As a pastor and church leader, I have a confession to make:
The church has not handled the matter of domestic violence well.
Let me be more specific:
1. We have not done a good job of helping to prevent domestic violence, of confronting it when it does occur nor of helping those involved – both the perpetrator and victim.
2. There has been too much ignorance about the prevalence of domestic violence. Many church leaders have failed to believe that it can happen, even in Christian homes.
3. There has been much erroneous teaching about ‘submission’, ‘authority’, and ’obedience’ in the home. This has led to a culture of silence and acceptance..
4. Preachers have not taught on this subject nor referred to it enough in their messages.
5. Pastors and church leaders have not been equipped to address this matter (I can’t remember learning much about it in Bible College nor in seminary) nor have they equipped their congregation members with proper responses should domestic violence occur.
6. Pastors have often emphasised forgiveness and repentance at the expense of a person’s welfare and safety. For instance, a mid-1980s survey of 5,700 pastors in the USA revealed that 26% of pastors would advise an abused wife to continue to submit to their husband and trust God to honour her action (by either the abuse naturally stopping or giving her strength to endure). More shockingly, 71% of pastors said they would never advise a battered wife to leave or separate from their husband because of abuse. Clearly, greater priority has been given to keeping families together rather than ending the violence.
Central to the Christian message is that we believe in the good news of Jesus Christ. The Son of God took on human form, lived among us, so that we can have LIFE (John 10:10)! Domestic violence not only causes great damage to the victim(s), it also hurts the heart of God because it is the very opposite of his sacrificial love and the abundant life he desires for us.
The Bible contains clear, unmistakable declarations against any form of physical, emotional or verbal abuse. It repeatedly calls on people to show kindness, generosity, and love to one another, and specifically condemns the abuse of wives and children. Domestic violence cannot be justified through the Bible and/or the Gospel of life and peace. The apostle Paul said: “As much as is possible, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes, peace is no longer possible and immediate separation may be the safest and wisest option.
Every church needs to adopt a NO tolerance stance towards any and all acts of domestic violence. We need to recognise the serious implications and consequences of domestic violence. This issue needs to be addressed and spoken about more frequently in order to raise awareness and help people break through the fear barrier. Training needs to be provided for all church staff and leaders, as well as the preparation of helpful resources for assistance. Every church needs to be a ‘safe place’ for people to find support and care.
Personally, I don't have all the answers. There is a lot to learn. Our church pastors and counselors are dialoguing about this matter so we can become a greater help to families facing domestic violence as well as be able to continue to help build healthy, strong families where domestic violence is prevented.
Please, join the conversation. Listen attentively. There is a lot of shame and fear involved with all of this. Speak up and speak out. Domestic violence has to STOP.
See also: Responding to Domestic Violence (June 2015)
Other Articles and Resources
- The Bible Abhors All Domestic Abuse by Sandy Grant
- Abuse Inside Christian Marriages – A Personal Story by Isabella Young
- Fixing Domestic Violence Loopholes
- 2015 Australian of the Year – Rosie Batty (Family Violence Campaigner). Watch a recent one hour special interview with Rosie on The Exchange TV with co-hosts Rob and Christie Buckingham.
If you are in an abusive situation:
- Contact the free DV hotline on 1800 656 463 (TTY 1800 671 442).
- Walk into your local police station.
- If you have been assaulted, call 000 immediately.