Two Sides to Every Story

Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.” Those who help individuals settle disputes and live at peace depend on this principle. In most people situations, this works. But a proverb is a proverb, not a promise–it’s true most of the time, given the right circumstances.

This verse does not say, “The first to plead her case seems right, until another disagrees,” or “proves her wrong.” It actually says nothing about the other person. It simply teaches that we need to be careful and examine a situation before reaching a conclusion. This is especially true in relation to domestic abuse. It’s important to seek and gain knowledge–not only from those involved–but also from God’s Word and people. Knowledge about domestic abuse, any abuse, is cause to stop and look differently.  

unhpapy couple

The underlying assumption of many, especially men, is that a husband and wife stand on equal footing. It’s true: people are people. But in a Christian marriages, a woman honors God by placing herself under her husband’s authority. This is her gift to him. Husbands are not responsible for a wife’s submission. Wives are not responsible for a husband’s love, that’s his responsibility. 1 Peter 3:7 says,

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

A wife who submits to her husband is weaker because she willingly forfeits her desires and autonomy to his headship, trusting God to use and direct him in meeting her needs. They’re a team with different roles. Each one has the equal value. Each is a person made in the image of God with the same attributes and essence. With practice, a husband and wife communicate and follow to God’s direction together as the husband leads and the wife assists. Because she does not call the shots or bear the weight of  decisions, she is in a weaker position both practically and experientially. She is not powerless to disagree, confront wrong, pray, and depend on others, but she trusts God to provide through her husband’s leadership.

To the degree that her husband considers her “a fellow heir of grace,” and loves her as Christ loves the church, Christian marriage is a beautiful, supernatural picture of goodness. But when a man views his wife as an object to meet his desires, she is doubly, sinfully disadvantaged. She must learn to rightly divide Scripture and please God in spite of her husband.  

It’s also important to recognize that the most prevalent predator of women is men. Statistics speak for themselves: sexual harassment, assault, abuse, stalking, trafficking, or murder. Men who refuse to submit to the gospel and work of Christ are deceived and deceiving; driven by desire. In fact, domestic violence causes more injuries to women than accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.* Women carry keys a certain way, examine their surroundings, plan where, when, and how they travel, anticipate and prepare for danger on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We train and educate our daughters differently than sons because of dangerous men. I do not avoid men in general. I am not embittered against them nor do I wish evil on anyone based on gender, but I am always aware. 

Those who address the concerns of a woman reporting (or disclosing) abuse often overlook this simple fact: in cases of abuse, men are dangerous and women are disadvantaged. This is not one-on-one conflict. It is a teeter-totter in which one individual sits at the bottom and makes demands of a captive held aloft and alone.

Investigate? Yes, by all means. Ask questions, take notes, collect documentation. Assume she is on even standing with her abuser? Absolutely not.

The way you apply this proverb could easily set her up for injury and punishment. This happens when you break her confidence as a means of getting his side of the story or question the two of them together. Instead, question them separately. Give her side additional weight and confidentiality. Involve individuals who understand abuse and have the ability to discern the situation without endangering or threatening her safety. This may mean using secular sources and/or older women in the church who can be trusted to love, care, pray with and for her.

This is not a simple disagreement. This is oppression, buried under layers of deception, peppered with coercive, covert tactics. You will not get 2 sides of the same story. You will get 2 altogether different stories because one is driven by power and the other is subject to it. God knows. Seek His help. Apply His understanding and reflect His heart: oppose the proud, give grace to the humble.

Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:1-4)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16)

*https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-domestic-and-dating-violence

Marriage: A Hill Worth Dying On?

Unfortunately, many of us make decisions based on short, biblical phrases without realizing we’ve missed something. We think of and apply them sinfully–because, well, that’s how we roll. Here is an example that relates to domestic abuse:

“God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16).

We’ve all heard it. This specific phrase drives many to worship marriage over and above Jesus. To understand it, we need to know its context. Malachi 2 was written to the priests of Israel who no longer represented God accurately. Driven by their desire for pagan women, they treated their wives with contempt and violence, divorced them, and cut off all financial support. Jewish women wandered the streets abandoned, destitute, betrayed, and rejected. Children were fatherless. God’s people suffered as a result of man’s sin. It is no wonder Malachi wrote, “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong” (Malachi 2:16). God hates divorce as a means of serving one’s own sinful, indulgent desires.

The Lord refused the priests’ offerings and prayers, but they claimed innocence. Why didn’t the Lord hear them? “Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14).

marriage certificate

In the context of the passage, divorce isn’t the issue. Mistreating and betraying your wife is. Not providing for her under the guise of “I’m a great guy,” “I’m an important guy,” “Just look at my priestly robes,” is detestable. God hates those who cover violence and deceit with outward appearance, especially after vowing to love, provide for and protect one’s wife.

Before going further, let me say that just as marriage isn’t the answer, neither is divorce. The book, Sanctuary, addresses the heart of the issue not the outcome. Each husband, wife, and local church must arrive at and apply their own conviction(s) as it relates to marital separation, divorce, and related factors like adultery.

If you’re still struggling with marriage as the main concept–the ultimate, hill-worth-dying-on institution–please consider this. Jesus did not die for marriage. He died for people. Jesus died and rose again for His Bride, not an institution. His death and resurrection purchased souls, recreating new life, transforming and breathing holiness and righteousness into lifeless sinners.

He did not die for women to cover and hide the sin of their husbands. He did not die to enable and empower men to be idols unto themselves.  Instead of covering and hiding sin, Jesus came to expose and forgive it, to bring repentance and change.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)

Those who come to God in Christ become light themselves:

…you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  (Ephesians 5:8-17)

 

The calling of God on our lives is to expose, not participate in, the deeds of darkness; to stand firm, speak against and seek help in the shadows. As we reveal darkness and sin, our goal and desire is not judgment, but Christlikeness. If a man is treating his wife with contempt, manipulation, violence, and a desire for power or control, he is not pleasing the Lord. He is walking in darkness. He is practicing the deeds of darkness. He is living for himself instead of God. How do I know?

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

Again, Jesus did not die to redeem the institution or covenant of marriage, He died for sinners. We must know the bad news before we’re ready to receive the good news. Exposure of sin is a prerequisite for salvation and sanctification.

Pastors, Bible teachers, leaders, stop protecting sin for the sake of marriage. That stance does not reflect biblical truth or the character of God. Allowing men to continue walking in darkness and turning our back on the oppressed is just as wrong as abuse itself.

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
12 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)

But, My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 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)

Wives of controlling, angry, manipulative men, seek help. Cry out to God. Pray and look for someone to listen and believe you. Involve local law enforcement. You are not betraying your husband or your marriage; you are loving God by looking to Him with trust, seeking to protect the one He died to save: you. He loves you so much He died in your place. Turn to Him now. Come to the Light. He will save, provide for and protect you. He will make you His own.

“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. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16-21)