I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce. I have on more than one occasion counseled and aided women in leaving an abusive husband.
I, too, am a Southern Baptist, and although I respect Dr. Patterson’s right to disagree, I doubt that this is the presiding opinion among all SBC pastors. Patterson’s refusal to acknowledge abuse as a legitimate breach of the marriage covenant convinced a battered wife to stay in an abusive home. Domestic abuse is cyclical. Even when pastors, counselors, and victim’s advocates intentionally intervene, abused women often find the fear of isolation, financial struggle, single parenting, violent retribution, and a host of other factors to be a hill too steep to climb. So they return home.
Women and children are being oppressed by their husbands and fathers across our nation. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011 survey of more than 12,000 women, 22 percent of women in the US have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. That’s one in four women across our nation experiencing “severe” physical oppression. (Fourteen percent of men also experience abuse during their lifetimes.) Which is why pastors have to refuse the simple, proof-texted answer. Patterson insists, “The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce.” That is true.
Exhibit A: Malachi 2:16a—“‘For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel …” (NASB)
However, the Bible also makes clear the way in which God views abuse and oppression.
Exhibit B: Malachi 2:16b—“…and [I hate] him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.’”
Let us take heed together, lest we be joined with those who deal in treacherous acts.
1. God will crush all oppressors.
The defining act of the Old Testament is the Exodus: a deliverance from oppression. The fearful plagues that befell Egypt were in direct response to the ruthless enslavement Pharaoh inflicted on the people of Israel (Ex. 1:13). We even see the hardhearted cycle of abuse as Pharaoh feels remorse and promises reform, only to tighten his grip. Ultimately, God crushed Pharaoh and his army between the walls of his judgment. If abusers want to know how God feels about them, they need only look at Pharaoh’s fate.
What is more, God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). He is just as offended by abuse within the people of God. Read the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. God explicitly tells his people the reason for their judgment: oppression and violence (cf. Isa. 10:1–4; 30:12–14; Jer. 6:6-8; 9:6–11). The Lord freed his people from slavery and gave them a veritable Garden of Eden, a land to fill with the beautiful fruit of brotherly love. Instead, they turned the Promised Land into the New Egypt. This time, God’s people were the oppressors:
It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord God of hosts. (Isa. 3:14b–15, NASB)
Jeremiah did not mince words when he confronted King Jehoiakim: “You have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence” (Jer. 22:17, ESV). He tells the king that God will use his dead carcass to demonstrate to the whole world how he feels about the abuse taking place on his holy hill: “With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (22:19, ESV).
When pastors counsel quick reconciliation in marriages ravaged by abuse, the Lord says, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14, ESV). The primary message an abuser should experience from the minister of Christ is that the eternal wrath of the Lord burns hot against those who heap up violence and oppression. Their abuse has not escaped the watchful eye of the One who declares, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:19, ESV). The first step in putting God’s justice on full display is getting the proper authorities involved.
The most unloving thing a pastor could do in a situation of abuse is to dampen the severity of God’s retribution by offering cheap grace. Perhaps God will bring true repentance in the life of an abuser. But it will never happen until he stands condemned in his sin before the burning anger of the eternal Creator. Then and only then is he ready to receive forgiveness at the Cross.
The primary message an abused woman should hear from a minister of Christ is that the Lord is the protector of the weak. He is our Boaz, the gentle, kind, and strong Redeemer who spreads his wing of protection over us (Ruth 2:12). Like Naomi spoke to Ruth, the voice of the church should unequivocally call a vulnerable woman to the safety of Jesus Christ: “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted” (Ruth 2:22, ESV). We make that safety tangible by surrounding a victim with advocates, counselors, and resources to help her make the difficult choices that lay ahead.
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Source: Christianity Today