Two men were having a conversation and one was recounting an abusive relationship. “You mean he actually thinks about it?” one asked. “I know,” said the other. “And it gets worse.”
In writing the book, Sanctuary, I was aware of the fact that many pastors, leaders, and churched men struggle to address abuse in marriage because of their own frailty. They understand what it is to be impatient, unloving, to speak an unkind word and act unbecomingly to their own wives. Much like King David who failed to address his son’s sexual assault on Tamar after he himself committed adultery, all of us struggle to address others’ sin when it’s an area we struggle with ourselves.
The marriage dynamic of abuse, however, goes far beyond arguments and strained interactions. There is one type of abuser, the fool. According to the book of Proverbs, the fools is arrogant, refuses counsel and mocks any who reprove him. He is defiant, stubborn, boisterous. There is yet another type of man, or combination with foolishness, found in abusers: the wicked. The wicked man is crafty, sly, and evil. He not only sins against his wife, he schemes, plans, and fails to sleep until he gets it done.
In researching domestic abuse, I discovered an incredible number of forums, books, blogs, and organizations that resist, warn against abusers and provide support for victim/survivors. Many have been founded and sourced by abuse survivors. There is a fire, a passion and drive to protect women and children from the horror of their experience.
From the outside, it’s easy to misread the passion as a livid desire for vengeance or extreme justice. In some cases, that may be true. But those of us who have never lived with evil incarnate cannot know the intense fear, panic, or underlying anxiety of the unknown and what’s coming next. We have not screamed and begged for mercy that never came, nursed deep bruises for days, walked on broken bones, tried to erase profane violations and acidic names from our memory. Those wounds never go away. Some refuse to heal. They are the work of the wicked.
Listen to these descriptors of the wicked from the book of Proverbs. The wicked:
- Seek opportunities for violence (1:11)
- Ambush the innocent for no reason (1:11)
- Intend great damage (1:12)
- Focus on personal gain (1:13)
- Run to evil (1:16)
- Are quick to shed blood (1:16)
- Cannot sleep unless they do evil (4:16)
- Are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble (4:16)
- Live and thrive off wickedness and violence (4:17)
- Walk with a perverse mouth (6:12)
- Let you know trouble’s coming (6:13)
- Signal with feet, point with his fingers (6:13)
- Continually devise evil (6:14)
- Spread strife (6:14)
- Conceal violence with actions and words (10:6, 11)
- Use perverted speech (10:32)
And that’s just the first ten chapters of Proverbs. A woman who is married to this man can expect nothing less than hell on earth–and that’s what you’ll hear if you ask. This is a terrifying way to live. It has nothing to do with anger, losing his temper or self-control. It has everything to do with dominance, sport, winning, power, and control. It includes verbal tirades, coercion, physical threats, financially twisting of her arm, and using children. To clinch the deal, he will seal his threats and control with physical and sexual assault. If you think he doesn’t have sexual perversions, inclinations, and fantasies with which to prey on her, think again.
The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, in their training manual for law enforcement officers, says this,
“Men who batter are usually not violent towards anyone but their wives/partner or
their children. They can control themselves sufficiently enough to pick a safe
target. Men often beat women on parts of their bodies where bruises will not show.
Sixty percent of battered women are beaten while they are pregnant, often in the
stomach. Many assaults last for hours. Many are planned.”*
You can’t trust this man. You can’t “take him at his word.” His wife/girlfriend will be hesitant to give you information because of past repercussions and future threats. You will not get helpful or useful information counseling them together; she will simply be in greater danger.
Perhaps someday Jesus will hear, “We never knew.” And perhaps He’ll answer, “Because you didn’t want to know. You didn’t see, you didn’t hear. You were too preoccupied with programs, numbers, media, your facility and reputation. Instead of caring for the sick you fed the prosperous and provided spa treatments for the healthy.” Jesus did say, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31) Having experienced life under Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.”
The world is very aware of the evil that exists in the heart of man. Wake up, Church of Christ! Rather than shelter in place, we should be on the front lines, pulling the oppressed to safety, ready to defend, protect, provide for, and love those who need it most. In Christ, we can offer life, hope, help, peace, joy, and purpose. It’s what Jesus would do. It’s what Jesus did.
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
*https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/njpdresources/dom-violence/dv-dynamics-instr.pdf, p. 1-3