• Christ’s Resurrection Power for Abuse in Marriage

    Posted on July 3rd, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Counseling and Abuse in Marriage

    Part 7: Christ’s Resurrection Power


    Summary: Marital abuse is one of the most traumatic issues an individual, couple, family, and church can face. Discussing it raises hotly defended convictions. How should God’s people respond to “abuse in marriage”?


    Today, in my final blog post in this mini-series, I have some words to share for various individuals and groups.


    *To the spouse experiencing abuse

    *To the abusive spouse

    *To pastors, counselors, and spiritual friends

    *To the Body of Christ


    To the Spouse Experiencing Abuse


    Please, do not suffer in silence. Please, do not suffer alone.


    I know, sometimes telling others can mean being revictimized because they disbelieve you, minimize, give pat answers, etc.


    I know, depending on the situation, you’ve been told, “This is a private, family issue.” Or, you’ve been threatened if you tell anyone else.


    Still, find a safe way to tell a safe person and get help for yourself, your marriage, your family.


    Even if your spouse will not seek help, you need the support of others. Even one person changing—you—changing the dynamics of the situation.


    We think of abuse being from husband to wife. However, my ministry experience and the private responses to this blog tell me that many wives are being abusive to their husbands. Husbands—get help. Overcome the stigma and be a shepherd in your home by facing the issue.


    We care. I care. The Body of Christ cares. Most importantly, Christ cares.


    To the Abusive Spouse


    You can stop. Christ’s resurrection power is available.


    Get help. Go to the Lord. Go to the Word. Go to your pastor. Get an accountability partner and an accountability group.

    Humble yourself before God. Face reality. Deal with your inner heart issues. Change your behavior. Renew your heart and renew your home.


    To Pastors, Counselors, and Spiritual Friends


    Always remember 1 Thessalonians and the two “ingredients” in Paul’s “love sandwich”:


    “I loved you so much that I was delighted to give you not only the Scriptures but my very own soul, because you were dear to me” (1 Thess. 2:8).


    Paul starts and ends his words with love. In between these two “slices” of life, he inserts the two fundamental “ingredients” of Scripture and soul.


    Truly biblical counseling begins and ends with love. It is speaking the truth in love. It is love abounding in depth of insight.


    Truly biblical counseling is not impersonal; it is not preaching at, it is intimately engaging others with Christ’s pure love.


    And truly biblical counseling involves both truth and love, both Scripture and soul. Engage the abusive marital situation from the context of the Word of God, not where you preach at, but where you converse, dialogue, and trialogue (you the counselor, the counselee, and the Divine Counselor).


    Don’t victimize the victim. Love the spouse being abused. Equip him or her to live with bold love.


    Don’t minimize the abuse, care-front the abusive spouse in love. Empower the abusive spouse to change by tapping into Christ’s resurrection power.


    Be for the marriage and be for God’s glory.


    To the Body of Christ


    Let’s stop the silence.


    Scores of people responded to me privately saying, “It’s about time someone talked about this in Christian circles.”


    Preach and teach and do small group lessons on “texts of terror” in the Old Testament—which is not silent about abuse, especially males abusing women.


    Preach and teach and do small group lessons on marriage.


    Preach and teach and do small group lessons on God’s compassion for those who are victimized.


    May we speak the truth in love so that the whole body grows together in truth and love. So that the onlooking world marvels at the way the church honestly handles this vital issue. So that the world witnesses in real life Christ’s resurrection power.

  • Abuse and Divorce

    Posted on July 1st, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Counseling and Abuse in Marriage

    Part 6: Abuse and Divorce


    Summary: Marital abuse is one of the most traumatic issues an individual, couple, family, and church can face. Discussing it raises hotly defended convictions. How should God’s people respond to “abuse in marriage”?


    Extreme Responses


    So far we’ve explored how the church and individuals within the church can demonstrate Christ’s care during the crisis of marital abuse.


    However, some are somewhat quick to say, “All this talk about helping and counseling and reconciliation is foolish. Just tell them to get a divorce!”


