An old friend who is in the process of separating from her abuser was messaging me the other day. I’ll let you eavesdrop (with her permission).
Rosie: I’ve asked him to move out.
Me: You are brave. I’m praying for you.
Rosie: Or naive. Guess we’ll find out soon, eh? I have this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m so scared. Not sure I’ll sleep much this week. He was furious and left the house. Who knows when he’ll be back.
Me: Hopefully never. Can you stay elsewhere until he goes?
Rosie: I don’t know.
Me: Could you stay with [a mutual friend]? Or a shelter? Staying at a shelter might get you faster access to their legal resources.
Rosie: I’m sorting options now.
Me: Stay safe. Praying. My friend pointed out that shelters have very good security.
Rosie: I’m going to stay until he messes up or it appears that he might. I woke up to him standing over me in the middle of the night. When I noticed him, he quickly went to bed again. Grr.
Me: [Resisting the urge to drive several hours to go pack her bags] I’m not the boss of you, but I’ll be the very strong urger of you. I STRONGLY URGE you to get into a shelter ASAP. Did you see this news story? I’m very concerned for you and your family. Please be safe.
Lundy Bancroft says these things come in waves. He says he gets waves of toaster throwers, waves of whatever kind of abuse is featured in popular media. Your abuser is a dangerous man. This is THE MOST DANGEROUS time of your life. I’m not trying to be chicken little. This isn’t an acorn falling on your head. You are married to a sociopath whose life’s ambition is to become a Dexter style serial killer. That’s no acorn. This is a big deal and seeking shelter isn’t overreacting.
Rosie: The other night I was wigging out over what he would do because of all his stories. He intends them to be comical but they’re not.
Me: Matthew 12:34 Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks…Your abuser is telling you what’s in his heart. It’s not a joke. The Holy Spirit is warning you. What’s the status of the Facebook situation?
Rosie: I blocked him.
Me: It’s good to assume he has allies who will tell him what they see on your wall.
Rosie: Oh. He does have heaps of allies! When I posted something recently, He got TONS of inquiries about it. He was so angry. He accused me of making him look bad. What he believes others are thinking of him is more important than our relationship or keeping me safe. That’s ultimately why I asked him to leave.
Rosie: Truthfully, I keep waiting for him to try something violent before I make a move because he has broadcast to everyone that I’m overreacting and he’s safe to live with. He claims I am unforgiving. If he does something now it’s obviously a different story. I am certain that it’s only a matter of time, but I was convinced he’d just hurt me again…. not murder me and everyone else. Gah!
Me: Please don’t let your dead body prove that you’re right. The ones who will believe you, do. The ones who don’t, won’t. Probably if he murders you, they’ll blame you somehow. Your kids need you. They need you healthy, not maimed. Don’t pay Russian roulette with your life and health. You know the truth. That’s enough. He’s dangerous. Those allies will only believe what they want. Believing that you’re crazy makes his allies more comfortable than believing he’s dangerous. So they will opt for their own comfort over your safety every time.
Rosie: True. So depressing!
Me: You are living with someone who is yielding himself to the enemy of your soul and your children’s souls.
You’re not crazy.
You’re not sinning or living in fear. You’re protecting your children as God intended.
You’re not overreacting. You’re not crazy
Rosie: You’re making me giggle with all those OR… or … or …hahaha.
Me: I’ve been accused of all of them, probably today…
Rosie: Yep. Guess it doesn’t get that much easier over time, huh?
Me: I’ve resigned myself to not being able to convince the ones who don’t want to believe. Now, I’m not in contact with my accusers. Contact fogs my brain.
Rosie: I think that if I survive the stress of divorcing him, I will feel as if a huge burden has been lifted. Perhaps.
Me: You will get through this. You survived the abuse. You’ll survive the recovery.
Rosie: Then why does the recovery feel so much more difficult and frightening?!
Me: It’s like that idiom “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” He is the devil you know and you’re scared of the changes to come. But I have a meme for you:
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For those in Rosie’s situation, we also recommend these important pages from our Resources section:
While I was wrestling with what Scripture taught about divorce in order to write my book Not Under Bondage [Amazon affiliate link], I came to the view that divorce is permitted for abuse. And privately, I also ventured to believe that divorce is virtually commanded for abuse.
