Is Your Spouse or Pastor a Serial Bully?

This information blew my mind. It describes my ex-husband so precisely, it’s just spooky. I’ve known quite a few pastors who fit this description as well.

Please note, this is not a gender-specific problem. The gender of a serial bully can be female or male. This applies in marriage – the bully could be a wife rather than a husband. It also applies in church leadership. The female serial bully may be a Sunday School teacher, pastor in some churches, elder/deacon/board member, women’s leader, etc.

The serial bully:

  • is a *convincing,* *practised liar* and when called to account,
    will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • has a *Jekyll and Hyde nature* – is vile, vicious and vindictive
    in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses;
    no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive
    nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression
    sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as “charming”
    and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a
    tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as “evil”; Hyde is
    the real person, Jekyll is an act
  • excels at *deception* and should never be underestimated in their
    capacity to deceive
  • uses excessive *charm* and is always plausible and convincing when
    peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to
    deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)
  • is *glib, shallow and superficial* with plenty of fine words and
    lots of form – but there’s no substance
  • is possessed of an *exceptional verbal facility* and will
    outmanoeuvre most people in verbal interaction, especially at
    times of conflict
  • is often described as *smooth*, *slippery, slimy, ingratiating,
    fawning, toadying, obsequious, sycophantic*
  • relies on *mimicry, repetition* and *regurgitation* to convince
    others that he or she is both a “normal” human being and a tough
    dynamic manager, as in extolling the virtues of the latest
    management fads and pouring forth the accompanying jargon
  • is unusually skilled in *being able to anticipate what people want
    to hear* and then saying it plausibly
  • *cannot be trusted or relied upon*
  • *fails to fulfil commitments*
  • is *emotionally retarded* with an *arrested level of emotional
    development*; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that
    of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
  • is *emotionally immature* and *emotionally untrustworthy*
  • exhibits *unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters,
    sexual behaviour and bodily functions*; underneath the charming
    exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination
    and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual
    inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse
  • in a relationship, is *incapable of initiating or sustaining
    intimacy*
  • *holds deep prejudices* (eg against the opposite gender, people of
    a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious
    beliefs, foreigners, etc – prejudiced people are unvaryingly
    unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial
    aspect of their personality secret
  • is *self-opinionated* and displays *arrogance*, *audacity, a
    superior sense of entitlement* and sense of *invulnerability* and
    *untouchability*
  • has a deep-seated *contempt of clients* in contrast to his or her
    professed compassion
  • is a *control freak* and has a *compulsive need to control*
    everyone and everything you say, do, think and believe; for
    example, will launch an immediate personal attack attempting to
    restrict what you are permitted to say if you start talking
    knowledgeably about psychopathic personality or antisocial
    personality disorder
    in their presence –
    but aggressively maintains the right to talk (usually
    unknowledgeably) about anything they choose
    ; serial bullies
    despise anyone who enables others to see through their deception
    and their mask of sanity
  • displays a *compulsive need to criticise* whilst simultaneously
    *refusing to value*, praise and acknowledge others, their
    achievements, or their existence
  • *shows a lack of joined-up thinking* with conversation that
    doesn’t flow and arguments that don’t hold water
  • *flits from topic to topic* so that you come away feeling you’ve
    never had a proper conversation
  • *refuses to be specific* and *never gives a straight answer*
  • is *evasive* and has a Houdini-like ability to *escape
    accountability*
  • *undermines* and *destroys* anyone who the bully perceives to be
    an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the
    bully’s mask
  • is *adept at creating conflict *between those who would otherwise
    collate incriminating information about them
  • is *quick to discredit and neutralise* anyone who can talk
    knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors
  • may pursue a *vindictive vendetta* against anyone who dares to
    held them accountable, perhaps using others’ resources and
    contemptuous of the damage caused to other people and
    organisations in pursuance of the vendetta
  • is also *quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit*
    anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to
    account
  • *gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to*
  • is *highly manipulative*, especially of people’s perceptions and
    emotions (eg guilt)
  • *poisons peoples’ minds* by manipulating their perceptions
  • when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of
    others, responds with *impatience, irritability and aggression*
  • *is arrogant, haughty, high-handed*, and *a know-all*
  • often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic
    *attention-seeking
    need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and
    compassionate person
    *, in contrast to their behaviour and
    treatment of others; the bully sees nothing wrong with their
    behavior and chooses to remain oblivious to the discrepancy
    between how they like to be seen and how they are seen by others
  • is *spiritually dead* although may loudly profess some religious
    belief or affiliation
  • is *mean-spirited*, *officious*, and often *unbelievably petty*
  • is *mean, stingy*, and *financially untrustworthy*
  • is *greedy, selfish, *a *parasite *and an *emotional vampire*
  • is *always a taker *and *never a giver* [Note from Danni: On this one I would say, never a giver unless there is a hidden motive of manipulation to gain.]
  • is convinced of their *superiority* and has an *overbearing belief
    in their qualities of leadership* but cannot distinguish between
    leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation,
    trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness,
    aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness)
  • often *fraudulently claims* qualifications, experience, titles,
    entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or
    bogus
  • often *misses the semantic meaning of language*, misinterprets
    what is said, sometimes wrongly thinking that comments of a
    satirical, ironic or general negative nature apply to him or herself
  • *knows the words but not the song*
  • is *constantly imposing on others a false reality* made up of
    distortion and fabrication
  • sometimes *displays a seemingly limitless demonic energy*
    especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evasion
    of accountability and is often a *committeeaholic* or apparent
    *workaholic*
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Why Won’t the Church Address Domestic Violence?

