A Cry For Justice

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

Marriage, Divorce, and an Ox in a Well

Luk 14:1-6 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. (2) And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. (3) And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (4) But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. (5) And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” (6) And they could not reply to these things.

One of the prevalent dangers in the church – especially in the conservative, Bible-believing church like the one I pastor – is that of falling prey to wooden, literalistic interpretation of Scripture that totally misses the heart of God and thus the real spirit of a particular passage. The error is the same as the Pharisaical handling of the Scriptures Jesus confronted here. The day of Sabbath rest was turned into “no work is to be done on the Sabbath,” and that included even works that showed mercy to those in need. Nope, can’t eat on the Sabbath if you have to make a sandwich – you can just go hungry. Nope, can’t heal someone.

Jesus took these knuckleheads to their own hypocrisy. If their son or even their oxen fell into a pit or a well on the Sabbath, what was their common response? “He will just have to stay there and perish. He should have picked one of the other six days to fall in there. Look, everyone, at how holy I am. I am so pious that I am even willing to let my son suffer or die rather than violate this Sabbath day.”  Ooooh.  Aaaaah. Yeah, oh man, what a holy guy. Not! God’s love and mercy and care for human beings and even animals does not cease on the Sabbath! He still feeds them and cares for them and yes, even pulls them out of a well if they fall in. The Lord of the Sabbath effects works of mercy on the day of rest.

Now here’s the deal. Abuse victims are in a pit. Yes, God’s intent is that marriage be a blessing. A life-long blessed covenant between a man and a woman. Love, honor, cherish – the whole thing. One flesh, self-sacrificing love. But sometimes it just isn’t. Why? Because of sin. Because some husbands (and some wives) are just plain evil, cruel despots out to dominate and use and inflict pain. In other words, abuse victims have fallen into a pit.

So let me ask you this, Mr. or Mrs.  preacher of “thou shalt never divorce for any reason, not even for abuse,” what do you do when a dog is being cruelly treated by his master? A dog. Or a cat. Or a hamster. A horse. There the critter is, skin and bones out in the pasture. Starving. He knocks his water bucket over. Or the dog chews up a shoe (or commits some even more minor infraction like whining because he is hungry). You see the owner beating that animal and cursing it. Kicking it. Depriving it even more of food and water. Teasing and toying with it. What will you do?

Unless you are of the same ilk as that cruel master (and frankly, I believe that some of you people who mistreat abuse victims are indeed of the same ilk as the abuser), you will be reporting that cruelty to animals to the authorities and have that dog or horse or even a pet rodent rescued!! You will be calling for justice.

And so I ask you – no, no – JESUS CHRIST asks you, “which one of you, seeing a dog being beaten, will not rescue that dog from the ‘covenant’ of dog ownership?” The punch line almost need not even be stated, but here it is anyway:

“If you are ready to rescue a dog from cruelty and bondage, why do you refuse to rescue a human being from the same? Why do you forbid divorce, denying it to people who are wickedly treated and persecuted by a spouse who does not and never has kept the marriage covenant?” Many of you who preach this no-divorce for abuse line are very loud voices when it comes to the righteous opposition to abortion. And yet, when that baby whom you are so zealous to protect from violence now becomes an adult and marries a wicked man, you leave them in bondage even if their life is in danger.

God’s mercy and kindness and His justice for the oppressed must never be sacrificed in our interpretation of His Word, else we join ranks with the Pharisees. Now go, and learn what God really requires.

21 Comments

  1. MeganC

    Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!!

  2. Anonymous

    Pastor Crippen, You stated, ” Yes, God’s intent is that marriage be a blessing…. Why? Because of sin….” Do you know how many times I have received the “deer staring at headlights” response whenever I have referred to the “sin” that been festering in our marriage? These professing ‘c’hristians would not comment and now avoid me. Many of them are heavily involved in soup kitchens, knitting prayer shawls, etc, however they are fearful of getting dirty lest they reach into the pit and pull an abuse victim out of the muck. I don’t intend for this to sound harsh; I am just so tired and grieving at the lack of ‘true Gospel love’ towards everyone within the body of Christ.
    You also referenced, “justice to the oppressed”. I am discovering that the congregations and leaders only want to hear and preach about Jesus’ love but not justice.
    Thank you for another insightful post. And as we pray for those we deem to be hypocrites, may we also guard against hypocrisy within our own lives.

  3. Brenda R

    Jesus took these knuckleheads to their own hypocrisy.

