The Bible on Abuse & Violence
Many people think that the Bible has very little to say about abuse.
Quite often, if we as victims approach and confide in an elder, priest, or member of our Church, hoping for some support and encouragement, we can leave feeling even more guilty and trapped than we did formerly. We may be told that the abuse is due to our own lack of submissiveness, or our own sinfulness, that we would not suffer if our faith was greater, or that we will be rewarded in the next life for the suffering we experience in this one (!?!). I have heard of women who have been told earnestly by their vicar that it would be better for them to die at the hands of their abusive husband than to seek a separation and protection for their children!
When talking to Church members we have to realise that understanding of Domestic Abuse is still in its infant stages in many Churches, and that the majority of people (including elders, vicars and priests) still hold basic misconceptions regarding the dynamics of an abusive relationship and have formed their opinions less on what Scripture says, and more on those myths generally held in society. An added hurdle is to be found especially in the more fundamental denominations, where the mistaken belief is often that such things may happen "in the World", but not in a good Christian home!
The question, however, for every Christian person should not be what does our Church say about our situation, but what does the LORD say to us in the Bible, according to which both our Church should be based, and more importantly, according to which we, as individuals, should try to live?
The Bible condemns violence and violent men
Many passages in the Bible speak out on the issue of violence, and GOD's attitude toward those that repeatedly use violence:
Psalms 11:5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
Zephaniah 1:9 In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.
Psalms 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. Malachi 2:16-17 “I hate [...] a man’s covering his wife with
violence, as well as with his garment.” says the Lord Almighty...."You have wearied the Lord with your words.” “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying “all who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”. (NIV alternate translation)
In a similar way, 'wrath' or anger is condemned as being sinful, as is sexual abuse:
James 1:19,20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Ephesians 5:3-5 But fornication (note: that is to say, sexual immorality, including sexual abuse), and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God
What the Bible says about Verbal Abuse
Scripture also shows us that the very words we speak can be considered as a form of violence:
Proverbs 10:6 Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Matthew 5:21,22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire
As followers of Christ we are encouraged to consider everything we say to one another, whether it stands the test of being for the benefit of the hearer - verbal abuse surely does not qualify:Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
The LORD sympathises and offers comfort to those who are afflicted The LORD does hear our prayers, He does care when we cry. He is there to comfort, guide us and heal us.
Psalms 18:48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
2 Samuel 22:28 And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.
Psalms 22:24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
Psalms 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.
Psalms 72:14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
Psalms 103:6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
Psalms 146:7 Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The Church has a responsibility to hold abusers accountable and to help victims Firstly, the Church - and each individual follower of Christ - has a responsibility to offer comfort and help to those who are oppressed (by their partner), needy (of reassurance and protection), weak (due to the constant onslaught of abuse) and in distress.
Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Hebrews 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Proverbs 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
Jeremiah 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
Genesis 42:21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. Isaiah 35:3,4 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Secondly, the Church also has a responsibility to hold the abuser accountable, to admonish him, to judge (that is, to investigate and discern right from wrong) and to encourage the abuser to change his/her ways:
Romans 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. James 5:19,20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
1 Corinthians 6:1-3 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
As the above verses indicate, we, today, are encouraged to show a sinning Brother or Sister the error of their ways. In the Old Testament, those who had the position of being the spiritual guides of the God's people likewise had an obligation to warn those who were doing wrong of the consequences that would ensue if they did not change their ways. The words are non-compromising:
Ezekiel 3:17-19 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Thirdly, the manner in which the abuser is to be admonished (i.e. the spirit in which to approach him/her) is also spelled out for us Not one of us is perfect - our aim is not to condemn the person - whom Christ has called - but to condemn the actions, and try to encourage recognition of the sin, repentance and a change in ways:
2 Thessalonians 3:15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
We are to shun those that consistently oppress or wantonly harm others
Jesus laid out a clear and simple procedure to follow in the event of dealing with an erring brother (or sister!):
Mat. 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Those, who after several admonishings still stubbornly refuse to change their ways, are to be 'marked' or 'put away' - they are to be 'shamed' to the end that they realise the seriousness of their sin and repent:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
2 Thessalonians 3:14,15 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Note: in all our dealings and communication with someone who has sinned, with an abuser in this instance, we have to remember that the aim is ALWAYS to try to seek a change of heart and ways in them. Hence it is also our duty to continuously encourage the abuser to face up to his personal responsibility, to repent and to seek forgiveness, and thereby be healed. Unrepentant, they are as the lost sheep in Christ's parable:
Matthew 18:12-14 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
Scripture on how to treat each other
Christ has called us unto Peace, not fear, he has called us to follow his example of serving one another, not dominating each other, he has called us to Truth, not to deceit and hypocrisy. Christ has called us to Love, not to abuse.
Eph. 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Colossians 3:12,13 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
2 Peter 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
Matthew 18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
1 Peter 3:8 Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
Where not otherwise stated, all quotations have been taken from the King James Version of the Bible.No Place for Abuse - Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence , by Catherine Clark Kroeger & Nancy Nason-Clark, InterVarsity Press, Illinois
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This information is provided for guidance only and you are strongly recommended to seek suitable expert advice and help.