On Turning the Other Cheek

Disclaimer: The following post is intended to address the phrase, “turn the other cheek” as used by some helpers and pastors to encourage victims of abuse to simply accept and endure hurt. My intention is not to prescribe specific means of resistance during individual acts of abuse. Each of Jesus’ illustrations in Matthew chapter occur in public as resistance to an oppressive government and while some principles may be transferable they are not directly intended to speak to a wife’s personal resistance to her husband.

Recently some readers and I were discussing the principle of “turning the other cheek” as it may apply to domestic abuse, and specifically as it applies to oppression and resistance. That discussion seemed to indicate an understanding that “turning the other cheek” means a Christian’s response to hurt is to either offer ourselves up for additional harm in the spirit of Christ or sin against our spouse by retaliating. This either or view is unfortunate and possibly deadly for victims of domestic violence who feel the need to passively receive evil treatment rather than responding to evil, which I believe is consistent with Matthew 5.

“But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the left also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”

Am I Supposed to be a Doormat?

An initial reading of the words of Jesus may lead one to think that, as a Christian, we have no other recourse when faced with oppressive behavior than to stand idly by practicing a bizarre form of “doormat” theology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus offers this sermon to a group of followers living under oppression to the Roman Empire. Those who resist (read resist violently) are arrested as traitors, and sentenced to death as terrorists. The thieves on the cross were more than likely not killed for stealing bread but for insurgency, attempting to steal power. The trumped up charge against Jesus himself was that he claimed to be the King of the Jews. So, in this context Jesus highlights three real life scenarios that his audience may experience.

1. A backhand to face by a Roman soldier, official, or collaborator. This would have been a slap of disrespect like one given to an animal, or slave and to my knowledge a culturally acceptable act. The right hand striking the right cheek of the victim. Jesus does not appear to approve of this behavior but cautions his followers not to resist violently by striking back, but rather exposing the aggressors privilege by offering them the left cheek. This posture forces the aggressor to choose whether to abandon the assault or strike your left cheek which would, more than likely, be with a fist.

2. Leave the courtroom naked. Jesus’ audience, with a few exceptions, were not wealthy individuals. To have someone sue you for your coat is significant. Again Jesus encourages us not to physically fight for our stuff, but rather abandon our garments in the courtroom. In other words expose the aggressors privilege by forcing them to publicly deal with the shame of leaving you high and dry.

3. Going the extra mile is not about effort but nonviolent resistance. Roman soldiers in Jesus day could commandeer Jews off the street to carry their gear for one mile under the law. Willingly going the extra mile puts pressure on the aggressor. Once again highlighting his privilege and forcing him into a place of discomfort as others see you continue to walk past the cut off point.

Jesus taught his followers the power of resistance and the importance of holding oppressors accountable, by highlighting the sinfulness of their behavior by exposing their privilege.

Final Thought

Over the years I have seen pastors struggle with cases of abuse claiming that both parties are abusive. They relay stories of how they see him as overbearing but that she is prone to fits of rage and abuse herself. I sometimes call these the “big buts” as abuse is sometimes minimized by saying, “yes he does this BUT she does that.” My challenge to these thoughts is to consider whether one party is in fact abusive and one is resisting the abuse rather than assume the behavior is mutual. My friend Leslie Vernick does a good job distinguishing between controlling abuse and reactive abuse in her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Certainly, responding to abuse with behavior that mimics or mirrors abuse is not the healthiest of choices and may sometimes be sinful but that doesn’t mean that resistance should not happen.

What do you think?

Can resistance be a godly response to abuse? How can the church promote and encourage resistance over reactive abuse?

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32 Responses to On Turning the Other Cheek

  1. healingInHim says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have had the ‘forgive & forget’; ‘turn the other cheek’, etc verses thrown as me countless times. As years passed I was becoming concerned with my character as I felt so emotionally out of control and being chastised for ‘anger’. After countless years of questionable Bible based counsel so much was made clear with Leslie’s book. Although, there was sinful anger at times; I now feel somewhat comforted in knowing that I was actually living out ‘reactively’. You become physically and emotionally fatigued and want to defend what is right or what is wrong. The local churches NEVER helped. I have always had to seek pure Biblical guidance from leaders which live ‘very far away’.
    The church could encourage resistance by first of all becoming more accountable to God for the way they interpret Scripture. Many must be open to humbling themselves and stop enabling abusers. Now, if they were brave and read your posting from the pulpit … hmm, we may witness some in the pews either leaving or at least squirming.
    I believe many in leadership and within the church can not help because they are spiritually blind; at least that seems to be what I am experiencing.
    Thank you, again for your ministry along with others who truly care an I look forward to hearing from other commenters.

