Breaking Free from Abuse: Teach These Five Things
We need to talk about and preach about abuse, whether it is physical, sexual or emotional. Statistics tell us that abuse is a growing problem in the United States and around the world.
- Domestic violence is now the leading cause of injury to women in the world.
- A woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States.
- For every three women, one has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime.
- For every five teenage girls, one has been in a relationship where the boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if she breaks up with him.
- And, a new University of New Hampshire study of 32 nations reports that women now commit half of all partner violence.
This is a subject we need keep before our congregations. Our members need to know that God does not tolerate abuse and that there is hope and help for those who need to break free from abuse.
Here are five important steps related to abuse that everyone in your congregation should understand –
Don’t let them keep it a secret. If they’re talking to you about the abuse, they’ve already taken this important step. When someone is being abused, they usually don’t want to tell anyone.
But the Bible says you’ve got to share your pain with someone you trust in order to break free. Jesus said in John 8:32, “The truth will set you free.” Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. To help people through abuse, you’ve got to get them to speak up and deal with the abuse.
Have them name it. Give it a name and be specific. Have the person call it what it is – abuse. You may need to help the person with this. Often people who are being abused are too close to the situation. They can’t see what’s really going on – particularly if it’s emotional abuse. They need to say it a lot. What was done wasn’t playfulness. It was mean. It was meant to harm. It was malicious. It was abuse.
Don’t let them rationalize it. Ephesians 5:6 says, “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins for the anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him.” (NLT) Those who are being abused like to say things like:
- He/she was just having a bad day.
- I brought it on myself.
- There are so many good things about him/her.
Those phrases just minimize what the abuser has done. God hates abuse. It makes Him angry. Just read the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, where God often speaks against those who hurt, mistreat and abuse others. God doesn’t minimize the sin of abuse. We shouldn’t either.
Help them get to a safe place if necessary. If you know of someone being physically or sexually abused, they need to get out now!
Not tomorrow morning. Tonight!
Not the next day. Today!
There’s not a single Bible verse that says a child or a spouse has to remain in a situation where their lives are threatened. That doesn’t mean you encourage divorce. Separation isn’t the same as divorce. God hates divorce, but I’ve seen God do miracles in relationships after a separation.
Don’t let anyone confront an abuser alone. It’s not safe for someone being abused to confront the abuser alone. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you.” (CEV) We confront abusers through group interventions. We want to shine light on the abuse situation but we never want to see someone being abused do that alone. The church family does it together.
Begin the healing process. We call this recovery. One of Job’s friends, when Job was struggling through the pain of abuse, said this to him: “Put your heart right. Reach out to God. Put away any evil and wrong from your home. Then face the world again, firm and courageous. … Your life will be brighter than sunshine at noon, and life’s darkest hours will shine like the dawn!” Job 11:13-17 (TEV)
God wants to give the abuse victims in your congregation a fresh start and a chance to make their own lives right with Him. At Saddleback we do this through our Celebrate Recovery ministry. We have a recovery group going on every night of the week. We believe in this. I hope you have some sort of recovery ministry in your church, too.
Let God settle the score. Neither you nor the person being abused can settle the score. Don’t even try. It won’t work. Instead of retaliation, we need to encourage forgiveness. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:9, “Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing. That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.” (NJB)
The abuser won’t get away with it. One day God will settle the score. He is just. And he can do a lot better job of settling the score than we can.
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