Persecution vs. Abuse

“…your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions…is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

Church-Steeple-and-Fire

Some godly individuals overlook domestic abuse because they see it as an affliction that brings glory to God, as a way to “suffer for the kingdom.” But there are a number of obstacles if an individual or church is going to view suffering affliction in marriage this way:

  1. Paul knew about the Thessalonians’ affliction and persecution. It was public. Everyone knew–the individuals who inflicted abuse were absolutely open and flagrant about their treatment of believers. It was not hidden or secret. It was expected.
  2. Persecution of believers in the ancient world was legal.
  3. This suffering was actually, literally, “for the kingdom of God.”
  4. The believers were united in their persecution.

Contrast that to suffering at the hands of a domineering spouse:

  1. It’s private. When brought to the attention of a pastor, church member or leader, they don’t want everyone to know. They’re not writing a letter to share with fellow congregations and toot their horn, rallying the troops and requesting help. This is not the same type of suffering or affliction. Domestic coercion (i.e. abuse) is an “unfruitful deed of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11). A desire to cover it up, silence it, or make it go away as quickly as possible is a sign it’s not persecution of the church.
  2. Coercive control, domestic abuse, exploiting your wife and imposing a system of domination, power, and control, is illegal. Some forms of abuse are easier to prove in a court of law than others, but they are all illegal: belittling, intimidating, threatening, isolating, humiliating, using power plays, children, finances, temper tantrums and/or jealousy as tools of manipulation. Illegal.
  3. Coercive control or domestic abuse is an endorsement of the supremacy of “Ron Jones'” kingdom. It is not suffering for Christ, His kingdom and righteousness. Jesus has no desire to associate His name and character with glorification of sinful man through subjugation, coercion or force.
  4. Individuals united in abusive situations, especially within the church, are often more interested in covering up or protecting the abuser than exposing the situation and calling it what it is. Reacting in anger and fear, confusion and uncertainty, united individuals often exact church discipline, harsh punishment, and effectively send away the wounded, needy, hurting, and weak in an effort to protect their “reputation” or structure.

Persecution and affliction results in a sober warning:

“For after all, it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)

God is on the side of the afflicted. He has their back. Those who know and obey God–who are on the same side as Jesus–will not experience retribution.

So if you’re harboring abuse, covering it up, trying to make it go away, or just don’t know how to deal with it, ask for help. It’s time to open your heart and mind to the Word of God in a new and different way than perhaps you’ve ever done before. Check out Chris Moles’ resources, Called to Peace Ministries, or pick up a copy of Sanctuary: Help and Hope for Victims of Domestic Abuse to start your journey of living out Christlikeness in and through helping abuser and victims alike.

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