I have to give a round of applause to Michael Spencer of the Internet Monk blog for his piece yesterday on this subject. He did a great job and he’s taking some heat for it.

You have to read it, but he gives 10 reasons why churches and pastors won’t step up to the plate on the issue of domestic abuse in the church – and they are not only right on target but communicated in a way that strips all the veneer of piety right off the excuses. I love the fact that he’s daring to take on the issue, when he is 1) a man!!!! yeah!, and 2) not a victim. In a strange twist of illogic, victims who speak out are automatically discounted considerably because we are assumed to have an agenda of validating ourselves.

So check it out and be sure to let the iMonk know you appreciate it!

What Does the Bible Really Say? — God Hates Divorce

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…

This verse is frequently translated “God hates divorce” and this is probably the single most often-quoted snippet in Christianity on the subject of divorce. “Everyone” knows that phrase and will tell you it’s in the Bible. Usually, the phrase is understood to mean, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.”

First off, let me state the obvious. The Bible doesn’t say, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” But could it possibly mean that? Since the Bible does not actually say this, it is a fair question to ask whether that is really what it means.

Again, stating the obvious, it is reasonable to assume that God “hates” divorce, in the sense that He doesn’t like it. He isn’t dumb and any thinking person hates divorce. It is painful and it is not the way God intended marriage to be. So, of course, He doesn’t like it.

But is it also correct to assume that “God hates divorce” means divorce is an abomination to Him and absolutely forbidden?

In Isaiah 50:1 and in Jeremiah 3:8 God specifically states that He divorced Israel. I have discussed this in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, III. It is important to remember that human marriage is symbolic of the spiritual reality, not the other way around. If anything, God’s example in marriage would carry more weight than the reverse.

Also, Ezra 10 tells of a time when God commanded the Israelite men to get divorces. I have discussed this passage in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, IV. How could God possibly command the Israelite men to divorce their wives if, in fact, “God hates divorce” means that divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden?

Then in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 Jesus gives a very specific exception clause when He answers the Pharisees’ questions regarding the allowance of divorce. Obviously, Jesus did not say that all divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden.

Let me ask another obvious question. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Jesus to just say, “God hates divorce” when probed by the Pharisees, if God meant that all divorce is an abomination and forbidden? But instead of quoting the definitive “God hates divorce” Jesus went into detail in an entirely different direction. Why did He do that if Malachi 2 establishes the primary precedent for God’s view of divorce?

In the church what we hear most of the time is “God hates divorce” – and yet, that statement is never reiterated in the New Testament – or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter. “God hates divorce” is the most repeated phrase in the church on the subject of divorce but appears only once in the Bible. Why is this true if this one phrase is of such profound significance?

Would it be logical to believe that the words of Jesus are probably the most accurate reflection of God’s heart on the subject of divorce, since He was directly asked for God’s perspective? So why did Jesus speak as He did? I have addressed Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce in response to the Pharisees in the article, What the Bible Really Says – Don’t Put Asunder. For the sake of not straying from the point of this article, I’m not going to go into it here. But what Jesus said was important – and He quite noticeably did not say “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian (or follower of God, since He was talking to the Pharisees) to be divorced.”

