A Cry For Justice

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

Marriage Vows: Should Herod have kept his oath?

But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns   (Matthew 14:6-13 ESV)

Herod made an oath – a solemn promise – to give Salome whatever she might ask. When she asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, Herod was sorry: he did really not want to execute John. But because of his oath and his guests, he ordered the murder of a righteous man. Did he sin in executing John? Certainly. Should Herod have kept his oath? No; he should not have kept his oath.  We should not keep an oath if it leads to sin. Herod could have broken his oath, repented of his foolishness and taken a sin offering to the temple where the priest could have made sacrifice on his behalf which would have cleansed him of his sin.

If anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these;  when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed,  he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.   (Lev. 5:4-6)

Jesus has been the sacrificial lamb on our behalf. For any rash oath we may have taken, to do evil or to do good, when we come to know that we should no longer keep it because it leads to sin, we have forgiveness in Christ if we renounce the oath.
[For those who’ve read my book, you may remember that I deal with marriage vows by saying that Numbers 30 implies that the husband bears  the guilt when the wife breaks her marriage vows and is driven to leave him because of his abuse. I still believe that a victim of abuse bears no guilt at all for breaking her marriage vows if she divorces her abuser. The teaching I’ve made here is not meant to contradict what I wrote in my book, it simply complements it, and verifies freedom to divorce for those victims who can’t feel themselves fully freed by my application of Numbers 30.  ]

16 Comments

  1. joepote01

    If Herod had refused to have John executed, that would NOT have been a violation of his vow. Herodias’ daughter asked for something that did not belong to Herod. Refusing to give what was not his to give would not have been a violation of Herod’s vow…but it would have required swallowing his pride in front of the guests.

    In situations of marriage abuse, we often fall prey to similar flawed logic. At marriage, we swear a solemn oath to love, honor and cherish. Nowhere within those vows do we swear to hold our spouse captive against their will…nor should we, as our spouse’s will is not ours to give or control.

    If our spouse continually, intentionally, and unrepentantly violates their solemn oath to love, honor and cherish, then they clearly do not want to be held to their vows, and the kindest most loving thing we can do is release them from their vows by granting them a divorce.

    They may say they do not want a divorce, but by their actions they repeatedly demonstrate that they do not want to honor their sacred vows. They are continually sinning against both their marriage partner and God, before whom they swore their sacred oath.

    A divorce, in such a situation, is not a violation of the marriage vows, but rather a keeping of them.

    • Jeff Crippen

      “A divorce, in such a situation, is not a violation of the marriage vows, but rather a keeping of them.” That is a great statement, Joe!!

  2. Rebecca

    Very well said and explained, thank you! As I am in the process of divorcing an unrepentant abuser and sexually deviant man, I find there continue to be a number of Christians (women included) who believe I am the one breaking the marriage vow. I have stood by the belief as well, that God does not except me to submit to sin of any kind in the name of the marriage vow. You’ve both just articulated this truth with much more clarity.

    I feel word ‘submission’ has been used wrongfully to me as well, to the point of hearing ‘submit to suffering because Jesus suffered for us.’ I know that’s false teaching, but the oppression to women with these types of comments and beliefs from some Christian leaders is what keeps many stuck in the cycle of abuse, feeling hopeless and blamed. It becomes more treacherous when children are involved and exposed, as in my case with the sexual deviancy and abuse. The sin of silence and not believing the risks or extent of behaviors done – from some church leaders- was at one time paralyzing to me. Watching the leadership support the abuser was as painful as the abuse. Praise God I am learning the Truth, and finding those who understand the Truth.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Rebecca: This is great! You have progressed a long way down the path that is so well known to abuse survivors, and in particular those who are Christians and who experience the same confusion and injustice as a result of the words and actions of their fellow Christians, churches, and pastors. No, you aren’t the one breaking the marriage vows. You are simply going through a legal process in recognition of the fact that your spouse, by his ongoing and unrepentant sin, has destroyed the marriage by breaking his vows.

      And yes, then there is this matter of “suffering for Christ” by staying in an abusive marriage. That would be a wrong, unbiblical and “medieval” notion of suffering, right? By that I mean the suffering is self-inflicted by choosing to remain and submit to it. One may as well get a whip and scourge one’s back while crawling up stone stairs on pilgrimage! No, the suffering Jesus calls us to join Him in is the suffering we will experience as His people at the hands of this wicked world. We don’t cause it and we don’t seek it. Nor is this suffering meritorious. But it comes to any true Christian who stands for truth in Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Scripture is plain however that when we can take steps to get out of/escape suffering and persecution, we are quite free to do so, just as Jesus did and as Paul did.

      Blessings on you in Christ and may His truth continue to set you free indeed!

    • Rebecca, the situation you describe is all too common, and many others have found themselves in similar circumstances.

      Our God is a God of justice, mercy, grace and redemption. He does not leave the oppressed in covenants of abusive bondage, but redeems us and delivers us, just as He redeemed and delivered Israel from their covenant of bondage to Pharoah.

      I am thankful that He is delivering you from your covenant of abusive bondage.

