Several things are clear when it comes to the church and abuse in the home: the church really isn’t prepared to know what to do. It’s almost like she doesn’t even want to know.
Let me say this first and then I’ll move into a post that is really more of a discussion starter for me.
The reason I address the issue of domestic abuse in the first place is because I’ve been in both private discussion and shared public thoughts regarding a minister who has been accused of domestic abuse (even though the matter was not legally prosecuted, there is a public record of past abuse.) It will not surprise anyone that I’m referring to Saeed Abedini. A brother in Christ that many across the nation has prayed for while he suffered in prison for more than three years. It was right that we prayed for him and we should not let the current status of his marriage keep us from doing that a thousand times again.
His suffering in prison for the sake of the gospel should also not compel us to give him, or anyone for that matter, a pass on being held accountable. If anything it should even hold us to a tighter standard.
It is true, we don’t know all the details of what’s going on in other peoples homes. To bring up questions of what has been raised in public is not unfair or out of order. To try to silence those seeking clarification is of itself an abusive response – either aggressively or passive-aggressively.
The church has been bewitched by secular philosophy that requesting clarification of Christian’s lives is not loving (true, it can be done in an unloving way), but this is no issue to sweep under the carpet and pretend like it’s not happening.
To clarify: I have attempted levels of clarity. I’ve not run into this matter without care or concern. I’ve attempted private communication with Saeed (still no response from him), I’ve attempted communication with a church that has been associated with him, I’ve appealed to him in an open letter. I’ve been rightly questioned if I’ve followed a biblical pattern in my attempts.
Back to the general issue of domestic abuse.
Think about it with me for a moment…
- When rumor of abuse is being spread, many talk about it (not publicly, of course).
- The church seems to have been trained by some misguided philosophy that silence is the right response when a spouse (usually the wife) reports abuse and it is a matter of public record. The church almost becomes paralyzed with fear of what to do.
- To address the concern for both the abused and the abuser literally paralyzes many Christians as if they are playing a game of freeze tag. Don’t move. Don’t say anything. FREEZE! While the abused and the abuser are hanging on by a thread.
- The abused, until safe, needs help but doesn’t want to be seen as weak.
- The abuser, until repentance rules, will cover up his (her) actions with a fake humility.
- Granted – this is dangerous territory; few of us have been in a place to be trained to properly help a friend in need.
There is so much more to think about on this matter. This is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion or even to offer a conclusion on this very serious issue. It is only a starting point.
The church needs to be honest with herself on the topic of domestic abuse. It happens. When Christians, especially pastors, are accused of abusive behavior they need to become very patient and transparent people to help remove all questions or be humble and seek help if the accusations are true. This is no time to ignore and move on.
Some starter questions that need discussed…
- What are we going to do if this happens in our church?
- How do we help the abused?
- How do we address the abuser?
- What does the church do when an abuser is a leader?
- What does the church do if that abuser is a ministry leader but not in our church?
- Is it fair to talk about it? If so, what is the aimed at conclusion of the talk?
- Is it unfair to warn others?
- Should a Christian leader with abusive ways (public record) be speaking to Christian universities and given a pass by Christian media?
- What is fair to do when abuse happens in other churches to people we know?
It is clear, we (the church) don’t really have a good game plan in motion to navigate us through an emotionally charged season. And it is also clear, we really need a game plan.
What are your thoughts? Are you aware of a helpful resource that can help churches and Christians navigate these turbulent waters?
Finally, let every person in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ know that abusive people and their ways are not Christlike and are not tolerated. May every abused people have confidence they are safe and among a people who will not abandon them with the practice of secular philosophy.
Special note to wives: It is no violation of the duty of submitting to your husband to seek immediate help and find a safe place to lovingly help your husband and not enable his abusive behavior.