It is necessary for us, as believers, to understand this issue, since the phrase “God hates divorce” is commonly being used in the church in an unbiblical manner and the result is a great deal of harm. It may not seem like a big deal for those who have not been faced with divorce or with marriages in violation of the Word, but the inaccurate handling of the Word is being used to keep people in bondage and also to cause added condemnation and rejection to people whom God has neither condemned nor rejected. Additionally, there are many who say they aren’t condemning or rejecting – but the effect is virtually the same since it is putting a burden of “wrong” on the shoulders of people for whom God has not a single shred of approbation – even without condemnation or rejection.

So what is Malachi saying?

Let’s first take a look at how several translations handle Malachi 2:16. This is very revealing.

King James Version

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

New King James Version
“For the LORD God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the LORD of hosts.

“ Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

New International Version

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.
So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

American Standard Version

For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

“If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

English Standard Version

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Now, let’s dig into this.

First of all, let me acknowledge that there are many people who believe the King James Version (1611 version specifically) is the only accurate translation. This version says God hates putting away. Without getting into any debate regarding the veracity of various translations, let me take this statement alone.

If, in fact, the King James Version is completely accurate, it is important to note that it does not say “God hates divorce.” It says God hates putting away. In the context of Malachi 2 it is clear God is directing His statements to men who have been unfaithful to their first wives and put them away in order to take heathen wives. God speaks repeatedly of their treachery. God’s focus is on their treachery – this is what He is condemning – not divorce.

This fact is the key to the entire passage. God’s eyes are not on the legal documents these men obtained. It is on their treacherous hearts. God condemns the treachery that led to the divorces – and this fact is plainly communicated in the context. These men “put away” their wives and divorced them. The putting away of their wives was a fact of their treacherous hearts, and it led to divorce. But the treachery of their hearts was the real problem.

Would God have said it was OK if they had mistreated their wives but had just taken second wives instead of divorcing their first ones? They were allowed to have multiple wives so taking additional wives would not have been a problem. However, the answer is still a resounding NO! In fact, this would still have left these men in the position of the men in Ezra, whom God commanded to divorce their heathen wives, thereby making it obvious His issue is not with divorce but with the heart condition of the people involved. In Malachi, His focus is on their treachery – not on the legal documents that resulted from the treachery.

Another substantive point to note about God’s viewpoint on the treachery of these men in Malachi 2 is that He treats the two treacherous acts as separate offenses. He condemns their treachery in taking heathen wives. Then He condemns their treachery in putting away their first wives. The two are both treacherous acts, separate and distinct from one another. This is an important detail because we need to remember that the second act was not treacherous because of the first, nor vice versa. Each was treacherous independently — two distinct violations.

In Malachi 2, the focus on these men’s treachery is directly reflected in what Jesus said when confronted by the Pharisees. The root problem in both places is the heart of putting asunder – not the legal document of divorce. Putting asunder is a direct violation of God’s original plan and instructions regarding marriage in Genesis. And putting asunder is something that happens in the heart long before a legal document is issued by a court.

With this understanding, we also see the Word is speaking a consistent message. The problem in Malachi 2 is the same as Jesus outlined in the New Testament. And we know God is consistent! He doesn’t change His mind here and there, being double-minded and condoning divorce in one place while condemning it in another.

All that said, there is more to be seen in these translations. Notice specifically the wording in the Holman Christian Standard Version and the English Standard Version.

Holman says, “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice…”

ESV says, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence…”

Why do these two translations use such significantly different verbiage here? This change makes a serious difference in the meaning of the passage – especially considering the frequency with which “God hates divorce” is quoted in the church.

Before getting into the particulars, I think it would bear noting the pedigree of these two translations. In looking into this issue I corresponded with Barbara Roberts, the author of the book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion. She has an entire chapter (Chapter 8 ) devoted to this phrase in Malachi 2.

In the course of our correspondence, Barbara said, “The ESV is heavily promoted by Crossway, which is a major publisher of complementarian material. The Holman Christian Standard version was produced by the Southern Baptist denomination. So would-be-objectors from the conservative ranks need to sit up and take note.” I found this point interesting, since these translations are supported by conservative Christianity, yet this pivotal passage has not been seriously visited by the church systems which promote the translations.

But, let’s get back to the variance demonstrated here. There is actually a specific reason for such a substantive disagreement. Barbara goes into it in detail in her book, with extensive footnote documentation. Without reprinting the entire chapter here (you really need to read the book; it is exceptional) let me quote one relevant part here:

In Malachi 2:16, the subject of the verb “hates” is not explicit: the Hebrew does not read “God hates” or “the husband hates.” All we know from the verb is that the person who hates is third person masculine singular (“he” or “one”), just like “covers.” It is certainly not the first person “I hate.”

