Silence regarding domestic violence only makes the problem worse. Christianity should not be silent, nor should it struggle on how to address domestic violence. We cannot afford to be silent when sisters and brothers live under the threat of violence in their own homes and communities.
Christianity can serve as a valuable resource in a variety of ways to those suffering domestic violence. The key is demonstrating the love of Christ. Here are some ways that Christians, churches, and ministry organizations can make a difference.
Understand the problem. Violence, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form—physical, sexual, psychological or verbal—is sinful; often it is also a crime. Knowledge on the issue is important. If we know what right relationships look like and how the love of Christ should operate in families, we can practice and teach these examples to our children.
Make safety your priority. Allowing a person to find safety can be a matter of life or death. Spiritual leaders should work with a team of community service providers to help the victim-survivor establish a safety plan, should the abuse continue or escalate. If the home is no longer a safe place, then encourage the victim to leave or stay somewhere else. Groups and organizations may want to create safety kits for temporary assistance. Safety kits should include: cash, gift cards, a change of clothing, toiletries, emergency phone numbers and places of shelter. Once physical safety is established, then it is time for spiritual care. Offer to pray with the victim, share a relevant Bible verse, give support, and provide wise counsel during this traumatic time.
Wait on marriage counseling. The timing must be right for this to succeed. Too often church leaders rush the situation in order to “save the marriage” or “keep the family together” when these goals should be contingent on the offender’s willingness to undergo treatment. These are certainly worthy goals, but only after the abusive behavior has stopped, should the focus shift to repairing the relationship. Domestic violence is not a relationship issue that needs to be resolved. It is mostly about a person’s conscious decision to violently control the will of another to maintain power and dominance. There are times when couples’ or marriage counseling is inappropriate and risky. If people push the envelope on immediate counseling it could lead to further abuse or even the death of the victimized.
Minister to the offender. This may not be popular or pretty, but it is the right thing to do. Pick the right person to mentor and coach the offender. Bathe this mentor in prayer. Redemption work is tough and dirty, so make sure that he or she receives the prayer support necessary for the task ahead. When Christians focus on the offender, we are performing restoration work. We are working on the root cause of the problem, not symptoms. The abuse should be dealt with directly, however the root hurt or trauma should be sought after as well. Encourage the one inflicting violence to also seek professional counseling during this process.
Teach mutual submission to couples. The biblical topic of submission is not grounds for abuse or violence in the home. Christians must understand that submission is not a license to control and dominate another human being. Christians should also work to breakdown a deception that the Bible supports abusive behavior. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands and wives to yield to one another in mutual submission out of reverence and love for Christ – abusive behavior violates this Scripture and is not a God-given right.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another. May God grant us the patience, strength, and ability to combat domestic violence where ever it may exist.