    Sadly, on the other hand, some in the church have been known to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to marital abuse. They quickly victimize the victim by denying any abuse is occurring, without investigating the situation, or they are aware of the abuse and tell the abused spouse, often the wife, “Just submit!”


    So what is the truth? Does the Bible offer grounds for divorce based upon abuse?


    The Bible and Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage


    Hundreds of books have been written on the topic of the Bible and divorce. Theological students have written dissertations of hundreds of pages on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Churches have split over interpretations surrounding divorce.


    If you want to explore the issue further, consider Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views: http://tinyurl.com/lgzj4w.


    Also consider Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible by Jay Adams: http://tinyurl.com/ncn8hr.


    My “brief” blog post will not solve the issue. Plus, this blog series is not about divorce in general, but about abuse in marriage and whether that may be grounds for divorce.


    Abuse and Separation


    Some people have said, based upon 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul says couples should only be apart for a short time for prayer and fasting, that separation for abuse is never biblical. Personally, I hardly think that Paul planned for his words, given in the context of prayer and fasting, to be applied when a spouse is being abused. As I said in the first post in this series, in the case of physical abuse, safety is the first priority—and often that requires separation while church and civil authorities address the abusive spouse.


    Abuse and Divorce: What Others Are Saying


    For Evangelical Christians, we can’t answer issues based upon our feelings or opinions. We must attempt to understand how to relate God’s timeless truth to our changing times.


    Some Evangelicals do not see any grounds for divorce in the Bible.


    Other Evangelicals would say that biblical grounds for divorce are limited to adultery (Matthew 19) and abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7).


    Most Evangelicals, regarding divorce in general, would say that even if divorce were permitted for those two grounds, that confession, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation and always the preferred response.


    David L. Snuth, in “Divorce and Remarriage from the Early Church to John Wesley” (Trinity Journal 11.2, Fall 1990: 131-142) shares an historical perspective. Somewhat surprisingly, according to his research, the Reformers like Luther and Calvin saw abuse as one possible ground for divorce.


    Apparently, like some commentators, pastors, and counselors today, some in Church history interpreted 1 Corinthians 7 and abandonment by an unbeliever to include various behaviors indicative of abandoning marital vows and roles. So, since husbands, for instance, are called to love and cherish their wives, a habitually unrepentant husband who is emotionally, verbally, mentally, psychologically, spiritually, sexually, and/or physically abusing his wife, could be deemed to be living like an unbeliever who has abandoned his marital vows and his duties to his wife. Therefore, some have said in Church history and some say today, abuse could be grounds for divorce, especially habitually, unrepentant abuse.


    Of course, some in history and some today would respond, “Well, that opens the door for divorce for just about anything that anyone wants to claim is ‘abuse.’” Others would say, “That simply is not an accurate interpretation or application of 1 Corinthians 7.”


    What Do You Think?


    What is your conviction? Biblically, what should happen to the marriage when abuse occurs? 


  • Intimate Marriage Counseling

    Posted on June 30th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Counseling and Abuse in Marriage

    Part 5: Intimate Marriage Counseling


    Summary: Marital abuse is one of the most traumatic issues an individual, couple, family, and church can face. Discussing it raises hotly defended convictions. How should God’s people respond to “abuse in marriage”?


    The Extremes


    Since I began this series nearly a week ago, the reactions have been all across the spectrum. I’ve had extremes from:


    *“Counsel the couple? Are you kidding! If my husband abused me there would be a one-word counsel: ‘leave!’”


    *“Claiming abuse is just an angry, petty, immature woman’s response to a firm but loving husband. My counsel to her would be two words, ‘grow up!’”


    Hmm. That could make biblical marriage counseling for abuse quick: “Leave!” “Grow up!”


    Let’s avoid these extremes, and let’s examine how to truly help a couple involved with abuse in their marriage.