Now we come to our main point. Most Bible translations have taken the subject of the first verb to be God (God hates) and thereby changed he hates to the first person I hate. This is unfaithful to the Hebrew text and it creates an awkward grammatical shift between I hate and he covers

Some translations try to overcome the grammatical disjunction between the different subjects of I hate…he covers by translating the passage as I hate divorce…it covers… We need not resort to such a solution. The subject of “hates” is third person, not first, and we should only depart from the plain sense of a text if compelled by something in the text. Nothing here compels such a departure.

It makes sense to maintain the same subject (the divorcing husband) for both verbs. Since 1868 at least eighteen scholars have said that “he hates…he covers” is the most faithful way to render the Hebrew, with “he” being the divorcing husband.

Just in the past couple days I heard a preacher whom I greatly respect say, “God doesn’t condemn divorcees; He condemns divorce.” This concept is quite common in the church. But in reality it is inaccurate. God got a divorce, He commanded people to get divorces, and Jesus gave a specific circumstance under which divorce was appropriate. So God cannot possibly be condemning divorce.

What God does condemn is treachery that results in divorce. God condemns putting away or putting asunder. There is a huge difference between the statement that “God condemns divorce” and “God condemns the treachery of putting asunder in marriage.”

While I do not have ill feelings toward the person who said this, knowing he is speaking out of a place where his paradigm of truth has never been challenged, this kind of teaching is causing a great deal of hurt in the body of Christ. It is necessary, I would even say vital, for this error to be corrected so that people in the church can be accepted and loved according to truth.

Here is the bottom line. No matter how you look at Malachi 2, it is critical to understand the passage neither states nor implies “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” This understanding is important because this passage is a lynchpin in church teaching on divorce and it is being persistently misused. And this misuse is causing significant pain and even alienation of believers who are victims of treachery in marriage and who most need the love and support of the church.

[In this article I have not addressed the subject of if/when Christians are allowed to divorce. I have addressed this elsewhere in other articles (see What Does God Really Say? Series What the Bible Says About Divorce, Series, and THE Biblical Grounds for Divorce) and will continue to write on the subject, since I have not yet covered every Scripture about it. The purpose of this piece is not to make any commentary on the parameters of divorce for Christians. My goal here is solely to explore the phrase “God hates divorce” in Malachi 2.]

Christian Men with Abusive Wives

This conversation took place in one of the comment threads and I know there are many other men who are walking in the same shoes. My answer to this man is by no means comprehensive. But it’s a good place to start.

Scott said:.

I am a man and my spouse has been horribly abusive to me verbally. Sometimes I want to leave the marriage. I’ve gotten as far as to fill out the paperwork but I keep reminding myself that “God Hates Divorce”. I know a few good christian men that believe in mutual submission out of respect for God and are in a similar situation. i.e. the Woman is horribly abusive, mean, disrespectful and hateful. What is your experience with the reverse like my situation?

Danni said:.

First thing off the bat, I would recommend you read Barbara Roberts’ book, Not Under Bondage which I recommend in the left sidebar of this site. She digs into the Word in great detail.

As for my experience, I have definitely seen women who are abusive to their husbands! This is just as much of a problem for those men as it is for women who have abusive husbands. It is no less wrong for a woman to be abusive than for a man.

And here’s something important. God is no respecter of persons. He does not hold men in greater bondage to abusers than He holds women! That is impossible because it would violate God’s nature.

In the Word it says that a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and then they will be one flesh. But what if that wife will not allow the husband to cleave to her? In that case, she is putting asunder their one-flesh relationship.

And what does the Word say about that? The one who puts asunder is the one on whom Jesus places blame — not on the party who may get a legal document attesting to the existing reality of the relationship. That marriage was put asunder by the one who refused to remain in the one-flesh relationship, not by the one who gets a legal document entitling them to live in safety.

And the Word says death and life are in the power of the tongue. It is just as deadly to live with someone who is verbally abusive as it is to live with someone who is physically abusive. That is not metaphorical; it is literal.

Look at Malachi 2 in the King James Version. I love the way it says this — it says God hates putting away. It doesn’t say God hates divorce. Yes, God does hate divorce. So do I. So do you (I would certainly hope). But God does here what He frequently does in the Word, and points all the way to the root of the problem. What God hates is putting away — the acts that separate the one flesh bond of marriage as He intended it. That putting away happens prior to the issuance of a divorce decree. It includes divorce, but it precedes divorce.

