Even the Gentiles Seek to Protect the Abused

In the wake of recent events in Christian sub-culture, I am grateful to have guest blogger Dani Ross share how wrong theology leads to destructive consequences. 

I’m not going to assume to know what exactly brings a man to find pleasure in the sight of a black-and-blue-faced woman whom he instructed to endure violence at the hands of her own husband.  

“I hope you’re happy,” she said to him.  And he responded, “Yes ma’am, I’m happy.”

Honestly, something breaks inside of me when I think on it too much. 

But maybe it’s not thinking about the reality of this toxic teaching that has brought us to where we are today. This type of counsel isn’t what is shocking; we all know he is not the only pastor to teach along these lines. He is certainly not the only one who teaches this warped view of Scripture. No, what is disturbing is it has been an acceptable response within Christian sub-culture.

I have been in a classroom while the male professor and other male students applauded a story of a woman three months into her marriage woke to find her husband strangling her and was hospitalized for days, only to have the church disallow divorce and bring them back into union.

I have listened to a pastor declare that “abuse” is an exaggerated term used as an excuse for divorce. I also have a sister who was counseled to go home to her abusive husband, which led to the pastor scolding my father for failing to raise a submissive daughter.

Women, we all have our stories, don’t we?  

But why so much allowance for such calloused disregard for women in abusive marriages? There are many reasons, but I suggest we need take a look at some possible theological underpinnings of this distortion.

Popularized quotes such as A.W. Tozer’s, “God is not likely to use someone greatly before bruising him deeply,” garner “Amen!” and “I wouldn’t be here without it!” on social media. The quote pops up regularly in Christian circles as some way to resolve the tension between the brokenness of the world and the sovereignty of God. I’ve seen it projected on the big screen at church to remind us that our suffering is good because God is doing it….

When did we become comfortable with a God who “bruises” his people? When did we start nodding when the pastor serves a warning to the sinner that “God will kill you.” 

These statements should make us shudder.

Sisters and brothers, our God is light and in him there is no darkness. Our God does not inflict evil upon us. He does not hold us down to endure suffering, he does not give us cancer, he does not take our children from us, and he does not make the evils of this world swallow us up so we can be sanctified.

And he certainly does not desire a woman to remain in a marriage to be physically and psychologically tortured for her own good or the good of the abusive man. 

Think with me here: If our God is the active agent in the suffering and the pain and the bruises inflicted on us, isn’t the only logical conclusion that God abuses us? If so, the logical conclusion is interpreting God’s hatred of divorce as a stamp of approval of God’s work within a marriage, even in cases of abuse.

This most definitely makes us shudder. Or it should!

We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ. What is this image? Sisters and brothers, show me where the Word of God teaches that abuse is a tool of sanctification? Please, read to me the passage that says God is more concerned with a woman’s submission than her safety. And as you search in vain to find proof, I will show you:

Put down your stones. Put away your sword. Rise and take up your mat. Your faith has made you well. Your daughter lives.
You are forgiven. You are healed.
Let the little children come to me.

You know the Scriptures, and yet you do not know me. You have missed me.

But they will know you are my disciples by your love.
For love does no evil.

Sisters and brothers, remember these things. Remember who our Savior is. Remember who our Father in heaven is. Remember why we are indwelled by the Spirit. Have we forgotten that ours is a God who redeems, heals, restores, and rescues?

If so, perhaps, this is why we fail to redeem, heal, restore, and rescue the broken, marginalized and the abused.

As the world watches the Christian community scramble to hopefully repent and turn away from any teaching that encourages the abuse of a woman, let us also declare who our God is: compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. He dwelt among us to preach the good news to the poor, to release the captives, to bring sight to the blind and set free those who are oppressed. May we, his disciples, do the same.

Dani Ross is pursuing dual masters degrees in Christian Leadership and Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. She resides with her husband and three active boys in Flower Mound, TX. 

Dr. Michelle Pokorny serves as an Adjunct Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, teaching D.Min classes on Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Disciplines, and Soul Care. Michelle developed a passion for women’s ministry during her college years while serving as a counselor at Pine Cove Christian Camps. Her desire to see women thrive in their gifting led her to DTS to gain a solid biblical and theological foundation. After receiving her MACE in Women’s Ministry, Dr. Pokorny began working with East-West Ministries, International, where she served in Human Resources and on the International Women’s Ministries Training Team. Michelle's doctoral work focused on burnout and soul-care among Christian leaders. Michelle is married to Mark and their favorite hobbies include traveling, exercising, and enjoying food and laughter with friends and family. They have one active toddler, Alexander.