    Remembering the Basic Principles


    In Part 1 (http://tinyurl.com/mcr26y), we highlighted “safety first.” Use the resources of the Body of Christ and the civil authorities to protect the abused spouse.


    In Part 2 (http://tinyurl.com/qhrvhw), we introduced the following principles of biblical marriage counseling:


    *Infuse Hope


    *Be for the Marriage, Not on Either Spouse’s “Side”


    *Be for God’s Glory


    *Focus on Win/Win


    *At Times Win/Offend: Confront One Partner, Comfort the Other Partner


    *Help Spouses to Understand Maleness and Femaleness


    *Help Spouses to Understand Biblical Roles of Husbands and Wives


    In Part 3 (http://tinyurl.com/mgdz6b), we discussed basic principles of biblical counseling with an abusive spouse. By now the abusive spouse is repentant, and is empowered to stop the abuse.


    In Part 4 (http://tinyurl.com/lnakln), we equipped you with an overview approach to counseling someone being victimized (sinned against) by spousal abuse. By now you have helped the victimized spouse to practice bold love. You have helped this spouse to begin to grant forgiveness, while still holding the abusing spouse accountable for changed behavior.


    Now in Part 5, we return to the issue of counseling the couple together. Remember, prayerfully, safety has been reestablished, the abusive spouse is repentant, maturing, and changing, and the abused spouse is practicing bold love. Both want to make their marriage work. Both want to be in counseling.


    You’ve set the ground for effective biblical marriage counseling for abuse. Which means, to the surprise of some, that you work on the marriage! In other words, you don’t only work on the abusive spouse. You don’t only focus on the abusive spouse. The three of you work together on and for the marriage.


    Have the Couple Relate to Each Other in Your Presence


    Many counselors seem ill-equipped for marriage counseling. They simply make it “individual counseling in front of each other.” They counsel the husband while the wife watches. Then they counsel the wife while the husband watches.


    Yes, in marriage counseling there are brief times when the focus will be on one spouse or the other. However, to make this the totality of marriage counseling loses the power of joint counseling.


    Instead, get the couple talking to each other. Have them interact. Have them relate in front of you.


    As they relate intimately and intensely, the real person will come out. The real relationship will unfold before you. In intimacy, you can’t hide. You can’t fake it for long.


    Notice that you are not simply having them talk about their marriage. That simply becomes “he said, she said.” You are having them talk to each other.


    As they do, the layers come off. The real person is exposed. Their patterns of relating become clear. Now you have plenty of “material” to deal with.


    The husband may have been telling you what a wonderful, godly husband he is and how his wife is at fault. Then, right before you, you see him trying to intimidate her. Or you witness him being weak and childish.


    The wife may have been telling you what the perfect Proverbs 31 wife she is and that her husband is always at fault. Then, right before you, you see her emotionally abusing her husband. Or you witness her playing the mother or the little girl.


    Getting them relating to each other is like being a fly on the wall.


    No more, “he said, she said.” Now it’s, “they are doing.”


    Expose Their Sinful Relational Styles and the Idols behind Them


    James 4:1-8 asks and answers the greatest marital counseling question: “What causes the fights and quarrels among you?” Picture yourself seeing these fights and quarrels right now as you counsel the couple as they relate in your presence.


    (Of course, you have already exposed the sinfulness of the emotionally abusive wife or the mentally abusive husband. And you are continually working with that wife or that husband on their victory over those sins.)


    Now is the time to expose their sinful failure to love and respect one another. Now is the time to expose their sinful failure to live out their godly maleness and femaleness. Now is the time to expose how together they are failing to live out God’s relational calling and pattern for their marriage.


    Additionally, as James explains, now is also the time to expose the sinful idols behind their sinful behaviors. James says that the cause of our sin in our homes is sin in our hearts. I sin against my spouse when I demand that my spouse meet my needs. I demand that my spouse meet my needs when I refuse to humbly go to God. I sin against God by replacing Him with my spouse. Since no human being can replace God, my spouse lets me down. I then manipulate my spouse. I then retaliate against my spouse. The vicious cycle of sin has replaced the victorious cycle of growth.


