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 others can be a turn off. I get it.

To be honest, 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 oppression, I find that God has also given me a voice to speak for Him–and to speak for them.

What’s Missing?

We would all agree that there’s a lot of behind the scenes life that happens in a home whether it’s the way we interact as a couple to the way we speak to our children. We would be aghast if our life was on display, if others could see and hear how we behave 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. Statistics tell us that 1 out of 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence from a partner. That means that there has been an altercation that results in assault–what that doesn’t describe are the covert or secret forms of control that are used on a regular basis. 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, but it puts the idea of “roles” in marriage ahead of the image of God. It assumes that the man is loving his wife; that he is fulfilling his role of protecting and providing for his family. 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 those who don’t meet his expectations. That in itself is sinfully wrong because it hi-jacks the image of God instead of promoting and protecting it. Here’s what it looks like:

  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. Any 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.

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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