelings!  

We have to help our counselees focus on God’s Word and pray that the Holy Spirit will renew their minds with the truth so that they can walk in the light and in the precious freedom of God’s forgiveness.

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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. 

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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

Last year I had the privilege of presenting at the International Association of Biblical Counselors annual conference in Denver, Colorado and 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 and was originally published in August of 2018.

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

 

A Biblical First Response to Domestic Abuse by James Maxwell

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.

Abuse. It’s an ugly word for an ugly category of sin, but it is not a word used frequently in the King James Bible. In fact, the noun spelled “abuse” is not there at all. The verb “abuse” is found three times, twice relating to how King Saul feared the Philistines might treat his body, and once relating to the wrong way for a pastor to execute the duties of his office.

English is a nuanced language, and word use changes over time. In 1611 the words “knew his wife” were generally followed by the word “conceived.” What a difference 400 years can make! If I met a man today who told me he knew my wife in high school, I would be pleased to meet him. Word usage does change over time.

A biblical word that is close to what counselors see in domestic “abuse” is the word “oppress.” For example, Psalm 103:6 says, “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” God sees oppression as an evil act requiring intervention by someone more powerful than the oppressor.

Certainly we are to “Recompense no man evil for evil” (Romans 12:17), but what shall we do? God also expects His people to submit to the authorities He ordains in their lives. What, then, is a biblical response for a Christian to respond to oppression by those to whom God has entrusted some level of authority? (Certainly, the Lord entrusts husbands with some level of authority in marriage.) Can we find examples in the Bible?

Perhaps we would do well to start with the Master. What did Jesus do when the Jews of His day sought to oppress or abuse Him?

Mark 3 opens with Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath.

Mark 3:6-7a

“And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea.

Jesus went where his abusers were not.

In Luke 4 Jesus presented Himself and His ministry to the leaders in Nazareth.

Luke 4:28-31

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.”  

Jesus went where his abusers were not.

Jesus plainly made Himself equal with the Father, and once again the Jews wanted to kill Him.

John 10:30-41

I and my Father are one.

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.

When the Father called Him to the cross, Jesus obeyed, but until that time He went where his abusers were not.

Of course, Jesus IS God, and the Jews had no authority over Him. He chose when to lay His life down and when to take it up again, but what of the early church? Did Christians under Caesar, and the Jews with his authority simply submit to authority and suffer well? There was a persecution after the death of Stephen.

Acts 8:1

“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judæa and Samaria, except the apostles.

There was no prayer meeting or discussion. The followers of Christ went where their abusers were not.

Saul became Paul. What of Paul? He, through the Holy Spirit instructed us to submit to the higher powers and warned us that in failing to do so we could be subject to condemnation (the Bible word is “damnation”) of God. He fled at least twice.

Acts 9:23-25

“But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.  And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

Acts 14:5-7

And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, they were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: and there they preached the gospel.”

Until the Holy Ghost made Paul’s direction to Jerusalem plain, it was his habit to go where his abusers were not. Paul, by all accounts was a diminutive man with ailments. II Corinthians 10 indicates that his bodily presence was “weak.” What of the sword swinging giant of a fisherman we know as the Apostle Peter? The Lord would use him to instruct us about submitting to authority.

I Peter 2:13-15

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Would Herod fall in that category above? The Lord led Peter to go where his God ordained authority, and abuser was not.

Acts 12:7-11

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.  When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

An angel took Peter where his abuser was not, and Peter sought safety in the church. Can the oppressed find safety in your church?

There may be no better example of a follower fleeing the power of abuser than David fleeing Saul. I Samuel 18-20 gives the account of how the king, “God’s anointed”, as David called him, proved himself to be danger to David. The crowned prince, Jonathan, helped David know Saul’s intentions, and then risked his own life to help David flee. For the rest of Saul’s life, David went where his abuser, the King of Israel, was not. The man after God’s own heart did not sweetly submit to his abuser; he fled.

God did ordain authority. Malachi 2 discusses His judgement for violence in marriage and for abuse of the position men had in Jewish courts. In Romans 13 He ordained government as His servants to protect the person of individuals.

