A Cry For Justice

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

This is What the Lord Thinks of Those Who Enable Abusers

Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.
2 Chronicles 19:1-2 

King Jehoshaphat had just come home from helping the wicked king Ahab in battle. Ahab refused to listen to the godly prophet Micaiah and ended up catching a well-placed arrow “shot by a certain man at random.” Ahab perished.

Jehoshaphat went home to face Jehu, the prophet. Jehu’s pronouncement upon the king is classic. “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?” “Well, uh, shouldn’t I have done that? Was that wrong? Because if someone would have told me before…..”.

Translate to today. Most all of you out there know an Ahab. Furthermore, most all of you know how Ahab’s wickedness is enabled over and over again by people who “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord.” Yes, all you allies of the abuser. All of you who forbid or discourage divorce for abuse. All of you who tell the victim to go back to her Ahab and try harder. All of you who….well, you all could fill in the list.

What was Jehoshaphat thinking? Perhaps something like, “Ahab is kind of one of my countrymen, though we belong to different denominations. Nevertheless, he is one of the Lord’s own and I need to back him up.” But by doing so, King J (I’m getting tired typing out his full name) had the wrath of the Lord pronounced against him. This is what the Lord thinks of people who enable abusers. His wrath goes out against them. God’s heart, as Scripture makes very plain, is FOR the oppressed. He is FOR the widow and the orphan.

Now, you might want to cut King J some slack because after all, he just didn’t know all the details. Oh, but he did! He knew that Ahab kept a righteous man locked up in prison for faithfully telling him the Word of the Lord! King J knew that full well. In addition, he heard Micaiah pronounce the Word of God to Ahab, and yet just like Ahab he decided to go along with the false prophet’s word. He was culpable.

And so I say once more: if you are telling an abuse victim the kinds of things that we regularly expose on this blog as bad, unbiblical, and even wicked advice, then you are enabling Ahab. You are helping the wicked and loving those who hate the Lord.

“Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord.” Yep, it’s that serious.

* * * * * * * *

Barb Roberts discussed the prophet Jehu’s admonishment of King Jehoshaphat, in a recent thread. We’re pasting it here as a corollary to Jeff Crippen’s thoughts: 

“Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.”

In this verse, a good prophet, Jehu, is admonishing a half-way good king, Jehoshaphat King of Judah, for having cooperated with a wicked king, Ahab King of Israel.

Ahab was extremely wicked in a number of ways. He was the one who had that big showdown with the prophet Elijah. He stole Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16:33). He cultivated a bevy of lying prophets who constantly praised and encouraged him — a back-slapping boys club (2 Chron. 18). He made war against the King of Syria even though a good prophet — one that Jehoshaphat had brought in at the last minute for an alternative reading — had strongly warned him not to do so. He schemingly disguised himself in the battle, trying to divert the Syrian arrows from himself to King Jehoshaphat. Talk about covering your own back and putting your buddy out in the front line to take all the heat! But God had His way anyway, providentially sending one arrow right to Ahab to wound him to his death. So this guy Ahab was a real bad ‘un: he was in defiance of God big time (like an abuser); he was a cunning, scheming, lying, selfish, God-hating, God-defying man.

Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, was not wholly bad. He did some wrong and bad things, but not nearly as bad as Ahab. One wrong thing Jehoshaphat did was make a marriage alliance with Ahab (18:1). Another was to cooperate with Ahab in the war against Syria: he was wrong to go into military alliance with a leader who coveted false prophets and lapped up the praise of the boys’ club. But Jehoshaphat had some good parts, as the godly prophet Jehu told him: “Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.” (2 Chron. 19:3)

So in context, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD,” is an admonishment to a somewhat bad and foolish leader for having helped and ‘loved’ (been in alliance with) a wicked God-hating tyrant.

Should Jehu’s words be taken an admonishment to a victim of abuse who has helped and loved her abuser for all those years of *marriage*? (translate as sham-marriage or anti-marriage if you wish).