      “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

    • I echo Jeff, Rebecca, and only add this. The doctrine of suffering is a doctrine that the church needs to develop a much more nuanced understanding of, in my opinion.
      “Submit to suffering because Jesus suffered for us” refers to the suffering believers are told to expect when they stand for truth, righteousness and the gospel.
      Your church should have stood with you and against your husband when you took a stand against his sin and separated yourself from him in his wickedness. But instead, the church stood against you and sided with the sinner. You were taking a stand for the gospel and the church abused you for this. This is totally inverted. They acted like the world. You indeed suffered because Jesus suffered for us, but you suffered at the hands of a so-called church who were behaving as enemies of Christ.

  3. Rebecca

    Amen. Thank you Barbara, Jeff, and Joe for the discussion and comments to me. The understanding for me now regarding suffering much clearer, and true. As I continue to stand for the truth and righteousness, pressing forward against the odds, and speaking the truth, I continue to be astounded how who I thought were friends have pulled away and remained silent, or have been completely shunned by the previous church leadership. But God continues to bring genuine friends and people into my life to fight this battle. As a matter of fact, my case is ongoing.

    The divorce is being finalized, and I have sole full legal and residential custody of my children, many issues were negotiated out of court. However, I chose to go into trial (against the odds) to fight to maintain supervised visitation for my children, which they currently have. I was pressured to negotiate every aspect of the divorce, but realized in doing so, I would never be able to appeal any visitation ‘agreement’, or appeal for additional Experts to examine the rare psychiatric and deviant behaviors and illnesses of the children’s dad. This pressure to negotiate is part of the effort to maintain the cover-up of the behaviors, so as to protect the defendants career, and keep all information off public record. Feeling ‘pressed on all sides’, I know in my heart that I cannot go on record to agree to unsupervised visits. Praise God for 2 strong Christian women who were with me that day, prayed with me and helped me to press forward rather than be bullied by fear and misguidance. God was with us that day. I’m still waiting the outcome of this, as it was just 2 wks ago.

    Thank you, all of you, for providing a haven and the Truth of the scriptures….I feel heard, understood, and in this am empowered to have the courage to face this journey. Please pray for me and my children. We need a voice, and you are helping us have that.

    Rebecca

    • Rebecca, what a magnificent story! Your determination to not compromise, and to take it to court against the odds for continuing supervised visitation, is a model that others will take courage from, I’m sure. We thank God with your for the help and wisdom He provided.

  4. Kay

    I appreciate these posts;so helpful. When I was married I often listened to the radio broadcasts of a, for now, unnamed Christian ministry. I read many books, attended seminars, tried to put into practice the things that were taught there. In the 20+ years I supported this ministry, I do not have a memory of them ever addressing the subject of domestic abuse. Now that I’ve been living in freedom for three years (PRAISE GOD), I decided to write this ministry a letter and encourage them to be helpful to women who are in abusive relationships. The letter I received back – gave me resources for divorced women, did not even mention domestic abuse or give any comments on what I had suggested. I am very sad but after reading these posts, I’m thinking this ministry may have “their heads in the sand”. I appreciate your ministry and the help you are offering to the victims and survivors of abuse.

    • Head in the sand – yeah. Sometimes I think they have buried their heads in the magma that underlies the tectonic plates!

  5. Rebecca

    Agreed. I also believe that many churches have fallen into the same pattern of protecting their own image and agenda, rather than standing for truth. It is easier to silence an already frightened victim than call attention to it and admit that ‘the church’ carries the same, if not more severe, issues as ‘the world’.

    I am touched and encouraged to see that your ministry references Lundy Bancroft, his work and books. These have been a tremendous help to me in my journey. As a matter of fact, Lundy has come onto my case, reviewed the case file and has provided so much insight to me. It has been a blessing to have his input. A letter he wrote on behalf of my case is quite powerful. It felt like a miracle to be able to reach him, and have him involved, because my case is that rare in some ways. I pray that at some point, I will be able to have him more involved as an expert on our behalf. I feel more empowered to help other women. This is such a difficult journey, with many unknowns.

    Rebecca

    • Wow, Rebecca, you are the first survivor I’ve heard from who has had personalised assistance from Lundy Bancroft. How wonderful. I would imagine that Lundy would be in great demand and would be very selective about which cases he got involved with, choosing to support only the most complex cases against the most heinous abusers. I’m sorry that your case was that hard, but I’m thrilled you got Lundy’s help.

      Eds. IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.

      • Rebecca

        Barbara, If you would be interested in seeing what Lundy has written I would be more than happy to share it with you, or anyone here involved. I believe it further shows his expertise and understanding of abuse, and support of women and children in these situations.

      • Thanks Rebecca. Could you email it to me and or Jeff, and we’ll have a look at it. Make sure you dis-identify anything that has to be kept confidential. We might use what Lundy’s written as the core of a new blog post.

  6. joepote01

    I linked to this post, this morning, in a reference on my blog. Here’s the new post, if you care to read it: http://josephjpote.com/2012/08/the-it-takes-two-lie-2/

  7. movedbyfaith

    Amazing Job Barbara. Thank you so much for sharing the story of Herod it seems to make it extremely clear under this context. Can’t wait to get my hands on your book!

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