I had opportunity to minister this week to another scarred and battle-weary survivor of domestic abuse. Before I go any further, let me share the definition of ‘domestic abuse’
“Domestic abuse comprises of broad categories of behaviour including physical or sexual abuse, violent or threatening behaviour, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse and psychological, emotional, or other abuse. It can be prosecuted under a range of offences and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
Domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident and it is the cumulative and interlinked types of abuse that have a particularly damaging effect on the victim. The ‘domestic’ nature of the offending behaviour is an aggravating factor because of the abuse of trust involved.” [Extracted from The Crown Prosecution Service https://www.cps.gov.uk/crime-info/domestic-abuse]
So that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Physical, psychological, emotional, controlling, threatening, violent, economic …. all methods of forcing one individual into submission and terrorizing that same individual, often times to the breaking point, and sometimes, to death.
This particular woman was a victim of psychological and emotional abuse coupled with controlling and threatening behaviors and economic barriers. Added to that, she experienced the betrayal of the church leadership who sided with her husband, claiming that she was to blame for what she was suffering because of her ‘rebellious’ behavior. In effect, church leaders did not hold her husband accountable for any of his un-Christian behavior
I am not going to go into counseling mode nor am I going to try to explain and defend all of the reasons why her forms of abuse are wrong. The issue I want to deal with is the betrayal by her church leaders — those who can quote the ‘words’ of the Bible but seriously miss the Spirit. The letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6) I believe God hates abuse. (Psalms 11:5, James 1:26, Ephesians 4:29, Psalms 103:6, Colossians 3:8, Romans 6:15, Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:19, Exodus 21:15, Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 4:31)
Marriage is SUPPOSED to be a partnership, not a master-slave relationship. Marriage is SUPPOSED to fulfill both parties, not glorify one and denigrate the other. Marriage is SUPPOSED to be a reflection of Jesus Christ and His Bride, the church, NOT a reflection of the Pharisees and the Jews.
Yet, so many Christian leaders ignore the abuse occurring in the marriages and families in their churches and wash their hands of the abuse victim, not fully understanding the heart of God or His standards for marriage, families, and church leaders. Is it possible that these leaders have spent so much time studying the Word and working for God that they have neglected their relationship with the Lord and dulled their hearts to the heart of God? A heart which clearly points us ALL to submit and ALL to serve?
Here is an exerpt from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, citing 1 Corinthians 11:10 which highlights the dual roles of each spouse within the marriage — “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head.—……. What is meant, first, by the woman having “power on her head?” There have been many—some of them most fanciful—suggestions that the word for power (exousia) may have crept in instead of some other word by the mistake of some copyist; or that the word used by St. Paul may have been exiousa—“When she goes out in public;” or two words (ex ousias)—“in accordance with her nature.” All explanations, however, which require an alteration in the Greek text of the passage must be set aside, for (1) there is no MS. evidence whatever to support any other read.……. refer the “power” here to some symbol of a power which belongs to the woman herself.
If we bear in mind the Apostle’s constant use of words with a double significance, or rather with both an obvious and a subtly implied meaning, and if we also recall the reference made to a woman’s abundance of hair in 1Corinthians 11:5-6, and the further reference to a woman’s long hair in 1Corinthians 11:14-15, where the hair of the woman, given her by nature, and the wearing of a veil are used as almost identical thoughts, we may, I think, conclude that the “power” here spoken of is that long hair which is called in 1Corinthians 11:15 her “glory.” It is remarkable that Callistratus twice uses this word exousia in connection with hair to express its abundance. To the Jews the recollection of Samson’s history would have given the word “power,” when applied to hair, a remarkable significance. To thus turn aside abruptly in the middle of a long passage in which woman’s subordination is enforced, and speak suddenly and vividly of her “power,” would be eminently Pauline. In the Apostle’s writings the thought of inferiority and superiority, of ruler and server, are frequently and almost paradoxically regarded and enforced as identical. To serve because you rule; to be weak because you are in another sense strong, are thoughts strikingly combined again and again in the Epistles of St. Paul. [Emphasis mine] Thus I would imagine him here to suddenly turn aside and say, I have been speaking of your bondage and subordination, you are, because of this, to have a covering (a veil or long hair) on your head as a sign, and yet that very thing which is the symbol of your subjection to man is the sign of your beauty and “power” as a woman.”
It is clear to me that Paul understood the relationship of servant/leader just as taught by Christ when he washed the feet of the disciples. In order to lead we must serve, and by serving become leaders. At no time, on no occasion, did Jesus, Paul, or any other apostle FORCE their followers into any situation, behavior or belief. And at NO TIME should any marriage partner force or coerce the other into any situation, behavior or belief. To do so is contrary to the heart of God we see expressed in Christ Jesus.
Certainly other commentators disagree with Ellicott, and I have read them with interest but remain unconvinced because their arguments, while scholarly, lack the expressive love of Christ. I believe they have forgotten what I have just stated: Christ came to destroy the works of the enemy, not to enforce it with tyranny and oppression. (1 John 3:8)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34