Common sense had already given us the conclusion. We knew it before we began, but because those who believe God’s Word hold marriage in such high esteem, it is fitting that we examine the Scriptures. Having done so, we must conclude that wives have the right to safety from oppression. Mathew 18 and I Corinthians 6 are among passages that would put at least part of the burden of enforcing such safety upon the church.

What to do after a wife has gone where her abuser is not is an excellent topic for another day. For now, let it suffice to say that we serve a God who wants judgment for all that are oppressed.”

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. 

Free Indeed: A Survivor Story

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.

What a difference a year can make. Last New Year’s Eve, my husband physically assaulted me in our new home. This wasn’t the first time of course. I’d been involved in this sick dance for several years at this point. But, something inside my head and heart clicked into place during this (final) New Year’s Eve assault. One, I thought, “you will never touch me again after this night.” Two, “if my daughter and granddaughter were assaulted this way and I knew about it, I would physically remove them from the situation; no matter what it cost. Why then, did I think that I was worth less than that?”

New Year’s Day 2018 started the toughest journey of my life. After fasting (intermittently) and praying for 4 days, I decided to file for divorce. (This was after 2 years of intense counseling trying to save the marriage). I prayed, “Lord, if this is the wrong decision, please close the doors. I don’t know what else to do. He keeps saying he’s changing, but his actions speak louder than his words.”

And the doors stayed wide open the entire year. My husband (now ex) never apologized or took responsibility for his actions. Not once did he admit to what he had been doing to me; physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Not once did he show remorse or shame or brokenness.  All he wanted was money and what I could do for him.

Talk about seeing things clearly. There is still a part of my heart that loves him and because of that love and the vows I took before God, I desperately fought for him (and me) to get well. My dream was that we could heal and mentor other couples in the same situation we were in. But, that was not to be. See, I know that God’s love can change anyone (I’ve seen it over and over again). I know that the love of a good woman can change a man. But, what I forgot about, was “free will.” He chose to break his marital vows by his actions. He chose himself over me and my children. He chose “stuff” instead of relationship. And he didn’t love me even though he said he did. Love doesn’t stab you in the back. Love doesn’t lie about you to others. Love doesn’t physically assault you. Love isn’t cruel and controlling, manipulative and violent. Love is the opposite of these things.

I chose to walk away from an abusive relationship. It has been the toughest choice I’ve ever made, but also the best. I am free from bondage. I am free to love again. I am free to rebuild my life into something that I’m proud of. I am not only a survivor, but am thriving. I am an overcomer! Being abused by my intimate partner was a lesson I never wanted to learn. But, I’m grateful for the Gift I’ve been given. My eyes are open in ways I’ve never imagined. And I will never be the same. And for this, I am eternally grateful!

“I love you, God—

you make me strong.

God is bedrock under my feet,

the castle in which I live,

my rescuing knight.

My God—the high crag

where I run for dear life,

hiding behind the boulders,

safe in the granite hideout.

I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty,

and find myself safe and saved.

The hangman’s noose was tight at my throat;

devil waters rushed over me.

Hell’s ropes cinched me tight;

death traps barred every exit.

A hostile world! I call to God,

I cry to God to help me.

From his palace he hears my call;

my cry brings me right into his presence—

a private audience!”

Psalm 18:1-6 MSG


“But me he caught—reached all the way

from sky to sea; he pulled me out

Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,

the void in which I was drowning.

They hit me when I was down,

but God stuck by me.

He stood me up on a wide-open field;

I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

God made my life complete

when I placed all the pieces before him.

When I got my act together,

he gave me a fresh start.

Now I’m alert to God’s ways;

I don’t take God for granted.

Every day I review the ways he works;

I try not to miss a trick.

I feel put back together,

and I’m watching my step.

God rewrote the text of my life

when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.”

Psalm 18:16-24 MSG


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.

How Giving Impacts Dignity of God’s Children By Megan Cox

Today’s post is by Megan Cox, Founder and executive director of Give Her Wings. We are so thankful for Megan’s willingness to share her story with us and pray that God will use her words and ministry to bless you.

