What is a Christian perspective on domestic violence?
If you are in a violent situation, please get to a safe place as soon as possible, and seek the help of police, medical personnel, a counselor, or whoever else is appropriate to the situation. If there are children involved, it is essential to protect them and remove them from the violent situation, regardless of whether they are being hurt themselves. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org) is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
Marriage is the first institution that God established between people. Both men and women were created in His image, as equal partners with different roles (Genesis 1:27). A man is to be the head, or authority, of his household (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Peter 3:1). With this comes the responsibility of earning the respect of his family and community. Colossians 3:19 commands husbands to love their wives and never treat them harshly. First Peter 3:7 says, "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).
Violence has no place in a marriage, or any relationship, as violence is neither loving nor respectful of the other person, and in fact breaks down everything upon which love and respect are built. Whether involving a spouse, current or former partner, parent, or caregiver, violence in a domestic situation is about exerting power and control over the abused. This control may be in the form of physical harm, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse (control of finances such that the abused person is unable to fulfill basic needs or get help). All of these forms of domestic violence/abuse are abhorrent to God and contrary to the way He intends our human relationships to function.
Child abuse is also strongly condemned by God. Although discipline is important, its purpose should be to correct and direct the child to righteousness, not as a way of taking out anger unjustly. Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Similarly, Colossians 3:21 instructs, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." We should do nothing to destroy the spirit of our children or their innocence. Jesus strongly warns those who might cause children to stumble or lose faith in Him (Matthew 18:6). If a child is being injured or otherwise abused, or if the child is living in a situation where there is violence between others in the family, there are serious psychological repercussions, so the child should be removed from the situation as soon as possible.
Victims of domestic violence need to be protected and moved to a safe place. If a wife is being abused by her husband, she needs to separate herself from him while he receives treatment for his violence. If a husband is being abused by his wife, he needs to separate himself from her while she receives treatment for her violence. If the couple has children, even if the offending spouse has not physically abused the children, the children should be removed from the violent environment as well. (In any instance of suspected child abuse, please alert the appropriate authorities, either police or social services.) All in the family will require treatment, or at least support, of some kind. The issues surrounding domestic violence are often deep and complex for both the abused and the abuser. Recovery is not something that will occur in isolation. If and when a Bible-believing Christian counselor, as well as any public authorities involved, has deemed it appropriate and safe for the couple to reunite, they should make every effort to reconcile and live in peace, while continuing marriage and/or family counseling. However, the abused person should be aware that the abuser may never fully change, and, if that is the case, it is important that the abused person remain separated from the abuser.
If real change is observed in the abuser by multiple qualified parties, reconciliation may be possible, but only if both the abuser and the abused are willing to commit their lives to Christ and make God the head of their household. Healing, forgiveness, and change for all parties are possible in Christ. The couple should find and commit themselves to a local Bible-teaching church. They should also find spiritually mature Christians who are willing to disciple them either individually or in a small group. The benefits to this are many, including accountability for their actions. "The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you" (Psalm 9:9-10).
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