I would encourage you to go with God on this – and it may be necessary to stop looking at what other people in the church are teaching or doing in the name of righteousness in marriage. There is a LOT of mistaken teaching in the church on this subject. We have created a whole doctrinal system out of a partial understanding of the Word and a misunderstanding of God’s heart and nature.

All that said, you don’t say what steps you have tried as far as counseling and accountability. The Word also includes a process of accountability and church discipline in Mt. 18 which I recommend strongly, if at all possible. Most churches won’t follow it through to the conclusion, but you can follow it as thoroughly as possible. This will help assure your heart that you are indeed making every possible effort and not throwing in the towel too soon. Both in Barbara’s book and in the articles on this site we talk about what the Word says about judging a spouse to be an unbeliever (Biblically) and what the Bible says about when to stay and when you are free from an unbelieving spouse. And a person can look just like a Christian and not be a believer by Biblical standards — in fact, it happens all the time.

Dealing With the Aftermath of Abuse

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

[This article was originally written in early 2008. At that point it had been a little over two years since my marriage ended.

Now, in August, 2009, I am reading back over what I wrote and would like to add some further insight provided by time and the leading of God on my journey. I will add these comments at the end of the original piece.]

It’s 12:15 a.m. I’m awake again and can’t sleep. This happens to me alot. It’s light-years better than it used to be, but it’s still a common occurrence. I wake up in the night disturbed by my dreams. While I can filter my thought processes during the day, at night the gates are open and “unmanned.” That’s when all the emotions overwhelm me.

When I was in my late 20s I realized I had nightmares most nights and had for as long as I could remember. These nightmares were the product of the church terror motivation campaign – the world is out to get Christians and will torture and kill us all if they get a chance (including showing graphically violent movies depicting this to teens and adults – talk about abuse!); the government is controlled by evil gremlins who hate Christians and will tear apart Christian families if they get a chance; etc.

On the other side of the coin was the church’s constant drill that I was inherently evil and unacceptable. In real life I was regularly held up for public reprimand and ridicule in youth group and at Christian school and that phenomenon appeared in my dreams frequently as well – though I followed the rules religiously. Fortunately, I knew my parents loved me, but in my dreams they turned on me just like the church did. Those dreams were a reflection of what was happening in real life, just magnified and concentrated.

Realizing I was being plagued by nightmares allowed me to address those fears on a conscious level. But they reappear from time to time still. In more recent years, the dreams that haunt me are of my marriage and rejection by the church.

By the time I left my husband the last time (Oct. 2005) I was having nightly terroristic nightmares. These dreams were direct products of the reality of our daytime relationship; somewhat magnified, but definitely reflections of reality on some level. I woke from these dreams sometimes sobbing out loud, sometimes shaking with terror so hard the whole bed shook, and three or four days a week I woke with a full-blown migraine in progress.

The church couldn’t – or wouldn’t — help with this. It took a psychologist to help me get free of these nightmares and the resultant migraines – though there was no reason I had to go outside the church for this help. It just needed someone with understanding and a willingness to dig into and address things, not someone with a doctoral degree in psychology. It really wasn’t complicated or technical.

Though my days are now peaceful for the first time in many years, I still relive the nightmare at night to a lesser degree. I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes literally hurting so bad it feels like I’m having a heart attack. WHY??? Why does it have to hurt so bad?

What hurts the most is that the church both allowed and encouraged me to stay in an abusive marriage for 20 years. In fact, it did more than just encourage me to stay in that marriage. The church held additional rejection and judgment over my head if I dared to get out. I knew if I defied the church and got a divorce I would be branded forever. But staying and “working on” my marriage year after year after year was literally killing me. Ultimately it came down to obeying the direction of God and choosing the rejection of the church to stay alive. That’s a simplistic bottom-line view of a complex issue, but it is true.

In the nights when I wake up crying and can’t sleep I wonder how the church can justify its attitude toward marriage and family. The sanctity of marriage is not paramount over the sanctity of life. I wonder how the church can justify a gospel of fear, judgment and rejection. This has to be opposite of God’s desires and yet it goes on and on and on, with vested (or perhaps “encrusted” would be more appropriate) church leaders holding staunchly to tradition to the detriment of people’s real lives.
It is wrong, it matters, real people are being hurt by the church, and knowing this, I cannot sit by and do nothing. And I have to live with my nightmares and sleepless nights in the meantime.

