Personal Stories

My Name is Gracie: I’m Married to an Unbeliever

What is the church’s response to Christians who are married to unbelievers?

I walked my son to his bus stop this morning and came across this lonely crocus in my front yard. Everything in my yard says Winter is still here, but this one little crocus showed her pretty face in the recent warm days we’ve had. I was thinking about the personal story (below) and wondered if this is what Gracie feels like – alone in her church. We’ve discussed singles in churches and how difficult that can be, but we haven’t discussed what it’s like for a married person married to an unbeliever and the church’s response.

I’d like you to read about Gracie, who is married to an unbeliever.  Sometimes spiritual harm comes to people in the form of emotional abandonment, apathy, not caring for an individual. Let’s read Gracie’s story. I’m thankful she was willing to share it with us.

~Julie Anne



 My Name is Gracie: I’m Married to an Unbeliever


I am a christian, married to an unbeliever. Being married to an unbeliever is hard. It can be heartbreaking, frustrating and exhausting. Many times, the church is not helpful when it comes to this subject.

I renewed my relationship with God thirteen years ago. Occasionally my husband would come to a service for Christmas or Easter. I would introduce him to my friends, but we would often end up sitting by ourselves. No one would invite us to sit with them. I don’t really know why.

The church is missing the mark when it comes to dealing with spouses who are married to unbelievers. In my experiences (I’ve been to six churches since I renewed my relationship with Christ) at different churches, except for the one I attend now, it has always been the same thing. People find out you are married, but your spouse doesn’t attend church. They ask if he is a believer, and you say no. From then on, you feel like half a person because of the way you are treated.

In one church, which I attended for 8 years, I was involved in one ministry. I was in leadership. However, when I would give advice to others regarding their marriages, I was told “You have no right to talk to anyone about marriage. Yours isn’t so good.” I did attend outings with others, but I often felt like a third wheel to all the couples there. In all of those years, I was never asked to be involved in any other ministry, and although many of the couples I know were invited to dinner with the Pastor and his wife, I never was. The church is not huge either. It makes you feel less than. Churches focus so much on marriage and family, and marriage sermons are always geared to those who are believing couples. I only heard one sentence in all my years that slightly mentioned the unequally yoked issue. It basically said “If you are married to an unbeliever, act like a christian.” Wow, that’s helpful.

People in my situation have many struggles. We have divided loyalties. We want to be at church often, and are questioned when we can’t attend every event. We are told to be sold out for Jesus, but can’t be there all the time because our spouse gets upset, and the church then thinks we don’t want to be involved. We sit in the pews and feel sad when we see the happy couple with the two kids who are shining examples of a ‘christian family’ and feel like there is something wrong with us because we sit alone Sunday after Sunday.

I left that church two years ago after attempting to confront leadership in the ministry I was involved in. I did it biblically, per Matt. 18. However, when I attempted to bring in witnesses, the lead pastor wouldn’t allow it. It was going to be me against the three of them. I knew how it was going to turn out, as these leaders have been confronted before, and nothing was done. I left that church and never returned.

I started attending another church, and things in my marriage were getting worse. I went to see the pastor and his wife. All I got for advice was the typical ‘pray more, submit more, have more sex, etc’. I told them he had committed adultery, and found out they don’t believe in divorce even for adultery. I was stunned. I confronted the pastor’s wife one Sunday and asked “So he can sleep around all he wants, I can’t divorce him? So, what, I’m supposed to keep loving him, having sex and just hope I don’t get HIV?” She paused and said “Well, no.” It was like that thought never even entered her mind! I left that church shortly after once I discovered they are heavy into patriarchy, too.

Many of the women I communicate with in a ministry which deals with this issue have had things said to them such as “You must submit, even to sin. You must obey, you have to be Jesus with skin on. Because how would you feel if you were married to your husband for life but he/she never got to know the Lord? It’s your job to get them saved!” This is unbiblical, and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us, especially wives. Our husbands are supposed to be representing Jesus, and we ladies are supposed to be the bride. We take on a role we aren’t meant to. If you are married to an abusive spouse, or an addict, it is even harder.

I will end by saying I have finally found a wonderful church. I did interview the pastor for two hours before I joined, and had a list of questions for him. I was very pleased with his responses. In the midst of all this, I found out one month ago my husband is having an affair. I did everything those former churches told me to do, I prayed, fasted, submitted, loved, encouraged, and he still had an affair. I have come to realize that even if you love perfectly, they may not love you back. Jesus loved perfectly, and they still killed him. Even today, people still reject Him. I know I did the best I could, but my husband still chose someone else. I went to my current church and explained the situation, as this has been a not great marriage for a long time. No one condemned me. No one told me God hates divorce. What did they tell me? “You are worth more than what your husband is doing to you. It’s not your fault. How can we support you?” That’s Jesus. That’s love.



