On any given Sunday morning, you may sit next to a friend who is silently, urgently, pleading for help. She desperately wants help, but she is terrified that someone might actually notice her fears. So, each Sunday she tries to look normal and happy, while on the inside she agonizes with a mixture of guilt, desperation, fear and resignation. You see, your friend, who always appears slightly edgy but always eager to please, who quickly offers a nervous smile, is living in an abusive relationship.
This scenario is all too real. The ugly reality is that weak men find their security in having women fear them. Your friend thought she had found just the right man. Exploitative, abusive men will often at first appear to be caring, even to a fault. But their motives are far from pure. As the relationship progresses, care subtly shifts towards domination and control. The progression continues until a horrific mixture of abuse and acceptance becomes the norm; until she is sitting next to you in church offering her silent pleas.
In such relationships, women are made to feel that they are the problem, that they are the reason for the man’s abusive actions. Abusive men work hard to create and maintain this delusion. Abuse has infected our culture and has spread to the church. In brief, here are three ways to combat it.
First, we must be on guard against men who will use the word of God as a means to control and deceive. Men who are weak will demand submission and wrongly use the Bible to support their abuse. Ephesians 5:6 warns against being taken in by such deceptive scheming. Men who love and fear God will nourish, cherish and understand their wives. If men are not actively nourishing and cherishing their wives they are on a path that may eventually lead to abuse.
Second, men must be taught to truly value women as God commands. Women are not objects to possess. Women are to be honored and served, not controlled and manipulated. Headship requires sacrifice and a servant’s heart. Men who demand submission are not to be trusted.
Third, and most importantly, the church must be aware that these abusive relationships exist in our midst. We must learn to love and care for each other enough to identify and stop abuse.
If God is to be honored then the church must act to protect and help those who are caught in the dark culture of abuse. Women in these relationships often have come to believe that if they just acted differently the abuse would go away. Care enough about your brothers and sisters to get involved.
Care enough about the person next to you hear her silent pleas. God commands us to care for the oppressed and those in need. It takes wise courage to help. You may have to seek the help of your pastor. You may need to offer your home as a refuge. You may need to reach out to civil authorities. The one thing you must not do to is to join in the silence.