A Look at Sin From the Perspective of Abuse
by Del Hungerford
So many people ask about divorce and abuse: Can a woman Biblically divorce her abuser? This seems to be the main “tripping over” point for many Christian women who are (or have been) in abusive relationships. I think in order to answer this question satisfactorily, it’s important to look at HOW God views our behavior and the results (consequences) of that behavior.
NOTE: Keep in mind that no matter what is said here, there will be clergy, fellow church members, deacons, bishops, other church leaders, etc. that will tell you divorce is only an option when one partner commits adulterous acts. They might even ostracize you “in the name of the Lord” because they feel obligated scripturally to do so. However, that kind of behavior is very un-Christ-like. Jesus ministered to the woman at the well who had been married several times (John 4:1-30). He didn’t judge her or treat her poorly. Why should your fellow believer treat you any different than Jesus did with this woman? Ask God to show YOU answers through scripture concerning your situation. The reason we are given a brain, a free will, and the ability to read His word, is to think for ourselves and not simply swallow a doctrine. We are told to compare what’s said to us with the light of His Word. That, my friend, requires us doing our homework.
As you read what I present below, you’ll need to read the scriptures, then, do your own word study. I’ve given you a place to start and trust that God will show you the correct answer for YOU! As you can tell, the issue of divorce is not an easy one. In addition to reading, I would talk with divorced women (and/or men) who ARE prospering and doing well. That, too, might help you. The proof of God’s blessings are demonstrated in people who are walking with Him. You probably know several divorced and remarried people who are being blessed by God.
This article will cover the topics listed below. You can read from top to bottom or click on any of the points and you’ll be directed to that part of the article. Happy reading!
Topics of discussion in this article:
- Sin and its consequences
- What the unrighteous/sinful get to inherit
- How abusive behavior is categorized
Topics Covered in Part 2: (“Covenant” article)
- Marriage and how it relates to the “bride of Christ”
- What is a covenant and what happens when it’s broken?
- Tying it all together
Sin and its consequences:
The Bible clearly states that “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). In this particular scripture, it continues to say “but the free gift of God is eternal life.” For the second part, we as Christians are all grateful. However, we often overlook the first part because we believe, and are told in scripture that our sins will be forgiven us (James 5:15, I John 2:12). We must always remember that it doesn’t give us license to continue sinning (missing the mark).
When reading the scriptures on sin and what not to do, the apostles are talking to Christians. Their letters that appear in the New Testament are written to the churches in those particular regions. There would be no reason to discuss sin and its consequences unless Christians of the day were not struggling with sinful acts. The Christians of the 21st century are dealing with the same issues some 2,000 years later. As long as mankind is still on a mission to serve itself, we will deal with sinful acts; Christians or not.
So, what are the consequences of sin? According to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV), we are told in the last days that people will be “lovers of money, boastful, lovers of themselves, ungrateful, unholy, without love, disobedient to parents, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of good…” After listing all these sinful behaviors, it then states, “Have nothing to do with them.” The KJV says “from such turn away.” It’s made very clear here that people with these kinds of behaviors should be avoided. A man who is an abuser of his wife and/or children often exhibits every one of the behaviors on this list (even if only at home). If he refuses to change, then we are to “have nothing to do with him.”
In the first book of Timothy, chapter 3, the qualifications of deacon and bishop are presented. In these verses, in order to be in a position of authority, a man must NOT be: a contentious or quarrelsome person, lover of money, double-tongued (saying conflicting things to people), self-willed, angry, and/or a brawler. Timothy also states that a leader must be a protector or guardian over his family (often seen as the word “ruler” in many passages), blameless, and a steward of God. Now, in order to be considered a church leader, one had to be a Christian. So, why would Timothy say this to a church if those being considered for leadership positions didn’t struggle with these kinds of issues? As we’d say today, these types of positions should “separate the men from the boys.” To put it bluntly, men who don’t know how to treat their wives and children are boys who haven’t grown up yet. This scripture clearly shows that in order to be a church leader, a man must be mature. Abusive men aren’t mature.
The consequences of the above listed sins are… that one who doesn’t have control in these areas of his life, cannot be a leader in the church. A man who is an abuser (physically, emotionally, or verbally) of his wife and/or children should be removed from a position of leadership. In 1 Peter 3:7, it says that if a man doesn’t treat his wife well, his prayers will be hindered. With this being the case, why would any pastor want a man in leadership whose prayers are falling flat on the floor? This is not in the best interest of any church. Until the man has control of himself, his position of leadership is hurting his church rather than helping it.
