He Meant What He Said

How many times have you heard, “I didn’t mean it?” after hurtful, angry, biting words found their mark? It doesn’t help much, does it.

The truth is, he did mean it. The Bible says, “…the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34). So, yes. If it came out of his mouth, that’s because it was in his heart first. That’s why it’s so hard to forgive and forget. It’s a real wound. It hurts, stays in your mind, runs in circles, festers, burns, and takes residence in the way you refer to yourself; the way you think about and define yourself.

A separate, but powerful truth is: his heart does not define reality. Unless, of course, he is God. He can impose restrictions, hammer consequences, belittle, threaten and coerce. But he is a force of one. He has a distorted way of thinking and acting because it comes from a distorted, wicked source. “the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).

Write it down. Tell a friend (maybe you have to find one first–that’s a great place to start!). Call a hotline for help. Read the Psalms. Do what you can to create a fissure between his reality and God’s reality. Look at the things he says and does as a definition of who he is; not who you are. Draw a picture (or photoshop one) and next to it, journal or list descriptors of what he says about you. That will give you a very real, different idea of the man that casts his heart on others.

The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” It’s a great starting place….

(Take time to read Julie’s comment below–as a survivor, she has helpful insight and practical intentionality for healing.)

Supernatural Grace

Jonathon Hollingsworth writes, “By extending mercy to the perpetrator when no one else will, the mob hopes to prove to a watching world just how ‘edgy’ and ‘countercultural’ Christian forgiveness is. The more visible the forgiveness, the better the witness … Too often, Christians mistake the transgressors, not the transgressed, as the ones most in need of grace.”

Excusing and “forgiving” radical sin for the purpose of appearance– that rings a bell. Another church years ago congratulated themselves for their supernatural, gracious response to sin:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?…Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (2 Corinthians 5)

Making assumptions or leaning on our own understanding runs the risk of working against God and His Word. It is important to reign in gossip and slander, opinions, conjecture, and rumors. Leaders and those who care must seek out facts, listen with ears and eyes wide open, guard against bias and prejudice, pray, and take precautions the sake of the weak and vulnerable—even if it causes offense, even if it seems over-the-top, even if it raises eyebrows.

A woman who is confused, isolated, uncertain, or fearful, is expressing a clear need for help. Her response may not be what you’d expect–she may be calm or dramatic, withdrawn or violent–but that doesn’t tell you what you need to know. All it means is that there’s more…so much more.

Addressing pain, hurt, misuse, control, manipulation, coercion, and long-standing patterns is hard. It’s messy. It would be much easier to sweep it under the “conflict” carpet, pull out a Bible study, and throw on a couple of “atta boys.”  It would feel better to forgive the perpetrator, minimize his sin, justify his actions and apply judgment to the wife who is already marginalized, isolated, weakened, broken, and “difficult.” Supernatural grace? Jesus put it this way:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 ESV)

For Men Only

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Hello, Gentlemen,

This is an open letter to men from an aging woman who is confident in God’s provision. I live by His promises. And I am addressing you, not with fear, malice, bitterness, anger or resentment, but with respect and love as a matter-of-fact. Please hear me out.

You are no better than any woman. You are not more valuable, special, or capable. You are not more important. You are also not the reason for the world’s problems.

You are just as valuable, special, capable, and important as women. You are needed. You have abilities, roles, and gifts to bring to the table. You are vital to the well-being of your world.

God has given men and women different roles. Some would disagree, but when I read the Bible in context, it would appear that men and women are different. We have been since creation, and it is a good thing. Men, the women and children of this world need you to represent Christ in your masculinity. Women are called to represent Christ in their femininity, and we often fail, but our failures cannot be an excuse for yours.

