Domestic Abuse: Need to Know

A Sad Reality

Domestic abuse is a sad reality.  Not only is it sad, but also frightening.  It is most often committed in the context of an intimate relationship.  More frighteningly, domestic abuse broken-mirror-3-1317214is indiscriminate – people from a variety of ethnic, socio-economic, political, cultural, and educational backgrounds have been convicted of this heinous crime.  Additionally, it has been perpetrated against people from a wide scope of ethnic, socio-economic, political, cultural and educational backgrounds.  Indeed, even religious background does not ensure freedom from domestic abuse.  Sadly, individuals and families suffer at the hands of individuals in Christian homes.

It is important to note that domestic abuse is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner or child.  This can be manifested through physical force, but is often tainted with emotional, psychological, financial and/or sexual pressure.  Below is a list of things we need to know regarding the subject of domestic abuse.  The list will cover impact, consequences and solutions.

It is a Crime

In many places across the world domestic abuse is a criminal act.

If a country has a law against domestic abuse – that law makes it illegal to exercise intimidation, whether physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual, in order to control another human.  Therefore, we need to know that domestic abuse rightly carries the prospect of being sent to prison and having a criminal record.  The consequences of being found guilty of domestic abuse range from an official warning to imprisonment.  The Bible commands us to obey the law of the land in as far as it is in agreement with Scripture.  Any law prohibiting domestic abuse is in agreement with Scripture and so must be obeyed.

It is a Sin

It must be acknowledged, even though many countries have outlawed domestic abuse, that there remain countries today which have no laws to protect people from domestic abuse.  In fact, it is imperative to understand that a law does not eradicate the issue.  Thus, we must understand that domestic abuse is a sin whether or not it is illegal.  The Bible commands loving relationships within the family: husbands are to love their wives (Col. 3:19), to nourish and cherish their wives (Eph. 5:29) and to live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:18).  More than that, Scripture also warns that God hates the one who does violence (Ps. 11:5).  Domestic abuse is sin; it is contrary to God’s design for marriage relationships (and parental relationships cf. Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).

It harms the Perpetrator

As noted in the previous point, sin has consequences and this is true for the perpetrator of sin.

Those who domestically abuse their wives will harm themselves.  The Bible says that when a man and woman marry they are no longer two people, but one flesh (Eph. 5:31).  Subsequently, to harm your spouse is to harm yourself.  This harm may come about by destroying a God-given relationship.  Marriage is a gift from God and to act in such a way as to damage this relationship will result the loss of something good.  There is also the danger of eternal harm – while Christians are capable of sinning, persistent sin begins to evidence a lack of holiness and purity.  To consistently sin in one particular area would lead to legitimate questions concerning salvation.  Perpetrators may need to consider their eternal destiny in light of domestic abuse.

Indulging in domestic abuse also contributes to a warped view of reality, for example blaming your spouse for the abuse, considering yourself the victim, unbiblical view of women in general, and so on.

It harms the Victims

The harm inflicted on victims of abuse is sometimes physically apparent – scars, bruising, broken bones, hair loss, weight loss, poor hygiene, social awkwardness, and other signs and symptoms.

Again, by abusing your spouse you rob them of a precious relationship which should be exercised for their good (Eph. 5:25-28).  This loss of relationship can very quickly lead to isolation.  There are self-esteem issues which will take their toll on a victim suffering domestic abuse.  There can also be health issues related to abuse, not only physical but mental too.  Stress and fear may also present itself in the form of other health problems.  Even though the domestic abuse may begin mildly, or sporadically – it may quickly escalate to an uncontrollable level.  It is possible for the final outcome to be murder!

It harms Children

Whether or not your abuse is directed toward a child or children, they are still harmed.

To begin with children are incredibly observant – therefore any abuse, stress or strain in the marriage relationship will be noted by them, even if the perpetrator attempts to keep it hidden.  This brings fear, worry and uncertainty into the life of children.  While they hope for a unified family, with love shown by both parents, they also wish that it would all be over so nobody gets hurt.  This hurt will be primarily emotional and psychological.

Any abuse directed or aimed at children will result in similar harm perpetrated against a victim noted above.  There will be physical symptoms and emotional symptoms and ultimately children will suffer the same trauma as a God-given beneficial relationship is damaged and taken away from them.

It needs to be Mentioned

There is often little willingness to be honest about feelings, fears, worries and hopes.  To keep this inside will not resolve domestic abuse.