160 thoughts on “My Name is Gracie: I’m Married to an Unbeliever”

  1. bike bubba, fair enough. I would add that, even if one is privileged to have an otherwise qualified pastor, it would nevertheless behoove a target of domestic abuse or neglect to seek counsel elsewhere. I would think it would be very difficult for most pastors to take a stand against one of their parishioners, including one who is an abuser. Pastors tend to be peace makers, not advocates. So why even take the risk? Certainly one should flee at the first hint of shaming, blaming, sin leveling and so on.


  2. Bike Bubba,
    A preacher is not a therapist. The preacher’s job is to preach the gospel.
    The preacher needs to stay in his “pay” grade. He’s not qualified.


  3. Gary, that’s exactly why Titus 2 gives counsel to the whole body (as does 1 Cor. 6, really), and that’s why Matthew 18 and Romans 13 point our way.

    Now I will grant that too many church boards “go along to get along” and are emphatically of the “milquetoast” variety, and thus downplay serious allegations by nature. That said, I can’t read the epistles as describing men who go along to get along. They are emphatically peace-makers, but they did so by confronting sin in the flock. If our pastor will not fight a battle or two, a search committee ought to be convened.

    Put another way, if we will only use the tools God has given us, we have exactly what we need to help people like Gracie, as well as a bunch of others in our midst here.


  4. So, Bike Bubba,

    What do you do if the victim continues to go to the church, and she got a restraining order from the court stating that the perp needs to stay 1000 yards away from the victim?

    Would it be a sin to get a restraining order without your version of a Matthew 18?

    1 John 3:4, sin is the transgression of the law of Moses.

    What business does the church have in sticking it’s nose in the victim vs. perp legal business?



  5. Ed, my response to you is exactly what you said. In trying to play theologian, you are hopelessly above your pay grade. Leave it to the professionals.


    Well, wrong. A key doctrine of the Reformation is the perspicuity of Scripture, that the ordinary man can and should interpret the Scripture for himself. If you are allowed to play theologian, then a pastor ought to be allowed to interpret the Scripture where it notes that pastors can and should have a role in rebuking sin and guiding sinners in repentance.

    In this case specifically, the Bible tells us that pastors can and should play a role in helping victims. Not the only role, but certainly a role along with church boards, church members, and the state. It is worth noting that many pastors mess this responsibility up badly primarily because (see Gary’s comment) their boards are stacked with yes men, and hence there is no one there to be an advocate.


  6. Romans 13, as I noted above, Ed. It works along with Matthew 18. In a case of divorce, there are all kinds of things that could affect someone’s relationships within the body of Christ. Adultery, abuse, false testimony, you name it.

    But in the short term, you respect the protection order and probably point the one who received it to another church, or, in the case of some really egregious sins resulting in that order, to worship at home via computer.


  7. A berean is not a profession. The Apostle Paul considered his education in theology as dung. A therapist is an educated professional. The preacher is not a mental health professional.

    There is a big difference between me, and a preacher who gets paid to preach, as a profession. He needs to stay in his little preaching box, and stay out of the mental health organization.

    The perp can confess his sins to the judge, and repent behind a jail cell, and stay away from the victim, who still may attend the church. When a restraining order is produced, he can go to another church down the street. There is a ton of chuches out there. Look in the Yellow Pages.



  8. What if there is no restraining order, Ed. What if it hasn’t gone through the courts? Are you saying the pastor doesn’t have the right to get an abuser out of his church?


  9. The Mt 18 passage starts out “If your brother sins against you.” I contend that an abuser cannot claim to be a brother (or sister as the case may be). Mt 18 only applies as between believers.

    Then there is the issue of the “brother” who will not cooperate in the Mt 18 process. This can be especially true of church leaders who are quick to stand on their supposed authority.


  10. Gary, I’d disagree strongly with you on whether an abuser can be considered a brother or not. If we look at Scripture, we see all kinds of horrific sins committed by people who were worshippers of God at the time–let’s start with Moses killing the Egyptian foreman and David killing Uriah after committing adultery with Bathsheba. The list is a lot longer, and puts the one who says “an abuser cannot be in Christ” in a very uncomfortable position; arguing in effect that spousal abuse is more significant than adultery or murder in establishing one’s position in Him.

    I would agree if you would say that it is very likely that a spousal abuser will end up outside the church after a Matthew 18 process, but if we assume a priori that the abuser is outside of Christ, I just cannot reconcile that with what else I see in Scripture.


