“Why doesn’t she just leave?”
“If she won’t leave, then that’s her problem, not mine.
“I just don’t understand.”
I’ve heard people make these statements about abused women. It’s true, most people don’t understand.
Leaving means admitting to the world that you let the one person you should trust the most hit you repeatedly. In the Bible, this person is charged to love you as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-26). Everyone expresses shock when they learn of the abuse, but they don’t ever see the woman in the same light, again. She might as well be Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter.
Abusive spouses love to use the Bible to support their actions. They focus on Ephesians 5:22-24, though. Wives be subject to your husbands. They like that verse, and if their wife is a Christian, they use it to prove they have a right to do with her as they see fit.
But abusers don’t stop there. They point out that the Bible uses “he” not “she” claiming the Bible states their superiority plainly.
I hate to say it, but the church doesn’t help. It’s very hard to get a divorce, remain faithful, and continue to attend the same church. I went from being one of the youngest members of the young marrieds group to an outcast of the group. I wasn’t married. Married women saw me as a threat to their own marriage. Single women saw me as unfair competition for the pool of available men.
I no longer belonged.
At this time, believers, good Christian people, presented the following verse to me:
But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:32
Their point? Unless he had been unfaithful and committed adultery, I didn’t have a leg to stand on.
But what about domestic violence? Is that a matter of unfaithfulness? I’ve heard some people argue that it is. I will leave that one to the Bible scholars.
There is so much shame attached to being abused, and within the church, shame surrounds divorce. Even today. Imagine what it was like thirty years ago when I got my divorce. Is it any wonder that Christian women caught in an abusive marriage try to stay? These are the main reasons I stayed with my husband for four years of torment.
Thank goodness, I decided I had had enough.
Many, many years later, someone showed me a new Biblical perspective on divorce:
Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and the Spirit of God lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy and that is what you are. I Corinthians 3:16-17
My body is a temple for God. Should I remain in an abusive relationship and allow someone to destroy that temple? No!
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:19-22
If you look at the directives in the passage from James and combine it with the knowledge that our bodies are temples to God, then how can you stand by and allow someone to beat on you and curse you, to damage your body? How can you expose your children to such behavior? James says to rid yourself of this filth and evil. He reminds you to be doers not just hearers.
I do not believe God expects any man, woman, or child to live in a life of abuse, especially abuse from someone charged to love and care for them. I do not believe God expected me to stay for my husband’s good (I Peter 3:1), so that he might be saved through my actions. If anything, my actions in leaving him probably taught him more about the marriage relationship and God then if I had stayed and continued to submit.
What do you believe?