    Infuse Repentance, Grace, Forgiveness, and Christ’s Resurrection Power


    Now you help the couple to repent together before and to God. Now you help the couple to see their absolute need together for God’s grace. Now you help the couple to ask and to give forgiveness to one another for their behavioral sins against God and each other and for their heart sins against God and against one another. And now you help them to put off their old sinful patterns and to put on their new resurrection power in Christ.


    There’s so much more we could say here. In our seminary program, we spend 75 hours of graduate training in the how to of biblical marriage counseling. But these principles from these first five blogs should at least start the helping process.


    Where Do We Go from Here?


    Of course, some will be saying, “But should they even be in counseling? Isn’t abuse grounds for divorce? Therefore, instead of seeing a counselor, shouldn’t they be seeing a lawyer?”


    We address the controversial issue of abuse and divorce in our next post.





  • Counseling an Abused Spouse

    Posted on June 29th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Counseling and Abuse in Marriage

    Part 4: Biblical Counseling for a Victimized Spouse


    Summary: Marital abuse is one of the most traumatic issues an individual, couple, family, and church can face. Discussing it raises hotly defended convictions. How should God’s people respond to “abuse in marriage”?

    *In Part 1 (http://tinyurl.com/mcr26y), we highlighted “safety first.”


    *In Part 2 (http://tinyurl.com/qhrvhw), we overviewed introductory principles of biblical marital counseling.


    *In Part 3 (http://tinyurl.com/mgdz6b), we discussed basic principles of biblical counseling with an abusive spouse. 


    *Now in Part 4, we equip you with an overview approach to counseling someone being victimized (sinned against) by spousal abuse.


    What’s In a Name?


    Notice that I try to avoid the label “victim.” The spouse who is being abused has certainly been sinfully and horribly victimized. However, “victim” is not their identity. Their primary identity in Christ is “saint,” “son/daughter/child of God, and “victor in Christ.” We seek to empower a victimized spouse to move to victory in Christ.


    A Comprehensive Approach


    As with ministry to the abusive spouse, so ministry to the spouse being victimized by abuse requires a comprehensive approach. This could include:


    1. Where necessary, involve the civil authorities. See Post 1 on this issue.


    2. Where necessary, involve godly women and godly couples in housing the abused spouse for the sake of safety.


    3. Assign spiritual friends, mentors, and encouragement partners to minister to the abused spouse.


    4. Be sure that the abused spouse is involved in a healthy small group.


    5. Be sure that the abused spouse is active in Sunday morning worship and adult Sunday School.


    6. Be sure that the abused spouse is practicing the spiritual disciplines.


    7. To the extent that the abused spouse has a strong and healthy extended family, involve them in ministry to the victimized spouse.


    Individual Counseling


    Individual counseling for the abused spouse should include:







    Sustaining: “It’s Normal to Hurt”


    God calls us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). We are to comfort the suffering with the same comfort we have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).


    The person being victimized by spousal abuse can experience a torrent of emotions: shame, confusion, loss, anger, fear, anxiety, depression. Created to be loved and respected in marriage, the person instead experiences hateful behavior and disrespect. We must climb in the casket of their despair (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) and be Jesus with skin on. We need to safe and trustworthy, caring and comforting.


    Healing: “It’s Possible to Hope”


    We never victimize victims by implying in any way that they caused their abuse. The abusive spouse is always responsible for his or her actions.


    However, we do help the victimized spouse to respond biblically. We “trialogue” together (the counselee, the counselor, and the Divine Counselor) by exploring pertinent biblical principles that apply to abusive situations.


    We help the person to understand that God is good even when life is bad. We help the person to find hope in the midst of despair. We explore together biblical grief and healing. We help the person to see life with spiritual eyes.


    Reconciling: “It’s Horrible to Sin, But Wonderful to Be Forgiven”


    Please read the following very carefully. Please remember that we do not victimize the victim. Please remember that there is no excuse for abusing a spouse.