Update: August, 2009

God is so faithful to hear the cries of our hearts. While, in the moment, things may seem insurmountable and endless, He sees a different picture. The nightmares have almost entirely ceased – so it does get better.

As I have sought God about all of this, He has worked to heal my heart – both toward my ex-husband and toward the church. He has continued to affirm that, indeed, abuse in the church and the home is not His plan.

Most importantly, as I have continued to seek Him and reject bitterness (which has been a terrific battle, in complete honesty!) He has taught me truth from His Word that has transformed my life on more levels than just healing from my abusive marriage. He has taught me so much as I’ve been willing to humble myself before Him and receive from Him – allowing Him full access to all my preconceptions of truth.

I know this is a work that will never be complete in this life as I’m transformed into the image of Christ. But it is a huge example of how God will redeem what Satan meant for evil. God is faithful, faithful, faithful and can be fully trusted.

If I look at the church through the eyes of my experience, and the continued experiences of others, I can easily become overwhelmed by discouragement and slide back into bitterness. But one thing God is teaching me is to see it through His eyes.

Jesus died for this church! He died to sanctify a bride for Himself. The church is misunderstanding the truth of who He is and what all He died to accomplish. That is a cause for grief, not anger.

I cannot single-handedly fix the problem. But what I can do is what He has given me to do – teach the gospel. Jesus defined the gospel in Luke 4:18-19 – it is about more than just handing out free tickets to heaven. It is for the hurts of our todays! Jesus provided an amazing gift in His death and resurrection for our present days, not just our eternal destiny – and the church has virtually lost that truth in the bondage of our traditions.

If I am in bondage to bitterness and hurt, I cannot share the liberating truth of what Jesus came to offer to all of the body of Christ. And that “all” includes the very ones who have twisted the Word into a weapon – mostly in ignorance. God loves these people. In fact, these ones who hurt others are frequently themselves walking wounded, even if they will not ever admit to it publically or even to themselves in private. Wounded people wound people, as I’ve heard said many times.

I can’t free myself from the hurt of the past – but God is a faithful and sure healer. As I have sought Him, and continue to do so, He faithfully brings the balm of His comfort and healing to me. And He will do the same for every one of us who have been wounded inside the walls of buildings and institutions called “church.”

How Can I Trust God After Marriage to A “Christian” Abuser?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

This exchange occurred in one of the comment threads on another article, but I thought it might be beneficial for others as a stand-alone piece by itself.

Mary said:

…I have a lot of unfinished business that I need to work through regarding my relationship with God and the church… I don’t know where God is in any of this anymore. I feel paralyzed to do anything about my situation… because I don’t trust myself to hear from God. (and even if I did I don’t know if I have the strength or the courage to do anything. I feel empty) I can’t imagine God saving me from [one] abusive marriage and then leading me to do the same thing again. But that is what happened if I retrace my decisions that I was making at the time. Am I so defective that I can’t hear from God?

Danni said [amplified, as always when I think about it more]:

It is not that you are so defective that you can’t hear from God. It is a combination of the fact that our own paradigms of reality affect what we think we are hearing from God and that the church is teaching some things about God that aren’t completely accurate.

Our own paradigms are probably the biggest thing that sabotages us. Those of us who marry into abuse almost always – I’d say always but there is always the rare exception to the rule – have some underlying wrong beliefs about ourselves, marriage, relationships, and even God that are so unconscious we are not aware they influence us. If we were raised in abuse in any way – not necessarily overt abuse – we definitely have some foundation problems we are not aware of.

Then when we take that into the arena of church, one or both of two things happens. One is that we do not accurately understand the truth because our paradigms color our understanding – for instance, our understanding of God’s love. How can we understand God’s love for us when we have never experienced real love? And we may think we have experienced real love and not understand that what we think is real love is not. If we were raised in an environment where our acceptance was intrinsically tied to our performance, we will see God as having that same standard toward us – which is not true and literally twists everything else around backwards. These are just a couple examples.

The other thing that can happen in the church is that it may actively teach wrong theology about God, God’s love, the gospel, etc. — all of which will be detrimental to a greater or lesser extent as applied to the issue of abuse. Here again, if we have been raised in an abusive environment (or been in one for years), a church which teaches this type of wrong theology or is even straight-out spiritually abusive will feel right and comfortable to us. This is the type of church we are likely to instinctively choose, just as surely as we are likely to instinctively choose to marry an abuser.