It’s a good question, and it’s the kind of question that perplexes victims of abuse a LOT. The harsh words of rebuke in the Bible are so often personalized by victims of abuse as rebuke for themselves. This is a function of several things:

  • the way that pastors and authors teach poorly on marriage, not giving thought to how their stern words and ‘shoulds’ will have an impact on the oppressed, the crushed, the downtrodden;
  • the way the abusers and oppressors drill into the heads of their targets that it’s all your fault — the cruel and dishonest blame-shifting which abusers excel at;
  • the way tender-hearted people, people of sensitive conscience, tend to question their own motives and examine their own moral choices all the time. This makes such folk easier targets for abusers and oppressors, and keeps the oppressed person longer in the fog.

So, should we take Jehu’s admonishment of Jehoshaphat, and apply it as an admonishment to victims of abuse? I don’t think so; certainly that is not its primary application. The correct and most obvious application in our day is that it is an admonishment to those pastors, counselors, elders, bystanders, who enable and help abusers get away with what they do. People who are outside the abuse intensity itself, who go along with abusers and their schemes without putting up firm enough boundaries or accountability for the evildoer. The leaders who trust wicked people too readily. Folk who think that everyone else is pretty much like them — “basically not all that bad, maybe a few flaws here or there but not really wicked.” And that even when they see plain evidence that this other person is high-handedly defying God, they blink and blow off the evidence.

The difference between a King Jehoshaphat and a victim of abuse is this:

  • King J was not himself oppressed under Ahab’s coercive power and control.
  • King J had the power to be his own person, to act and choose independently without fearing retribution from Ahab.
  • His personhood had not been shredded and ground to a powder over years.
  • He had liberty to act according to his own conscience without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

The victim of abuse is not free in that sense. Yes, theoretically the victim is free always, but the costs of exercising that freedom are high, are dangerous, and she knows this from experience. So that is the big difference.

A particular victim of abuse may, in her own journey, at some point decide or realise “I’m helping and enabling my abuser if I stay / if I do such and such / if I keep silent. And I realise that, for me, at this point, that is wrong, and I’m going to take the risk of refusing to help him, and I’m going to run that gauntlet of speaking up, standing up, and separating, in whatever way I think I can do it while minimising my risk of being hurt and entrapped.”

But I never tell a target of abuse straight out “You are helping your abuser, you are enabling him. You need to stop doing that!” I might ask questions like “Have it ever occurred to you that you are enabling him to become further entrenched in is evil ways?” But I never make those questions stern or harsh.

If the Holy Spirit speaks an admonishment to that victim, I don’t intervene or try to contradict the Spirit’s guidance, but that’s a whole different thing. Most victims are too harsh on themselves and my job is usually to help them be less harsh on themselves so that their feeling of safety and self-agency and liberty of choice can be nurtured — and that is how they gradually find their way out of the fog and get through the gauntlet of spear points on their flight towards safety and separation.

14 Comments

  1. outofzion

    Thank you…God Bless.

  2. TB

    Your post says: “The victim of abuse is not free in that sense. Yes, theoretically the victim is free always, but the costs of exercising that freedom are high, are dangerous, and she knows this from experience. So that is the big difference.”

    Yesterday I saw this on Facebook and thought it was very appropriate:

    Quoted by Frederick Douglass (former slave turned abolitionist):

    I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than be false, and incur my own abhorrence.

    Had to “like” that quote.

    Another quote that came to mind lately was:

    Freedom is never free.

    There will be a cost, and often great loss, in walking away from an abusive relationship. But the freedom is so worth it. The victim in never true to herself when she lies to herself about what her heart, head, and gut are telling her is wrong, wrong, wrong. Fear is the problem. Courage is the answer. Courage to face the truth and stand against the lies. Yes, it’s a hard reality to face, and a hard decision to make, and it hurts, and it’s scary. But you can do it, especially with God’s help.

    • joy

      I love those quotes, thank you TB!

  3. Terri

    Sadly it’s not just about fear. Real things happen to victims who walk away, bad things. This is one reason why many victims haven’t walked away already. Their fear is of very real possibilities.