In the realm of domestic abuse (and coercive control) in our churches, let me plead with you to get it right; to make the effort to change your mind and practice  loving others and trusting God instead of leaning on your own understanding. You are not a woman. You are a man. Perhaps you’ve claimed ignorance. I’m here to inform you that, by choice or sloth, you are blind to how practiced, committed, and covert abusers are in manipulating others and covering their tracks. A controlling man is smarter than you. He’s been doing this a long time–a lifetime. He is a controller by nature, driven by power, influence, and public approval. You are but one of his pawns. (Unless, perhaps, he is you.) God is not fooled. He will not be mocked.

This is written with concern for not only our suffering sisters, but our brothers as well. If you are a controlling, angry, selfish man, there will be an end to your rule. You will suffer as only God can impose and mete out suffering. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2).

To those of you show see and know but do nothing, the writer of Proverbs says:

“Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
If you say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Here is valuable insight regarding the difference Christ should make in the lives Christian men, shared by Martin Iles of the Australian Christian Lobby*,

“When you meet God, as you certainly will—and every Christian believes that absolutely, because it’s true—you will meet God on a day as real as this one. When we do, you as a man will be held accountable for the condition of the woman in your life in very important and key respects. That’s extraordinary. When you meet God, the standard applied to you will be that standard that is given to men in Ephesians 5 and it’s this: Have you given yourself up for her? Is your love for her a sanctifying influence leading to her increased holiness? Is she free from blemishes inflicted by you whether physically or spiritually? There is no higher standard in all of human existence than the standard given in Christianity for how men are to treat women in their lives.

“…the whole mark of a bad man [is that] those he claims to love are worse off for it. … By contrast the whole mark of a good man is that the people that encounter him, that he loves, that are a part of his life are made better, are lifted higher, are greatly blessed, especially in that area of sanctification and holiness; made better and enriched in the most profound possible ways by his presence and by his actions. Such is his living for others. Such is his influence on others for good. And that’s the standard. When you meet God, again, as you surely will, she is to be, “in splendor; without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish,” Ephesians 5:27.

“And who has set that example from which we can draw? None other than Jesus Christ himself in His astonishing, selfless, sanctifying love for me and for you. It’s His goal to present us to God in exactly that same way: sanctified, holy, etc. and He died for that. He gave Himself up for that. Now if that’s the standard, if that’s the kind of comparator that God asks of husbands to their wives; this is the duty of husbands, this is the apprenticeship into which boyfriends and fiances are enrolled into, in fact, which men have enrolled into in general. If that’s the standard, then it should cause you to gasp and to tremble because men will be accountable to God in the Final Judgment for this very thing.

Men, failing to address others’ mistreatment of women and children, is failure to love, not only those in your care, but one another as well. Not intervening is the same as allowing brothers and fellow men to heap eternal judgment on their soul. This is not an issue of sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. This is an issue of representing and reflecting Christ in a broken, sinful, suffering, self-exalting world. A man can do amazingly wonderful things, but if he is not Christlike in relationship to his wife, there is little doubt that these words of Jesus apply:

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

“…So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:12. 18-27)

“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

With Humility, Love, and Grace,

A Sister in Christ

*Martin Iles, Australian Christian Lobby, Episode #5, Season 5, “The Truth of It,” February 26, 2020.

Differing Weights

“To show partiality in judgement is not good. He who says to the wicked, ‘You are righteous,’ peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. He kisses the lips who gives a right answer.” (Proverbs 24:23-26)

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Today is the 24th day of the month and I have been reading Proverbs with an eye to domestic abuse.

[Note: If you live with an angry, controlling man, use this passage to gain discernment. If it is dangerous to rebuke him, pray and wait for an opportunity to expose his wickedness, then allow those in authority to do it with and for you. Your reproof requires much wisdom and dependence on the Lord. As you see/live with  wickedness and desire to set boundaries against it, be smart. Create a plan for your personal safety and well-being in advance.]

In an abusive relationship, the one seeking control shows partiality. He treats people at church differently than his family. He lauds and blesses people at church, greets people on the street, laughs and claps men on the back. At home, he curses, belittles, manipulates, and expresses anger for infractions he would easily overlook in public. He is not the same man from one place to another; he changes depending on his audience. He treats people differently depending on what he wants (usually approval from others, power, and control at home). He does it because it works.