  11. bike bubba, here is what I am relying on in saying that an abuser is not a Christian:

    No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10 ESV)

    I suppose one could try the Mt 18 process with an abuser, but I don’t think there is any obligation to accommodate one who has a history of a practice of sinning. Scripture tells us they simply are not in the faith.


  12. Julie Anne,

    What Gary said, right after your comment. The pastor stays out of it. Matthew 18 is the whole congregation as a last resort, not the pastor alone. Not the pastor and elders. Just the two parties.

    The word “church”, in “Bring it to the church” does not mean “leaders”, but rather everyone that attends the local church. But, like I said, that is only as a last resort. Otherwise, it stays with the two parties alone, and the next step would be witnesses with the two parties. The church still stays out of it. Then, if there is still conflict, then the church body gets involved…as the last resort.

    Catholicism perverted what Matthew 18 was supposed to be all about, just like divorce/remarriage. And those perversions were passed down to the reformers like a glove.

    So, I agree with Cindy, in regards to divorce/remarriage, and I agree with Gary, in regards to Matthew 18.



  13. i understand the argument, but that presupposes that we know a priori whether a person has that “pattern” of sin (something that is not stated explicitly in 1 John, by the way). Since the writers of the Gospels and epistles do not seem to make your argument, but rather warn believers about the perils of various sins, i would submit to you that the proper place for declaring someone to be outside the Body of Christ, or to give him over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme, is after the Matthew 18 discipline/reconciliation process has been attempted, and has failed.

    Otherwise we either end up declaring that anyone with any ongoing sin is outside of Christ while simultaneously declaring that domestic abuse is a bigger deal than murder. Can’t go there, Biblically speaking.


  14. Bike Bubba,

    The purpose of the Matthew 18 “Bring it to the Church” is because there is conflict, and that conflict was witnessed. If the person to whom the sin was accused still refuses to listen to the church, you kick them out. End of story. But it does not get to the church until the witnesses have approached the accused to reason with him first.



  15. Yep, I would say that murder committed in the heat of passion is less egregious than the sin committed by a man who has intentionally, over the course of some period of time, abused and neglected his wife, whether emotionally, physically, sexually and/or spiritually. I would go so far as to say that if a woman comes home to find her husband in bed with another woman, and if she shoots them both in a heat of passion, maybe there is no sin.

    And no, we don’t have to assume anything a priori. If a man has been abusing/neglecting his wife the facts speak for themselves. Plus, I’m not going to let you get away with adding the requirement of a “pattern” to what you, as I understand it, hold to be the inerrant infallible Word of God. Nor am I inclined to let you simply write off a verse that doesn’t fit with your views–though I do perceive the need to reconcile apparent inconsistencies.


  16. Bike Bubba,

    Pattern of sin has nothing to do with it. What it has to do with is an accused person that was witnessed sinning against another refuses to admit guilt.

    That is why you kick them out of the church. There is no such thing as looking at his prior record, counseling him to be a better person, make him drop and give you 20 (push-ups), etc.

    Plain and simple, you kick him out, all because he has lied all the way, and refuses to admit guilt, even in the face of witnesses, as well as the church body. It never would have gotten to the church body had the two parties took care of it by themselves…without the church getting involved.



  17. Gary, regarding “pattern”, that’s what you referred to with “history of practice of sinning.” If you wish to disavow your previous argument, fine, but I’m at a loss as to how this makes your point.

    Moreover, you are assuming things a priori by assuming someone is out of the faith, when numerous passages attest to the reality that sin by a believer can be forgiven, starting with 1 John 1:9. Other passages attest to the reality of some pretty grievous sins by believers. Do you deny this? Are we to cast Romans 8:35 on the flames so that we can assume that Peter and David were temporarily out of the faith when they sinned?

    Can’t go there, Gary. There are simply too many issues with your exegesis of 1 John 3:6, starting with what John himself said two chapters earlier. We have one who speaks on our behalf when we sin.


  18. Gracie, agreed that since your ex (or ex to be?) is a nonbeliever and an adulterer, I cannot see a need for the Matthew 18 process. On the flip side, I wonder if in certain cases it would be helpful if the deacons/elders of the church had, upon hearing you had had your fill, worked with you and sent a note to your ex-to-be explaining why they were helping you.

    Or maybe they did. Would love to hear your take on whether it would be useful for church leaders to speak up to an adulterous or otherwise abusive unbelieving spouse.


  19. Julie Anne,
    I found this out during the process. A building that we call a church is privately owned. If the members do not want someone on their property and they refuse to leave. Call the authorities. Restraining order or no. If they are asked to leave, they’d better go.


    Liked by 1 person

  20. BB, thank you for pointing out that John distinguishes between one who sins and one who practices sin. The 1 who sins without making it a practice still bears the burden of proof to establish that they are in the faith. They do so by appropriately responding to matthew 18 style due process. The 1 who practices sin is simply out of the faith. That is the distinction John draws.

