The need has become critical for a voice to cry out against the violence being perpetrated in what are identified as Christian/Messianic homes amongst family members. While it is true that the perpetrators can be, and are, both women and men, by far, from a numerical standpoint, the workers of violence are the men so this article will be addressed that way. This does not mean that this writer does not recognise that women do commit violence in the home and it is just as much an abomination when they do it as when the men do it, but objective evidence proves that the overwhelming majority of domestic violence is wrought by the head of the family.
Just in the last few days, we have received word that another family we have known quite some time, has been struck with violence in its midst. I do not know the details, and for the purpose of this essay the details are irrelevant. The issue I would like to address is where this violence is coming from, what the implications for the family are, and what can be done about it. We will research scriptures for relevant insights and see what Yahweh's word has to say about it. We will look at the issue of spousal abuse, and then look at the issue of abuse of the children in what is supposed to be their haven of safety. As painful as these explorations may be, it is vital that this problem is ferreted out of the Christian community.
"Spare the rod, spoil the child!" "Wives, submit to your husbands!" "A man is the king of his own castle!" These are just a few of the clichés we have all heard for years about a man's dominion in the home. Some have their basis in scripture and some are just sayings that have been passed down for many years. They have one thing in common, and that is dominion. While it is unequivocally true that scripture gives the man dominion in the home over wives and children, the man is bound before Yahweh to exercise righteous dominion. This entails loving and protecting his family, and, as much as we might not like to emphasise this point, it also involves guiding, teaching and correcting both members of his family, wives and children, when we err. Ultimately, the responsibility for everything that happens in the family falls on his shoulders. He is the one that will have to give an account before Yahweh for not guiding in truth or not maintaining Godly discipline in his family.
Now, before we continue, it must be PLAINLY established what exactly righteous dominion is in the family. Let's look at some relevant texts in scripture for instruction.
Note the theme here. Love and cherishing. Sacrificial love such as Christ has for the church (Messianic community), and nourishing and cherishing his wives as he cherishes himself. The Apostle Paul continues on to say that a man who loves his wife, loves himself for no one hates his own flesh. Now consider that carefully. If a man perpetrates violence to the person of his wife, he commits violence against his own self. Let us continue.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church (messianic assembly) and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church (messianic community), because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (messianic community). Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:25-33, NASB).
Consideration is the theme here. Husbands are enjoined to consider the fact that their wives are weaker than them, as well as joint heirs in grace. A theme is emerging here, one of love and gentleness and consideration. These attitudes are to be maintained, not only for the health of the family, but so that prayers will not be hindered. That is something to think about as well.
"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers" (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)
This passage is self-evident and concise. Husbands are not to be harsh with their wives. Think about this very carefully. Where exactly did you ever read in scripture abut Yah'shua (Jesus) advocating or perpetrating violence against anyone, much less someone weaker than Him. He rebuked and corrected, but always in love, and with redemption being the greater goal. He was never cruel, harsh, hurtful, demanding, or belittling with the sinners that He witnessed to, but always loving and teaching them the way to salvation. And I do not recall even one instance that describes Him hitting or striking anyone, not one. Not even in the temple when He turned over the money-changers' tables do we read about Him striking any person. Violence and fear were never tools he utilised to persuade or control anyone. Not ever!
"Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them" (Colossians 3:19, NIV)
Now, let us look at some scriptures regarding how to treat children. While it is universally accepted by the Christian/Messianic community that children must be taught, corrected and disciplined to raise up a Godly seed to Yahweh, let us look for some scriptural clues about how to accomplish this.
We are seeing a theme here, one of love and gentle guiding. Far from the stern and hurtful puritan approach that shouts "Spare the rod and spoil the child!" like some kind of hateful mantra, we are seeing instructions for fathers to teach their children and not to deal harshly or bitterly with them.
"The living, the living--they praise you, as I am doing today;
fathers tell their children about your faithfulness" (Isaiah 38:19, NIV)
"He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6, NIV)
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of Yahweh" (Ephesians 6:4, NIV)
"Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged" (Colossians 3:21, NIV)
We are seeing a common theme here, with children as well as wives. The theme, dear reader, is LOVE , which is given by Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself. His greatest commandment was that we love, first Yahweh with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and then, that we love our neighbours as ourselves. If we are to love our neighbours that way, how much more are we to love our own spouses and children?
Just for the sake of clarity, let us review the scripture that teaches us what the fruits of the Spirit are.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. And they that are of Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk" (Galatians 5:22-25, ASV)
This is pretty self evident but let us look at a couple of other scripture passages.
Look carefully, dear reader, at the fruits of the Spirit, the demeanor we can expect from a dedicated Christian/Messianic. As in so many other passages, love is listed very first and then the joy, peace, longsuffering, self-control, meekness, …etc. My emphasis on longsuffering, self-control and meekness is just that, my own. We are to expect these traits in a committed Christian/Messianic. Tell me where the love, longsuffering, self-control and meekness is in a husband who does violence to his wife or his children. And I have never found a justification for such behaviours in scripture.