    • HIH, I hear you. I run into so many pastors who promote a “plain reading of Scripture” insinuating that they are not reading the Bible through a lens of presuppositions. Anyway, passages like these are often read from a majority culture position, meaning as a man in power, living in a country in power, with little thought to oppression. But, it doesn’t have to stay this way. I have meet so many wonderful pastors who genuinely want to help, but are operating in ignorance. This will take time, gentleness, and patience but I have hope. Thanks for the comments. -Peace

  2. Chris, I really like your points 1, 2 and 3. So rarely is the ‘turn the other cheek’ principle taught that way. If I may sum it up, it would be:
    Expose and highlighting the oppressor’s privilege and by your carefully chosen action, put him into a place of discomfort. Bring him to shame for how unjustly and cruelly he is treating you.

    It reminds me of a bloke I knew who did time in military prison for going AWOL (he and his mate went AWOL because the mate was being so heavily bullied by fellow soldiers and the army did nothing to stop the bullying). In hte prison, my friend was given a concrete bed with a thin mattress to lie on, and only one blanket in the middle of winter. He decided to sleep every night without the blanket. It was his way of showing the jailers that they could not master him and that no matter what they did to him he would — with dignity — show them up for how cruel they were.

    I would like to mention though, that I don’t very much go for the terms ‘controlling abuse’ and ‘reactive abuse’. I think that all abuse is controlling. And behavior that aggressively resists abuse or tries to pay back the abuser by inflicting harm, is not (in my books) ‘reactive abuse’ because it is not abuse. It may be violent; it may be wrong; it may be discourteous or catty or snarky, but it is not abuse. For me, the abuse is defined by a pattern of power and control that springs from a mindset of entitlement and unmerited superior privilege; and the reactive resistive stuff that victims sometimes do is not, therefore, abuse because it does not come from that mindset of entitlement and unwarranted privilege, nor is it being done to maintain ungodly control over the other. Rather, it is being done to resist oppression. And even when resistance to oppression is discourteous or rude or even physically violent, that does not make it abuse.

    But that’s just me and my little terminological peccadillo!

    • healingInHim says:

      Barb – I appreciate your “terminological peccadillo”. The terminology for ‘reactive abuse’ at first bothered me because in many ways I have felt that I was attempting to “finally” defend myself after years of emotional and *sexual turmoil. So, personally, I haven’t felt abusive, however for the sake of appeasing my spouse I have used this terminology as he has accused me of being abusive. He never called me abusive until I finally said I was going to be more honest with our adult children. He suddenly discovered the ministries I was receiving help from and began reading the articles and started ‘coining phrases from them against me’.
      *I have a difficult time recognizing that I have been physically abused, however, this past year of intense counseling has me realizing that I have been in denial.
      It is so sad that very often the victim’s defense mechanism is alluded to as being abusive or the church would make us feel that we are not compliant or not forgiving, etc when all we are attempting to do is indeed thwart ongoing oppression. Good point, Barb. Thank you.

    • Thanks Barbara, it’s always encouraging to get affirmation on a Biblical position, especially when you feel like you’re swimming up stream half the time. I struggle with terms all the time, in fact my partner in the bipps group cringes sometimes when one our guys uses a descriptive term as she puts, “be aware of what you say because Chris values words…he will hold you accountable.” But, there are some things that are tricky. We are fixing to begin a group for women who use force in our program, and I’m interested in learning from the ladies in that group. As you may know most women convicted of DV crimes are also, more than likely, victims and in fact the force they used was probably a form of resistance. Anyway, I hope we can strike a balance of providing victim care and support with local resources as well as touch a few hearts with peace. I’ll try and keep ya’ll updated. Thanks for your friendship and support. -Peace