    Even a successful Matthew 18 process does not result in requiring an abused wife to remain in relationship with her abuser. Forgiveness is mandatory. Reconciliation is up to the person harmed. An abused spouse, in my opinion, would be ill advised to return to an abuser who has been unwilling to render significant and meaningful restitution, even where there has been only a single incident.


  21. Bubba, the church contacting my husband wouldn’t have made a difference. Regarding the continued sinning, I have followed the blog I posted the article from for a few years. Most abusers fall under narcissism. They are great at making themselves victims. They are great at acting repentant. They are great at telling the pastors everything they want to hear. However, there is fruit that goes with repentance, and different sins have different consequences. The consequences for letting the f bomb fly once in a while is much different from the consequences of beating your spouse. We all have areas we struggle in. I know I do. However, the difference is KNOWING what you are doing is wrong, and not placing the blame on anyone else for it. Abusers blame shift constantly. You can’t tell me that a spouse, who just walks out of couples counseling with his wife, (where he seemed repentant) with the pastor, gets mad at her for spilling the beans and smacks her is a true believer. Go read some blog comments at A Cry for Justice. This sort of thing is all too common.


  22. Gracie, agreed that NPD and manipulation are commonly found among abusers–regrettably I’ve seen it close up among family. And agreed that it’s important to not just mouth repentance, but demonstrate it.

    That said, it also strikes me that someone on this board–maybe Marsha?–noted that NPD is generally treated by counseling, and that some are starting to view it as more of a character flaw than a truly organic mental illness. So while part of this certainly belongs to the psychologists and psychiatrists, it strikes me that rebuke of sin/discipline/reconciliation per Matthew 18 could be immensely helpful.

    Even for unbelievers, it would let them know that other people are watching–and taking action. Might not always work, but in certain cases, it could be very useful if done well.


  23. Gary,

    Just to be clear, at what point is forgiveness mandatory in an abuse case? Immediately? Or when the victim is ready to forgive. Anything less than that is feigned forgiveness. Forgiveness must come from the heart, not by a forced feigned gesture.

    Whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven.

    The perp can get forgiveness bypassing the victim from God, if the person is repentant to God alone.

    Many times a perp can never get a forgiveness from the victim due to civil adjudication judgments. So then what? The perp goes to God, not the victim.

    The Matthew 18 thing is not a one size fits all circumstances. Some people just seem to want to ignore the legal proceedings, as if that is a totally separate insignificant issue that just happens to interfere with the church by laws that states that a Matthew 18 must happen, and happen now, before the law can get it…if the church determines that the law should be involved or not. After all, they gotta see the proof, first, before the local police investigators, right Bike Bubba?



  24. BB,
    Please do some learning. ACFJ is a wonderful tool. You are thinking from a “normal” brain concept. Abusers do not have that. They are master manipulators, chronic liars, honey wouldn’t melt in their mouths until they have left the person’s presence that they are trying to make an ally of. They can sit through a church service and everyone thinks they are great upstanding Christian people. Then they walk out the door and start name calling or hitting their spouse and/or kids. They down talk the people that were there that morning. BB–This is a real problem and why abuse is allowed to continue. Walk out of a Matthew 18 farce with an abuser and watch what happens. The target spouse gets worse than she/he did before. Blame shifting is a big part of an abusers personality. They are not responsible for anything in their mind. Someone else is always responsible. I would suggest that you read Persistent Widow’s story on ACFJ. She has quite the story of not only the abuse she took from her husband, but the church as well.


  25. Forgiveness is for my own heart–NOT the abuser. It is to clear the anger and not have my closeness with God severed. The abuser may never see that there is anything to be forgiven for or care if they are forgiven. They think they are fine. It was all the victim’s fault after all.


  26. Brenda, the reason I don’t go to ACFJ is because I grew up in a home where one spouse abused the other. I have seen the punches thrown, I have seen the bruises and the makeup to cover them, I have heard the excuses, I have heard the damage it did in the victim, and I have watched as police and church alike (UMC if you’re curious) dropped the ball.

    So it’s not like I’m unaware of what you’re talking about, and I’ve not only counseled women to report their abuse (including my sister in law two months ago), but have also taken calls for a battered womens’ shelter. I know about the abnormal brain you speak of and, quite frankly, tend to recognize it pretty quickly.

    So don’t confuse my disagreement with some on theological and practical issues as being weak on this. It’s rather that I’ve got a personal appreciation for what it takes for a victim to stand up and tell her story, and what can help her to do so or hinder her (or him for that matter) in the matter.


  27. Bike Bubba,

    You had said:
    “counseled women to report their abuse”

    To the church first, to see if there is enough evidence, or to the cops first, letting them make that determination?



