Deliver Us From Evil
About the Guest
Can domestic abuse be found in Christian homes too? Absolutely, states Pastor Justin Holcomb. A desire for power and control over someone else is at the root of domestic abuse, Justin says. The best way to avoid an abusive relationship is to not get in one in the first place. Watch how a man treats his mother and other women around him, and you'll have a good idea of how he'll treat you someday.
Justin HolcombJustin is an Episcopal priest (serving as the Canon for Vocations in the Diocese of Central Florida) and teaches theology, philosophy, and Christian thought at Gordon-Conwell-Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously taught at the University of Virginia and Emory University. Justin serves on the boards of REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade) and GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments). He holds two masters degrees from Reformed Theological Seminary...more
Can domestic abuse be found in Christian homes too? Absolutely, states Pastor Justin Holcomb. A desire for power and control over someone else is at the root of domestic abuse, Justin says.
Deliver Us From Evil
Bob: Have you ever wondered why a spouse in an abusive relationship doesn’t look for help? Author, Justin Holcomb, says there are a number of reasons why.
Justin: Who would want to engage the possibility that the person they selected is harming them?—because it feels like: “I made a dumb decision. I’m an idiot!” There’s so much shame involved and fear. Most women have to choose between “Do I live out of this violent home, and then I’ll be homeless?”or “Do I stay in this violent environment?” Most women are picking between homelessness and staying in an abusive situation.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll explore today some of the reasons why spouses continue to stay put in relationships, where there is domestic abuse taking place. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. This is Day 22 of the FamilyLife 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. It’s interesting what we’re talking about today because the prayer subject for today’s prayer challenge is: “How do you adjust in a marriage when things don’t turn out the way you expected they would?”
That’s true for all of us. We bring expectations into a marriage, and then we find out that those expectations aren’t going to be realized the way we thought they might be. We’re encouraging husbands to pray, thanking God for bringing the two of you together in marriage and for a heart that expresses mutual appreciation and support.
We’re encouraging wives to pray that God would help you see one another from His perspective, knowing that your spouse is loved and yet still under construction by God. We hope you have been praying together regularly this month, as husband and wife.
I know many of you have been receiving the daily prayer prompts that are coming via text message, or email, or through the My FamilyLife app. If you’ve not been receiving those prayer prompts, and you’d like to join us for the remaining days of the prayer challenge—and then, if you missed out on the first part of the month, you can start over again and just continue the prayer challenge on an ongoing basis—go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and sign up for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. Again, we’ll send you those prayer prompts each day to help the two of you pray together each day for 30 days. We believe you’ll find that is a powerful and important discipline in a marriage relationship.
Now, the subject we’re addressing today is a tough subject. It’s the issue of domestic abuse. I don’t know if there’s ever been research done on this or not, but I would be interested in knowing whether the incidence of domestic abuse is more or less prevalent among church-going couples.
Dennis: I think, Bob, we had a guest on our show—here earlier, a number of years ago—who indicated that ultra-fundamentalist churches foster men who are in control, stay in control, and abuse their wives and children, both emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially. I don’t know of any statistics—maybe our guest does.
Justin Holcomb joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Justin, welcome back.
Justin: Thank you. Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about this issue. In fundamentalist churches—absolutely—in the church at large—that’s such a wide scope—it’s about the same.
Bob: —as the culture?
Bob: But the more conservative the church is the more it increases? Is that what you’re saying?
Justin: Yes. Because you actually have a divine stamp of approval to do things like dominate—they misconstrue 1 Corinthians—like, “The wife’s body’s yours.” They misinterpret that with a false vision of masculinity. They think that means dominating, as opposed to Ephesians, that says, “Lay down your life the way that Christ did for His church,”—“Lay down your life for your wife.” That’s a different way of understanding relationships. That’s actually very counter-cultural also. One of the gifts that Christians have is—to talk about a Christian view of marriage and what that looks like.
I mean, I’ve joked about this at men’s retreats—I’ve said: “Everyone is talking about submission and everything, and ‘Wives, submit to your husbands.’ Do they realize that the Bible tells us to lay down our life?”—like: “Which one do you want more? Laying down your life or submitting?”
Dennis: You’re talking about the challenge to men—
Dennis: —they are called to give up their lives for their wives, and that means protecting them.
Justin: Yes it does.
Dennis: That’s really at the heart of your book, Is It My Fault?—that you have co-authored with your wife Lindsey. I just need to ask you a basic question: “What’s at the core of domestic violence / domestic abuse? What’s the issue here?”
Justin: At the core is a desire for power and control over somebody else—that’s the main thing. Both sexual abuse and domestic violence is mostly about power and control—having power over.
