NFL, ABUSE, RICE AND DIVORCE
I saw a news report that compels me to write
today’s blog. This will probably be one
of the hardest blogs for me to write, as the issue of domestic violence is one
that I find especially troubling.
Forgive the length of the blog, it is a topic dear to my heart. Sadly, I have known far too many women (and men), who have suffered abuse in
the home, some already married, some who married the individual after the fact
as Ms. Rice has done. It is such a
terribly sad and unacceptable home life.
I have also learned that while physical abuse is an awful thing, there
is also the harder to define emotional abuse which is equally devastating. Let me say at the very
start, if you are physically striking your spouse or being struck by your
spouse, please seek counseling now, before it is too late. If you know
someone suffering in this way, you could offer to go with them to a counselor
or someone who can help get the healing started.
So with that, let me tell you what happened
today. I am sure that you, like me, have
seen newscasts about NFL player, Ray Rice, and the abusive episode with his
then fiancé. Now a video has been aired of the event and in the aftermath, his wife, has spoken about how troubled she is that so many are intruding on their personal life. Understandably, it must be very hard for her or
them to be able to work through their difficulties with the whole world
It is all very
Watching the video, it is clear
there was more going on between the two than that Ray simply slugged Janay; it
appears to be quite an aggressive argument by both parties. Nonetheless, when Ray throws the punch…lots
and lots of lines have been crossed.
In CNN’s Headline News report this morning, a
twitter post was shown written by an abused woman who stayed with her husband
and explained why. Included was a
mention that her pastor told her that God hates divorce. That was when I decided I had
to address the abuse issue in a blog. I
don’t know who the woman was they were quoting, whether it was Ms. Rice or
somebody else. And I don’t know whether
that woman’s tweet indicated she was still with her husband and everything
worked out, or whether she eventually left.
But I was a bit miffed at the quick mention of the pastor who told an
abused woman that God hates divorce.
If that is all he told the woman in this
matter, then she walked away with the understanding that God hates divorce MORE
than he hates seeing her beat up by her husband. That doesn’t fit with the description of God that I find in scripture.
scripture indicate that husbands are allowed to abuse their wives (nor is it right for husbands to be abused, either, and I have known some of those.
Unfortunately, guys are even more embarrassed
to admit they are being abused than abused women are.)
Based on the descriptions of marriage found in
scripture, an abusive spouse has already clearly abandoned the sanctity of the
marriage vows. A husband beating his
wife is in NO WAY submitting himself to Christ or laying down his life for her
or doing everything he can to make sure her faults are covered and protected,
or treating her with respect and recognition of the fact that she might be
physically weaker and therefore needs to be treated with care.
Let me ask you: Does God hate divorce more than He hates when
husbands (or wives) flagrantly disregard their marriage vows and violate them
with raised fist? I think not. In fact, if I were selecting the lesser of
two evils, I think I’d vote for divorce long before I’d approve of genuinely
Now don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that the very best solution
is for a couple to deal effectively with the dysfunction of the relationship,
stop the abuse, each face his or her own issues, and then together build a
marriage that is healthy and good. And I
believe that divorce should be way down the list of options, that every attempt
should be made to build a healthy marriage.
But what if only one spouse is willing to address the dysfunction?
What happens when the abuser refuses to recognize his or her own need to change?
course that one spouse should make meaningful attempts to bring about
change, and God may well use that spouse to cause the changes. But not if things escalate and that spouse
dies from abuse. After all, it takes two
to make a marriage (actually, three when you count God), and one spouse cannot
make marriage work alone, especially when he or she is beat down at every
There sometimes comes a point when something
needs to be done. There are times that
choosing to walk out of a marriage could be the thing that makes the more
guilty spouse wake up and face his or her abusive behavior, and realize that sinful
actions carry awful consequences. A
victimized person should not be victimized again for choosing not to accept the
charade the marriage had become.
Sometimes it seems that some Christians and
pastors think that the only thing God ever said about divorce is that he hates
it. That reference is found in Malachi,
and yet that same Hebrew Bible contains in Deuteronomy instructions for how to
divorce. In other words, God gives
instructions on how to properly do the very thing that he hates! Why would he do that? When I think of the important scriptures, I
think it is very significant that the one record we have of Jesus dealing
personally with a person apparently divorced tells of the incredibly
compassionate way he treated the Samaritan woman he met at the well, described
in John 4.
OF COURSE God hates divorce!!! So do most people who have gone through
one. It is NOT a fun experience, and
leaves people broken, mistrustful, devastated and lots of other things. I hate going to the dentist, too, but that
doesn’t mean that the drilling in my teeth isn’t sometimes a necessary or even
a useful thing! It is apparent from
scripture that even God recognizes that in this world filled with imperfect
people, there will be times that marriages don’t work, and so hate it though he
does, he gave the instructions for divorce.
When the pastor told his parishioner that God
hates divorce, she likely walked away with the understanding that God hates
divorce, but he doesn’t hate the beatings she suffers...at least not as
much. That’s a stark contrast to the
exuberance the Samaritan woman felt when leaving the presence of Jesus. Having counseled with a number of abused
individuals in the course of my ministry, I know first hand how awful the
stories can get, and how dangerous the situations can become. I remember one young woman who was sometimes
beaten in front of a very young daughter, and I asked her if that is what she
wanted her daughter to grow up believing is the proper way for a man to treat a
woman. Heartbreaking though it was, she
wrestled with the choice of staying or leaving, and decided to stay. I am hopeful they worked things out well, but
do not live in that area any longer, so do not know for sure.
Do you suppose that pastor with his advice
that God hates divorce wanted the woman to stay in the marriage until
“premature death at the hands of her husband” do they part? That isn’t what the marriage vows say nor
intend. If not, and the abuser refused
to change, how long DID he want her to stay legally attached to him in a
relationship that does not even deserve the name “marriage”?
Well, I’m ranting now. I guess the truth is that pastors like that
are the reason I wrote the books I did, because individuals who have
experienced divorce, and especially those in the church, need to know that they
still are precious to God, and that God dignifies their being, rather than
diminishes it. And the books attempt to
fill the gap that too many in the church leave void for those who are
struggling with divorce, because all too often the only thing they are told by
the church is what that pastor told the woman above.
Finally, for any who have suffered real abuse
at the hands and words of someone who is supposed to be loving you, realize
that what you are experiencing is NOT love from that person, no matter how
often he or she apologizes. And realize
that you are a person who deserves real love, not the treatment you have
received. I know that because Jesus
decided you are so worth loving that he died on a cross for you so that you
could experience the love of God throughout eternity.