  3. Katherine says:

    I agree the reaction can be violent or angry. I have had that reaction. I was beginning to believe that I was abusive also like my husband said. If I am I want to correct it and if I’m not I want a better way to respond to abuse than I have done. I’m trying to not react. As soon as I say Or even appear unhappy about anything I’m instantly in trouble. I’m even yelled at what’s wrong now! As if I am yelling?? That I’m not understanding. I’m accused of being mad all the time. And actually I have been. He leaves without a good bye, arrives with a I need a nap, eats, plays video games until midnight and so the cycle goes. Nothing seems to break it. And if something comes up that interrupts he grouches big time. Yep, I’m unhappy with being neglected and I’m unhappy with all the responsibilities on me, no support, no help, no love. Yep, it makes me angry. I’m tired of being angry.
    For one week he hasn’t played video games. But he let the kids play them Friday, sat, and Sunday. He made a really big deal out of the fact that he took care of meals and all Saturday and Sunday because I’m sick. The crazy thing is it made me mad. Made me mad he could do this all along and that after 17 yrs a pastor told him he has to stay off the games etc and he did. It made me mad he could do this all along and didn’t. I’m grateful he did do it all and for some reason I’m mad at the same time. So I’m told I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill and not forgiving and rehashing etc. Well, I guess I am. I’m not sure why I’m mad. It’s like well, I’m doing it now so get over it. Don’t talk about the past I’ve changed or I’m trying. Something doesn’t settle with me. Am I unforgiving? Is it a minor thing? One week wipes it all clean? I guess.

    • Katherine says:

      I don’t want it to be kiss my feet and worship me but I don’t know. Something. Okay I’m sorry I was wrong. But I’m trying now. And so there we go. I talked to him until I’m blue in the face about getting off the games, spending time with us etc. For 16 yrs and He has always said he doesn’t like women’s company. He doesn’t want to do anything. He’s just waiting to die. And now that the pastor says to remedy the problem by getting off the game he stops, tells me he wants to be with me and do something with me and I’m supposed to just be like…click…okay great lets do it! Where do you want to go? Seems crazy. I should be excited, maybe even happy about it. I just don’t buy it yet. Other things don’t seem right. But then again maybe I like being mad?

      • Ellie says:

        I wonder if you’re mad because he valued the pastor’s advice more than yours. That would be aggravating. And his making a big deal out of doing what he’s supposed to be doing anyway doing is a red flag of false repentance to me. I think that might be why you find it irksome.

        I love what Chris says about about seeking Christ to honor God, not as leverage to get your husband to do anything. LOVE IT!

        A loved one is in a very difficult situation. Her husband gas lights in ways that would blow your mind. I mean he really has to think of these things for a while. I see how he treats her, how mean and disrespectful he is to her, but her reaction undermines her ability to get any help from those around her. She is vengeful and looking for ways to make him look foolish and horrible. It just backfires. It’s so awful to watch. So if I can offer you any encouragement it would be to do right, do it for Christ’s sake; because you love and trust Him, and do not seek revenge. You can trust God to vindicate you.

    • Katherine, I can’t speak to all the aspects of your current situation, but it is obviously not healthy. I’m sure most would agree that you have a right to be angry. I’d encourage you to keep working on the proper responses you mentioned earlier. Even if you “react” perfectly it will more than likely not change your husband or the situation. Your maturity in Christ is not a strategy for ending abuse, but rather a means of honoring God in your pursuit of safety, sanity, and accountability for your husband. I love Ephesians 4:31-32. in the context of anger Paul offers six reactions to life that take the form of sinful anger, and then three godly responses to anger, Compassion, Kindness, and Forgiveness. Now, please remember that these virtues are not merely “being nice” but active responses to sin, and involve a motive but also insist on conditions, such as repentance for forgiveness.

      • Katherine says:

        31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
        31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
        32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
        32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
        :-/ so I am bitter. 😥 the never ending problem.

        Your last sentence….I’m not sure I am clearly understanding.