What else does the Bible say about that kind of behavior?

“You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small….” (Deuteronomy 25:13)

You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. (Deuteronomy 25:14)

Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord. (Proverbs 20:10)

Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, And a false scale is not good. (Proverbs 20:23)

Treating some people as if they are more honorable, or have more weight, than others is a sin. God doesn’t. He created each one to bear His image. No person is more important or greater than another. Need proof?

You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. (Deuteronomy 1:17)

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17)

Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe. (2 Chronicles 19:7)

For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:11)

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:9)

If you are in a position to help a woman who asks for help, be very careful that you are not the one showing partiality–protecting her husband based on your knowledge, discounting hers. That, too, is showing partiality and God is not pleased. Take her aside. Give her a safe place. You will have to earn her trust and prove your ability to protect her. If you have any idea what trust has cost her, you will be patient, sensitive, and wise with what she tells you. Do not take steps without her knowledge and consent. She knows a very different person than you.

You must provide for her and her children before addressing his wickedness. Then wait. Dr. Charles Hodges writes, “If you want to take the measure of someone’s character, the most direct route I can think of is to tell him no.” (Good Mood, Bad Mood, p. 135). If you wonder if a man is as wicked as his wife says, remove her from the situation and see how he responds. It may not be immediate, but if you continually tell him no, you will see things you never imagined. The church’s job is to be an ambassador of Christ–to call sinners to repentance and help the suffering.

“To show partiality in judgement is not good. He who says to the wicked, ‘You are righteous,’ peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. He kisses the lips who gives a right answer.” (Proverbs 24:23-26)

How Can We Help?

Sanctuary’s vision is to bring women to the God of all comfort, the God of protection and provision, the God of goodness and grace. The title offers help and hope knowing that only God, through Jesus Christ, offers true healing for suffering, pain and loss.

The picture that best captures biblical counseling for me is that of the friends who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus (Mark 2). They were full of hope. They believed Jesus fully and, based on that belief, they not only put in sweat equity, time and effort, they sought the best, most direct route to Jesus even if it meant tearing apart Peter’s roof. That’s how I picture my job. I can’t fix or change anything, but I know the One who can. And I love you so much, I’ll work alongside others to pick up my end of your bed and get you there. I’ll carry you across town if I have to, climb stairs beneath a blazing sun, and scrabble at rocks, gravel and sticks with bare hands if it means putting you at Jesus’ feet.

How, then, should people helpers view women in need of help from domestic abuse?

They are not projects; they’re people. Real people in a real, though wicked, environment.

My goal is long: sanctification, transformation, spiritual maturity. In order to get there, given the circumstances, I must consider physical safety, their current environment, and ability to withstand abuse. I must know the lethality of a situation and abuser. I must know and be sensitive to her need–and I can only find out if I ask questions in a safe, quiet, accepting way. No threat of punishment, no outburst of disagreement, no correction or coercion.

Helping her may mean removing her from the environment and abuser (highly likely) for a period of time. Picking up her mat means listening to her, asking questions, investing, suffering alongside, and being available. As she shares and processes, I have the opportunity to reflect a true image of herself, her abuser, and God. As someone who is not in her place, I must earn the privilege of reflecting back what is true, loving, and difficult.

There are times I will do the leg work, the climbing, the praying, the uphill struggling as she learns to trust–something that has led to incredible pain, sorrow, and despair with her abuser. Taking her to Jesus is hard work, but she is my friend. She is precious to Jesus. She is precious to me. Jesus is looking for her. He is there, guiding, protecting, leading.

And, then, there are times I let her down through the roof and I must trust that she is in His care. I cannot stay alongside her each moment, knowing, helping. God is there. My example of trust and obedience speaks volumes to her heart, giving her courage to come to Him, then to walk behind and follow Him.