Initially, Christians in general need to be more open concerning the reality of domestic abuse, especially the sad occurrence of domestic abuse in Christian households.  Churches need to show an awareness that this happens, intolerance to its presence in Christian households and a willingness to address it in a loving, helpful and healing way.  As Christians we must make every effort to make it easy for people to speak up regarding domestic abuse.

That is only one side of the coin though.  It is important for perpetrators and victims to then avail of this open and honest environment by talking about domestic abuse.  Those who abuse their families but want to stop must speak up.  Even people who suffer from bouts of anger, impatience and violent desires should speak before it descends into sustained abuse.  To be able to break the cycle of abuse, abusers must seek help by talking about the issue.

Ignoring it will not send it away.

It needs the Gospel

The stark reality is that simply speaking about domestic abuse will not stop it.

There is only one thing which can truly stop domestic abuse and that is the gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection is the only real solution to this problem.  All sin arises from the seeking of something which can only be found in God through Jesus by the Spirit.  Domestic abuse is no different.

In the book of Ephesians we are told that all people are dead in sin, obedient to the Devil and children of wrath before being changed by Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:1-3).  Domestic abuse reveals these sinful characteristics.  Abusers are dead to the consequences of their actions, exhibit an obedience to evil as they destroy relationships and people and deserving of God’s wrath because of wilful sin.  But, God stepped in with great love and mercy to make us alive through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:4-9).  This is the gospel and it brings about a change in us as we are no longer dead, disobedient and descendants of wrath.  Instead, as we are later told in Ephesians we are cleansed, pure, splendid, holy and blameless (Eph. 5:25-27).

This is the only real solution to domestic abuse, a change of heart because of the almighty work of Jesus Christ on the cross which possesses the power to transform us in his image.  Abusers will only stop abusing their victims when they have their hearts changed, and for disobedient Christians engaging in this when they realise afresh God’s love, mercy and grace.

Close to Home

It should be with great grief that we realise that domestic abuse is widespread – it could be taking place in a home connected to our church, it could be taking place in the home next door.  However, it could also be happening in your own home.  The things we have noted above are concerned primarily with explicit abuse, but the reality is that we could be involved in implicit or subtle abuse.  We may not force our spouses to have sex with us against their will, but we may guilt them into it.  We may not scream at our children, but we may speak to them disrespectfully.  We may not hit our spouses, but we may make them fear us in other ways.  While implicit or subtle abuse may not be intentional, it is no less damaging and harmful for us and our families.  And, it is no less serious in the eyes of God.

However, there is hope and that hope is found in Jesus and his power to change!

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Reading Widely – Publishers

For those who enjoy reading the advice to ‘read widely’ is probably something that they books have heard numerous times.  Indeed, it is likely a piece of advice which they act upon too.  Yet, so often this is taken to mean read different authors, different topics, and different genres.  Today I want to reflect on a brilliant piece of advice I heard in a sermon several years ago.  His advice was to check who publishes the books you read.  This is something that I have consistently kept an eye on as I attempt to read widely.  In essence it is the same advice, read widely, but not just authors, topics and genres…also publishers.  This is great advice for at least three reasons:

  1. Different authors on your bookshelf does not necessarily mean different points of view.

It is relatively likely that you can look at your bookshelf and count numerous different authors.  Perhaps there are tens of different authors, or even hundreds.  However, this does not necessarily mean you are reading widely.  All publishing houses employ the service of numerous authors, but they all work for the same ‘body’ so to speak.  Therefore, it is important to not only seek to read different authors, on different topics, but also to ensure you are reading books on the same topic published by different publishing houses.  It is easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we read more widely than we actually do.

  1. Different publishing houses have different theological persuasions.

The reason why it is not enough to just read different authors is because many publishing houses hold to firm theological positions, and often promote material that agrees with their particular outlook.  For example, the publishers P&R (Presbyterian & Reformed) naturally produce material from and in agreement with the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition.  If all your authors are published by P&R you’re reading too narrowly.  On the other hand, all of your authors could be published by B&H, this publishing house favours Believer’s baptism.  Therefore, many if not all of the authors published by B&H will hold to that position.  Naturally, this view has implications on covenant theology, ecclesiology, church membership, obedience to the gospel, raising children, and so on and so forth.  It impacts on numerous other areas of Christian living and thought.  We are not reading widely if all of the authors we read hold to one particular theological position.