  28. BB,
    I wouldn’t call it weak, but you do sound uninformed from time to time especially when the Matt. 18 thing comes up. It is right up there with joint counseling for a couple when abuse is involved. It simply doesn’t work. If anything, it makes matters far worse.

    I am in a group that supports one another, whether they choose to stay well or leave well, which also includes men. I do confess that I have a hard time feeling empathy for men in abuse situations, but I am getting better at it. I know that it happens. I have heard their stories. As far as women telling their stories, more often than not they won’t if the abuser is within ear shot because of the escalation afterwards.

    I am sorry that you went through this as well. It is just as hard on the children as it is the adults even if it is not directed at them.


  29. Nope, the police, because she’s sadly not part of a church, and because she’s never, ever lied to me, even when she was telling me some of the crazy stuff her bipolar ex-husband was doing. It all checked out. (sadly)

    Regarding Matthew 18, there are two reasons, one theological and one practical, why churches ought to exercise their Matthew 18 responsibilities. Theologically, abusers need to be rebuked whether or not they can be convicted, and the victims need to see that their church supports them and views the actions of their abusers as sin.

    Practically speaking, it takes a lot for a victim to step forward, and church is a place they know, and can (if they’re on the ball of course) support them. So it’s less terrifying than just going to a womens’ shelter or the police, really–at least if the church is on the ball. I grant that many are not, just like many police departments are not on the ball.

    Another reason; if the pastor’s wife is in the room when the victim tells her story, she is likely to encounter more women in her pastor’s office than she will at the police station. 87% of police officers are male, after all.

    Again, granted that not all churches are on the ball with this. But if they are, we are talking a huge help. I’ve seen it happen.


  30. Ed,

    My thinking is that forgiveness has to do with letting go of vengeance and grudges. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 ESV). Metaphorically speaking, It means removing our hands from our enemy’s throat. “But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.” (Matthew 18:28 ESV). It means trusting our Lord to exact such vengeance as is appropriate. It means never avenging ourselves, but leaving it to the wrath of God. Rom 12:19. God actually promises to repay, although I believe His vengeance is satisfied insofar as what is reaped on the Cross.

    I agree with Brenda that forgiveness is for our own benefit. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. Practically speaking, harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for our enemy to die. For our own benefit it behooves us to forgive as soon as we are granted the grace to do so. If my own experience is any indicator, it may be that the ability to forgive is a miraculous working of the Spirit. Where forgiveness is beyond our ability, it seems to help if we will pray for our enemy.

    Forgiveness, in the sense of letting go of the desire for vengeance, does not mean that we must pretend that our enemy is our friend. It does not mean that we must remain in relationship with our enemy, or abuser, or whomever. It does not mean we must remain in a place (home, church, place of employment, etc.) where our abuser can continue to injure us. This may seem contrary to the principle of turning the other cheek. However, turning the other cheek has to do with not retaliating. In American idiom, turning the other cheek could be expressed in terms of looking the other way.

    Reconciliation will not be effective except where there has been payment of appropriate restitution, and the person wronged gets to decide whether, when and upon what terms to reconcile.

    Forgiveness does not necessarily mean giving up on an expectation of being made whole. We can sue a thief in hopes of recovering what he stole without pursuing retribution (although we may receive the greater reward if we do not attempt to enforce recovery of what we have lost). While we must be careful of our motives, where crimes have been committed forgiveness does not mean that we must not turn our tormentor over to the law. A criminal who is not called to account will injure others in the future. Forgiveness does not mean that we cannot apply for a civil protection order to insulate ourselves and our children from our tormentor.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Brenda, I concede 100% that many churches are not on the ball regarding Matthew 18. I watched it. But that said, it’s also 100% true that most police departments did not do anything resembling a good job until recently, either–an officer conceded as much to my mom about a decade back.

    Hence I think that the best solution is to guide the Matthew 18 process, not abandon it. If your pastor doesn’t take it seriously, it’s time to move on.


  32. bb,
    It is rare that a church stands behind the victim. The closest church that I know of that doesn’t put marriage above the people in it is about 40 minutes from where I live. That is too much travel for me on a regular basis. A friend of mine who is legally separated has seen people from her former church, where her abuser husband still remains in his teaching position, that literally turn and walk the other way if they see her. She should have tried harder, she should have been a better wife. Why is it always the wife’s responsibility to hold things together?

    Abuse is still seen by most churches and many police as a “family matter”. No, my pastor doesn’t take it seriously, but I intend to remain the thorn in his side for the time being. I have made some good friends at my church and don’t intend to allow the pastor to scare me off that easily. I spent the majority of my life in abuse of one form or another. He is a gnat on the wall in comparison to what I have been through. I speak to the women in the church. Little by little I have more thinking about the situation and realizing they know people that live in the mess I describe. There are also many women who don’t want to hear it, but……one at a time.