In Not Under Bondage I didn’t articulate my private view that divorce is pretty much commanded for abuse. I chose not to express it for two reasons:
- All victims of abuse have been ‘should-ed’ on by their abusers and fellow Christians. To lay another ‘should’ on them would be like stabbing another dagger into their super-sensitive and already bleeding consciences. It would be a boulder too hard to swallow for those victims who are just awakening from the fog. And it could lay undue guilt on victims who may choose not to divorce, or who choose not to divorce just yet but might decide to divorce later on.
- I knew that many Christians would be wary of my book and it would be an uphill battle to persuade them to accept that the Bible permits divorce for abuse. I felt it would be counterproductive if I presented arguments for why the Bible pretty much commands divorce for abuse. That would have really put my book beyond the pale!
But now, six years on, I feel I can say openly that I believe that the Bible virtually commands divorce for some cases of abuse.
I would never say that divorce is commanded for ALL cases of abuse; I will always maintain that it is up to the victim herself to assess as best she can the risks of divorce, given the unpredictable minefields generated by abusers and the Family Court system. But I think it is fair to argue from Scripture that divorce is pretty much commanded for abuse.
One of those scriptures is Deuteronomy 13:6-11 — the case for this is well argued in the post Nor Shall Your Eye Pity Him. Another is 1 Corinthians 7:15, the scripture I most relied on in my book:—
But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved [not under bondage]. God has called you to peace.
As I explained in Not Under Bondage, that word ‘separate’ (chorizo) has the meaning of a situation where two or more elements have space between them. What is abuse, if not a mindset and behavior by the abuser that creates space — emotional, psychological and ethical distance —between the abuser and the person being abused. It is the perpetrator’s hard heartedness pushing away, extinguishing and twisting all the victim’s attempts to have mutuality, intimacy, honesty and trust in the relationship. It is the perpetrator utilizing the victim’s attempts to have a respectful, loving relationship, and employing them as handles to turn the victim into a slave, an automaton, an object for the abuser’s perversely selfish enjoyment.
And I also explained in my book that unlike us in our legal situation today, Paul and the Corinthians did not see separation and divorce as two different things. In Greco-Roman law, the way a marriage relationship ended had quite a lot of resemblance to the way cohabitation ends today: when one party to the cohabiting relationship decides to end it, it’s ended. The reason for this is that under Greco-Roman law, full and legal divorce took place merely by one party separating with intent to end the marriage.¹ The state didn’t have or require a legal process involving certificates of divorce. Divorce was deemed to have occurred when one spouse separated from the other party with intent to end the marriage. That was it! Finito.²
Therefore, if the unbelieving partner separates [causes separation by malignantly destroying respect and trust] let it be so.
The word ‘let’ in English often means ‘permit’. (Please mum, let me watch ten more minutes of TV!) But ‘let’ can also be used to indicate a command, an imperative, a strong instruction to DO something.³
In English translations of the Bible, the word ‘let’ is frequently used to convey a command. Here are some familiar examples:
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:4)
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Eph. 4:28)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor. 5:1-2)
when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart (Luke 21:21)
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. (Luke 22:35-36)
Festus replied [to the chief priests and leaders of the Jews] that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” (Acts 25:4-5)
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:18)
Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. (1 Co4. 7:18)
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thess. 5:6)
Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (1 Pet. 3:10-11)
Now l would like us to examine 1 Corinthians 7:15a. Here it is in the original Greek with transliteration, and below it the interlinear Bible edited & translated by Jay P Green Sr., 2nd edn., 1986 (see in Google Books):
εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος [apistos] χωρίζεται [choritzetai] χωριζέσθω [choritzestho]
if but the unbelieving separates, let be separated
You can see that the second ‘choritz-‘ (Strong’s 5563) — χωριζέσθω — has a different ending than the first ‘choritz-‘. That ending indicates the verb form: it is a present imperative verb.
