What’s Missing? What the Bible Says About Oppressive Relationships

What’s the big deal?

If you are a pastor, lay leader, or people helper, all the hoopla about domestic abuse–or abuse in general–may have you reacting the way I do when the latest Marvel Comic movie is released or baseball season begins. I avoid it because of the hype. The level of excitement can be a turn off. Or maybe you think you’ll know it when you see it–you just haven’t seen it to the degree it’s being talked about.

I am not a victim, or target, of domestic abuse. This topic found me. But with the opportunity to love women, listen, learn, and study the dynamic of marital oppression, I find that God has also given me a voice to speak for Him–and to speak for them. I am a God-appointed mediator for those seeking help.

What’s Missing?

We would all agree much of life happens behind the scenes as it relates to our home, whether it’s the way we interact as a couple to the way we speak to our children. We would be mortified if others could see and hear some of the things we say and do in private.

In an abusive, or, to use the biblical term, oppressive, marriage, one person dominates or controls the other at all times, for his own benefit.

You may wonder if that actually happens or what it looks like. You may think it’s a wife’s fault–that no man strikes out for no reason. But the truth is that no one can “make” another angry. Each of us is responsible for our words and actions.

Statistics tell us this is a reality: 1 out of 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence from a partner. This does not include covert or secret forms of control men use as a result of entitled thinking or unrealistic expectations. The statistics are no different inside or outside the church.

So is it Wrong?

Many individuals who love God and His Word believe that a husband is the head of the family and a woman’s role is to submit. That is not wrong to the degree that it reflects and honors Jesus. Unfortunately, the idea of “roles” in marriage supersedes the image of God and His love for each individual. The assumption is that a man is loving his wife, treating her as a person of equal value, worth, calling, and intimacy with God.

But sin…

When a man exerts power over his wife, it is not a relationship built on mutuality–the way Jesus sees us, “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) This type of relationship views the husband as “better than” or “more than.” He is entitled to privileges of service and preference because he is the husband. Not only does he feel entitled, he makes demands and enforces punishment on his wife when she doesn’t meet his expectations. This includes controlling her time, agenda, whereabouts, and relationships. Control that usurps God is sinfully wrong. It hi-jacks the image of God instead of promoting and protecting it.

  1. Choice: God expresses choice in creation and salvation. He has the sovereign right and ability to make decisions.
    As His creatures, He has also given us freedom of choice. He is glorified by our distinctions and uniqueness.
    In an oppressive relationship, the only acceptable choices are a husband’s preferences, desires, patterns, or standards. Deviation results in punishment.
  2. Expression: God created by His Word. He speaks to us.
    We reflect God in our ability to express ourselves.
    In an oppressive relationship, there is no freedom of expression of opinion, preference, thoughts, or goals. They oppressed individual must represent the oppressor’s frame of reference at all times.
  3. Morality/Conscience: God is Love. He has given mankind a conscience, or frame of reference, that reflects his very character.
    In an oppressive relationship, one person’s sin, weakness, and failure is placed on the other as if they don’t exist. They are not allowed to live according to their own moral compass, but must acquiesce to their abusers distorted view of right and wrong.
  4. Worship: We are created to worship God as dependent, adoring, serving creatures.
    In an oppressive relationship, the oppressor is the object of worship. Any worship apart from him results in punishment.

One person is represented by the outside circle and exerts his will over another, diminishing the image of God by restricting freedom of conscience, volition, personal expression, and worship. For these reasons alone, with or without physical manifestations, believers in Christ should be the first to respond to an abusive relationship or situation. If you don’t think this is happening around you, look again. Check out this website. Ask questions. Pray. Then get ready to act. God will use the humble, loving servant to minister to the least of these.

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