Why Address Sin?

“If a woman is not to blame for her abuse, aren’t you finger-pointing and blaming the victim to talk about her sin?”

When a woman comes to a pastor, biblical counselor, or older woman for help, the last thing that should be addressed is her sin. Literally. The last thing. Her primary need is practical help, hope, and comfort in the face of unjust suffering; mental, emotional, psychological, physical. She is a sufferer. There is no other, better term.  Because Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse had to be written all at once, it addresses every part of a woman’s spiritual life: salvation, suffering, and sanctification. Sanctuary speaks to her position as a child of God, a saint who is fully forgiven. The greater portion of the book acknowledges her suffering as a woman experiencing domestic abuse. Finally, Sanctuary addresses her reality as a sinner. To look at some parts of her life (saint and sufferer) without seeing her as a whole person would be a disservice. Forgiveness, freedom, and and long-term healing are the result of confession and repentance.

As a victim of abuse learns to cry out to and trust God and His people, there will be a time to walk through sinful thought patterns and habits–things that prevent her from addressing her husband, seeking help, or finding the courage to change. According to statistics, a woman will return to an abusive relationship seven times. That reason alone should move us beyond safety, escape and relief to a desire for personal transformation, which is only available by faith in the substitutionary life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The greater element is her relationship with God; her spiritual growth and ability to glorify God as she lives out the beauty of her original design. In that case, the most unloving act is to provide immediate help, help her feel better, and send her out the door, still dependent on her abuser, desiring to change him or fix their marriage, tied to a need for approval, appreciation and affection from someone other than God, who alone is worthy.

Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).  Sanctuary shows women, churches, and the people who love them how to apply the power of God and His awe-some love for her to a man acting wickedly and sinfully. By faith, she can transfer blame to the deserving individual, the abuser, placing her burden of sin and shame on Jesus Christ. She is then able to live abundantly: free of guilt, shame, failure, and condemnation.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, (Romans 8:1-6)

Couldn’t Be!

A common response to the book, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse, from those who have never lived in an environment of domestic abuse is, “Wow. I’d never allow that.” Or, “What’s wrong with those women?”

For those outside the dynamic (by God’s grace), this type of thinking and speaking is called victim-blaming. It comes in many forms. I am guilty of it myself–and see it rearing its ugly head in the most unlikely places. The underlying message is, “It’s the victim’s fault (she ended up in that relationship, he treated her that way). If only she (left, fought back, walked out, etc), it wouldn’t have continued.”

There are a number of reasons that line of thinking is wrong. Here are a few:

  • Abuse is sin on the part of the abuser, not the victim. If you hit someone, you are guilty. If you degrade an individual, neglect, or use them, you are wrong.
  • The reason we attach blame to victims is because it creates a sense of safety. Once I have a list of what-not-to-do, I can simply avoid those things, thus avoiding an abuser. That is not true.
  • You. don’t. know. Even if you think you know what’s going on, you have no idea what happens behind closed doors: what mind games are in motion, which words are charged and have been reinforced with physical force or punishment, what a look or reference may communicate between two individuals. You cannot begin to understand the dynamic of domestic abuse until you have lived with those involved.
  • Control is the name of the game. Reputation is everything. Appearance is the running commodity. If you are questioning the victim’s integrity and character, the abuser has accomplished his goal. She has been compromised, and you are the reason why.

In looking for plausible reasons for abuse, begin with the abuser. The desire for power and control is never satisfied. “The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.” Proverbs 28:25. Read The Heart of Domestic Abuse: Gospel Solutions for Men Who Use Control and Violence in the Home by Chris Moles along with Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse for a biblical understanding of how to truly bring help and hope through the Person of Jesus Christ.