As you know, most of the domestic abuse victims we hear from are women. Abusers are most often men. But not always. We have dealt with cases in which the woman was clearly the abuser, and in some ways it is even more difficult for men to understand what is happening to them and to ask anyone for help.
The typical male abuser who contacts us, wants our help in pressuring his wife to remain married to him. He has normally already gained his church as his ally and he is seeking to make us his ally, or at least to cause us to doubt his victim’s report to us.
In this post, I am publishing a letter from a pastor and an assistant pastor which was written to a man in their congregation. This man, whom we will call Jim, went to them for help. His wife was a classic abuser. Jim’s goal in contacting us was not to help him keep control and power over his wife, but to help him understand what God’s will is for him in his marriage. Therefore, none of the typical elements of a male abuser trying to dupe us into helping him are present in this case, but just the reverse.
All satire here is my doing, not the victim’s. All hostility from Screwtape and Wormwood is to be directed at me and I will be happy to counter additional twistings of God’s Word that they attempt to launch. I have changed the names, but otherwise this is an actual letter showing the typical kind of oppression a domestic abuse victim receives at the hands of their pastors. I could write a long essay about the many falsehoods in this letter, but I will just post it for now and you all can comment and share your insights. Let’s help everyone see the errors and biblical twistings this letter contains. Oh, and the few boldface all-caps comments are mine – at points that I couldn’t resist saying something.
Pastor Screwtape, PhD
Anytown First Church
Re: Your Divorce
Myself and my associate, Wormwood, thought that it is important that we establish in writing to you our response to your decision to divorce your wife. We are both cognizant sympathetic with regard to the pain and difficulty that you (both) have been experiencing and it is has been our desire to help you through these matters as the Lord has set forth in His Word. This continues to be our desire, although your intention to proceed with this action will prevent our ability to serve you in this way within the body of our church. This matter is of such importance not only for you and your wife, but also for our church and for us as pastors to lead biblically the church that belongs to our Lord Jesus.
We thank you for your willingness to have communicated with us through these past few months as this problem surfaced and escalated. We have attempted to be faithful to you, to your wife, and to our Lord. You have met us and written to us even though you knew that your course of action would be withstood by us, and you have considered our words and arguments. For this we are grateful. But it is our duty and concern to express clearly what we believe to be the course of action your Lord would have you take given your circumstances. And so, please consider the following matters.
First, it is the will of God that you do not divorce your wife. As we have emphasized repeatedly, the Lord has permitted divorce (and remarriage) for one reason only, that being “sexual immorality” (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Although some good men disagree, we have emphasized that Paul did not add to our Lord’s one exception in addressing the church at Corinth. [YES HE DID ADD A NEW SCENARIO] He wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:10f, “A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” Your intention to divorce Your wife transgresses this clear command of our Lord.
Second, the grounds that you claim to have for divorcing your wife are not taught in the Scriptures. Again, the Lord gave the one exception in which He permits divorce (and remarriage). As stated, there are those who also believe that Paul allows for divorce when one spouse physically abandons his/her spouse. We disagree with this view, for it would mean that the Lord Jesus did not get it right, for He said there was but one exception that permitted divorce. But you have “invented” a third reason for divorce. You have indicated that you have biblical grounds for divorcing your wife because she has spiritually abandoned you. I know of no reputable biblical scholar that advocates that this is the teaching of Holy Scripture.
Third, the Word of God commands you to love your wife regardless of whether or not she responds to you in the manner that you expect of her. Christ loved us and won us to Himself when we were wholly in our sin, when we had no love or regard for Him. We came to love Him because He first loved us fully, sacrificially, and patiently. [BUT HE BROUGHT US TO REPENTANCE!]
Fourth, similarly, we are to overcome evil by doing good.
Fifth, where you believe that the degree of your suffering has given you the right to divorce your wife, the Scriptures teach you that you are to expect suffering and endure suffering, not to escape it. To escape the pain that comes in marriage is not biblical. [JUST WHAT KIND OF MARRIAGES DO SCREWTAPE AND WORMWOOD HAVE? I GUESS THEY ASSUME MARRIAGE IS A LIVING HELL]. Moreover, the Lord looks favorably upon the Christian who endures persecution patiently. In fact, the Lord has called each of His own to suffer for His sake. “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21f). Christ has set forth a clear example that you are to emulate. You are to bestow true love toward your wife, bestowing on her mercy, exhibiting patience, enduring ignorance, resistance, hostility, opposition, and yes, even cruelty and psychological abuse.
Similarly, sixth, your decision to divorce Your wife transgresses the very nature of the Christian life.—denying yourself. Our Lord declared, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:23-24). Take note, our salvation is involved. Those with true, saving faith are to deny themselves. This means that you are not to order your life with your desires, interests, and concerns as foremost. Those with true saving faith must be willing to suffer daily and continually follow Him—“take up his cross daily. We cannot say, “I have done enough, I will now lay aside my cross of suffering.” To do so you cease following the Lord as His disciple. The Lord declared that those who fail or refuse this life of a disciple will be “destroyed” or “lost”. In other words, he will not have salvation. [JIM, YOU WILL GO TO HELL IF YOU DIVORCE YOUR WIFE]
Seventh, as you have discovered deficiencies and defects in your wife you have used these as reasons to justify divorcing her. You should regard these matters as the Lord revealing to you how and wherein you are to serve her, to help her become the woman and wife that she is capable of becoming by the grace of God. The Lord has called you into this marriage relationship to serve her and be used by Him to help her grow in the grace and knowledge of her Lord. [THAT WOULD BE THE HOLY SPIRIT’S JOB, NOT JIM’S]
Eight, in order to divorce your wife, you must break your solemn vow to her and to the Lord when you entered marriage with her. We read to you from Ecclesiastes 5 – “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words. 4When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—
5Better not to vow than to vow and not pay. 6Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?” (Ecc. 3:1-6) [BUT JIM, IT IS OK FOR YOUR WIFE TO BREAK HER VOWS TO YOU]
This is a most serious transgression of God’s will. You swore before God that you would love her for better or for worse until death do you part. That vow was not conditioned on whether or not the other spouse fulfilled expectations. God will hold you accountable to your commitment to Him and to her. [JIM, YOU ARE STUCK IN THE CONTRACT AND SHE CAN DO WHATEVER SHE WANTS]
Your belief that we do not really understand the nature and degree of your wife’s sin is not valid. Rather, if we assume that everything you say regarding her is true, we are saying that biblically her condition does not warrant you divorcing her. As Christ is sanctifying His bride, so the husband has the responsibility to lovingly lead his wife to become all that she should be and can be through His grace. In marrying your wife you assumed this responsibility and accountability before the Lord.
What, then, is the course you should take? We would urge you to humble yourself before the lord, reaffirm to your wife your commitment to love her and serve her. We will do all that we are able to do with the Lord’s help to encourage and assist you. [JIM, YOU MUST REMAIN IN BONDAGE. YOU MUST SERVE YOUR ABUSER]
Now we have written very directly about these matters because of the seriousness of your situation and the terrible consequences for not addressing these matters according to the will of God. We will continue to pray for you. Let us know if you desire our further help.
If you continue on the course that you have indicated to us, we will need to bring the matter up before our gathered church in order to dismiss you from formal membership of our body. Obviously we do not desire this to happen. But it is what is necessary for us as we attempt to follow the Holy Scriptures in these matters. [JIM, DO WHAT WE SAY OR WE ARE GOING TO HAND YOU OVER TO SATAN]
Thankfully in Christ,
Pastors Screwtape and Wormwood