A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Abuse Victim as Widow

Exodus 22:22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.

Deuteronomy 10:17-18 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. (18) He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

Psalms 94:6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

These few verses are just a small sampling of many others found in Scripture that repeat the very same theme – God commands us to render justice for and give care to the helpless and weak.  Orphans and widows are prime examples.  I would like to suggest to you that the victim of abuse classifies as a widow, and therefore the Lord expects us to provide her with justice and protection.  Why do we call her a widow?  Because her husband really is no husband.  He is an oppressor and tormentor.  Often, she is a “widow indeed” because her abuser has successfully alienated the rest of her family from her.

1 Timothy 5:3-5 Honor widows who are truly widows. (4) But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. (5) She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day…

If you have studied this subject of abuse much at all, you know that this phrase “left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in prayers night and day…” is quite a good description of the Christian woman who is a victim of abuse.

Notice carefully then that the church – that’s US – is charged by God with “honoring” widows who are all alone, having no one to help them.  Abuse victims are almost always “all alone.”  What does it mean to “honor” such a woman?  It means to render justice to them, and in particular it means to help them financially if necessary.  You may not get that from the word “honor” at first reading, but a study of how the word is used in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s epistles, will prove to you that such is the case.  See, for example, 1 Timothy 5:17.

If you will take your concordance or Bible software program and do a search of the word widow/widows, you will be amazed at how many times the people of God are charged with protecting and caring for the widow.  God promises to bless us when we render care and justice to her, and to remove His blessing from us when we fail to do so.  James says that visiting orphans and widows in their affliction is the heart of true religion.  So, how’s your heart?  How does your religion measure up to this test?  Do abuse victims receive justice and protection and provision in your church?  Many evangelical, Bible-believing churches flunk this test, as the repeated stories of Christian victims of abuse will testify.  To those pastors and churches and Christians who do heed the Lord’s call, may the Lord make His face shine upon you.

12 Comments

  1. Jeff, you are right. I’ve long thought this about widows and how victims of domestic abuse come in that category. Ages ago I did some lexical study on the word widow (in both Hebrew and Greek) and found that it basically means “a woman bereft of a husband” – without reference to HOW she got bereft. So a widow is not only a woman whose husband has died; she can be a woman who has no husband protecting her for any number of reasons: his abuse, his abandonment; his addictions; his mental derangement; his death…. etc.

    The church likes to restrict their concept of widows to women whose husbands have died. That keeps it nice, sweet, sentimental and clean. It saves them from having to address all the other kinds of widows whose circumstances can be just as tragic, or even more tragic, than a woman whose husband has passed away.

    Thanks for putting the truth out there! I hope it goes far and wide.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Barbara – This matter of a stiff, wooden hermeneutic in our handling of Scripture is something that I am increasingly seeing to be a big problem. If Jesus said there can only be divorce for adultery, then boom! That’s it! Universal and absolute rule never to be violated. Or if Paul says we are to forgive and God in Christ has forgiven us, boom! Point by point, exact match to exact match – our forgiveness must be exactly the same as God’s forgiveness (which is impossible, I believe). This same error is what has resulted in so much error in regard to the relation of the Old Testament to the New Testament, Israel to the Church, novel eschatalogical notions, and so on. (I’d better not wander too much or I will alienate my non-reformed friends, which I don’t want to do). Anyway, yes – who is a widow. ONLY a woman whose husband has died? Or are we meant to see a widow as any defenseless woman who does not have the protection of a loving husband? Narrowing things down to minutia very conveniently removes our responsibility in many cases. (Jeff)

  2. no name please

    I remember for years wishing he would just leave. Then the church would step up to the plate and father my boys and help me with my yard. Now that he has been gone for two years, the elders do help when I need men here because he is threatening to do something stupid but I guess I didn’t realize it would take more than a few months to get on my feet. Not the best economy to get a job after years of raising kids.I just read the other day in a book on domestic violence that it takes on average 3 months for year to recover. I guess I have 2 1/2 more years. I don’t know if everyone in the church is just too busy, we live in a very busy area, or they just don’t believe I still need help. Sorry, been lonely lately. Venting!

    • Laurie

      🙂 understood.

    • Yeah. I remember how hard I found it to ask for help. I could really only ask for help if someone had explicitly told me “Ask me whenever you need help.” AND they had proved they meant it by following through on the thing I’d asked them to do without being patronising, resentful or judgmental. Only then did I feel I could actually ask them again.

      I had (and still have) one married couple who have been very generous to me over the years. House maintenance, parenting advice, childcare, borrowing a big van, taking me out for a meal. What an amazing blessing. People this generous are rare. In their church they don’t fit in real well because they feel uncomfortable playing the mask games that everyone else wants to play. This couple had their problems over the years too (financial, health, housing), and I’ve been able to help them out as well. So it’s been both ways, not just one way. Sorry if that makes you feel even more desolate in comparison, No-Name. I just want to affirm that such generous people are few and far between, so I’m not surprised you haven’t got any close by you at the moment. Hugs to you.

  3. no name please

    Thanks. Yes. I have come to know that people who a willing to get their hands dirty are few and far between and often already doing a lot.

  4. Rebecca

    I found this post via a link from the more recent one addressing this…abuse victims being widows. This has been very validating to me. Several times in the past few years it seemed to me that Jesus called me, “Widow.” Now I understand. Thanks.

  5. GypsyAngel

    It so wonderful….God’s Timing that is.
    I was just sitting at my computer asking my self this question….”but what about me? I’m just a divorcee for an abusive marriage. What rank do I fall in?” And then I get led to this article. Thank you for answering this very troublesome question for me.

  6. Finding Answers

    (Airbrushing through pain…led here by the Holy Spirit,,,)

    From Pastor Jeff’s original post: “Abuse victims are almost always “all alone.” What does it mean to “honor” such a woman?”

    Rhetorical question: What if, God the Father, seems to be overlooking a (figurative) widow, a (figurative) orphan?

    Rhetorical question: How does one get past the – entirely unBiblical – “God helps those who help themselves?”

    Rhetorical question: How does one learn to trust God when one does not know how to trust?

    Rhetorical question: Where does one turn when the practical realities of life are a struggle? Not in the sense of competency, but the uncertainty of the unknown?

    I have written of these questions elsewhere on the ACFJ website, bits and pieces strewn in fragments.

    I write. And I write. And I write.

    And I strain my ears to hear an answer. Sit in a never-ending silence.

    Where are You, Papa God?

    Where are You?

    • Finding Answers, in each of your comments over the last few weeks you’ve been saying you were led to read a certain part of the blog because you were led there by the Holy Spirit (and I believe that’s true). So in response to your rhetorical question “How does one learn to trust God when one does not know how to trust?” I want to say that I think you are trusting God.

      Hope that is not too blunt, the way I’ve phrased it.

      • Finding Answers

        As I read your first paragraph, my mind could “see” it re-written in the style of a logical proof. 🙂 Perhaps I need to trust that I trust….

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