    • standsfortruth

      It has taken most of us many years to get to the place where we finally start to come out of the fog, and realize that something is woefully wrong with our marriage, and its not going to get better.
      It takes time to adjust our thinking, plan, and start getting our ducks in a row, before we feel confident to strategize moves towards freedom.
      But with each move, however small it may be, creates courage and conviction, and it ultimately makes us stronger people.
      I have made many steps in this direction, and I want to encourage others, that you are much better than you know, but your abuser does not want you to find out, but you are.
      So I encourage others to pray about this, and take “small steps” towards securing your independence, and you will see that it bolsters your confidence in who God created you to be, and will open the door to other opportunities.

    • freeatlast8

      Believe me, I understand the fear of walking away…fear of the unknown, of the consequences to myself and my children, of the threats, of the unpredictability of the abuser and what he might do when he loses control of me, the situation, and himself. I know the fear. I have lived with it. It takes courage both to stay and to leave, no denying.

  4. IamMyBeloved's

    Excellent article and particularly timely and eye-opening for me. Excellent way of demonstrating how to apply the Scriptures still today.

    I was a victim who did not leave due to fear, but I also always had this haunting thing about as a Christian being required to be nice to everyone. “Don’t blow it or you’ll cause someone else not to see Christ” I think sometimes we want to remain kind or still be that nice person we know we are, but the twist here is that all that kindness and niceness may actually be the result of having been abused. Being used and abused and a doormat for everyone; taking responsibility for why others abuse you; trying to keep peace with everyone; not standing up against other people who criticize or put words in your mouth; not speaking up for yourself; just taking any and everything that comes along; all of those can be misconstrued and thought to be works of kindness – when in reality they could be thoughts and actions of oppression caused from being abused.

    Christ did not ever enable evil or wickedness. He was not kind to the wicked Pharisees of His day! Let Him be our example and let us be made into His likeness. The most healing any of us can have, is the truth of God’s Word applied to our lives and the false teachings that have become so prevalent, to be erased from us – forever.

    • Ellie

      Even Christ’s hard words to the wicked were kindness. It is loving to expose wrong and shine God’s light on evil deeds. It is cruel to call evil “good” or “misunderstood.”

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Yes Ellie. I just meant that Jesus did not purposefully treat the wicked with outwardly demonstrating kindness to them with sweet words, (ie “you brood of vipers”) like we would unhealthily think of being kind, if that makes sense. In the end, He will bring judgment – which is fair and just according to His Law – to the wicked. In most people’s mindset, that judgment does not look like the “kindnesses” we are told to show to our abusers. (ie stay with them, submit to them, even if they kill you, lead them to Christ, be strong and endure the abuse, allow them to continue on in it, etc.)

    • Excellent comment, IamMyBeloved’s. Thank you so much.

  5. Sunflower

    We lived near one of the Polygamist Mormon communities. One woman who left wrote a book called, “Keep Sweet”. In fact I think there are two x-mormon books with that name because the girls from birth are told to ‘keep sweet’. A good (bad) way to raise girls who accept abuse.

  6. Song of Joy

    King Jehoshaphat…there’s a theory I remember reading about that kind of makes sense. And it’s interesting that it would apply to the subject of this post. When King J came to the throne, the kingdom of Israel had already been split for over half a century into two separate kingdoms, as a result of God’s judgment. The northern kingdom of Israel (Ahab), and the southern kingdom of Judah (King J).

    The theory is that King J was a good king, but he was perhaps obsessed with the thought of reuniting the two kingdoms back together. (sound familiar?) As a result, he did things that were opposed to God’s prophetic word in order to acheive his fleshly-minded goal, which was not in the Lord’s will.

    King J may have wanted UNITY at any cost!

    Perhaps in his mind UNITY was a worthy goal…and that God would somehow approve of what he was doing (overlooking evil for the sake of UNITY). He certainly convinced himself that supporting an evil royal family was going to turn out well. He was wrong.

    Funny how it sounds so much like church pastors today. Overlooking wickedness for the sake of unity. LOL.

    • Song of Joy

      p.s. maybe I even read about that theory on this blog…. 🙂

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