The Church collectively, and most Pastors individually, have failed to respond to domestic violence with the diligence and concern of a shepherd protecting their sheep. They are not ignoring the possibility of domestic abuse perpetrators and victims among their members. They are simply uninformed and unaware of the magnitude of the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 women in this country will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. For Native American women and Non-Hispanic Black women the number is higher (40-43%), and in multi-racial women, it is closer to 50%. We cannot continue to think that with numbers like this, there are not women sitting in the pews every Sunday next to their abuser or sitting in the pew alone and then returning home to their abuser.
Because domestic abuse is pervasive in our society, pastors MUST accept the call from God to educate themselves and their congregations on this "secret sin." Pastors MUST provide protection and shepherding to the sheep they are called to shepherd. Acts 20:28, The Message version reads: “Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.
So, I issue this call to action to pastors. Wear the purple ribbon proudly in your pulpit. Let it express your commitment to an end to the sin of domestic abuse. Like most sin, the sin of domestic abuse can only exist in secrecy under the protection of darkness. By talking about it and exposing it to the light, you will let the women of your congregation know you do not condone the abuse they are suffering. You will let them know God loves each of His daughters and does not want them mistreated, and that you as the shepherd of the flock will do whatever is necessary to rescue even one sheep. You will let any abusive men in your congregation know by your words on Sunday morning, their reign of terror will be exposed, will not be condoned, and is coming to an end.
If a woman in your congregation approaches you for marital counseling and then never comes for counseling, question her! An abuser will NOT go to counseling. They may go once to say they tried it but they will not make a true effort. Most of the women I have coached say their husbands would not go to counseling at all.
Pastor, you have to stand in the pulpit on Sunday morning wearing the purple ribbon and say, “Domestic abuse is wrong. A man who is abusing his wife is not being a true leader of the home. He is dealing treacherously with his wife and he will be stopped.” Pastors need to make it clear in no uncertain terms that anyone who comes to them for help with a situation of domestic abuse will be believed and will receive help immediately and confidentially.
In most cases, financial abuse is a component of domestic abuse and the abused woman will not feel she is able to leave. She must know she can count on the church to help. Say that…from the pulpit. That is a powerful lifesaving, life-giving statement when you make a public commitment to rescue any woman and her children in your congregation in need of help due to domestic abuse!
The families in your congregation have to be healthy. Everything begins at home. If the family is not healthy, how will its members be qualified to be contributing members of your church serving in areas of missions, charity work, outreach, etc.?
Last, but not least, consider that faithful women and their children abandoned by men who are “worse than infidels,” according to I Timothy 5:8, deserve the same financial support as widows and orphans. We cannot care for the woman whose husband dies and leaves her and her children unsupported while denying support to the woman sitting beside her in the pew because her husband is still alive although he has abandoned his family without any support.
I was that abused woman sitting in the pew. As the situation grew worse, I finally went to a trusted pastor for spiritual advice and he advised me to get my ducks in a row in order to leave. (Note: An abused woman will not have any ducks to get in a row…they won’t have any money of their own. They will need help to prepare a safety plan for leaving.) That is where I can be of service.
Having a pastor say to me I should not stay in the situation was the freedom I needed to pursue freedom. Speak the truth to your congregation...be the freedom someone needs to be brave enough and have strength enough to pursue freedom.
Last, but certainly not least, if you are being abused, reach out for help…now. Your life and the lives of your children may depend upon that phone call.