“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Matthew 23:27-28 New American Standard Version
The more I read and encounter those who have been taught they must stay with abusive husbands, the more application I see for these verses, and indeed this entire chapter in Matthew. In this passage, Jesus was pointing out the multiple hypocrisies of the scribes and Pharisees of His day. He was pointing out that their legalism did not equate to true love for God, nor a true relationship with Him. He was exposing their facade of spirituality for what it really was: empty words with no consistency of works, nor love of people.
How does this apply to abuse situations? Just listen to teachers like John Piper and patriarchy types who teach that there are no valid reasons for divorce or that women are to be totally and completely subjected to their husband’s will. These are the people who come across as so spiritual, so in love with Christ and want to follow every jot and tittle of the law. Their public persona is all slick, neat and tidy. They may be published authors with a national following, or the small-town preacher who is a disciple of the big names. They preach and teach something they call grace, yet lay a heavy burden upon all women in marriages. The facade is in its proper order and ready for public display; however, they teach death, enabling abusers to destroy their wives.
These are the people who, like the Pharisees who idolized the sabbath, so idolize the institution of marriage they forget that marriage was made for mankind. Mankind was not made to serve the institution.
These are the people whose followers destroy their spouses’ dreams, hopes and personalities. Their wives have no choice but to go along because they are held in a spiritual bondage that tells them if they don’t submit, they are vile sinners, rebelling against God. So the wife tries to put on a happy face and make the best of the situation, doing anything she can to not tarnish her husband’s image, lest she fall victim to his wrath and the wrath of the church. Inside, the stench of death is unmistakable, but to outsiders, the image is squeaky clean.
When the door to the truth begins to open the tiniest crack and some of the foulness of what they have done just begins to emerge, either the abuser or his patriarchy allies in church leadership quickly slam it shut. Instead of taking responsibility for their abuse, they blame the victim for the sorry state of the decayed marriage. SHE is in sin. SHE is in rebellion. SHE should be submitting. There is no responsibility placed upon the husband, the one who must be obeyed!
The patriarchy types such as Piper and all who teach that there are no grounds for divorce, have set up a culture in which a woman in such a marriage is a dead woman walking. No one bothers to notice because this evil teaching has been so inculcated in the church that people are conditioned not to notice, or if they do, to run the other way. Very few care what happens to her and many are afraid to touch her, as if she were a modern-day zombie with leprosy! There is no discernment on the part of the church membership. There is no love for the victim from the leadership. By golly, she must stay with the abuser and put up with it or be ostracized from the body of Christ. Her salvation may even be called into question.
Similar to the way the Pharisees of old acted, the law has taken precedence over the hearts and souls of real, hurting people. Christ wants to call the victim wife out of that tomb, just as he did Lazarus, but the Pharisee teachers are holding the stone over the entrance, trapping her inside to continue her plight. Their image must be maintained after all.
How tragic is that?