  33. Bike Bubba,

    Please…a Matthew 18 process is started by the victim, when it does not involve criminal activity.

    You had mentioned before, to take it to the church first and foremost, before getting the cops involved, because you wanted to find out if there was enough evidence first. So, I was not discussing your sister-in-law. I was discussing in general, because that is how you laid it out a few months ago.

    But, in your Matthew 18 process, you always seem to leave the witnesses out of the process, and I just can’t seem to figure out why. Without witnesses, it cannot get to the church level.


  34. Gary

    You make forgiveness sound easier than it really is. In essence, forgiveness is when the victim states to herself that the perp does not hold any more control over her life.

    Forgiveness is a healing “process”, and it does not come just because you quote a few verses from the Bible, because all you are doing there is putting “guilt” on the victim for not forgiving when you think that she should have.

    One thing that you are leaving out is emotional trauma. That isn’t an easy “thou shalt forgive” commandment.

    It’s easier to tell a victim to forgive, than to be the victim being told to forgive. And the victim may never forgive. However, the perp can get forgiveness without her forgiveness. So who is the forgiveness for, really? It’s for her, not for the perp.

    And if she dies, not forgiving, will she go to hell?

    What is the final destination for a victim of emotional trauma? Hell for some more trauma?

    I think a bit of empathy needs to go to the victim, instead of commandments to forgive. Just sayin!



  35. Brenda, one clarification; I would assert that in cases of violent crime, the crime itself ought to be counted as Matthew 18 step 1. Certainly this would be how the issue comes to light in most churches–nobody I can think of insists on a face to face meeting with no one else there.

    The place where I part company with the advice some give is in the assumption that abusers are some sort of master manipulators who can only be cornered by a regular Dick Tracy, and that therefore you’ve got to get it into Dick Tracy’s hands as soon as possible. The trouble with this is that it’s simply not my experience–they’re bullies, not geniuses, and they leave a trail of “tells” that any observant person can read if only they’ll stand up to him.

    Plus, not too many police officers qualify as Dick Tracy. Some departments have a maximum IQ for joining–ensuring that in the future, even the chief of police will be at best average in intelligence. (why aren’t more crimes being solved? Hmmm….)

    Good luck in finding a church that takes this seriously, BTW–i’d have thought that some of the churches I attended back at MSU might qualify, but maybe you’re looking for something else.


  36. Ed,

    If I made forgiveness sound easy I failed in what I was attempting to convey. I personally labored for years to forgive certain people who chose to be my enemies. Actually, I initially made the active choice not to forgive. One of these people was a self professed Christian, which made the task of forgiving all the more odious. I speak from experience when I say that forgiveness may be a miraculous working of the Spirit.

    What I can also tell you, however, is that our God is good for his word. One of these enemies, and the least of them, died a somewhat early death. If I recall correctly, his death came about shortly after I had achieved (or been given) some success in removing my metaphorical hands from his metaphorical throat. As to the other enemy, the Christian, I was actually granted grace to achieve a fair modicum of reconciliation with him. Shortly thereafter he was very publicly humiliated. Some years later he died an unexpected and untimely death.

    The hand of God? I do not really know. It could have been. I actually hope that there was nothing more than ordinary coincidence involved. Nevertheless, I harbor a rather deep conviction that, had I continued to choose the path of unforgiveness, my vindication, however coincidental, would have been withheld.

    As to empathy for victims, yes of course. Yet what could work greater harm than to encourage someone to continue in the very attitude of vengeance, bitterness and hatred that assures that their tormentor, without so much as lifting a finger, will continue to wield iron fisted control over their lives.

    Now, I will agree that one ought not to preach forgiveness unless they are prepared also to show the way, preferably by their example. Perhaps I am guilty here. I expect that those who have had the most to forgive, and who have been granted success in doing so, will be best equipped to help walk their sister or brother through forgiveness with understanding and compassion. Still, even if I am not the best candidate to be there for somebody whose unforgiveness is working destruction in their lives, should I not do my best to warn with such gentleness and compassion as I am capable of mustering? What is achieved by helping a brother or sister ignore the very words of Jesus:

    “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

    These are difficult words, but they are the words of our Lord. They are tempered with this:

    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)


  37. Oh, my goodness Bike Bubba,

    The victim is accusing someone of a crime. The perp has the right to be confronted by his accuser in a court of law. Stop bringing the church into it. There does not have to be a reconciliation.



