The Suffering Among Us: When Power Leads To Abuse, We Must Respond. -- By: Sandra Dufield

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 015:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: The Suffering Among Us: When Power Leads To Abuse, We Must Respond.
Author: Sandra Dufield

The Suffering Among Us: When Power Leads To Abuse, We Must Respond.

Sandra Dufield

Sandra Dufield is a former copastor of Hortonville Friends Church in Hortonville, Indiana. She is herself a survivor of an abusive marriage and is now involved as a volunteer in community education for domestic abuse within evangelical communities.

In recent years, Christians have acknowledged that domestic abuse exists within the evangelical community. Some churches have faced this reality and sought resources for healing and reconciliation. But while some have found blessing and growth when they have addressed this concern openly others remain uncomfortable when any significant attention is given to this subject.

Churches that have responded to the reality of abuse in their midst do so because of the biblical calls to truth and compassion toward those who suffer (Ps. 72:1-4, 12-14; Eccles. 4:1; Isa. 58:4-6; Jer. 21:12, 22:16; Ezek. 45:9). In these communities, abusive actions and attitudes that may exist are not seen as private matters—excused and immunized simply as losses of temper or annoyance. Instead, they are seen as hindrances to the message of reconciliation within the body of Christ.

When we look closely at the motives behind inappropriate actions and attitudes in our relationships, we find that abuse is more common than we thought. It may be something as seemingly harmless as constantly and purposefully ignoring a spouse’s known emotional needs; disrespect, constant yelling, or the silent treatment; or something more severe—throwing things, kicking, and hitting. Some evangelicals are naming these actions and attitudes “abusive,” for it is hardened hearts and demands for one’s own way that are behind the actions. Abusers are knowingly inconsiderate, and their actions are intended to punish, diminish, manipulate, control, or intimidate. The present and future cost of trying to live in this kind of environment is a brain bathed in years of stress and fear, anxiety and anger, and it can lead to health problems, from depression to heart disease. Abuse is improper stewardship of the lives to which one has been entrusted, and understood as an intentional stumbling block that can lead to the sins of bitterness, contempt, disrespect, hopelessness, and despair within those we are called to love and protect.

The Roots Of Abuse

Although we say that abuse is wrong for Christians to engage in, we may be surprised to discover how significantly Scripture addresses situati...

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