    That said, there are two areas in the life of the spouse being abused that we may want to explore.


    1. Sinful Responses to Sinful Abuse: Let’s be honest, few of us respond in a 100% pure manner to being sinned against. If a driver cuts us off, our attitude may be sinful. If our boss is snippy with us, our inner response may be sinful.


    So certainly someone enduring the horrors of spousal abuse may be responding in less-than-godly ways. We would be less-than-caring counselors, pastors, and spiritual friends if we ignored the possibility.


    Be careful here. You may well be accused by the victimized spouse of re-victimization. Gently respond by speaking the truth in love. Interact about why you need to explore these areas. Then continue to explore potential areas of sinful reactions. While exposing sin and guilt, always enlighten your counselee to God’s grace. Where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Romans 5:20).


    2. Sinful Relating before the Abuse: Again, let’s be honest, no married person relates perfectly to his or her spouse. So we must examine potential ways of relating that need to change if the marriage is to glorify God.


    Also, while never causing and never excusing abuse, some behaviors can be contributing factors.


    Perhaps a husband has been repeatedly emotionally abused by his wife. She has been consistently disrespectful, thus breaking the commands in Ephesians 5. Has the husband contributed to the situation by breaking the commands in Ephesians 5 to nourish, cherish, shepherd, and love his wife like Christ loves the church?


    Perhaps a wife has been emotionally abused by a controlling, dominating, dictatorial husband. Has the wife contributed to the situation by being demeaning, disrespectful, and perfectionistic?


    Guiding: “It’s Supernatural to Mature”


    The victimized spouse needs:


    1. Enlightenment: To see who he or she is in Christ and to understand biblical principles of godly living in the home. With abuse, this includes bold love—the wisdom to know when and how to confront the abusive spouse, to hold the spouse accountable, and to refuse to allow the abuse to continue.


    2. Empowering: Knowing “how to” and being “able to” are two sides of one coin. The victimized spouse needs RPMs: Resurrection Power Multipliers (Philippians 3:10). He or she needs to learn how to tap into Christ’s power and how to apply God’s truth to daily life and marital relationships.


    Forgiveness and Reconciliation


    Assuming that the victimized spouse wants reconciliation, and assuming that the victimizing spouse is truly repentant, is receiving counsel, and is changing, then 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 is vital.


    Here Paul tells us that it is Satan’s scheme to outwit us by overwhelming us with guilt. We team with Satan when we fail to forgive one another!


    Paul tells us that when someone responds to biblical counsel and discipline that we ought to forgive and comfort the person, so that he or she will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Paul urges us to reaffirm our love for the repentant person.


    Often this is the most difficult and the longest part of biblical counseling with the spouse who has been victimized by abuse. The abused spouse is right to have righteous anger. He or she is right to express bold love that requires repentance and change. It is normal for the abused spouse to hurt.


    However, nothing excuses an unforgiving spirit. Marriages rocked by abuse will never heal if the victimized spouse continually condemns victimizing spouse and continually reminds the victimizing spouse of past sins.


    Where Do We Go From Here?


    In our next post, we will explore how to provide marital counseling for an abusive situation. Then we will examine the hotly debated issue of divorce and spousal abuse.

  • Biblical Marriage Counseling for Abuse

    Posted on June 27th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Counseling and Abuse in Marriage

    Part 2: Biblical Marriage Counseling


    Marital abuse is one of the most traumatic issues an individual, couple, family, and church can face. Discussing it raises hotly defended convictions. How should God’s people respond to “abuse in marriage”?


    In Part 1 (http://tinyurl.com/mcr26y), we highlighted “safety first.” Now, with protection for the abused spouse in place, biblical marital counseling can take place. Consider the following introductory principles your Readers’ Digest version.


    Infuse Hope


    Unfortunately, couples rarely enter marriage counseling proactively when things are going well. Typically, they come for counseling as a last resort. This is especially true in abuse situations. Tension is high. Pain is deep. Hope is all but lost.


