Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” (17) The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; (18) for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” John 4:16-18
Ok, this is a dangerous subject. It’s dangerous because I run a real risk of being misunderstood, having an unmerciful and uncaring attitude toward victims of abuse. Some readers might think that I am in company with the old school of thinking that a rape victim “brought it on herself.” I hope that isn’t true, but then I’m not infallible. With that said, let me just state my thesis –
“If we obey God’s Word, especially His commandments regarding sex and marriage, we go a long way in protecting ourselves from the abuser. Conversely, when we violate God’s commandments, we make ourselves very vulnerable to the tactics and deceptions of an abusive person.”
As I read victim’s stories, with some regularity I notice that their initial relationship with the abuser broke the instructions of God’s Word about sex and marriage. NOT always and perhaps for Christian victims, perhaps not even that frequently. For any victims reading this article, I remind all of us of God’s forgiveness and grace in Christ for all who believe in Christ and repent of going their own way. Christ does not intend for us to be weighed down forever by the load of our past sins and foolishness.
I like to read Ann Rule’s true crime books. Numbers of them, like Dead by Sunset and Too Late to Say Goodbye [*affiliate links], are sad stories of horribly wicked sociopath abusers who ultimately killed their victims. As you read them, you find yourself wanting a time machine so you can go back there and take the guy out before he kills her. But, that cannot be. Anyway, in these true stories, I read about women who gave into the abuser’s wiles and engaged in sexual relations with them outside of marriage, moved in with them without being married, and sometimes did so while the abuser was still married to someone else. Let me say again – I fully understand the incredibly deceptive tactics of these kinds of abusers, and how easy it is to get drawn in by them. To pity them. To be charmed by them. They are really a kind of “spell-caster.” I know this and I don’t deny it.
However, God’s Word is very clear on basic points. Sex is only for a man and a woman committed by marriage covenant to one another. A man and a woman are not to live under the same roof in a romantic relationship unless they are married. In fact, apart from some possible rare exceptions (caring for an invalid, etc), it is not wise for a woman to live in the same residence as a man who is not her husband. One wonderful young woman ended up being drawn in by a murderous, incredibly evil man when she agreed to live in his house as a hired nanny. The man was going through a divorce at the time.
In addition, God makes it quite plain that a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian (Romans 7). We are not to be bound together with unbelievers –
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (15) What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Of course we realize that many abuse victims got deceived into a marriage with an unbeliever who was hiding behind a Christian facade. (It is my opinion that a classic abuser CANNOT be a Christian). But today it seems that young people, and even some older ones, profess Christ and yet they insist upon knowingly marrying an unbeliever, and those marriages are being accepted by pastors and churches and other Christians. I recently heard of a case in which a young woman who professes to be a Christian intentionally, and against the advice of the elders of her church, married a non-Christian. The pastor of the church would not do the ceremony – to his credit – however, one elder and his wife put on a gala reception for her and invited the whole church to it! When a Christian marries a non-Christian, they can be increasing their chance of entering into an abusive relationship. Not always – but the thing is not right in God’s sight. His Word is very clear on this.
A very good test of the character of a person is to refuse to violate God’s Word in our relationships with them. If a woman, for example, refuses to commit sexual immorality with a man and insists upon honoring God’s wisdom in her relationships, an abusive man is not going to like it at all. He will see early on that this is a woman whom he cannot manipulate. She is going to obey God rather than man. And, if she is fortunate enough to have a godly man as a father, she will have further protection if she includes him in her decisions. I know a man who ended up marrying a terribly abusive woman who ruined his life and family – with continuing ramifications even to this day – and he did so against the advice of some of his best Christian friends. She was a pastor’s daughter and a real manipulator and a very, very abusive person.
Now, once more – I realize that there are godly, Christian women (and men) who have worked very hard to obey the Lord in their life, and especially in regard to sex and marriage and family. Yet they got fooled by an evil, abusive man. This does happen. I do believe however that if our churches were what they should be and if we were teaching our people about the ploys of the enemy and what abuse looks like and operates, we could do much to minimize these sad situations. To abusers who have deceived and victimized a Christian woman (or even a non-Christian woman!), I say, your Day is coming. You have touched the apple of Christ’s eye, and if you think that you are going to get away with it, you are most surely going to find out differently. In due time, you will slip. There are thousands of ways for God to take you out of this life in a moment, and then what will you do? Your lies and facades will be nothing then, as you stand before the One whose eye sees into the very depth of your being. Nothing is hidden from Him, and you will give account.
For now, we must be wise. Obey God’s Law. It is life.