The Church, the Gospel, and Violence against Women
The United Nations designates November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Several folks weighed in on the this horrendous act of evil. Below are some links and excerpts:
Justin Holcomb, “A Hard Look at Violence against Women.”
The Bible teaches us that because of sin, suffering and violence entered the world. One expression of sin which is seen throughout Scripture and human history is the pervasive male domination of and violence against women. Here are some of the numerous ways that women around the world continue to experience violence and oppression. . . .
Russell Moore, “The Church and Violence against Women.”
Male violence against women is a real problem in our culture, one the church must address. Our responsibility here is not simply at the level of social justice but at the level of ecclesical justice as well.
We must teach from our pulpits, our Sunday school classes, and our Vacation Bible Schools that women are to be cherished, honored, and protected by men. This means we teach men to reject American playboy consumerism in light of a Judgment Seat at which they will give account for their care for their families. It means we explicitly tell the women in our congregations, “A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.”
Owen Strachan, “Why Abusive Men Repudiate True Manhood: Letter to an Abusive Husband.”
Your present pattern, Bob, looks like Satanic headship. You are attacking and tearing down. The biblical pattern is Christic headship, sacrificial, others-centered, offered in order that others might flourish and thrive. If you do not cease your ways, the elders of your church will “deliver [you] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5:6). If you are bent on destroying your loved ones, you will face the prospect of a life outside the church, which places the soul in danger of eternal destruction if gospel repentance does not happen. . . .
Repent of your sin. It is a stench in God’s nostrils. Were it not for your worth as an image-bearer, I would find it difficult not to threaten harm to you myself, and to bring many men with me. As things stand, if you continue your pattern of abuse, I will indeed bring men with me, and we will rescue your wife and family, and we will not allow you to harm them. We will bring the full force of the law crashing down upon you. We are men of God; we are not weak; we are leaders and protectors of wives and children. The Lord has saved us from our own wickedness and transformed us to be good to those he has given us. As men of God, we are not scared of you. We will surely stand up to you. We urge you to stop your abuse, repent of your sin, and leave the pattern of destruction you have begun.
Mike Cosper, “Abuse and the (Complementarian) Christian Response“:
First—your membership in this church offers you no shelter or comfort. I might come visit you—whether in jail or at your home—but it won’t be to reassure you of anything but a call to repentance. I am encouraging your wife to distance herself from you until you demonstrate repentance. Apart from that, I see no reason to encourage her to get anywhere near you. It may be true that some wife-beaters have sought the shelter of pastors and churches, calling abuse a private matter, and avoiding legal consequences. I have no intentions of allowing such shelter. The authorities will be involved.
Second—as a member in this church, you’ve signed a covenant that invites church discipline in this situation. This means that your pastors are committed to helping protect your wife from you, and we will instigate a process that—apart from demonstrable repentance on your part—will end with you being removed from membership. One who lives in unrepentant sin (like spousal abuse) should take no comfort from the gospel, because their life bears no fruit of the gospel. We’ll invite the church to treat you as an unbeliever, and to call you to repentance when they see you. As a whole community,we are united in believing that your sins are devastatingly dangerous for your soul and for the witness of the church in the world. These concerns are why we would carry out this discipline.
Third—many abusers justify their abuse with a list of their spouses “sins”—nagging, refusal to submit, etc. Some Christian men even attempt to justify domineering and abusive behavior with the Bible. I want to disabuse you of any such justification, starting with a Bible passage that might (at first glance) appear as part of your defense. Ephesians 5:22-28. . . .
Matt Smethurst, “Don’t Mess with Her, Man.”
“[The LORD's] soul hates . . . the one who loves violence” (Ps. 11:5).
That last verse is particularly scary, isn’t it? You’d think it would simply say God hates violence. Instead, it says God hates the violent. He hates wife-beaters.
No matter how it’s spun, abusing women is unacceptable. Always. No asterisks.