"For ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), proving what is well-pleasing unto Yahweh" (Ephesians 5:8-10, ASV)
"And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace" (James 3:18-4:1, ASV)
Now let us consider the rationales and effects of abusive behaviours. By far, most people's motivation to violence is a desire to control, through fear and intimidation. This is the simplest and most complete definition of unrighteous dominion. A man is told in scripture that he is head of the house, so he takes it to mean he has a Yahweh-given right to bully and coerce his wives and children into whatever mold he wishes with any means necessary, without a thought of meekness, gentleness, sacrificial love, or even mercy. And his wives and children were given to him by Yahweh to protect and guide, while his behaviour is literally destroying them, not only physically, but spiritually as well. The man who does violence to his family is leaving a terrible legacy indeed.
In fact, it has been established in recent years that one who is abused as a child is far more likely to be an abuser as an adult because that is what that person grew up with. No matter how much he may have hated the abuse when it was occurring, that is what he was being taught the whole time he was growing up, and it is a truism that violence begets violence. If you utilise violence to control a child, what precisely do you think you are teaching them? I will tell you what you are teaching them, you are teaching that the biggest one wins, that might is right as it were. This stays with the abused child. He grows to adulthood waiting to reach the point where he is the biggest and the strongest in his family and then, tragically, all too many times, the cycle begins all over again with his wives and children. This is the meaning of generational curses. Not that Yahweh blames the children for the actions of the fathers, but that what the fathers do to the children stay engraved in the children's minds and can be used by those same children to develop their relationship skills as they mature themselves. You see, children are a blank page, with an amazing capacity to accept and learn from their immediate environment, and a child who is horrifically abused by one or both parents can quickly come to accept this kind of life as acceptable and even normal, particularly if he has no frame of reference. Woe to the father that gives his child violence as a legacy, for he is not only giving it to his child, but to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so forth. He will have a great deal to answer for.
As for the man who abuses his wife, there is a similar pattern many times. If a boy child grows up in a home where his father mistreats and disrespects his mother, he will come to believe that this is the way a man is supposed to treat his wife. Then, when he marries, if his wife does not conform to his idea of dominion, he is easily persuaded that violence is justified to keep her in line. Guess what! WRONG! Nowhere in scripture is physical violence justified in a marriage for a husband to maintain control of his family. While strength and occasionally even sternness will be called for, certainly, in no instance does violence ever effect a loving or redemptive solution to any problem. In fact, violence exacerbates the problem on many fronts.
Since we have established that scripture does not support or condone familial violence, it does not take a great leap to figure out that when violence is committed, there are several demonic strongholds that are given rise here. Please bear with me as I have just begun studying deliverance ministry and my analogies may be just a bit awkward. In the abuser, there may be strongholds of pride, lust, hunger for power, things of that nature. And if the abuse continues long, it is most likely that demonic strongholds will develop in the victims as well. Strongholds of fear, bitterness and unforgiveness are very common in survivors of domestic abuse.
These are the things that a man visits on his family when he commits violence toward them. Therefore I posit that a man who is violent to his family cannot, in truth, claim the name of Christ, for if his behaviour is giving demons strongholds in his and his family's lives, that can hardly be viewed as Godly or justified. There is just no justification. No scriptural support for this kind of behaviour is found anywhere. Even under Mosaic law, under the Old Covenant, there are instructions for the decent treatment of wives. In that ancient and barbaric time when pagan women were little more than livestock and treated as such, they were treated far better in ancient Hebrew society than in the surrounding pagan cultures and much of the reason for this is legislation in the Old Testament regarding their treatment. And in view of the scriptures we reviewed earlier about how a husband is supposed to treat his wife, that he is supposed to love her as he loves himself, and love her as Christ loves the Church (Messianic Community), I have to say that a husband who does his wife violence is in direct disobedience of scriptural command. He just does not have Yahweh's permission to do that, not ever. He may correct and chastise, perhaps even rebuke in extreme cases, and in one instance he may divorce his wife, but it is never condoned for him to be violent. NEVER!
Ladies, having said that, I will say this. This does not give you carte blanche to be abusive or disrespectful to your husband. You are scripturally instructed to submit to him, joyously and completely, in all things. He is your covering and your spiritual protection and it is not permissible for you to abuse, verbally, emotionally, or even physically even though he may not do violence to you. You are still under commandment to submit to him, and that in meekness, gentleness and love.
What it boils down to is this. There is never justification for violence, not scripturally or morally. When violence is committed it permits demonic strongholds to take hold of a family, including generational curses that can be agonising for those involved and years in healing. One who commits violence has abrogated his responsibility to Yahweh and to his family and will be called to account for it. And the same is true for the wife that is abusive. There is just no place for such behaviour in a Christian home.
I exhort you, brothers and sisters, to review and intensely study the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians, for they are the hallmark of a true believer who is living in obedience to the commandments of Yahweh. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, meekness, gentleness, self-control, humility, and all the rest will belong to all who walk in obedience to Him. So let us stop hurting those Yahweh has entrusted us with to love, and begin to love and cherish them as He has instructed. It is His command and our duty, and the rewards for obedience are profound, just as the penalties for disobedience will be profound. Please reflect on this, for your sakes as well as the sakes of your spouses and children. Yahweh bless.
Continued in Part 2
Author: Świętosława Brzezinska Królewieca