    Our role as pastors, biblical counselors, and spiritual friends is to infuse hope. Help the hurting (and often sinning) couple to know that Christ’s changeless truth can change their lives individually and as a couple. Remind the couple that new elements have been added—you, biblical counseling, the Body of Christ.


    Even if only one spouse is willing to attend counseling, help that spouse to know that their responses can change, they can glorify God, and they can find Christ’s peace.


    For the Marriage and for God’s Glory


    In biblical marriage counseling it’s vital to help Christian couples to understand that you are not “for” or “on the side of” one or the other. You are “for” their marriage. You are “on the side of” their marriage.


    Ultimately this means you are on God’s side. You are called to help them to glorify God through their marriage. And an abusive marital relationship that results in repentance, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and mutual love glorifies God in amazing ways.


    When a couple understands that you are for their marriage, then often you are able to “win/win.” That is, both the husband and the wife understand that you are there to help both of them.


    However, almost inevitably, you will at any given time need to confront one of them and support the other one. Perhaps you are strongly confronting the husband and refusing to allow him any excuse for his abusive behavior. He may very well say, “So you’re on my wife’s side, just like everyone else!” The wife at this point feels very supported and protected. “Finally, someone strong enough to stand up for me and to stand up to my husband.”


    This is the “win/offend” aspect of biblical marital counseling. You respond by reminding the couple that because you are for their marriage, you must show them where they are failing to love one another biblical. You also candidly remind them that there will be times you will support and comfort one spouse while confronting the other spouse.


    The CFR of Biblical Marriage Counseling


    After the first post in this series, someone asked, “Is the counselor’s response different if it is the husband who is being abused?” Good question. Actually, the response is always somewhat different when counseling a male as compared to counseling a female.


    To understand why, we need to understand the “CFR” of biblical marriage counseling: Creation, Fall, Redemption. As biblical counselors, we understand God’s Creation design for maleness and femaleness and for husbands and wives. We examine Genesis 1-2 to see what it means to be a godly, mature male/husband and a godly, mature female/wife.


    We then explore Genesis 3 and many other passages to understand the Fall and how sin and depravity marred God’s original design. What are the unique ways that males sin against God and others? What are the specific sins of an ungodly husband? What are the unique ways that females sin against God and others? What are the specific sins of an ungodly husband?


    But we never stop at sin. We move to Redemption. We study passages like Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy, etc. Passages like these teach us God’s description of a godly male and of a mature husband. They show us what it looks like to be a godly female and a mature wife.


    This is the beauty of biblical counseling for pastors, spiritual friends, and professional counselors.


    *We understand males and females and husband’s and wives—biblically—through the Words of the Creator.


    *We diagnose sinful maleness and femaleness and ungodly living as husbands and wives—biblically—through the Words of the Creator.


    *We prescribe God’s solutions that lead to godly maleness and femaleness and mature living and loving as husbands and wives—biblically—through the Words of the Creator.


    Where Do We Go From Here?


    In our next post, we’ll move from these general, foundational principles to a more specific discussion of biblical marriage counseling for abuse. How does the counselor and how does the Body of Christ join together with and for the couple to help them to move toward confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and biblical marital love and respect?



  • Counseling and Abuse in Marriage: A Wise Christian Response

    Posted on June 26th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Counseling and Abuse in Marriage

    Part I: A Wise Christian Response


    Recently a pastor asked me how a church should deal with “abuse in marriage.” Marital abuse is one of the most traumatic issues an individual, couple, family, and church can face. Discussing it raises hotly defended convictions. How should God’s people respond to “abuse in marriage”?


    First Things First: Listen and Learn


    While “abuse” can surely be “both ways” (a wife to a husband or a husband to a wife), for this discussion we’ll emphasize how we can respond when husband is abusing his wife. When a wife says to you, as her pastor or her spiritual friend, “My husband is abusing me,” where do you start?