God calls husbands to love their wives (Col. 3:19; Eph. 5:25, 33), to enjoy them (Eccl. 9:9), to understand them (1 Pet. 3:7), to honor them (1 Pet. 3:7), to nourish them (Eph. 5:29), to cherish them (Eph. 5:29), to provide for them (1 Tim. 5:8), to praise them (Prov. 31:28), and, well, you get the point.
Brothers, may the Lord deliver us from ever tolerating a pugnacious coward who would dare damage one of his beautiful image-bearers.
Jonathan Leeman, “Violence against Women and Church Discipline“:
How should a church respond to the case of a husband abusing his wife, or man his daughter? Decisively and quickly.
A church should start by helping to remove a woman from a place where she will be harmed. Elders may choose to assist a woman find different accomodations merely if there is a threat of violence. If a woman has actually been assaulted, they should involve the police. Crimes against the body fall within the jurisdiction of the state (Rom. 13:1-7), and Christians can thank God that we live in a time when the state actually takes interest in such matters.
As in other cases of clear and unrepentant sin, abuse can and often should be grounds for excommunication from the church. Rather than simply explain this, I thought it might be helpful to offer a sample of the kind of church discipline letter our church will send. (This particular letter does not refer to an actual situation.) No doubt, a letter like the following presumes that the elders have already been working with the individual, and for one reason or another they determine that the man’s profession of faith is no longer credible by virtue of his actions.
Mary Kassian, “Statement on Abuse“:
Would you take a moment right now to pray for the women in your church? Pray that any abusive relationships may come to light, and that abuse may not remain hidden. Pray for abused women to have the courage to seek help. Pray for the leaders and counselors to know how to wisely deal with each situation. Pray for the power of God to bring insight, clarity, deliverance and healing. Pray that the church may seek to reflect the loving, protective heart of God, and work for the elimination of violence against women.
Mark Driscoll, “Men, Don’t Give Women a Reason to Fear You“:
If he’s ever even threatened you with violence, there is something profoundly demonic influencing that man. There is something sincerely wrong in that man. If you start to leave, he will likely apologize, shed a few tears, and say it will never happen again. But then he will subtly shift the blame to you: “You know when you do that, it just makes me really angry. Don’t do that again.”
Don’t listen to him. It’s never your fault. It doesn’t matter what you say or do, if a man hits you or harms you, he’s in sin. No excuse.
Thabiti Anyabwile, “Dear Jack: A Letter to an Abusive Husband“:
I’m trying to bring to light what you must surely be feeling about yourself. How can you respect yourself as a man if you’re resorting to beating the woman that loves you? Surely you can’t. And it’s pretending that you do respect yourself or demanding that others should respect you that will keep you locked in the entangling sins of anger and abuse. The pretending is a heavy blanket of self-deception. So, as a fellow man, I’m offering you a way to admit your struggles to one who shares some of them and to be free from the pretending that keeps us trapped. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be a man that has it all together while feeling inside everything is coming apart. One man to another: here’s a way out. Take it.
For pastors looking for gospel-centered resources on counseling both the perpetrator and the victim, you can order the following articles from CCEF:
David Powlison and Paul David Tripp, “How Should You Counsel a Case of Domestic Violence? Helping the Perpetrator”
Guidelines for helping the perpetrator of domestic violence. Define the common need for grace carefully. Penetrate the fog of confusion and evasion. Bring the word of grace in Jesus Christ that aims for fundamental restructuring of heart and lifestyle.
Brief guidelines for helping a person who has been violated. First, hear the cries of the oppressed. Second, teach the oppressed to put their hope in God. Third, teach the oppressed to “disarm” the abuser by bold godliness in the love of Christ, rather than fluctuating between timidity and revenge. [Letter to the editor about this article in 16:1]
At the end of the day, let’s remember two truths: (1) God hates wife-beaters, and (2) Christ died for wife-beaters. Both statements are biblical. It has been too easy in the past to ignore sin and advert our eyes from this cowardly violence, functionally downplaying the first truth and the reality of biblical justice. And it may be too easy today to functionally downplay the second truth and the reality of biblical grace by not offering gospel hope to the repentant who have godly sorrow.