Here are some other English translations of this passage:
But if the unbelieving spouse separates, let them separate. (Jubilee Bible 2000)
And, if the unbelieving doth separate himself — let him separate himself (Young’s Literal Translation)
But if the unbelieving spouse separates himself, let him be separated. (Complete Jewish Bible)
But if the unbelieving partner decides to separate, then let there be a separation. (Phillips)
If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. (New American Bible Revised Edition)
But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. (English Standard Version)
The second ‘choriz-‘ — the imperative commandment — is let it be so. The marriage is O.V.E.R. That’s the reality. It was ended by the hard-heartedness of the abuser. Don’t try to keep a corpse alive. It’s dead. Don’t make a person stay in the grave of a putrid dead marriage.
For the victim — just get on and finish the paperwork that the State requires: apply for the divorce certificate (the decree nisi), get a ruling about the division of the marital property and child custody as best you can, and go on with your life with a clear conscience, knowing you have obeyed the Biblical instruction to let it be so.
NB: I advise anyone reading Not Under Bondage to read it in conjunction with my post Church Discipline and Church Permission for Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed.
1. See Susan Treggiari, “Marriage and Family in Roman Society”, in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, ed. Ken M. Campbell, pp. 155–7; David Atkinson, To Have and to Hold, p. 109; David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, pp. 73–4, 190; Steven Clark, Putting Asunder, p. 143.
Paul was writing to the church in Corinth and the city of Corinth was a Roman colony. In the Roman Empire, cities that had the status of Roman colonies were more closely under the laws and customs of Rome than other cities in non-Italian parts of the empire were. The congregation in Corinth had both gentile and Jewish members, so it is not feasible to argue that Paul was writing to an audience of solely ethnic jews who might have differentiated divorce from separation because of the way that Jewish custom and law utilised divorce certificates. This Corinthian congregation, with so its many gentile influences, was most likely to see separation and divorce as one and the same thing. That would have been their default view, and Paul would have known that and felt no need to spell it out because it was a ‘given’.
2. In Greco-Roman law, when a marriage ended the father would ordinarily get the children, but we have to imagine that sometimes the mother took the children, especially if the father did not want to be bothered with raising them. The division of marital property was not so fraught as it often is today, because under Greco-Roman law, marriage did not by default cause a woman’s property to become joint property of the married couple. A married woman could and usually did retain sole ownership of her property and any assets she had brought into the marriage; she could maintain this sole ownership simply by not sleeping under her husband’s roof for a few nights each year. Women would go back to their parents’ home for a few nights each year, and thus maintain ownership of their own property. Such a woman’s property was considered to be under manus (under the hand) of her father, rather than of her husband. Some marriages specifically transferred manus from the woman’s father to the husband, but most did not. Thus, separation with intent to end the marriage did not usually entail a complex judicial process to separate joint marital property, because joint property usually did not exist. ( I need to provide citations for this footnote, but in the rush of publishing this article, have not yet done so.)
3. In grammar this is called the imperative mood, and in Biblical Greek “the present imperative means a command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action.” (Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, AMG, 1984, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, p. 1571)
The imperative mood is reserved for the indication of commands.
List of all the present imperatives in the New Testament.
I just published a post that should have been saved to drafts. I’ve just unpublished it. My apologies. Stay tuned. It still needs some polishing.
I would reply to that friend, “What do you mean by a ‘victim mentality’?”
Once your friend defines what she means, you can then take it from there. If she means you complain about the injustice with which your abuser has mistreated you, ask her if it is a sin to make such complaint. If she means you keep asking people in authority to render you justice and to require the abuser to be accountable for his actions, put this question to her: “Is it a sin to ask for justice?”
Why does she think it is sinful to complain when being mistreated? Why does she think it’s wrong to repeatedly cry out to God and to people who may be able to influence the situation, asking them for justice and vindication?
The idea is to get your friend to examine her knee-jerk reactions and judgements so she comes to see that they are not logical and are actually inconsistent with the Bible, that they are merely her own prejudices or things she has been mis-taught by people who say they know the Bible but they don’t know it well enough, they have just swallowed the party line.