If you want to look, more biblically and theologically, what you see in the Fall—what’s supposed to happen is—humans were supposed to love God and love their neighbor/ love the other and have this flourishing life of shalom—the Hebrew word for “peace.” When sin intrudes, the first effect of sin that you see in the family is murder and violence. You see false worship—it was an issue of worship—you know, Cain and Abel. You have the bad sacrifice brought; and then out of that is violence.
Genesis 6 [paraphrase] says: “I looked at the hearts of men. They are only evil all the time,”—they did violence to one another. What we’re looking at—domestic abuse and domestic violence—at the core is the effect of sin / is to hate God and to exploit other people. That’s the temptation of the human heart because of the Fall—is to dominate, exploit, [and/or] have power/control over the other.
That’s why, when Jesus says: “Let Me tell you the problem with humans. Love God and love your neighbor,”—you don’t love God, and you need to—and you don’t love your neighbor / you hate your neighbor. “Love your neighbor as yourself,”—when He gave that summary of the Law, He was diagnosing our two-fold problem with God and each other.
Dennis: I had a woman—that I talked to a number of years ago—I said, “Was your husband abusive?”—she had divorced him. She said, “Yes.” I said, “Did you have any idea when you dated that he was an abuser?”
“Oh,” she said: “He put his best foot forward. He was a narcissist. He knew how to sweet-talk me, and we got married. Five years into our marriage, we’re having an argument.” She said, all of a sudden, the back of his hand completely cold-cocked her and caught her off guard. She said, “At that point, fear entered our relationship.”
It then went on to further abuse, later on in the marriage, that ultimately ended up with her husband abandoning her. Sure looked like he had faked Christianity and had no relationship with Christ, but he controlled his wife through that fear.
Bob: Well, Justin—I’ve heard, over and over again, from wives who said: “When we dated, I had no sign/no clue that anything like this happened”; but—on the honeymoon, or three weeks in, or whatever—something happens. It, all of a sudden, emerges. That has to cause every engaged woman, listening to FamilyLife Today, to go, “What should I do?” Is there a way to know, before you marry somebody, whether the potential for abuse is there?
Justin: Some of these narcissists are so good that they hide it from everybody. I’ve heard that version of that story numerous times.
Dennis: That’s what she said.
Dennis: She said, “He was really good.”
Justin: Yes. And that does happen. Imagine, in a Christian context, when you just get married—you’re thinking: “I just hitched my life to this man who did this? What did I just sign up for?” The other extreme—some women feel like they saw some hints of it; but they thought, “Who knew it was going to grow into this?” They feel shame / they feel stupid because they chose when they had, in their mind, some early indications.
One of the things you can actually do is—do this partnering, dating, courting, whatever you do—do that in a community because there are so many eyes. I’ve seen—when you have older married couples / older single people and peers, who are married and single—when you have a community involved in this partnering process, you have other eyes that are a little bit more objective than you because, when you have the dazzling emotions going on, you need these other people.
I’ve seen other people speak up and say: “I don’t know. I don’t think this is a good direction. There’s something wrong. I would wait or, maybe even, break up.”
Now, as you know, frequently, those don’t go very well; but sometimes they do. They say, “You know—I am going to wait,” As soon as the woman says, “I think we should wait,” guess what happens to the controlling guy, who’s faking it? He freaks out. He gets angry. He blames her, and then they manifest. Giving them an opportunity to actually manifest that is a good opportunity.
Bob: I’ve said to a lot of young women, who are considering marriage—I’ve said, “Pay particular attention to how your intended treats his mother and how he treats the waitress at the restaurant.” There’s just something about—it’ll come out in both of those. I don’t know why it’s the waitress and the mom—maybe you can explain that—but you can see it!
Justin: I say the same exact thing—I feel so much better because I thought I just kind of made up some weird thing. The reason I do that is because the way they treat their mother is the most intimate, emotional connection of a woman who has some sway and influence. That’s a role that the wife will play—the proximity / the closeness. The waitress is one because that’s more how he views women in general.
That’s how / that’s why I’ve said it—I want to get both ends of the spectrum: “How does he treat his mom?” / “How does he treat just a woman, whose name he doesn’t know, who is serving food/serving him? How does he relate? Does he non-flirtatiously say, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ ‘Thank you very much,’ or is he really demanding / is he never happy? There’s a lot you can see in both of those relationships.”
Bob: There are listeners, who are hearing us talk about this, and they’re scratching their heads a little bit. They’re saying: “I listen to FamilyLife Today pretty regularly. You guys talk about men loving and leading their wives / about wives respecting, honoring, and submitting to their husbands. Isn’t it that that leads to domestic violence?