  1. Different publishing houses have different levels of content.

It is not only the theological persuasions that are important, but also the level of content.  For example, if all of the authors you read are published only by university publishing houses (such as Sheffield Academic Press, or Oxford University Press) then you are only reading the most academically rigorous material.  On the other hand, if all of the authors you read are published by Christian Focus or Zondervan then you are only reading the most popular and widely available material.  Neither one is better than the other, they merely serve different purposes.  Indeed, some publishing houses have identified this and so have academic wings to their publishing: IVP and Apollos, Baker and Baker Academic, or Zondervan and Zondervan Academic.  We cannot claim to be reading widely if all the material we read is pitched at only one level.

In keeping these things in mind, I find that I have read books from numerous publishers.  Some of them small and unknown publishing houses like Myrtlefield House, to the global giant Crossway.  I believe my mind, thinking and Christian life is the better for it!  Go check which publishers you have on your bookshelf…

Top Five Commentaries on 2 Peter & Jude

I have always been drawn to what one of my friends has termed ‘lesser spotted Scripture’.  I love John 3:16, Isaiah 6, Psalm 23 and Romans 8 as much as the next Christian.  But, I am https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/410z0hhX7fL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgalso keenly aware that God has given us the whole counsel of Scripture which includes 2 Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, Haggai and Jude!  That means I often enjoy preaching from those lesser known books.

What I have found is that the lesser known books are lesser known because they strike us as difficult.  Indeed, Ecclesiastes and 2 Peter are difficult books to grasp the big idea of.  However, once we have devoted some time to them, the truths they possess shine all the more brightly.  After preaching through both 2 Peter and Jude, two books which very much qualify as ‘lesser spotted Scripture’, here are my top five commentaries on them.

  1. Richard Bauckham – Word Biblical Commentary: Jude, 2 Peter (1996)

Bauckham is an expert in ‘lesser spotted Scripture’.  In particular, he is well versed in apocalyptic literature and Jewish inter-testamental literature.  This makes him a good candidate for writing a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude which both reference extra-canonical books with which the Jews would be more than familiar with.

It must be confessed that the Word Biblical series of commentaries is imposing to look at, there is much discussion on scholarly issues and many references to the original languages.  However, in gaining a correct understanding of Jude’s quotation of Enoch we must not cut corners.  While this is not a commentary to be read for 15 minutes before switching of the light at night-time, it is a commentary which will bring the letters of 2 Peter and Jude to life.  Bauckham’s writing style, while academic, is highly readable too.

  1. Peter Davids – The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude (2006)

The Pillar series has quickly become a must-have commentary in the evangelical Pastor’s study and Davids contribution on 2 Peter and Jude is certainly a commendable addition to this series.  Aesthetically speaking, the layout and type-face of the Pillar series is much more attractive than the Word Biblical.  Nevertheless, in my opinion Bauckham is more helpful and clearer than Davids on many instances.

While Davids and Bauckham’s commentaries do cover much of the same ground, Davids offers some contradictory opinions which are worth considering.  In addition, Davids has much more of an emphasis on applying the technical arguments he sets forth, and in this way, is helpful for the preacher and teacher.

  1. Douglas Moo – The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Peter, Jude (1996)

Moo is a quality Bible commentator.  I am yet to be disappointed by any of his publications.  Even so, there are two reasons why this publication does not come top of this list.  First, this is not his area of expertise.  Moo has devoted much effort into the Pauline epistles, and Romans in particular.  That makes him something of a surprise candidate for this volume.  Second, there is a dearth of exegetical detail.  While this is necessary to a degree for a commentary of this style, other volumes clearly possess it in the background (such as the volume on Luke by Darrell Bock).

That being said, Moo has a perceptive eye with respect to applying Scripture.  There are few, if any, of my sermons which did not benefit from Moo’s application of these difficult letters to the everyday life of a Christian and the Church.  Indeed, Moo is a scholar who loves the church, and thus writes for the church.  Therefore, time in this commentary will be rewarded in the pulpit.

  1. Daryl Charles – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 13; 2006)

Charles certainly displays an aptitude with the literature of 2 Peter and Jude, as well as the scholarly debates.  However, as is often the case with whole Bible commentaries, there is a shortage of detailed argumentation to support assertions.  Even so, Charles has an attractive writing style which often summarises what Bauckham or Davids said in a very quotable way.  Moreover, his structuring of the passages are helpful with respect to sermon structure too.