  38. Gary,

    Now, what I seem to be seeing from you, and even more so from Bike Bubba, is the neglecting of counseling from a professional therapist, or psychiatrist. It seems to me, and I may be wrong in your case, but it seems that bible verses are used as the cure all. Haven’t we heard that before? i.e., just pray more, read your bible more, have more faith, etc. Some of these victims leave Christianity, just because of that alone. It’s as if God abhors therapists outside of the “council” of church leaders.

    And that indeed is what some church’s do to people. The church leaders tell the victims to not seek help, that the only help they need is a few bible verses, and then they demand that they forgive the perp.

    And you should know, it does not work that way for many. I can just imagine the victim begging the religious folks to just leave her alone.



  39. Ed,

    Scripture alone is not enough. We need each other. For the most part, in my experience, the preachers and other religious professionals need to be kept at arms length. I have watched healing and wholeness worked in groups of 6 to 12 Christians, often times sharing and mutually bearing extraordinary burdens. Until the preachers intruded. Seems the preachers, even the good ones, just cannot stand to stand back and let others minister according to their gifts, talents, training and experience. This is a large part of the reason I am done with what calls itself church, much of which (not all) is really the great prostitute who sits on many waters and who is the mother of prostitutes and of Earth’s abominations.

    And if any “pastor” would discourage a believer who suffers from clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. from seeking psychiatric care, then to Hell with that “pastor.” I hold any given person’s anal sphincter in greater esteem than such a pastor. If any woman is being abused by their spouse, my only question is who to call first, the police or a women’s shelter. Although bike bubba holds out hope there might be preachers who are qualified to effectively intervene on the woman’s behalf, and even though I can think of at least one who gets it, there is just too much danger that the typical “can’t we all just get along” preacher will end up being accessory to the offender’s crimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. bb,
    I honestly don’t think it is necessary for a Matthew 18. I did not want the entire church involved or see a reason for it. I found a couple of close friends who I could go to that understand. You lived it and don’t seem to understand.

    Seriously, Dick Tracy, I don’t even know what you are talking about. I guess I’m not that smart either, in your opinion. Why would I be looking for churches around MSU? I don’t live near there or know anything about their churches.

    As far as forgiveness goes, Ed is right, it is a process. It is something that I had to pray about again and again and again. Christ healed my heart, not me. If it had been on my shoulders to do, I would be an angry, bitter woman. He collected my tears and healed my brokenness..

    Liked by 2 people

  41. This blog post makes the case that abusers, being unrepentant, are not Christians:

    And in a similar vein:

    See also the series of articles titled “The “Christian” Abuser: Couldn’t He be a “Carnal” Christian?” that begins at:


  42. Brenda, the “Dick Tracy” comment is with regards to the notion that it takes an investigator of amazing ability to stand up to the wiles of the master manipulator that the abuser is said to be. My point is that as far as I’ve seen, that’s not the case. The basic skills that I’d suggest are a willingness to stand up to bullies and a basic alertness to the tells that they’ll leave behind.

    See what I’m getting at here? It’s almost like some of the advocates are making these guys out to be some kind of super-human criminal instead of the garden variety bullies I’ve met.

    Side note; if you noted that one possible reason that churches drop this badly is that too many boards of deacons or elders are “yes men” won don’t stand up to bullies and don’t exert the thinking needed to find the “tells” and act on them, yes. Exactly.


  43. BB,
    Perhaps you need more examination on the topic. They are not all play ground bullies in adult bodies. Many are intelligent, sophisticated and not average Joe throw back a few cold ones and beat the wife type people. They don’t bully other people, only the ones in the home (if you can call it that). Anyways, I have said about all I’m going to. I have better things to do like get more of Barbara Robert book in women’s shelters and anti-abuse programs.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Gary, thank you–had seen it before, but thank you. My response remains the same; Matthew 18 presumes that at least in some cases, a believer will have sinned in such a way as to require the rebuke of the offended, church leadership, and the entire church. I see no reason to see domestic abuse as some sort of special sin that automatically indicates that a person is outside of Christ, as there are many Biblical indications that a person can be in some pretty grievous sins while in Christ–David with Bathsheba, Peter refusing fellowship to Gentiles, and the like.

    I understand the desire to “shake things up” because of well documented failures by many, perhaps most, churches to deal with domestic abuse, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.


  45. Bike Bubba,

    You could almost frustrate me. You seem to be intent on affording the one who stumbles and repents (David, Peter) the same consideration as the one who PRACTICES sin. I know it’s subtle. I could go into an analysis of the Greek tense, but you might attempt to insult me by accusing me of thinking I’m a scholar.

    I’m enjoying the exchange, but regret that the press of business will divert my attention for much or all of the rest of today. Have a good one!