    Pastor, I so much love the way you tell it like it is in simple realistic terms. Today’s writing gets to the heart of things the way they really are. Christians study their Bible’s for 50, 60 years or more and still will save an animal, yet leave a human being to their plight and not throw out a life line. I find that some take certain passages literally and others are scrutinized into their own way of seeing things. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all marriages would last forever the way that God lovingly intended?! Wouldn’t it be great if their were no abuse in the home?!

    Mr and Mrs Christian who believe in no divorce for no reason haven’t read their Bibles very thoroughly or had no reason to find out what it says about the subject. They are blessed, but also blind. They are blind to others reality and don’t want to see it. They see the dog who needs rescue, but not the sister who needs rescue from the same cruelty. So sad!!

  4. Amy

    Thank you, I needed this today.

  5. Healinginprocess

    A resounding AMEN!!

  6. Wonderful, Jeff!

    And yes, dear readers, you got two posts today, by accident. That makes up for the Sunday when we didn’t post one! 🙂

    • Brenda R

      Barb, I’m glad you pointed this out. Your post somehow got marked as read and I just went back to find it.

  7. Denise

    Love this and shared it. Learning all of these things makes me love God all the more. Thank you.

  8. Reblogged this on Taylor Joy Recovers and commented:
    Jeff Crippen knocks it out of the park, as always. ❤

    • Brenda R

      Hello everyone. I am looking for the YouTube link of the interview of John Piper where he states that if a woman gets smacked she can endure that and verbal abuse she can also endure. I have been finding cleaned up versions, but am looking for the one with his big grin saying she should endure. I had saved it, but I think it was in my old email address. If anyone knows where I can find it, I would appreciate it.

      • Here is the YouTube of John Piper answering the question What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he is an abuser?

      • Brenda R

        Thank, Barb. This is the one that I found yesterday. In my mind, it was so much worse than this. He had more of a smirk and laugh when he spoke about a woman getting smacked. A look that said she could/should endure whatever happens. I viewed this several times yesterday and was looking for something that may not be there. Apparently, when I saw this months ago, he really got my blood boiling. Although, the man he describes should be under church discipline, the police should have been called when the woman was first “smacked”. Enduring for a season–that means like 3 months for spring or winter? and not 20+ years. I am not defending him in anyway and still think his answer is inappropriate and half hearted..

      • Yes, Brenda. For me, the smirk he gave when he was reading out the question was outstandingly offensive and suggests to me that a) he gets that question a lot, and b) he thinks it’s a bit of a joke. It was offensive to me, that facial expression he gave. Not to mention that the words he spoke were poor advice for a victim.

        And the illustrations he gave were so extreme, it would make most victims feel that they did not identify with the hypothetical victim of abuse he was portraying. Not many victims have had husbands who ask them to engage in group sex. When teachers use really extreme illustrations like that they show how little they understand about common and garden domestic abuse and how victims find it realy hard to even use the “A” word about their situtaion, and using extreme illustrations is not helpful.

        One teacher I heard recently talked about a wife getting her teeth kicked down her throat by the husband. That kind of illustration does more harm than good, in my opinion.

      • Brenda R

        I was hoping to use the video to back up conversations with my pastor to show John Piper’s indifference, but I don’t think he will see what we do. So I think I will skip this one.

      • Ellie

        I maintain that John Piper’s career should’ve ended the moment he uttered the words “simply hurting her.” SIMPLY! Like that’s all he’s doing, just hurting her. Simply hurting her is more than enough cause to use his books as kindling. Simply. Now I’m going to mutter to myself for an hour about how could Christendom allow this man an audience. Simply. SIMPLY HURTING HER. He has nothing to say to the Church until he apologizes for that instead of clarifying. Simply.

      • Brenda R

        Ellie, I completely agree with you. I still gather his books from book sales, garage sales etc so they don’t get into the hands of unsuspecting people. I also agree that he should not be a leader in the church. I don’t think this will have the same reaction on my pastor about him as it did on me . I was not a fan before I saw the interview, I wanted him tarred and feathered after watching this several months ago.

      • Brenda, our indefatigable Piper book searcher outer and destroyer! I love it!

      • Simply — Yay and high five to Ellie!

      • Brenda R

        Barb, A wife getting her teeth kicked down her throat is several “A” words. Abuse, most definately, but also, Assault and quite possibly Attempted murder. These people who think they are teaching what Jesus is like are way off the path. The things a spouse does that breaks your spirit are just as bad as being beaten. Having experienced both, I don’t see a difference. These “leaders”? might do well to strap on some of both and then give answers.

  9. wbgl0

    This is Stephanie from Facebook. Our church just finished a series on Nehemiah, and it made me think of you guys. Good luck on rebuilding the wall. I’m keeping you in my prayers and also asking God for guidance on what to do to help my church become as victim-friendly as possible.

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