    • No, I wasn’t trying to insinuate that you are bitter. The passage in Ephesians 4 says in your anger do not sin, assuming that when we’re wronged we are not limited to simply reacting, that would be the six sinful responses of vs 31 that we are all prone to, but called to action specifically kindess, compassion, and forgiveness. Sometimes when I say words like compassion, kindness, and forgiveness people tend to hear me say, “be nice and accomediating.” However, when people harm us the proper response is anger that takes action. So, how do we have compassion for an abusive person? Acknowledge their rebellion against God has place them in dire need. They are in danger of God’s judgment and I call them to repentance. More than likely they don’t respond. Do I then attack them In rage or brawling to borrow the language? No, kindness calls me to take action for their Benifit so I may call the authorities, or leave them as a means of consequence or any number of actions that communicate tha I can not stand by while you destroy others. So, the last sentence was general push back against the whole forgive and forget notion that forgiveness is something we offer without condition. We can work on developing a spirit of forgiveness, ready to forgive as a means of combating bitterness but forgiveness, in this case, requires repentance.

      • Katherine says:

        Oh 🙂 okay,
        I am responding correctly it just doesn’t feel good at all. I’m pretty emotional today about the whole thing too. The weekend is upon us. It’s a long time until Monday.
        I’m feeling resistant to forgiving because I feel like the outward repentance I’m seeing doesn’t have staying power and I’m afraid of being tricked into staying (for years) only to be at square one again when or if that time comes. Patience. But, I am a tad bitter too. That is an on going struggle I’m working on. Thank you for responding quickly.

  4. Came alongside says:

    There are abusers who can feel shame?

  5. Rose says:

    Great discussion! I too agreed with reactive abuse until reading your comments Barbara. I agree with you. Abuse is more than getting angry or even mean back.
    It’s the cycle too, the working themselves up with self righteous, blaming and vengeful preoccupations. The gathering of ammunition for the payback.
    So let’s encourage women to find healthier ways of self defense. :))

  6. Ellie says:

    Hi Chris, I feel this is a very difficult text to try to apply in a target’s situation. I feel that this application is dangerous. This application assumes that the abuser can even feel shame. Mine can’t. And if he does for even a short time, he gets REALLY angry WITH ME. He has and will continue to find ways to convince himself that I am the source, the reason for his embarrassment.

    Or he’ll use it to make himself a victim/martyr/hero. I lived in a part of town that he absolutely despises. I mean he associates that part of town with losers, failure, lack of ambition, all that is wrong in the world (according to him), but it’s where I could afford to live. He was looking to move over there and it would make him the hero for lowering himself with his high priced job etc, to that part of town, for the sake of his kids… He can twist anything and make me the fool and him the hero.

    Most reasonable people can see what I left behind and where I am now and easily surmise that my divorcing him wasn’t to get his money (as he tries to convince himself). But until God moves on his heart, he will not.

    In my opinion, NOTHING and I mean nothing, a target does should be in an effort to teach her abuser anything. All is done to protect herself and her kids and the rest is left in God’s hands. I talked about this in my post at ACFJ Trying to get revenge on an abuser is like trying to teach a fish to climb a tree. http://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/06/06/trying-to-get-revenge-on-an-abuser-is-like-trying-to-teach-a-fish-to-climb-a-tree/ I realize you aren’t recommending revenge, but you are suggesting that he can be shamed. In my experience it’s not possible except for brief moments and that shame is quickly shifted to anger at his target.

    • Ellie, thanks for the insight. I get what you’re saying and totally agree that victims are in no way responsible for an abusers behavior. My goal was to address the use of Matthew five and in particular the phrase, turn the other cheek. I attempted to clarify the context and possible application to oppression. I’m sorry if it communicated a lack of concern for victims, or offered dangerous instruction. I try to keep my post concise, they are not only a means of informing readers, but also practice for me as I attempt to develop my writing ability. I try to keep them between 500-700 words so I know I’ll always be missing some angle. Maybe some day I can say everything in 500 words…a boy can dream 🙂 I also want to clearly state that revealing a man’s privilege is a community project. I’m not sure how that will/should look in the local church yet, but it is not the victims sole responsibility to reveal privilege. Thanks for the insight. -Peace