“Aren’t those kind of roles in marriage—don’t those just foster domestic violence?”
Justin: No. It’s those things distorted that does that. When those things become the tools used by an abusive man, it distorts it; but when you read Scripture, it says [paraphrase of Ephesians 5:21-32], “Mutually submit to one another.” Then it unpacks that and says, “What does that look like?” It looks like wives respecting their husbands and husbands laying down their life.
When you look at Scripture, you do not see any type of support for this [distorted abuse]. As a matter of fact, you actually have—on the lips of God is, “I hate violence,” over, and over, and over again. He says, “I am on the side of those who have been abused.”
Bob: And in Malachi, He says to those who have dealt treacherously with their wives—He says: “This is why I’m having nothing to do with you. This is why you pray and get no answer because you have dealt treacherously with your wife.”
Justin: The biblical picture of marriage relationships should be a shining light to the world. It should be a neon sign, saying: “Look how good this faith is. Look at how our husbands love their wives and children, and look how the wives respect and love their husbands.”
If we actually had the biblical picture and vision for marriage played out more regularly—if I did—I’m not throwing rocks. I wish my neighbors saw me loving my wife and children the way that I’m called to because I think I’d probably get asked quicker, “So—what do you believe?”
Justin: I really believe that.
Dennis: You say something in the book I think, right now, you just need to put it out there—like it really is: “Why does someone, who may think she is in an abusive relationship, call it what it is and name it?—name it that it is indeed abuse or domestic violence.”
Justin: It’s important to name it because you need to acknowledge the pain that’s happening and the sin that’s occurring. To deny it and to act like it’s not abuse and not sinful is actually—it doesn’t do them a service. It lives in denial. I get it! I mean, who would want to engage the possibility that the person they selected is harming them?—because it feels like: “I made a dumb decision.” There’s so much shame involved and fear. Most women have to choose between “Do I live out of this violent home, and then I’ll be homeless?”or “Do I stay in this violent environment?” Most women are picking between homelessness and staying in an abusive situation. The pressure that they feel is very strong to deny what’s happening to them.
They think: “You know what? I have to stay for the kids,” “I have to stay because, if I leave, I’m violating the plan of God,” “I need to stay because who’s going to believe me? He’s a deacon in the church. How am I supposed to get money for rent, and school, and medicine, and food? What am I supposed to do?”
They feel trapped. So it’s easier not to engage and look through—and then they start realizing, “Well, I feel terror, fear, anxiety whenever he’s around.” They look at how they actually feel toward him—but that’s not the only basis—we don’t want to be just subjective on, “How do you feel about this man?” but start looking at his behaviors: “Oh, he’s dominating, he’s humiliating, he’s controlling,” and these other dimensions that he does and how they relate.
Dennis: There’s something you do in the book I want you to do right now—it’s on pages 32 and 33. It describes, in different terms, the different types of abusers that are out there.
Bob: And by the way, we have this on our website. If folks want to download the chapter that this is from, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and download it. Just follow along with what you’re talking about here.
Justin: Well, these are the signs you’re in an abusive relationship. These are eight categories or personas abusers commonly exhibit.
One, the bully—he glares, shouts, and sulks.
Two, the jailer—stops you from working or seeing friends, keeps you in the house, and he charms your friends and family.
Dennis: There really are guys who try to lock their spouse up, both emotionally and physically.
Justin: They take away their cell phones / they don’t let them drive.
Dennis: They don’t let them go out with other friends.
Justin: No—especially, not family because the family might rescue them.
The head worker—he puts you down. Tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly, stupid, [and/or] useless.
Four, persuader—he cries to get his way. He says he loves you to get his way. He threatens to kill himself or hurt the children.
Five, the liar—he denies any abuse. He says it was only a slap—blames drinking, or drugs, or not having a job.
Number six is the bad father—he says you’re a bad mother, and he uses access to harass you / turns the children against you.
Seven—he’s the king of his castle. He treats you like a servant and says women are for sex, cooking, and housework. He expects sex on demand. He controls all the money.
And last—eight—the sexual controller. He abuses you—he won’t accept, “No,” for an answer. He sulks unless you give in to what he wants, sexually.
Those are eight different personas. He doesn’t have to do all eight of those. Any one of those is a persona of how the abuse can manifest, but you’ll likely see a number of these.
Bob: A guy, who’s a chronic abuser, who fits this mold—I mean, you’ve said it’s about power and it’s about control—but what buries this in a man’s heart? How does a guy grow up to be this kind of guy?
Justin: Some of them have had this modeled. That doesn’t excuse it by any stretch because they choose to abuse.
Justin: So we’re going to factors that accentuate this. They are responsible for their choice to abuse women and children. Some of them have seen this modeled—this is, to them, what was the norm for how you relate.
