The King's Gardeners Ministries
Reverend S. L. Gardner
Spokane Valley, Washington U.S.
- The Issue of Abuse -
Is Reconciliation Possible?
Whenever there has been long-term abuse in a marriage relationship, reconciliation is difficult, it will not happen quickly. The process of restoration is slow and arduous. Many times it will feel like three steps forward and two steps back. There are no simple methods to follow nor guarantees of success.
Reconciliation must not be misunderstood as encouraging a woman to return to the abusive cycle. Paul used the word reconciliation to denote the cessation of hostility in a relationship (Eph. 2:11-18).
The cost of bringing reconciliation between sinful, rebellious people and a holy God was the death of Christ. In the same way, reconciliation means a cessation of hostility on the part of the abuser against the victim. It means that he must do whatever it takes to ensure that there is not a return to the destructive patterns of the past.
Rebuilding a relationship marred by abuse must eventually cross over the bridge of forgiveness. For many abuse victims, the thought of forgiving their abuser sounds like betrayal because it feels like they are letting them off the hook for what they've done. The pattern of forgiveness spoken of in Luke 17:3-4, however, makes it clear that forgiveness is also a process that lovingly holds the abuser accountable for his actions.
This is the teaching of our Lord. Old Testament divorce laws were a merciful provision (Dt. 24:1-4). What if an abusive husband is not willing to go through the process of reconciliation? Then a wife must continue to follow a path of spiritual counsel and legal action. Just as Jews understood that strong "no work" Sabbath laws could be set aside if an animal fell into a pit (Mt. 12:9-13), so allowances and exceptions need to be made when women and children find themselves in danger.
The apostle Paul seems to have had this same spirit of the law in mind when he wrote, "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife" (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Paul said that there was no freedom to remarry. This keeps open the preferred option of reconciliation.
Authors Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson are licensed counselors in Michigan and work in the RBC biblical correspondence department.
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The King's Gardeners Ministries is based in Washington State U.S. with all proper Corporate Reports on file with the Secretary of State for Washington U.S. Reverend S. L. Gardner President and CEC.