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)

The Face of Evil

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.

faces-of-evil-exhibition

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

The Nunya Zone

As you work through how to respond to an abusive husband, it is important to understand the Nunya Zone. It is discussed in more detail throughout the book, Sanctuary, but not by that name.

Nunya is a term I use regularly in counseling sessions that refers to those things that are not my responsibility, as in “That’s none ya’ business.” Even in a healthy, normal marriage, couples get their wires crossed when one or the other overreaches. Paul Tripp, in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, writes that rather than striking a perfect balance, each of us tends toward taking either too much or too little responsibility for ourselves and others. In an abusive situation, determining nunya’s is complicated, twisted, misapplied, and misused, requiring an extra measure of wisdom and grace.

A wife is not responsible for her husband’s decisions, spiritual growth, leadership, financial integrity, or responses (among other things). She is responsible for her own decisions, spiritual growth, expressions of love, prayer, and responses. This means she cannot change her husband–and God does not expect or ask her to. A husband may make poor decisions–but it’s a nunya. A husband may tarnish his name. That’s a nunya. He may create extra work and spitefully use others. What he does is a nunya. It affects you, it is sinful, wrong, evil, wicked. But it is his decision, no one else’s. A wife can  determine what to do next–and that is a nunya for her husband.

man-yelling-at-woman
http://vk.am/blog/14583.html/man-yelling-at-woman

Working through your end of a nunya (as the current victim in an abusive relationship) is addressed in the book, SanctuaryRealize, however, that nunya’s work both ways. In a relationship driven by one partner’s dominance, it is common for the abusive partner to overstep the boundaries God has set in your life.

Understanding what the Bible says about you as an individual, created by God for His purpose, dependent on Him for change and growth is the basis of a biblical response. Your husband is one means God has provided for your spiritual growth, but he is not–and was never intended to be–the source of it. Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

You have personal tastes and preferences that can and should be expressed because you glorify God as no one else can. You have a responsibility to steward your time, resources, abilities, and talents in a way that uniquely glorifies God. These are nunya’s.

As a couple, you should have shared goals, dreams, plans, and desires. As an individual, you also have goals, dreams, plans and desires that are not necessarily dependent on your husband. And that’s okay. You are you. You are not him. You do not belong to anyone but God Himself. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The primary audience and recipient of your life’s glory is God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If that is being hindered by another’s sin against you, it is right to be angry. God is angry about that very same thing (Psalm 7:11). That is the right response. But anger is intended to move us to solve problems, seek reconciliation and Christlikeness. Our example is God, whose wrath against ungodliness and unrighteousness coupled with His love moved Him to send Jesus (Romans 1:18; 3:25). Jesus lived a perfect life in this sin-cursed world and died unjustly. In Christ, God provided a holy, radical solution to pay for our sin. When we experience God’s incredible love, we respond with gratitude, praise, devotion and obedience–and God is glorified. He gets all the credit! We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). This gentle, submissive attitude brings Him glory.

The same should be reflected in the marriage relationship. The biblical description of marriage is that of a wife responding to her husband’s great love, sacrifice, and devotion with affection and submission (Ephesians 5:22-33). Submission is not a dirty word, it is a beautiful, godly gift given to another. Jesus submitted to His Father. It was a choice; a personal, God-glorifying decision. Submission that is choked, required, or faked results from fear of judgment (1 John 4:18). It may look the same on the surface. But God knows. You know. A husband who requires submission is in the Nunya Zone. It is outside a husband’s jurisdiction to make demands on the human heart. A husband who requires an appearance of submission does so because he himself is failing to initiate the love of Christ. Instead of overreaching into his wife’s personal responsibility, he is called to take care of his own: to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. That means a husband’s love of his wife is outside the wife’s Nunya Zone.

Whether or not he loves her well, a wife can choose to submit to his preferences and direction as she lovingly submits to Christ. Submission is her choice, a gift she will either give or withhold. But when she views submission to an unloving man as an act of worship to God, that, in itself, guides her choices about what to submit to and how far she will submit. Will God be honored and glorified by her submission to a particular request? If yes, then she will offer it as a sacrifice of thanks to God Himself. If no, she will decline, graciously refuse, remove herself or report illegal and sinful actions (as she’s able) because it’s all about God’s glory–not her husband’s. God is clear, He will not give or share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11).

Nunya’s–it’s not about my rights, but God’s glory. Finding the biblical balance of responsibility and concern is a constant growth process, but we are not alone. God has given us His Spirit, His Word, and His Body in the form of the local church, to help us along way. If you haven’t already, read about God’s love for you in His Word, pick up a copy of Sanctuary , find a woman to help, and make yourself at home with in your local church.

 

Submissive Equality

Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that submission in marriage means everything. If a husband is displeased, it’s because his wife isn’t submitting. If the marriage is struggling, it’s because she’s not submitting “in everything.” There a mistaken understanding that, because marriage represents Christ and the Church, the husband (representing Christ) is right and the wife (representing the Church) is at fault. Somewhere along the line we lost the reality that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The example of David and Saul is one of a submissive equal–both were God’s anointed–in which the designated authority was sinfully jealous, capricious, and malicious. (Marriage is also a relationship of submissive equality–if you struggle with that, do some Bible digging.) David was wooed into the relationship by his ability and God’s sovereign hand. Once there, Saul used David, turning on him time and time again.

When given an opportunity to exact vengeance, David responded, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 24:6). He refused to harm Saul. But the fact that Saul was the governing authority did not mean David had to give in to Saul’s sinful whims. David fled to save his life; he sought help from Jonathon, the priests, his family, and those the Lord sent his way. He resisted evil as an example of godliness. God blessed his efforts and preserved his life. Difficult? Yes. Unfair? In human terms. Good? Yes, in as much as David honored and glorified God with his decisions and responses.

David endured manipulation and exploitation, but when it came to physical endangerment and the threat of his life, he fled. His respect for God’s anointed extended to himself as well as Saul. God chose David and appointed him to be king. That was David’s confidence–God had made a promise. David’s commitment to guard what God had entrusted to him included his personal protection and that of his family.

A woman who suffers mistreatment at the hand of her husband must put her confidence in God. This confidence is not in herself, her choices, and actions. It is certainly not in her husband or marriage, but in God alone. Amy Baker says that hope results from trust; not pie-in-the-sky, someday-my-prince-will-come hope. God offers true hope as we trust fully in Him, guarding His gifts and promises, acting in faith to protect one’s physical life, health, children, and spiritual growth. If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ, you belong to Him and nothing (nothing!) changes that. Faith is not passive, it is an active commitment to put God first, doing what is right and good, resisting evil, and trusting Him with the results.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:3-23)