With some regularity I hear from people who tell me that they are on board with this issue of domestic abusers hiding in the church. They are excited that their pastor has “really had his eyes opened” and is “promising to stand with abuse victims.” And I have heard the same from various well-known Christian counseling ministries.
I don’t believe most of them. And when I say so, let me tell you, I lose friends and I do not gain any popularity with the “happening” crowds in Christendom. They accuse me of being narrow and arrogant, as if “only I know anything.”
But the truth is, I do know that they still cannot be trusted to stand with victims of abuse. How do I know, you ask? I will tell you. Three things. There are just three things that you need to find out – and then you will know too. Ready? [If they fail at any ONE of these, they fail all]
- Does this pastor/counselor/church freely acknowledge that abuse is grounds for divorce? Or do you discern that even if they don’t come right out and say “God hates divorce” (not in the Bible by the way), nevertheless they will only talk about “separation” for abuse. I have found that pastors and counselors and so-called experts on domestic abuse dance all around the D-I-V-O-R-C-E word.
- Does this pastor/counselor/church freely permit an abuse victim to decide for herself to divorce her abuser, or will they be upset if she decides that she does not want to be married to this abuser and files for divorce? In other words, do they indicate that she must have their permission to divorce?
- Does this pastor/counselor/church inject themselves into her life and marriage, insisting that she allow them to “shepherd” her by counseling the abuser, counseling her, and in general working to “redeem” the marriage and fix the abuser?
If any one of these elements is present in your pastor or church leaders then you can be sure that in the end they will not stand with you. Oh they can be soooo nice and sound sooooo loving and supportive, UNTIL it gets right down to the wire, your abuser has not changed, their fix efforts have failed (as they always will) and you announce you are filing for divorce. So save yourself much grief by finding the answer to these questions early on. And watch out for hesitation and stammering when they give an answer. Don’t accept halfway answers.