When I came home to our small home with the children, it was the middle of the Little-House On-The-Prairie-icy-cold winter of Nebraska. I had just picked up my two littles from afterschool care and my two tinies from after-preschool care. The wind was cutting as I watched through watery eyes . . . my children tottering in their snowsuits up the patio to the front door. On the steps was a black garbage bag. I lugged a handful of school backpacks in, made sure all of the kids were safely inside and looked around. Back then, I felt afraid all of the time. Deep, irrational fear that one of the kids would wander off or be taken. It is hard to be afraid all the time and be the only parent-eyes on four little ones. I looked up and down the street, wondering who had left the pile on our doorstep. I examined the bag and finally, I dragged it in and closed and locked the door. The kids gathered round as I opened it and began pulling out used clothes. Faded clothes. Ripped clothes. Jeans with holes. Worn out shoes (not our sizes). And I wept. I was thankful to whomever thought of us. At the same time, this would mean (yet another) trip to Goodwill for me because most of the things given us were not the right sizes and they would not hold up. I did not want my children looking poor, even though we were poor and I felt poor. I was already having to stand up for them at the elementary school because of a rough PE teacher who knew they were fatherless. I tried to keep their hair looking nice. I kept them clean and fed. I wanted others to know that these were loved children, even though we had almost nothing. This gift was not a blessing to me, somehow, even though I knew that the motivation was well-intentioned.

One of our mamas tells a story about how, years ago, her son needed clothes. When we asked how we could serve her, that was what she told us. We would pay her bills but we were also determined that her boy would be dressed in what he needed and in the perfect size. When she received her package, she was deeply touched. She said to me:

When GHW asked what my kids needed, I had said it was something nice to wear for church like khakis and a collared shirt . . . We usually wore hand me downs from friends. When I opened the package and saw new beautiful dress pants and a new shirt for church, I cried. Because it took strangers, who never even met us, to say we were worth more than the man who is their husband/father had treated us. I never thought I would receive a NEW pair of pants for him. I thought you all would send me something used. It had been so long since we received something new.

This amazing woman is now serving abuse victims but she has never forgotten that God loves to give His children good gifts.

At Give Her Wings, we have two statements: a mission statement and a giving statement. Our giving statement is thus:

Give Her Wings gives with dignity, generously and elegantly, showing each mama that she is worth the extra added effort and nice touches. When we give, we stress the honor we have that we have this opportunity to serve one of God’s princesses.

We focus on how we give for several reasons:

1. Our mamas have dignity, created in the image of God and beloved by Him. They are His daughters. We recognize that we are serving the daughters of a King and we care, very much, about how we give to daughters of kings.

2. Receiving a gift or a card reminds them of who they are. Our mamas have been told they are nothing by many for years (sometimes decades). Being reminded of their identity in Christ is a gift, in and of itself.

One of our first mamas recounts how she received a card from my husband, five years ago:

“When I got home, there was an envelope waiting for me in the mailbox that wasn’t a bill. I dreaded checking the mail, every day, because it was all bills I couldn’t afford to pay. Or debt collectors. Seeing a hand-written card sparked a little bit of joy, in my heart, and took away my dread. But, what really drove me into tears was reading, ‘For ________, beautiful child of God.’ I had forgotten who I was. For 27 years, I had not heard anything positive spoken about me.”

Twenty-seven years. Nothing but name-calling and ugliness and blame for twenty-seven years.

Since that day, we have addressed all of our mamas that way — reminding them that they are beloved, beautiful children of God. Adored by Him. Loved by Him. Redeemed by Him. I could not begin to describe how powerful this is. If all we did was embark on a ministry of reminding these amazing women of God’s love for them, that would be profoundly life-changing, standing alone. I know this. But, we do more. We give to them. We are a mercy ministry who helps pay their bills so they will be completely free from abuse and able to discover, on their own and with God, their worth in Christ.

We have the opportunity to help our mamas get on their feet financially, but we are also able to remind them of their preciousness, and nothing brings us more joy. If only they knew how we see them. If only they could grasp how honored we all feel to serve them — from the board to the staff to the ministry team. If only they could see themselves as God does . . . it is part of our mission. We consider that our mission — to remind them of their redemption. And, by doing so, to reveal the arms of Christ, just waiting for His daughter to run to them.

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10 NLT

Love,

Megan

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Megan Cox is Founder and Executive Director of Give Her Wings, Inc., a non profit that helps single mothers who have left abusive relationships. She is author of Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse and has an MAR in Pastoral Counseling. She is certified in crisis response with the AACC.

Learn more about Give Her wings at giveherwings.com


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

 

 

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