You could also ask her to think back on her own life to a time when she was given rough justice or no justice. How did she feel? How did she respond to their mistreatment of her? Did she have what she calls a ‘victim mentality’ then? And if so, why is she so quick to judge and label you, when she had those same responses herself?
You could also ask your friend to read my book Not Under Bondage [Amazon affiliate link], to examine her ideas on divorce. If her ‘party line’ idea on divorce is what is really prompting her unkind responses to you, then nothing will help unless she re-calibrates her doctrine on divorce.
Unhelpful comments by Well Meaning People: Why They Happen and How They Might Be Answered is an article I wrote years ago to help survivors of abuse deal with these kinds of unhelpful comments from friends and associates.
What do you think? If someone said to you “You have a victim mentality,” how would you respond to them?
Matthew 27:21-23 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Barabbas was a notorious criminal. Jesus was perfectly righteous. Yet, in spite of the protests of the governor and the absence of charges, the Jews cried our for His death. “Let Him be crucified!” They chose a wicked man over a righteous Lamb.
We all know how deceptive abusers can be. Sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths – how they can charm! And we know that this is one of the reasons pastors and whole churches are taken in by these wicked ones. Naivete. Ignorance of abuse and its tactics. All of us were there at one time ourselves.
But there is another reason some pastors and elders and church members side with the wicked against his victim. Here it is — it is because they are wicked themselves. Just like that crowd of Jews calling for the notorious criminal Barrabas to be released and the perfect Lamb of God to be crucified, so it is today. The victim is crucified, the abuser is released. Why? Because evil loves darkness and hates the light.
What is this telling us then about the real state of so many churches and professing Christians today?
They rise and needs will have, my dear Lord made away; a murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay…
I say, what does this tell us about the hearts of so many church members today? That they will slay the innocent and choose the wicked? Naivete only goes so far as an excuse. No, I say that this is very often no less than the Barabbas dynamic. Wicked people choosing a wicked man and crucifying the innocent.
“Paranoia! The thing is presposterous! Surely the affairs of the church are not as bad as that!” But I say that indeed they are. I maintain that in far more cases than most people want to imagine, evil shepherds stand in pulpits, their disciples sit in the pews, and the few righteous ones suffer for lack of instruction in God’s Word. And the evidence of it all is that over and over and over again pastors and church members are joining the Jews in their cry – “Barabbas! Give us Barrabas!”It happened in Jeremiah’s day. It happened in Paul’s day. And it is happening in our day.
Jeremiah 2:8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.
In such times evil is called good and good is called evil and the righteous suffer. Martin Luther knew it. Listen to this quote that our team member Wendell found:
The greatest and foremost of all troubles is this—if only I could write it in flames on your heart—that the clergy, above all, bring the Good News in its fullness. The earth is full to overflowing with all manner of filth and teaching; the people are loaded down with so many laws, so many opinions of people, of so many superstitions, that one cannot regard them as teaching at all so that the Word of Truth is hardly audible, and in many places is not the Word of Truth at all. And that which can be born is being brought forth by human wisdom and not by God’s Word. As the Word, so the birth and as the birth, so the people. We concern ourselves with wondering how it is that so much discord exists among the people of Christ: disagreement, envy, pride, disobedience, excess, gluttony, and their love grows cold, their faith weakens and their hope is exhausted. You can give up wondering now! It is not a mystery, but it is our fault—the fault of the prelates and clerics. Moreover, one can wonder how it is that they are so blind, so forgetful of their duty, that these people, who are supposed to help with the birth of the Word of Truth, are occupied with other things—with the cares of the present age—and entirely neglect the other. For the majority of clergy teach fables and popular stories. And we wonder why we get such a people from this kind of preaching!Where is there today a clergyman who would not be of the opinion that it would be a greater sin if he failed to flagellate himself, or didn’t pray enough, or made a mistake in the Mass, rather than that he preached too much of the Word of Truth or didn’t explain it correctly! These men are mistaken, no matter how good and otherwise pious they may be. They think that it is impossible to be mistaken in the preaching of the Word of Truth and in that they cannot sin, while it is indeed in that alone that priests sin as priests. In the other things he errs as a human; but in the suppressing or falsifying of the Word he sins against his calling and as a clergyman, and that is more terrible than to sin as a mere mortal. How painful that is! The hard and insensitive priests these days go around in their haughtiness. Not only are they silent, but also the stuff that they blow out of their cheeks onto the people they call teaching and preaching. They don’t feel themselves accountable and are not moved by fear as to whether or not what they preach is the Word of Truth, ordained by God, or not. They are in the service of themselves only: priests and clerics. Indeed, for everything else one doesn’t need the clergy.One can be so chaste, so kind, so learned, have such success and reputation in retiring from the Church; he may have built houses, expanded his influence, done wonders, raised the dead and driven out demons, but in this alone he is pastor and priest: that he has been a messenger of God among the heavenly hosts, that is, a messenger of God’s who preached it to the people and with that served his holy calling.