For those who haven’t connected the dots or heard it before, Jesus did not die for the Sabbath. He did not die to save the temple or Jewish traditions. Those institutions were intended to aid in worship and God’s glory, but they were not the object of His sacrificial gift; they are not redeemed by His forgiveness, but by His people living redeemed lives within them. In the same way, Jesus did not die for marriage. He died and rose to give life to individuals–individuals who live in a marriage. Without His redemptive work in individual lives, He will not redeem or glorify the institution of marriage. We must be guard against the leaven of the Pharisees who blasphemed in their hearts when Jesus brought life and resurrection to one paralyzed by outside forces.

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.

Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to carved images.

I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
I will lead them in paths they have not known.
I will make darkness light before them,
And crooked places straight.
These things I will do for them,
And not forsake them. (Isaiah 42 selections)

Shame vs. Guilt

Abusive relationships breed confusion: shame, anger, pity, love, guilt, frustration, fear. If that’s your bag, it’s time to ask questions and get help.

One of  those feelings and filters that affects all of life is shame. It eats away at us in quiet moments, in the dark of night, in between this and that. If only one could erase shame, life would be bearable. Truly, living with someone who immerses and bathes one in shame makes it hard, if not impossible, to escape. What is shame? Where does it come from? And what do you do with it?

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The first time shame is mentioned, God draws attention to its absence: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)  At some point after that Eve and Adam eat forbidden fruit. They sinned and broke God’s law. They are guilty. Their response? Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7)  Shame resulted from guilt–and it should. But in our broken world and broken state of being, that’s not always the way it works. It’s possible to feel shame without guilt. It’s also possible to be guilty without feeling shame.

Shame results in wanting to cover ourselves; to hide, become invisible. It is often, but not always, the result of guilt. There is a difference. The word, “shame” or “ashamed,” has to do with embarrassment or dishonor (chaphar– Hebrew, aischune– Greek)*. The root word means, “to dig, search out, explore.” It is the idea of being exposed and afraid. Many eastern cultures use shame as a motivator for expected behavior: i.e. Samurai suicide, Muslim “honor killing.” When I was a child, we would slide one index finger over the other saying, “On ver…” to the person who did something shameful. We all know what it feels like to be ashamed.

Guilt, on the other hand, means “liable” (asham– Hebrew, enochos– Greek).* This is a forensic term that connects an individual with committing a crime. I am responsible. I sinned against God. It’s possible to be guilty without experiencing shame. Our media is full of examples. If you have been, or are, a survivor of domestic abuse, you see it regularly.

In a broken, twisted relationship the two can be confused and misused. One may feel shame as a result of embarrassment, false accusations, belittling, wicked, evil words and actions. Like blood that pours from a wound, shame defiles everyone and everything it touches. Guilt, on the other hand, is the would. Guilt is the source of the problem. Shame can be cleaned and removed with the truth of God’s Word. Guilt requires faith and confession for healing.

How do you know if what you’re feeling is shame or guilt? Make a list of things you feel ashamed and guilty for. What words circle in your head like vultures? Write them down in black and white. Then, either by yourself or with a trusted friend, look to the Word of God. Ask these questions:

  • Is this true? Does God’s Word agree with this statement? Some words and actions heaped on you are blatant lies. They are not real or true in any sense of the word. Cross those items off your list.
  • Consider those that are left. Am I embarrassed? Is this about what people think (myself included) or did I actually do something wrong?
    1. If I am concerned more about what people think, it’s shame. I feel exposed, dirty, unwanted, violated. That does not make me guilty. What does God say? If I am His child, He says Jesus took my shame (Hebrews 12:2). God doesn’t care what people think. God loves me; He sent Jesus to die for me and make me His own. I am loved, chosen, adopted, blessed, forgiven, redeemed (Ephesians 1:3-12)
    2. If I am guilty of breaking God’s law, He extends hope and forgiveness in Christ. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) I do not have to bear the guilt of my sin. Jesus did that for me. I do not have to “pay” for it or earn His favor. In fact, no one ever can. I can come to Him in faith and humility, asking for His help and forgiveness.