But the truth is that God is none of these things. And while you may think God told you to marry that person who was an abuser, He didn’t. He couldn’t have; it would be a violation of His character and nature. But we can misunderstand. And God is bigger than that. It doesn’t mean God failed; it just means we have more to learn about God — which is an awesome thing to know! That means there are unplumbed depths to the goodness, kindness and love of God, which you have yet to explore. And it means we can still trust Him — because without that we have nothing.

Empty is a good place to start. And baby steps are just fine. Is the Word true? That’s the first thing you have to ask yourself. And God knows where you are – Ps. 103:8-14 says:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. [Note: in fact, under the New Covenant we are not under God’s wrath. The New Testament says it is being held until the end of time for those who reject Jesus. God is not mad at you and He’s not going to get mad at you.]

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

He knows your frame; He remembers that you are but dust. He knows and understands every emotion, every fear, every hurt you are feeling. And He’s not mad.

The Holy Spirit has been promised to be our comforter and our counselor (read John 13-17). Is the Word true? Do those words actually mean what they say? Do you need comfort? Do you need guidance and direction? Is the Word true? (Yes, I know I said that three times now; it was on purpose.) God can be trusted and He will not be mad at you, remembering your frame, when you ask Him to show you unmistakeable how to truly hear His voice.

I would even recommend very specifically asking Him to expose and overturn your paradigms of belief that are hindering you from knowing Him as He really is. He will do it — that is my own testimony. He will do it. Not all in a day; not even all in a year. He is a gentle healer. So He can be trusted to deconstruct and reconstruct as carefully and as tenderly as it is possible to do with such a radical work, taking as long as necessary to do it. And all you have to trust with is this one moment at a time.

Hebrews 11:6 …he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Is the Word true?

Another thought regarding believing God led you to marry an abuser, I have to say I fully believed God led me to marry my husband, too. I was completely devoted to God and seeking God as fully as I knew to do. I prayed about it alot and specifically prayed many times that if it wasn’t God’s will, God would show me. Everything I knew about God and obedience and the Word said I was supposed to marry my husband. And God knows I was very willing to lay it down if He didn’t want me to do it.

So after the nightmare started, and then would never end, I had these thoughts, too. Eventually I came to realized that God did try to let me know – but my paradigms made it impossible for me to see and understand what He was saying. My theology, which was mistaken, said I should marry him – but God Himself did not. And He cannot and will not interfere with the authority He has delegated to us on this earth. What He will do, because His grace and mercy are everlasting and eternally long-suffering, is walk with us through what happens next and redeem us when we realize things are amiss.

If you do not see those hindsight warning signs yet, that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. It just means that your inaccurate paradigms of reality haven’t been overturned yet. And God can fix that, over time.

As for where to start – well, that turned long, so I’m going to put it up as a series of separate pieces.

What Does the Bible Really Say? — Husbands Won Without A Word

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

This is the second part of two articles (in a longer series of articles), dealing directly with what I Peter 3:1-6 is intending for the behavior of wives. The first article addressed only the mistaken understanding that the word “likewise” implies that wives are to submit to disobedient and abusive husbands as slaves are to submit to harsh masters.

So, if this admonition to wives is not referring back to slaves being told to suffer for righteousness sake, how do we understand what it means when it says disobedient husbands may be won without a word, as they observe our meek and quiet spirit? What does it mean when it says we should obey like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord? Remember, we have to take away from our understanding of this context any presupposition that it is implying wives are to submit to harsh masters.

There are some very interesting things to note in this passage. I Peter 3:1 says, “…if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (life) of the wives…” I have always heard this taught to mean if a husband disobeys the Word of God he may be won without the words of his wife but instead by her manner of living.

This understanding is grammatically inaccurate. It is not clearly indicated whether the “word” here is the Word of God or the word of the wife – but one thing we can know for sure, both times “word” is used in the same sentence, without any distinction made, they must both mean the same thing.

So either this verse means that the husbands are disobeying the Word of God and may be won without the Word of God by observing the lives of their wives OR the verse means that the husbands are disobedient to the word of their wives and may be won without the word of their wives by watching the lives of their wives. You can’t slice and dice, and mix and match when the verse doesn’t give clear reason to do so.

It could make sense that this is talking about husbands “disobeying” the word of their wife, if by disobeying it means “acting contrary to.” In other words, if the wife has asked for the husband to do something (obviously this would be something in agreement with the Word) and he refuses, she shouldn’t continue to nag.