Guest post from one of our readers, an abuse victim and survivor. Many thanks to her for sharing.
I am a Liar.
I wasn’t raised to be a liar, I don’t like lying, I don’t like being lied to.
So why do I lie?
People have commented that I am pretty straight forward; I have been called blunt for calling a spade, a spade. But there is something that most people (majority really) do not know about me.
I am open about being a victim of Domestic Violence and Abuse so people know that about me; they know I champion for women that are being abused. My facebook posts blast out speak up, get help, silence equals violence.
Here is the rub. If you know me you know that my first husband was chemically dependent and physically violent. He basically gave up his daughter over the right to grow and smoke weed and drink to oblivion.
Here is where the lying comes in. I not only married one man that was abusive I repeated the lesson. The abuse was different in some ways and the same in others. I was determined not to hide and lie this time, so early on I went to a couple in the church. Of course the focus switched to me because after all you can’t change the other person.
We had a baby and moved out of town so we started attending a new church. I was pretty excited and was not working full time so I got to go to Women’s Bible Study during the daytime. Lots of moms at different stages of life. Of course the first lesson learned was we were not to speak negatively about our spouses EVER. That was disrespect and gossip and we were NEVER to do that. I tried going to the Pastor and of course he tried to help but he was not equipped to help so he did far more damage because the only person trying to do any work in the marriage was me and the thing I kept getting was I was not nice enough, submissive enough, __________ enough. I shouldn’t talk back to him; I shouldn’t make him angry. Sure he has issues but the thing is we all do and let’s work on yours. I never fit in with the women because as much as I was trying to be better, being a Stepford wife would never suit me
The next step was counseling and we choose a “christian” counselor. He said good words at first that my husband had serious, serious issues. Of course after a few sessions alone with the counselor he was convinced I was a man hater, my daughter is a problem child and between the kids and I we were ganging up on Jack and we needed to stop. Jack denied screaming foul words at us and of course he was a Deacon in the church and if he were so bad he wouldn’t be a Deacon. So when Jack started his next screaming rant I brought out a tape recorder and we agreed except Jack that we would not discuss the issue without a tape recorder. That ended up with us getting proof that he did act that way. We took that to the counselor and he refused to listen to it past Jack screaming that he refused to be taped and to shut it off. That turned into a lecture to the kids and I how disrespectful that was and we were to blame IF there was a tirade. There was more crappy counseling including telling my husband he had a demon and when he acted that way it was the demon. Well let me tell you that gave him free reign to act out and then blame the demon.
We ended up doing an in-house separation and setting severe boundaries and of course the only one that the Pastor tried to console or help was Jack. Right in front of my daughter and me, he goes up and puts his arm around Jack’s shoulders and asks if he can do anything for him. Not a word for the kids.
So now I have found that it is not safe to discuss the problems unless I want to have it backfire on me and the kids. So I try and manage it as much as I can. I don’t let people in because they will see what is going on and funny thing is they think they are let in because I appear so open.
Forward to today:– we are in a great church but because of how I was treated over almost three decades, I don’t trust people to understand what it is like and how this person that acts one way in public can be so different in private. I have seen my spouse try and throw me under the bus at least three times with people without the same amount of success, but because of the abuse by the “people helpers” ……… I would rather lie and say I’m OK. That was in the past.