On this day 41 years ago my wife and I made promises to each other that we haven’t kept. Wedding vows still matter because they not only give voice to our intentions, but serve as audible and memorable reminders of what we told each other and God that we would spend our lives aspiring to be and do.
This day also has less happy overtones. It’s the “International Day for the elimination of Violence against Women”. I’m aware that sometimes men are the victims of brutish women. But the worldwide statistics of how many women are bullied and beat up by the men who should be their protectors, are staggering. It usually starts before marriage. In fact, 28% of high school and college-age girls have been abused by boyfriends. Last week George Zimmerman was arrested for beating up his allegedly pregnant girlfriend. Despite beating a murder charge in the killing of Trayvon Martin, apparently he’s still determined to play roulette with our justice system.
Jameis Winston, Florida State’s teenaged quarterback phenom is watching his Heisman chances go down the drain in the wake of a rape charge. This from a guy who talked the athlete’s Jesus talk as well as anyone in the pros.
The boyfriend of local Amish Mafia star Esther Schmucker was picked up recently for allegedly putting Ms. Schmucker in the hospital with a busted face. The evil results of a world of evil we say, shaking our heads.
Until domestic violence enters the church. Every time one woman returned from an errand, her husband would check the mileage on her car. If he didn’t want her to go away, he’d let the air out of her tires. In the home he yelled at her and threatened to kill her. Almost every Sunday he’d be in church where he sanitized his behavior around others. Who would believe her?
One woman’s husband became physical with her after he was elected to a position of responsibility in their church. His verbal and emotional abuse escalated. This pastor’s son would call her a “B—-!” and accuse her of being disrespectful and self-important. Determined to be a godly wife she walked on eggshells around him and tried harder. But any progress that she thought she had made he laughed at. He’d slap her and hurl her into walls.
In most cases, God made men physically stronger than women (1 Peter 3:7). He did that in part so men could take care of women: protect, provide for, and lead/shepherd women. When a man commits domestic violence against a woman he repudiates one of those sacred roles. It’s a joke when he punctuates his wickedness by saying something like, “The Bible says you’re to submit to me!!!”
Abusers were often abused themselves, but abuse’s roots are diverse. Critics still blame traditional and/or biblical gender roles for some of it. In his February article in Psychology Today John G. Taylor contends that one of the five points of the profile of batter/abuser is that the guy holds to “…very rigid gender roles.” Such a man “believes that her job is just to cater to him, he is the “king of the castle.”
But there’s no evil in the roles God’s given men and women. He gives them for our good and His glory. Abusers distort roles so they can be in control, have power. They don’t care to be husbands, but kings. The yelling, threatening, demeaning, and hurting are just ways to sit on the throne. How unlike the biblical picture of a sacrificial and dying husband–like Jesus; a man who gladly relinquishes his life for his spouse (Eph.5:25). The Qur’an may endorse spousal beating but that’s certainly not the case with the inspired Word of God. “Husbands, love your wives…” (Eph.5:25), “…nourish” and “cherish” her (Eph.5:29). Not once in the Bible does God ever tell husbands to make sure wives submit to them. He tells wives to submit. In other words, they choose to obey God or not. It’s not a husband’s job to demand or enforce. No leader of a home can use the Bible to somehow justify evil treatment of the “wife of his youth”. That may be how the people of the world do it, but the leader who has been redeemed by the blood of the lamb lives differently. …the leader should be like the servant (Luke 22:26).
Christian wife, if your husband is hurting you, leave. This is not your fault. Yes, like me you have failed to keep your vows perfectly, but that in no way justifies his wickedness. And no, you won’t change him by trying harder. Leave today–or as soon as you can make a plan. Your church should help. Call your pastor. If you live locally, the Lancaster hotline for domestic violence is 717-299-1249. If you worry that leaving for now will estrange you from your husband, that’s already happened. It’s something he’s done–not you.