However, it seems to make more sense if it is talking about the husbands being disobedient to the Word of God. But if this is the correct way to understand the first half of the statement, we must interpret the second half in agreement with the first half. That means the second half of the statement is not saying wives are to be silent. It is saying that the example of the wife should be such that she is a living, breathing expression of the Word, and as such, the disobedient husband can be won back into agreement with the Word of God by watching the behavior of his wife.

This does not disagree with the rest of the passage, either. When the Word talks about a meek and quiet spirit, it does not mean the wife must be silent and never say anything about either the issue at hand or any other subject. If we take out of consideration the idea that this verse said “without a word” to the wife, then we have to take it out of consideration altogether! So this passage never says the wife is not to say anything about her husband’s choices.

From Strong’s Concordance:

Meek – humble
Quiet – undisturbed, peaceable

So a meek and quiet spirit is one which does not rise up in pride or self-seeking, even if offended. Nor is it one that doesn’t speak. It is humble and peaceful. That is all we can read into the statement about a meek and quiet spirit. To imply it means anything more than that is to add to what the Word says.

The fact that this does not mean a wife should not speak out to her husband is, in fact, underscored by the use the Sarah as an example. In Genesis we are given several examples of times when Sarah spoke out to Abraham, and he listened to her. Obviously, this was an understood part of their relationship. But, since she is used as an example here, it is evident that she did so with respect.

We also must look at the word “obey” in this passage. The English language uses the word “obey” twice – first talking about the husbands who disobey, then talking about Sarah’s obedience. However, these are not the same word.

In referencing the behavior of husbands, the Greek uses the word apeitheo which means “to disbelieve (wilfully and perversely):–not believe, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving.” So the husbands in questions are willfully disobedient to the Word and to God.

In referencing Sarah’s behavior, which is being held up as an example for all godly wives, the Greek uses the word hupakouo which is a combination of two words meaning literally “to hear under (as a subordinate), i.e. to listen attentively.” By deliberately using a different word for obedience in such close proximity to the other Greek word, it would seem that strict, absolute, unquestioning obedience is not the intended meaning of this word. Instead, it implies a behavior which would be consistent with that meek and quiet spirit – a heart that is attentive to the needs and desires of the husband. God does not command wives to obey their husbands to the exclusion of obeying Him. We have one God – and it is not our husband. Where his desires demand direct disobedience of God, we have to obey the higher authority.

We also can remember the larger context referenced in the previous article about this passage – submitting to the ordinances of man. During the time of Sarah’s marriage to Abraham women did not have the legal right to do anything other than submit like slaves. But the picture we have of Abraham and Sarah’s relationship indicates he did not treat her like a slave. Twice he asked her to put herself in danger to protect his own skin. And she did it.

These incidents are not directly referenced in this passage so we cannot assume they are intended to be examples of good choices. But at the same time, in the culture of the day, Sarah had little choice to anything otherwise. And in her desire to protect her husband’s life, she may well have been willing to sacrifice herself.

That would not have made adultery an acceptable option, however. Ungodliness is still ungodliness, as we do not get a pass on our sin choices. Given the fact that the ordinances of man give us more choices in our culture, we cannot just expect God to miraculously step in and rescue us from our choices, like He did for Sarah. We do need to follow her example of not being afraid, but we must do so within the context of also obeying the ordinances of man and the law of God.

It is also important to note before leaving this passage, that it does not say that a disobedient husband will be won. It says the disobedient husband may be won. So to teach that all a wife has to do is blindly submit and her husband will eventually turn to God, is a huge untruth. God addresses a process for dealing with a persistently unrepentant sinner in the church and for marriage to an unbeliever (disobedient is defined as unbelieving), so there is recourse beyond this passage if a husband should persist in gross disobedience to the Word.

When the church teaches women to obey their disobedient husbands absolutely, in silence, and without question, they are teaching in violation of the direct context of this passage (submitting to the ordinances of man) and are putting women in a hopeless dichotomy. How do we absolutely obey a man who demands that we violate the Word? This cannot be. That is a demand of idolatry and one we cannot obey.

On the other hand, it is possible to “hear under, listen attentively” with a meek and quiet spirit to the heart of a disobedient husband. We can do good to those who despitefully use us. We can remain in peace even though he agitates for discord and strife. We can walk in the power of the Spirit (which includes the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, meekness, self-control, etc.) regardless of the behavior of the disobedient husband. In so doing, our lives will be that living, breathing expression of the Word of God, by which the disobedient husband may be won. This does not demand that we obey him by committing unrighteousness, since to do so would be direct violation of the immediate context (submitting to the ordinances of man) and the law of God which forbids idolatry.