Domestic Violence and the Gospel

Domestic violence is on the church’s radar. Perhaps this is due to the cultural moment we are living in, increased reporting from victims, or the work of the Holy Spirit. Whatever the reason, churches are paying attention to domestic violence like never before.

Did you know 1 in 3 women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner? For 1 in 4, it was severe. Nearly 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner in the US. On a typical day there are 20,000 calls to domestic violence hotlines, but only 34% of the injured ever get medical care. The majority of domestic violence victims will lose a job because of it, and many will deal with depression and even suicidal thoughts. [1]

Clearly we are not talking about a mistake that a couple guys have made. We’re talking about an epidemic. A power that has infected homes everywhere, including in the church, and one that preys mostly on women and children.

While we have occasionally overlooked this, the Bible does not. Repeatedly in Scripture we read about the dangerous position of women and children. Yet sometimes, “The innocent are crushed, they collapse; they fall victim to superior strength.” (Ps 10:10)

Not only do we sometimes shrug our shoulders at this reality, but psychologist Lenore Walker says that “women with strong religious backgrounds often are less likely to believe that violence against them is wrong.” [2] They are more likely to attribute it to God’s will, or part of God’s plan for their life.

I was devastated when I read this, and not just because “the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion” (Ps 11:5). (There are not many times the Bible claims that God hates somebody. This is one of them. It’s hard to swallow, but it’s there.) More so, I was devastated because if religious women accept that abuse is normal or even righteous, then that means the church has failed to adequately communicate what the gospel has to say about the way men treat women.

So let me say this as clearly as I can: abuse is not God’s plan for any man, woman or child. Not only does God call on us to protect the abused and the vulnerable (Prov 24:11-12), but God himself is “defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror” (Ps 10:18).

These claims, along with the current climate of domestic violence, give new meaning to Jesus’s declaration that he came to “set the oppressed free” (Lk 4:18).

Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). Well—Christ does not do violence to his church. Christ gives himself up for his church. He dies for his church. He loves his church. Christ does not do violence to his church, his bride.

I believe we should defend people who are victims of domestic violence because God tells us to. Because God is defending them. Because God desires a world where no one lives with that kind of terror.

Ultimately, however, we need to defend the abused because it says something to the world about the way Jesus loves the church. When we declare to the world that there is a right and righteous way for men to treat women, we are declaring that Jesus treats his church rightly and righteously. We witness to the gospel of Christ’s sacrificial, faithful, and tireless love for his church when we stand up for those who cannot and say “no.”

When we free victims of violence from the “terror” of “mere earthly mortals,” we witness to the gospel.

[1] These stats are from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: https://ncadv.org/statistics
[2] Quoted in Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, Is it My Fault? Hope and Healing for those Suffering Domestic Violence, 107.

Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.

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Author:  Publish Date: April 20, 2018

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
Dr. Carisse Berryhill
Dr. Jason Fikes
Karissa Herchenroeder
Mac Ice
Chai Green
Tammy Marcelain
Molly Scherer
Dr. John Weaver

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