  1. Thomas Manton – The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Jude (1989)

In all honesty, this is a commentary which was referenced only periodically throughout sermon preparation.  Additionally, it shouldn’t really make it onto this list because it does not treat 2 Peter, except in similarities to Jude at certain points.  However, it is well worth flagging up as the Puritans always force us to think differently about Scripture because the speak from a different era.  This commentary does this – linking these ‘lesser spotted Scriptures’ to other pieces of Scripture which are better known; drawing clear lines from these awkward books to the message of the gospel; and forcing us to pause, dwell and meditate on the glorious truths of Scripture.  These things are a helpful corrective for one who delights in the scholarship of Scripture.

Two other commentaries worth a mention are Dick Lucas and Christopher Green’s volume in The Bible Speaks Today series and Michael Green’s contribution to the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series.  I used both of these commentaries profitably while preaching through the difficult letters of Jude and 2 Peter.

I trust you too will endeavour to explore some ‘lesser spotted Scripture’ and if you do that some of the above will aid your study.

The Kindest Thing

Monopoly

Believe it or not, the kindest thing I can say to you is that you will die!

Life is like a game of monopoly.  Playing monopoly, we collect our £200 as we pass go; we accumulate money which ends up being spent on tax, rent and getting out of jail; every now and again we land on a chance square which brings us joy or misery.  And perhaps, if ‘life’ treats us well we might end up with a property on Mayfair; on the other hand, maybe we get stuck on the Old Kent Road.  Whatever happens in monopoly we spend hours trading, rolling dice, collecting money and spending money – but eventually someone wins and guess what…it all goes back in the box.

Life is the same we spend years gathering money, spending money, landing on ‘chance’ squares and then one day we will die and it is all put back into the box so to speak.  This is the reality – there is no distinction, all die.  Life just cannot be kept.

Wisdom

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book all about gaining wisdom, and in that wisdom making the most of life under sun.  In fact, the author’s purpose in writing this book is to show the emptiness of life, so that his audience would realise their need for the creator God to be involved in their lives.  For it is only with the involvement of God that we will be able to make the most of life under the sun.

One of the ways in which we can gain wisdom, argues the author of Ecclesiastes is by learning that death comes to all.  Life cannot be kept is the stark message at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 9:

It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. (vv. 2-3)

Everyone, absolutely everyone, dies.  There is no escape from it – whether we are good or bad, righteous or wicked, religious or irreligious – there is no distinction all die.  There is no joy in this proclamation.  The author makes clear that this is an evil which takes place under the sun (v. 3).  The fact that all die is indeed a great evil.

This is not the first time that death has had a prominent role in the argument of dunfermline-the-old-capital-1206487Ecclesiastes (2:14).  In fact, in chapter three the author doesn’t even make a distinction between humans and animals because the same fate overtakes them both, death.  He writes, “For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other” (3:19).

Death is such an evil that in verse 4 the author offers a proverb to reinforce the fact.  A living dog is better than a dead lion.  In ancient Israel dogs were the equivalent of rats, while lions were held in high regard, as regal even.  It is better to be a living rat than a regal but dead lion!  The reason is that once you’re dead you are dead – that’s it, no second chance:

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and for ever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun. (vv. 5-6)

Kindness

How is any of this kind?

The reason that everyone dies is spelt out by Paul in the book of Romans.  Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and through sin death came into the world.  This death has spread to all men, because all men sin (Rom. 5:12).  Therefore, there is no escaping death, it is coming and having this perspective is of benefit for us.  To know, be aware and appreciate that death is coming is beneficial – it is certainly better than being ignorant of it.

This is why the kindest thing I can say to you is that you will die.  However, it is not simply that you will die, but that this death can lead to eternal life.

Paul continues in Romans to explain that there is eternal life available through Jesus Christ out Lord (5:19-21).  Death does not have to be something that is paralysing, rather it can be something which spurs us into life now by driving us to Jesus.

As Christians Jesus dwells in us, if we love his Word and love his people.  If Jesus has changed our life, then there is hope.  There is a future.  There is eternal life which is given through Jesus and his righteousness.  This truth should give us great hope and encouragement as we face the certainty of death.  Life cannot be kept and it will leave us – eternal life, on the other hand, can be kept and it can be kept only through Jesus Christ.  But none of this has any meaning if we are ignoring the reality that death is coming.

So, believe it or not the kindest thing I can say to you is that you will die…so make sure death is not the end.