Secret sin is another story all together. Since many abusers believe that no one is aware of their behavior, they are in deception. What does the Bible say about such people? Numbers 32:23 says that your sin will be sure to found out. Psalms 90:8 says that our secret sins are in the light of God’s presence. Proverbs 28:13 (NIV) states “He who conceals his sin does not prosper.” In Luke 12:2 (NIV), Jesus says concerning the yeast of the Pharisees that “there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” So, those that think they are getting away with sin aren’t. They will eventually be found out. A question to ponder; why would a man treat others well and his wife abusively without knowing there’s a problem with that kind of thinking? It would seem that he knows the abuse is wrong, otherwise, he’d treat everyone the same.
What the unrighteous/sinful get to inherit
The word “unrighteous” has three different Hebrew words throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, the words aven, avval, and chamac, are all used to describe what unrighteousness is. They all mean trouble, wicked, and unjust. “Chamac” actually goes a step further and describes unrighteous as someone who is violent, wrong, and cruel. In the New Testament, the word “adikos” means “one who deals fraudulently with others and is deceitful.” (Strong’s Concordance)
1 Corinthian’s 6:9-10 (NIV) describes the unrighteous by saying, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral no idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God…” The next section goes on to say that when these behaviors are changed, a person can inherit the Kingdom of God. NOTE… a behavior change is required. It won’t simply be lip service. The proof will be seen in the actions because God knows man’s heart. It’s what’s in the heart that will determine the blessings and prosperity of God.
Jesus says in Mark 7:21-22 (NIV) that “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” Based on this verse, our sin makes us unclean. In addition, we reap what we sow, according to Galatians 6:7-8. The NIV says those who continue in sin will reap destruction. Hebrews 9:27, James 1:5, and Romans 7:11 tell us that sin leads to death. In this case, it’s talking about spiritual death.
In 1 John 2:11 (NIV), it says “whoever hates his brother is in darkness and walks around in darkness; he does not know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded him.” The word brother in the passage is “adelphos” which according to Strong’s is “a fellow believer, united to one another by the bond of affection.” In one commentary that I saw on-line, it said of this verse that it’s sad when the “fellow believer” is a parent, sibling or spouse. An “adelphos” could very easily be a wife or husband.
Also see 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 John 3:15, and 1 John 4:20 for additional references concerning the use of “brother” in light of when someone has mistreated a “brother” in Christ. In some of these verses, it likens a “brother hater” to a murderer. In each instance, the person who hates his brother is to not be associated with. They are to be cut off from fellowship. Hate here comes from the Greek “miseo” meaning to hate, detest, pursue with hatred or to be hated or detested. A wife of an abuser rarely feels loved. The opposite of love is hate. She often feels detested because she can do nothing right. Therefore, an abuser “shows” hate towards his wife.
A man who mistreats his family is walking in darkness and spiritual death. His sin has blinded him. He won’t be prosperous and he won’t inherit the Kingdom of God unless he sees the error of his way and repents. Is this something a Christian wife wants? If not, it’s time to get help.
As a recap of this section, we see that sinful behavior (which is unrighteousness) leads to spiritual death, blinds us spiritually, keeps us from prospering, and will ultimately lead to not inheriting the kingdom of God if we continue in our sinful ways. In addition, everything we do will fall under a version of “reaping and sowing.” If we sow hate, we’ll reap it. If we sow love, we’ll reap it. Poor behavior, including treating our “brother” poorly, will cut us off from communion with God. This is to only mention the spiritual consequences. We’ve not even touched upon the ramifications of poor behavior in the “natural world.” However, there are many, as the Bible also provides example after example where people “reaped what they sowed.”
It’s important to note in this section that there IS a way out. It’s called “repentance.” In order to repent, a person must first acknowledge their error and then begin the process of changing that error. Yes, the actual sins can be repented of immediately but walking out the actual change requires a character renewal and paradigm shift. That, my friend, will NOT happen overnight. The Bible is very clear on how the process of repentance is dealt with. First, one brother goes to the “offender.” If he doesn’t listen, take two people, and so on. If in the end there’s still no repentance, then that person is to be cut off from fellowship. At any time there’s repentance, the “offender” can be brought back into the “flock.”
How abusive behavior is categorized
After reading what sin does to us, it should be easy to see that the consequences of continual “missing the mark” will result in producing after its own kind. Read again the abusive behaviors on this web site. You should begin to see a pattern in which all of these behaviors fit into a sinful category described in the Bible. Abusive behavior is all sinful and leads to being cut off from God, living and walking in darkness, spiritual death, and reaping all kinds of bad stuff. This being the case, if the abuser has a complete heart change and repents (literally meaning to “turn 180 degrees and go another direction), forgiveness of his sin is granted by God. However, if you remember the story of David and Bathsheba, Nathan goes to David in 2 Samuel, chapter 12, and tells David that he has sinned. David repents but there are still consequences in the natural. Nathan outlines what those consequences are, which do happen. This includes losing the first child of Bathsheba.
To sum it up, all abusive behavior is sin. Unwillingness to change that behavior will ultimately lead to destruction of all kinds (spiritual first followed by natural consequences).