On Disciplining Abusers And Protecting The Sheep



By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:

Few things are as distressing to cops, nurses, and pastors (or chaplains) as domestic violence. A cop will tell you that responding to a domestic violence call is never pleasant and often dangerous. In cases of domestic violence emotions run high. People do not think clearly. Drugs and alcohol are often in play. Such situations are volatile. They can also be difficult cases for ministers, elders, and deacons to address. Abusers come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. It can be a real shock to find out that fellow you thought to be an upstanding member of the men’s Bible study has been abusing his wife for the last three years. She hid it well. She did not call the police. She became skilled at covering up the marks with make up and, when that failed, she became equally skilled making self-deprecating excuses (“I fell,” “I’m so clumsy”). Eventually, however, it was too much and she finally called the police and news of the abuser’s arrest filtered back to the ministers, elders, and deacons.

How should they respond? The first thing they must do is to accept the reality of the situation. Our first instinct might be to deny what is before our eyes. Perhaps the pastors, elders, or deacons wondered if something might be happening in the family but he seemed like such a “stand up” guy and her explanations seemed plausible. After all, who are we to pry into other people’s business? Yet, respond they must. Abuse of wives by husbands (and abuse of husbands by wives) should be intolerable in the church. What is abuse? It appears in many ways: verbal, psychological, emotional, and physical (including sexual). One who abuses his spouse does so for a variety of causes: sin, emotional or psychological problems (stemming directly or indirectly from sin). In my experience such abuse is usually learned. Quite probably a man who abuses his wife grew up in an abusive home and was, quite likely, abused himself. A man who strikes his wife is, except in the most extreme cases of self-defense (e.g., she attacks him with a weapon), is already deeply troubled to say the least. O. J. Simpson is a classic case. Certainly his own childhood was far from ideal. He became a skilled liar, manipulator, and serial abuser. People who knew him knew that he abused his wife. She called the authorities repeatedly and predicted that he would murder her. Because of his fame and his charm, Simpson escaped significant punishment for his abusive behavior until her prophecy came true.

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