Another one is the insecurity that we talked about—men who are insecure that they can’t—because of the accomplishments of their wife or for various reasons. What we see is that, when there’s an increase in unemployment, there’s also an increase in domestic abuse because the man feels disempowered / he feels useless. He needs to control something in his life.
Another one is—many men have an issue with intimacy. Being vulnerable is scary to them. It goes, hand in hand, with the insecurity thing—where the person, who sees and knows them the best—they have to be held in control and in check.
One—that’s not an issue, which many people go to is—they go, “Oh, he just has an anger problem.” What’s surprising—clearly there’s an anger problem—but it’s not because of some rage they can’t control. What we’ve noticed is—that most abusive men / well, physically, when they abuse—they usually abuse in places that are covered by clothes or hair. They’re very strategic and rational about that.
They also don’t physically abuse in front of friends and family—they do it when they’re not around.
So, it’s not like they snap into rage mode, where they can’t control it, regardless of who’s there. They’re actually very thoughtful and rational about how they’re going to abuse. They don’t verbally abuse in front of the family and friends. It’s never seen by anyone else because they’re really, really good at hiding it. It’s not really an anger/rage issue whatsoever.
Dennis: It’s interesting—and I want you to comment on this. My son is a counselor in Nashville, Tennessee. Samuel did his graduate work before he became a counselor. One of the specialties he had was group work with men, who were abusive in relationships. Now, I know what he told me about the profile of these guys, from a socio-economic standpoint. Share with our listeners the profile of that group. We all have the picture in our minds and think, “What would a group of guys look like, who are beating their wives or being abusive to their wives?”
Justin: Those people think that they’re poor and uneducated. My Lindsey—she was leading one of these groups also. I went to go pick her up when we were dating, and all of these men walked out.
I thought: “Well, they must have some other group here? Is there some amazing leaders of the community group also meeting in this building right now?” because out walked lawyers, professors, ministers, every race, every religion, every age group, every socio-economic—I was shocked!
I finally walked into the room because all of the men left. I said, “Who were all those guys?” She kind of looked at me and laughed. She said, “Those are the abusive men I’ve been telling you about.” It hit me that I assumed they would all be uneducated and poor—that was my assumption.
Dennis: Your words are virtually the same as my son, Samuel’s. I mean, he said: “Dad, you would never spot an abuser. He can be so cunning, so sharp, and so persuasive. You wouldn’t ever think he would be abusive to his wife.”
Justin: And imagine the woman’s experience—who, behind closed doors, when no one is seeing, has this experience of terror and fear—and then, when they walk out, they see how good that man is at deceiving everyone else about who he really is.
That’s one of the reasons they feel so trapped—that there’s no / who’s going to believe them? Some of these men are amazing at this duplicity and this deception that they feel like there’s no way out.
That’s why the message—that God knows, sees, and hears, that He delivers us from evil—Jesus wouldn’t have taught us to pray “Deliver us from evil,” in the Lord’s Prayer if He didn’t mean it. That’s the message that they need to hear—is that He sees, and He knows, and He is more sovereign and creative than we could imagine. He can deliver us.
Now, it might not be magically, miraculously, spot-on, after you pray it; but He has promised that is His name’s sake. What He cares about is redeeming what evil has done and rescuing those who need deliverance.
Dennis: And to that woman, who’s listening to us today, who is in a relationship, where she’s wondering if it’s abusive; more than likely, it is. Isolation is not your friend.
You have got to find some people who can create a safe place, and help you get protection, and also get a plan in place to be able to, not just survive, but know how to go forward.
Bob: Well, and you ought to go to our website and download some of the chapters from Justin’s book, which is called Is It My Fault?, because it gives you some very practical coaching on this subject / some diagnostic tools. One of the chapters is called “Making a Safety Plan.” It helps you with exactly what we’ve been talking about here today.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see a copy of Justin’s book there called Is It My Fault? Then there’s an additional tab that says, “Resources from the book.” When you click on that, you’ll have access to the chapters that we’ve mentioned. Again, thanks to Justin and his publisher for making this available to our listeners.
Again, the title of Justin’s book is: Is It My Fault? You can order a copy, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, these are difficult issues to talk about; and yet, this is the reality for a lot of families. At FamilyLife Today, our goal/our commitment is to provide practical biblical help for the issues that families are facing. Some of them are tougher issues than others, but we want to offer godly wisdom on what to do when you face these kinds of issues in a marriage or in a family situation.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to explore the question we haven’t asked yet, and that is whether abuse in a marriage provides someone with appropriate biblical grounds for the dissolution of that marriage. If not, what do you do? We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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