Accusations do not equal guilt. Only God can assign guilt–and His Word is clear. If you are not sure what the Bible says, it is very possible it is being misused to trap, oppress, and harm you. As frightening as it may be, pray and ask God for the courage to ask someone you can trust to help you sort through shame and guilt.

 

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. (Psalm 34)

 

Love is Not Mutually Exclusive

In relationships that are off-balance, whether you define yours as abusive or not, there is a sense of one-way love. One individual is always giving, flexing, changing, doing. The other is always receiving, demanding, taking. Part of recognizing an abusive relationship is seeing that pattern for what it is. It is not balanced, other-focused, or Christ-honoring because it is one-sided, individual-focused, and individual-honoring. As we’ve learned to say in our house, “Show me the money!” It’s all about profit. If one person benefits over and above everyone else in the family dynamic, he will do what it takes to keep it that way. The one receiving the pay-off has the most to lose.

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In God’s economy, loving others doesn’t mean I lose; it means everyone wins. I can love others well and benefit at the same time.  It’s not all or nothing.

The problem is our definition of “love.” In a human way of thinking, I love you when I do what makes you happy. I believe others love me when they do what makes me happy. Interestingly, the word, “merry” (samach) in the Bible (there is no mention of “happy”), often describes a person who is drunk. That’s not a good thing.

What is God’s definition of love?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

God’s love is demonstrated, or made evident, through the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrificed His life by taking human form (having lived in eternal glory, He chose a human body!). He sacrificed by living a human existence for more than thirty years in a sin-cursed world with human limitations and sinful people. Jesus then allowed Himself to be betrayed, wrongly accused and beaten. He gave His life in an excruciating way and, in that time and place, took the full weight of God’s wrath for sin–and eternal weight with an eternal price. When God says He loves you, that’s what He means.

God also loves His Son, Jesus Christ. Once the payment was complete, God raised Him from the dead and brought Him back to glory. Jesus sits there now, at the right hand of the Father, praying for us. Someday He will return to rule. He will be the center of our praise and worship forever because of His perfect obedience and love. Jesus did not sacrifice His life for nothing.

God, in His love, grace, and justice glorified, and will glorify forever, His Son. We benefit. God benefits. Jesus benefits. All. Everyone. To the greatest extent possible. The price of love is outweighed by the outcome of love. No one is left empty, used, or taken advantage of. God’s love is inclusive, not exclusive.

As God’s child through faith in Jesus’ payment for our sin, we have His Spirit with the ability and desire to respond and live He did. That means we, too, can love sacrificially. But it’s a different sacrifice than giving and not getting. Just like Jesus, this love means doing what is in another’s best interest whether they appreciate it or not. Our appreciation of Jesus Christ did not limit or affect His giving. His goal was to please His Father. The Father loves us, Jesus loves/d us, and we benefited.

In the same way, loving others happens as we seek to please God first. Others, specifically the individual who has been taking and demanding, will not like losing first place in our lives. It cuts across the grain of their desires and impacts their life negatively. But loving God first does not mean loving others less. It results in loving them more. By not worshiping and giving in to their demands, we allow God to reveal sin and a need only He can meet. By not allowing them to control every element of life and protecting one’s dignity, we remove ourselves from a place of serving others to a place of serving God. It may mean removing ourselves physically. That, too, is an act of love. It says, “This is wrong. It needs to change.” Loving God results in protecting the one He loves and died for–you.

How do we overcome the fear and punishment that is sure to result? It’s important to ask for help in advance. Seek a trustworthy friend to pray, talk through safety issues, and prepare with. Protection and safety are primary goals when living with an abuser. Be smart. Be careful. It’s not a flip-the-switch decision. The consequences could be dangerous. Take your time.  Think it through. You are the expert on your abuser. With God’s help you can learn when and how to apply new ways of seeing and thinking about what’s happening in your home and relationship.

Loving God first is not mutually exclusive. When I love God first, I love others as a result. When I love others first, I don’t love God.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-21)