I think there are few people who would argue that spousal abuse is sin. Not only is it sin but it is a betrayal of the marriage covenant in which a husband and wife pledge before God that they will honor and protect each other.
And yet, so many women are afraid to expose the sins of an abusive husband. They are afraid of the shame and retribution that may come along with damaging his reputation. They may really feel like he is making progress and they don't want to unnecessarily draw attention to a situation that may end up being fixed in the long run. Or they may think it is sinful to speak up because that's not submission, right??
The truth is that sin left in darkness only festers. Proverbs 4:19 says "The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble." (ESV) Unexposed sin that is allowed to take hold of a person is so pervasive, they don't even recognize it for what it is anymore. That's where the person's loved ones (including his wife) have to step in and do something to try to bring the sinner into the light.
The Bible is very clear about what we must do when faced with the unchecked sin of others. Ephesians 5:7-11 says:
"Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (ESV)
This verse is so poignant! Let's break it down:
- Do not become partners with them. Sin is infectious. If your husband is sinning against you and his God, it is very likely turning you into a different person, despite your best efforts (and I guarantee it is affecting your kids). And if you are not actively seeking to help your husband expose his sin (in a loving, non-retaliatory sort of way), then you are in a sense a partner to his destructive ways. Remember, there are sins we commit by doing something AND sins we commit by doing nothing.
- Walk as children of light. You have got to do all you can to stay close to God and be his girl while fighting the sin of abuse in your marriage. There's no way you can help illuminate your husband's sin if you are in darkness yourself. Now, when I finally decided to stop participating in his abusive rages and keep my emotions under control, my husband didn't notice- but those around me that I needed support from definitely did. It's the only way to show the abuse is NOT a relationship problem.
- Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. While we like to think the world is black and white, it's not. Despite a Bible full of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots," abusive women often find themselves in the gray, uncertain as to what God wants them to do. Some Bible commentators will tell you there's never a biblical reason to get divorced, others will tell you that it's completely permissible in cases of abuse. Women are made to feel that they don't have enough faith or that they are disobedient if they choose to leave an abusive man. While all that is for another post all together, we have a better shot at understanding the heart of God when we spend time in his Word. And we know by this passage that God wants us to...
- Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. The Greek word for "expose" in this context means to show sin in a way that brings about rebuke and discipline. Remember that submitting to your husband means you are not the one who enacts the discipline; God does. But you may have to make a choice to expose the abuse by telling your pastor or separating from your husband, which obviously delivers natural consequences for his actions. But at the core, the whole idea of exposing your husband's sin is so that he truly repents and turns to God, rather than you (because turning to you only perpetuates the abuse cycle).
Loving and submitting to a husband trapped in sin means being willing to expose that sin so he can escape it and come into the Light of Christ. Some may respond quickly, others may not even after losing it all. Hold nothing so tightly that it prohibits you from going where God calls you to go. Stay in the light, and he will illuminate the way.
Have you been able to tackle the issue of exposing your abuser's sin? How have you been handling it?
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