Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
You have all heard it over and over again, right? But he never physically abused her. Therefore what the abuser has done and continues to do is not a crime. It is not really even a sin in the thinking of most Christians. Just a small thing. As long as he doesn’t hit her. That’s the thing you see.
A friend recently sent me a link to a great article by Evan Stark entitled “Re-presenting Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty.” Stark is an associate professor of public administration, director of the master’s in public health program at Rutgers Universtiy-Newark and author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. What Stark is demonstrating is that most domestic abuse is non-physical and can most correctly be termed “coercive control.” Furthermore, he says that this coercive control (its presence and extent) is a far more accurate predictor of physical and fatal violence than other more traditionally tracked factors. And he proposes that our statutes and laws need to be reframed so as to make these non-physical coercive control tactics criminal. In other words, we need to be pro-active and take action against these less visible yet very damaging abuse tactics. [NOTE: Unfortunately Stark’s philosophy is that we can hold abusers to a level of accountability so they will fear to abuse and might even cease being abusers. He does not like the idea that abusers should be put out of the church, but we should strive to keep them present in the church so that we can hold them accountable when they abuse. Wrong. Unbiblical. Scripture is plain that we are to put evil out from among us].
In a sense, what Stark is saying is that we need to enforce the spirit of the law, not just the overt and outward act. And is that not exactly what the Apostle Paul is saying in the above Scripture – the Law is spiritual. Paul came to realize, in considering the 10th commandment, “you shall not covet,” that God’s Law requires heart/soul obedience, not just outward conformity. This is when he knew he was condemned and guilty whereas before, he was just sure that he was righteous by his law-keeping.
So then, we are led to ask, how is it that churches are limiting domestic abuse to outward, visible, tangible acts of physical abuse? Well, he never hit you did he? That is as if to say, it is only a sin if he physically abuses you. As long as he never lays hands on you, you have no grounds to complain.
Really? Is that how God views sin? Did not Christ say that murder and adultery are most often committed in the heart though there be no outward act? That the Pharisees were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones? But all this is apparently being ignored by pastors and churches who chant the mantra, “but he never actually physically abused you.”