30% of women and 17% of men in any group or congregation are currently victims of abuse, or they have been a victim. (NCADV National Statistics) These statistics are true for church congregations too.
As Christian’s or Christ-followers, we cannot ignore this destructive epidemic problem anymore. The people in our congregations, Christ’s people, are hurting and confused. They don’t know where to find help to understand how Christ’s design of love is different than theirs. They are also looking for acceptance and support as they untangle their lies from the truth.
We are called to be the good Samaritan and to help the victims of abuse. There are three ways to begin supporting the victims in your congregation and community.
- Acknowledge the Problem
The first step to stopping bad behavior is to acknowledge it is happening. Abuse is not a condition or an illness. Domestic abuse is a learned behavior. On April 11, 2017, CBS news reported that nearly three women every day are killed by domestic violence.
It took me years to overcome the trauma of my thirteen-year abusive marriage to a “Christian” husband. I went to several churches for help, but I was told that I needed to submit to my husband to obey God’s word.
I knew it could not be God’s will for my children and me to keep being hurt, so I kept talking to Pastors. One day I met with Pastor Jim. His daughter just divorced her abusive husband, so I thought he would understand.
As he asked me to read the marriage passages in Ephesians from a study Bible, I finally realized Christ’s truth about love. Submission is a free choice that I would gladly make because my husband treated me just as he would Jesus. The truth of God’s word was the step I needed to break free from all the deception I had bought into.
Unfortunately, as I have worked with women for over twenty years and I have taught Bible studies, I have seen how the church is still neglecting the problem of domestic abuse.
- They are not educated on how to spot a victim or how to talk with them, so they throw out a scripture or pass them off to someone else.
- They don’t know how to handle the abuser, so they often take the stance that what happens at home is a private affair.
- They fear the divorce rate will soar instead of focusing on the marriages that could be healed and strengthened.
- They focus on outreach missions without looking to the needs of the struggling or abusive marriages in their congregations.
- They do not know who to turn to for this education.
To become part of the solution to end domestic abuse and to help the victims in your congregations, you must create and implement a plan for domestic abuse victims and their children.
- Educate and Help Couples Who are Unaware They are Abusive
The reality is that we do what we know. If you came from a family where your dad disrespected your mom but always apologized; you may have come to accept this as okay or “normal” behavior in a marriage.
If you are the husband, you disrespect your wife at times, but you convince yourself it is okay as long as you apologize. Your belief has become your default behavior. If you are the wife, you tell yourself you have to forgive your husband and keep putting up with being disrespected to be a good Christian wife. Your acceptance of abuse has become your default belief and behavior.
The husband and wife come to a marriage with their own broken design of love and marriage. After the honeymoon fades, their two imperfect love designs begin to collide.
The collision of their love designs often sparks the beginning of domestic abuse. They continue to do what they know which can escalate the abuse while it is undetected. I believe the majority of struggling Christian marriages are in the battle of imperfect love designs. They can be healed and strengthen through Christ’s design of love and marriage.
For the abuse to stop, a couple must be willing to see how their design of love differs from Christ’s. Then they must both be willing to do what it takes to love like Jesus. Even if an abuser refuses to love like Christ, you are still helping the victim, as Jesus would.
- Educate Your Pastors, Staff, Mentors, Caregivers, and Congregation About Christ’s Design of Love and Marriage
“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29 NIV
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 NIV
Jesus came to earth and showed us how to live in his definition and design of pure love. Now it is our turn to hold to and share his teachings to love as he did. To begin to help your domestic abuse victims, abusers, and their families, ask yourself the following questions.
- How are you preparing your pastors, staff, mentors, leaders, and caregivers to recognize domestic abuse and to offer support?
- How can you teach Christ’s design of love and marriage to your church while providing support and resources for your victims and their children, as well as the abusers?
It’s time to learn about domestic abuse and how you can work together within your church and community to help 47% of victims in your congregations. We can work together and teach people how to partner with Jesus and live safe, secure, and loved according to Christ’s design of love and marriage.
To educate your church, click here to contact me about Domestic Abuse 101, DA 202 Workshop, Online Domestic Abuse classes!