The Conscience and Domestic Abuse

“It can’t be!” “It’s not possible.”

These are natural responses when a victim discloses the truth, especially to mutual friends and family members. We want to think people know better, that the abuser has a conscience, that no one would knowingly treat a loved one with cruelty and contempt. That’s simply not true.

The noetic effect of sin–the fact that the Fall affects our mind and intellect–is spoken of in Romans 1:

“…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18 ESV, emphasis added)

Young Angry Man.

Since sin affects every part of our thinking and being, the conscience is not exempt. Some of us feel guilty for doing things that are not wrong. Others don’t feel guilty for doing things that are. The conscience, like our desires, habits, and thinking, must be trained and changed by the Word of God. It is only as we rightly divide the word of truth and submit to God that our thinking and conscience is changed.  When our thinking is transformed, it will change our desires, thoughts, and actions (Romans 12:1-2).

The individual who is driven by self-fulfillment and ambition will stop at nothing to achieve it. In fact, “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. ” (James 3:16).  An individual motivated by greed and self-seeking views others as objects. They either serve his agenda or interfere with it. They are not equal to his status or existence. His desires and perceived needs rule his world. In his way of thinking, those who deny his standards, demands or preferences are drop-dead wrong because he is always right. He has rights. Undeniable, inalienable rights. Who are you to refuse or tell him no?

A man who lives for himself uses what the Bible calls, “differing weights and measures.” He is the standard. His desires are preeminent resulting in disorder, chaos, and evil. He often uses manipulation and deception to express his desires lest self-exaltation come into the light and be revealed for what it is: prideful, deadly sin.

God doesn’t pull punches. He diagnoses and judges the problem this way:

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

Applying a set of standards to one’s self and another set of standards to others runs contrary to God’s character. Jesus died for each and every person. The weight and cost of sin is astronomical. It doesn’t set one person over another. Our sin’s testimony is so great  “that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). An individual who applies a different set of rules to different people sins against God. People are people. God does not show partiality. “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

Because an abuser shows partiality–primarily to himself, but also to those whose opinion matters–his conscience is twisted. Not only does he view others as objects who exist to serve him, he may see himself as god/God and his wife’s response as a measure of her spirituality or righteousness. Unfortunately, this is taught in some church circles, creating destruction and havoc, denying Christ as the Savior and focus of worship. As a result, man’s conscience is hardened and he fails to respond in a Christlike way to biblical criteria or conviction (1 Timothy 4:1-2),

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:15-16)

A husband’s seared conscience affects his wife and children. If she believes her husband is in the place of God, a woman views his approval or disapproval as tantamount. This muddies the waters of abuse and makes confrontation next to impossible. He is god? Who is she to disagree? Children join a father’s tirades against an oppressed mother in thought, word, and action. The noetic effect of sin multiplies as it is sown–father, mother, children, extended family, church family, friends. Consciences that do not submit to the Word of God blindly excuse and justify sin and its consequences.

If you are experiencing abuse, turn to God. He sees what is happening whether anyone believes you or not. Whether you feel crazy, confused, downtrodden, or forgotten. God is on your side. Cry out. Seek help. Immerse yourself in the hope and truth of God’s Word. He can and will help you.

Church, beware. Using differing weights and measures applies to us as well. If we have a different standard for an abuser (i.e. as the husband, he can make ungodly demands, exercise injustice, and practice ungodliness in his home) than the abused (i.e., as the wife, you must submit to your husband “in everything“), we, too, are committing an abomination before the Lord. We have given in to lies instead of renewing our mind and being transformed by the truth of God.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

We are called to be the body of Christ–to do what He would do, love what He loves, think as He thinks, desire what He desires, and follow our Head. May He be pleased and glorified as we exalt Him, His truth and righteousness.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
The Lord will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146, emphasis added)

 

 

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.