  46. I’m not frustrating you, Gary. Scripture is. Let’s explain it another way; in order to assume a man is out of the faith because he is accused of domestic violence, one must assume that the allegations are true. So your idea contains a presumption of guilt that is repulsive to both the Bible and our sense of justice. It denies the rights of the accused and also gives a huge incentive for false allegations–just ask any divorce lawyer these days.

    Really, Gary, all the Greek verb tenses in the world are not a match for testing your hypothesis in the light of Scripture and in light of a basic sense of justice.


  47. Bubba, your words are showing your true beliefs regarding this issue. For the record, I never met a christian woman who LIED about being abused. The problem lies in the church requiring proof. Please tell me how a woman, who is called vile names every single day can ‘prove’ it? Because that is abuse too. I also don’t know any women who has people who actually witness physical abuse. Again, abusers are nice as pie in public. Then we have church leaders who refuse to look at proof, such as photos, texts, and emails. When you don’t side with the victim, you side with the abuser.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Gracie,
    Your comment to bb was very kind. I will not respond as I fear I would end up in the SSB dog house right now for being too personal and not Christ like. I agree with you whole heartedly– Calling Christian women liars when it comes to abuse doesn’t set well with me. I agree with you fully: “When you don’t side with the victim, you side with the abuser.” I may add that if you side with an abuser you are also an abuser.


  49. bike bubba,

    This site is specifically for survivors and for them to feel safe. Are there some cases where there have been false claims? Probably, but they are very few. Our focus here is on survivors and giving them an opportunity to share their stories (because most survivors have been silenced).

    I’m going to ask you to NOT provide any more links or discussion about false reports as that is emotionally triggering to survivors. This place must remain safe for survivors.

    Brenda: I fixed the typo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  50. bb,
    I realize that your comments were meant for Gary and he can address them himself, but I find what you have said not only frustrating, but offensive. “a presumption of guilt that is repulsive to both the Bible and our sense of justice” Where is your repulsive feelings to those who have been abused? Where is your sense of justice for them? The Bible says that we are to defend the oppressed. God is repulsed by those claiming to be Christ followers and their lack of compassion for the oppressed.

    “It denies the rights of the accused”. Where are the rights of victims to not be beat up, raped, belittled, tormented, gaslighted, controlled and manipulated in their own homes. Their are mothers having their children taken away because the abuser can waltz into court and make a judge feel like the mother of his children has lost her sanity. Where is your outrage over that? Where is your outrage for the oppressed?

    Scripture does not frustrate me, but your interpretation of it does. I am repulsed by this kind of attitude. I am repulsed by churches and Christians who turn their backs on the oppressed and pat abusers on the back. “A huge incentive for false allegations”–Father forgive him because he has no idea what he says. Do you really think abused women(or men) want their marriages to be turned upside down? You really need to get a clue.


  51. Brenda, Gracie,

    Really, I completely trust you and other women to be able to discern whether an abuser’s conduct is or is not that of a believer. There is no need to apply to the ecclesiastical authorities for a determination. Jesus, not some man or group of men, is our judge.

    To suggest that a woman must initiate some sort of process of reconciliation with her tormentor is to lay one more layer of abuse upon all the multiple layers that have already been applied by their abuser. It smacks of an attitude of male superiority and entitlement. It is to side with the wolves and pigs in opposition to their prey. Morally speaking, it is to be an accessory after the fact. It is not too difficult to imagine circumstances in which those who choose to run with the wolves and wallow with the pigs could devolve into criminal culpability. We might be surprised to know just how often preachers engage in actual witness tampering when it comes to instances of domestic abuse.

    No, the one who already bears the scars left by wolves’ fangs is not required to render up the good of some twisted and perverted version of ecclesiastical due process. The one who has been gored by boars’ tusks may keep their pearls to themselves. Nay, such a one is admonished, if not outright commanded, to keep their pearls and all else that is good to themselves.

    O.K. Back to work.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Gary W,
    There was/is no doubt in my mind that you felt any other way. I cannot say the same for another individual.



  53. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”

    Helen Keller

    Liked by 1 person

  54. “And if she dies, not forgiving, will she go to hell?
    What is the final destination for a victim of emotional trauma? Hell for some more trauma?
    I think a bit of empathy needs to go to the victim, instead of commandments to forgive.”

    Could not agree with you more. I sure hope no one ever says such a horrible thing to any kind of abuse victim.

    Bad enough are the unkind, disdainful assumptions often made about a victim’s emotions and character, when the person does not comply with or conform to popular beliefs about forgiveness (we are not all the same; some of us still believe an abuser’s repentance is the first part of the equation). To add the cruel threat of abandonment by Jesus upon death, is to heap yet another unfair burden on the victim, and can retraumatize/revictimize the person all over again.

    Liked by 1 person

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