The following is a reply I wrote to a lady we’ll call Linda, who asked an excellent question about the meaning of 1 Peter 3:1-7 in light of Abraham’s encounter with Pharaoh when he instructed Sarah to say she was his sister. Anyway, here is the answer to Linda. Let me know what you think.
I am not going to say anything new in this post. You have all heard it before. But we need to hear it, before, now, and again and again.
An abuse victim who has been targeted not only by her abuser, but by her family members, by her pastor, by the pastor’s wife (I need to write a post about pastor’s wives and how they so often enable the abuser), and by other church members in her church, told me some of the things she is being told:
- Give him a chance
- We must forgive people
- He wants you back
- He is hurting
- Stop running from your problems
- The Bible says for better or worse
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself
Now, this stuff just makes my blood boil. Lies. All lies. Let me make a few observations and I imagine you all will have some also —
- Give him a chance — that is what the victim HAS been doing, often for decades! Yeah, give him a chance to abuse and destroy you all over again.
- We must forgive people — Really? Does God forgive everyone? Does God forgive when there is no repentance? NO! Does forgiveness necessitate reconciliation? NO!
- He wants you back — Oh man, you can’t invent this stuff. Yes, he wants her back alright. So his kingdom reign of power and control can be reinstituted in full measure.
- He is hurting – Oh really. So this means that the people saying these things to the victim have been in contact with the abuser, listening to his plays for pity. They are his allies now. He is hurting? Well how about the victim’s hurts? How is it no one seems to even think about how she has suffered? This is pure EVIL.
- Stop running from your problems — Ok, well, the next time someone points a gun at your head, or puts poison in your drink, don’t run. Just stand there. Just drink up. And the fact is, abuse victims who leave their abuser, who start calling him on his evil, ARE ceasing to run from their problems! They are now facing those problems square on.
- The Bible says for better or worse — Now this is rich. I will give $1000 to any of these people who can show me chapter and verse on that one. You see, people take statements made by man and they hear it so often in sermons, and in their laziness they don’t check it out, and pretty soon they elevate it to the Word of God. In addition, “for better or worse” was never meant to mean “you must endure even the most cruel wickedness from your spouse no matter what.”
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself — Time to get a clue. The person who is feeling sorry for himself is not the victim. It is the abuser. WE must stop feeling sorry for him because his pity ploys are largely how he enlists us as his allies.
To people who lay this cruel garbage on victims, I say go. Just go. Go away and learn what God means when He says He desires mercy, not sacrifice. Close your lips. In the meanwhile, we are done listening to you.
Do you know why scientists conduct experiments? They do it to test their theories. They formulate a hypothesis in an attempt to explain some event or process observed in nature. Plants grow toward the light. Why? A hypothesis is offered, but then it must be tested. If the hypothesis is correct, then such and such should happen if we do so and so. If gravity is what we think it is and acts upon all objects to accelerate them at the same rate, then a heavy object and lighter object should hit the ground at the same time.
I propose that a proper and accurate understanding of the mentality and tactics of domestic violence and abuse is the test case for the interpretive theories of many biblical texts.
That is to say, if our interpretation of a Scripture passage is correct, then when we apply it to a real-life scenario of a domestic abuser and his victim, our application will make sense! We will find ourselves exercising justice and mercy for the victim, not injustice and cruelty. The abuser will also be dealt with justly, his sin will be exposed rather than enabled, he will be called to repentance, or he will be expelled from Christ’s church.
Many, and perhaps even the majority, of evangelical churches, teachers, and Christians have long held to interpretive theories that flunk the test when applied to cases of domestic violence and abuse.