Dear Jack: A Letter to an Abusive Husband
I pray this letter finds you in good health, sound mind, and quiet heart.
I’m writing on behalf of your wife, Jill, the elders, and all your brothers and sisters in the church family. We are all greatly concerned about your abuse and mistreatment of Jill. And I would like to take this opportunity to address you as a pastor, a man, and a father.
As a pastor, I want to lovingly communicate to you two messages. First, stop abusing Jill. As you know, our church family takes a “zero tolerance” approach to marital abuse. Your hands were not made for battering your wife, but for beautifying her. It’s never permissible under any circumstance for you to raise your hand toward your wife in anger or abuse or in any way other than to caress her in love or help her in strength. Never. Under any circumstance. You must commit to no longer battering Jill, who is made in God’s image, who was purchased by Christ’s blood, and who is your sister in Christ. Continuing to sin against your wife in this way will result in further police involvement (I have already counseled Jill to file a police report) and the church pursuing corrective love. A better result would be a clear and tangible commitment on your part to stop abusing Jill.
Second, get help in learning to love Jill. As a church, we are committed to fighting for every marriage in our congregation. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to help the two of you enjoy a reconciled and fully loving marriage as Christ intends. We’re prepared to do that over the long haul. With Jill, we have taken steps to make a safe place available for her to live. Her safety is our first priority, but it’s not our only priority. We hope also to support you both in experiencing the healing and wholeness Christ provides. So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to meet with me, any elder, or any one of the trained counselors in the church who have from time-to-time helped others through this pattern of sin, anger, and control. If we need additional resources beyond the local church, we’re prepared to locate and provide them. We’ll put everything the church has behind you and Jill if you’ll commit to getting some help. If you’re abusing your wife, brother, you’re not well. You need to locate the root of the difficulty in your own heart and learn to live in the grace and power that God provides. We want to help you do that. Will you allow us?
Can I also say just a couple words as a father of two beautiful daughters? If Jill were my daughter, I’m afraid I’d be writing this letter from my prison to your hospital room. I know: pastors aren’t supposed to say stuff like that. But I can’t think of a better way to communicate how horrible and dark your treatment of Jill has been, and how sudden and violent God’s judgment would be as He looks on Jill, His daughter, and considers your abuse of her. I know my anger would be a pale and sinful picture of God’s. But that’s what’s most frightening: God’s anger would be perfect, just, and omnipotent. I fear that for you just as I fear the welfare of someone who would harm my girls. My girls are 14 and 12. They’re bright, energetic, funny, quick to serve, curious and outgoing. I imagine those are some of the things you’ve admired in Jill. As a father, I want my girls to be with a man who multiplies and nourishes those qualities in them. To do otherwise would be to slowly tread these beautiful creatures under foot, it would be to kill them slowly. The husband who does that is a gardener who tramples his rose bed with heavy work boots. I wouldn’t want such a husband for my daughters, and God doesn’t want that for His.
Finally, I also want to speak to you as a fellow man, a brother in the Lord and fellow traveler in this journey called “manhood.” I find being a man just about the most difficult and high-pressured thing in life. I feel like I’m often one-step behind or one wrong decision from completely ruining everything. It seems to me that a lot of us live with a seething undercurrent of fear and anger. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but no temptation has befallen you that isn’t common to others of us. You’re not a monster, and you’re not alone.
But feelings of anger, control, and frustration express themselves in a number of ways: from abdicating responsibility to fleeing the relationship to abusing others. People often take out their frustrations and fears on those closest at hand–for husbands that can be the wife. We have to find a way to be sober, self-controlled, temperate, and respectable. That’s really at the heart of what it means for us to be men.
Let me say something to you that you may fear hearing: As a fellow man, while I can identify with some of the pressure, anger, and frustration you may be feeling, I do not respect your abuse of your wife. The abuse misrepresents Jesus, misrepresents husbands, and misrepresents marriage. In saying I don’t respect your abuse as a man, I’m not trying to discourage you further. 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.
Know, Jack, that we stand ready to help you and Jill. We will stand with Jill to keep her safe, connected to the church family, and full of hope for her future with you. We will stand with you to live as the man of God He calls you to be, to repair your marriage, and to be free of the things that have led to this painful time. We serve a God for whom nothing is too hard. Let us walk by faith, obeying His word, and expecting His grace. Please do be in touch right away.
With hope and with Christ,