    “Abuse” is a word fraught with emotion and emotions tempt us to jump in “Peter-first”—like the Apostle Peter. We’re tempted to speak without thinking. However, even in this highly charged situation, we must step back and define the fuzzy word “abuse.”


    Abuse can be emotional, mental, spiritual, sexual, or physical. It can happen one time in the heat of a passionate exchange, or it can become a habitual way a husband mistreats his wife. So our first calling is to explore lovingly, caringly, and wisely exactly what is occurring.


    Respond with Compassion: Empathy


    We’re not simply on a “fact-finding mission” asking questions like “Joe Friday” from the old Dragnet detective television series, “Just the facts, Maam.” We must enter this situation, this person’s story, and this person’s soul (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:8) with empathy (Romans 12:15).


    As we listen to this woman’s story of spousal abuse, she must know our compassion and our passion. In compassion, we weep with her as she weeps. In passion, we express righteous anger over the evil of the abuse she is suffering.


    It’s a horrific thing to be abused by one who has vowed to love you. Satan attempts to use abuse to shatter a woman’s sense of self, sense of trust, and sense of reality.


    Satan also uses society, including Evangelical Christian society to “victimize the victim.” Male pastors in particular (I’m an ordained minister so I am speaking to myself also) must be very careful to guard against abusing the abuse victim. We must show ourselves trustworthy or we will silence a wife’s courageous decision to verbalize her abuse. 


    Yes, the time will come when we explore her response to the abuse. Yes, the time will even come, if we enter into marital counseling, when we explore how she relates to her husband. But we must be extremely careful lest we ever convey, “You caused this abuse.”


    Nothing ever excuses a husband’s abuse of his wife. Nothing ever “causes” a husband to abuse his wife. (Later we’ll discuss couples counseling for abuse.)


    Respond with Passion: Bold Love


    Of course “empathy and compassion” without “passion and action” can be like saying to a person in need, “Go your way, I’ll be praying for you.” So to “compassion” we must add “passion”—righteous anger that wisely responds to the abusive situation with bold love.


    We must immediately help the abused wife to establish safeguards against further abuse. This will look different depending on the nature of the abuse. It is crucial to involve “others.”


    “Others” can include the Body of Christ. The pastor and other church leaders, including men who know the husband, can intervene by lovingly but firmly confronting the abusing husband.


    “Others” can include godly, strong women in the church who will, if necessary, provide a safe, supportive place to stay for the wife (and children if there are any—an abusive husband is often also an abusive father). An angry, abusive husband, exposed by his wife, could very well explode with rage when he learns his wife has talked with “outsiders” about the abuse. Sending a wife back into that situation without considering protective options is naïve.


    “Others” could include the “authorities” (compare Romans 13). Police may need to become involved. In some situations the court system may need to be involved. A restraining order may need to be obtained.


    Many times I have seen the combined support of the Body of Christ and of civil authorities bring protection to an abused woman. Even more than that, I have seen such combined action begin to bring true healing to an abusive situation.


    It is never an easy decision as to whether or not we involve civil authorities. Each situation is unique.


    If the husband shows signs of true remorse and repentance, that influences our next step. If he is willing to receive counseling is a vital factor. We must factor in whether or not the husband has shown a history of an inability to control his behavior. We must seek to discern whether the husband is simply trying to appease and pacify us. We must listen well to “both sides” and seek to “weigh the evidence” in a “Solomon-like” way.


    Where Do We Go From Here?


    First, we listen carefully and soulfully to a wife’s traumatic story of abuse.


    Second, we empathize with her pain over broken vows to love and cherish.


    Third, we act with bold love as we address the situation face-to-face with the abusing husband and as we provide a safety-net for the abused wife (and children).


    Safety first.


    To the goal of safety we must always add the broadest goal of God’s glory. God is glorified when an on-looking world sees grace triumphing over sin. God is glorified when marriages change.


    In our next post we’ll explore marital counseling for abuse.


    In a future post, we’ll also explore the hotly debated issue and contested question, “Is ‘abuse’ biblical grounds for divorce?”