      • Ellie says:

        I see where you’re coming from. But I am concerned that any exposure that the abuser is aware of will put a target in great danger. I don’t know how to apply “turn the other cheek” here except to say that we cannot, should not, seek revenge. Any time my abuser and the abusers I know feel shame or even discomfort their families pay for it. They are masters of shifting the blame. In my experience abuser who has access to his targets will retaliate if he feels shame or embarrassment. The best way I found to use the community and to reveal privilege is to document it. The community who wants to see it will. But X and his allies will not. Once during a verbal berating, I called his parents and just left the line open so they could hear. They didn’t want to hear so they hung up. Even doing that much was a risk. If he had known I was doing that, I don’t know that I would’ve survived the night.

    • I can’t really disagree with any of that. Not sure what you’d prefer I’d said? I try to reveal the faulty nature of privilege to our guys and I have seen some experience shame. Not to say we shame them, I’ve never seen the benifit in humiliating people, but rather in exposing privilege and how it impacts others. Some do in fact feel the weight of discomfort. Romans 12 equates it to hot coals as Paul covers much of the same material regarding revenge, and the oppressive government. The New Testiment compels us to overcome evil with good. I will not recommend that victims use violence against thier partners if possible but also never suggest they simply accept torment and welcome abuse. Jesus calls us to creativity and the possibility of a third way. -Peace

      • Ellie says:

        I don’t know. I think there is the issue of the heart and the motives of the target of the abuser. In my case,when I was furious, angry, humiliated, and in the depths of despair, I would be tempted to think of ways to repay my abuser for what he had done. And that only made me more miserable. I would pour out my heart to God and He would comfort me. At some point the Holy Spirit taught me to respond in love and in my case that meant leaving my abuser. So when I left, I did it as a way of loving X, it was the only way I had left to stand against the depravity that I saw consuming the man I loved.

        The people who refused to accept what X really is still don’t see it. All that I did, I did because I loved him and hoped it could help him. He even told me once that he did could see that I must love him if I still wanted to be with him after all he’s done, but he took it back a week later. Very odd. But a sermon by Tim Keller, http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/rejecting-real-jesus, helped me understand that X is rejecting Christ, not me. In all of this, I have continually sought the Lord, cried out to Him, clung to Him. And He is faithful to vindicate me in ways I couldn’t have thought of. X’s porn habit followed the natural path of lust and he committed adultery with a married subordinate. He was exposed and not by me (but I was still blamed by his allies). Although the thought of him touching her devastated me, I could see how God allowed X to see the fruit of his depravity and and vindicate me at the same time. Throughout the ordeal of his criminal trial for hurting me, I was praying and wondering what I ought to be doing, not because I wanted X to suffer, but because I was seeking the Lord’s will to know if the trial would be used to bring X to repentance. A deal was made and the DA asked if I was OK with it. I was.

        None of what I did or what I do today is to retaliate. I have boundaries that guard my heart from his Sith powers (his words, even his voice can easily fog my brain). X and his allies claim that my boundaries are disrespectful and unkind. But I do what I do because I want to see God glorified, not X suffering. I cannot CANNOT do any of that in my own strength. It is only through Christ. I asked God to be glorified and I trust that He is, even when X and his allies accuse and blame.

        In my case, turning the other cheek is not seeking revenge; it’s not seething, not clenching my jaw, not taking the bait when X tries to argue and accuse. For me going the extra mile has meant being flexible with his visitation schedule. To me letting him have the advantage in court was allowing the deal in the criminal trial and then in the divorce, striking a deal that was financially in his favor but giving me the rights I feel are more important than money. That isn’t what Matthew 5 looks like for others that I know, but it’s how God has directed me at this time. I do what I do because I love and trust God. His vindication has been amazing. I think that deep down, X feels the burning coals, but he quickly flips it back to blame me. Knowing him as I do, I am almost certain he is even feeling sorry for Ray Rice right now and telling himself that Rice’s target must’ve been asking for it. Until X surrenders to Christ, he will be allergic to shame. Others see him flaunting his privilege and when they tell me about what they notice, it helps me to avoid falling for his tricks. So that’s good. I feel that having the community that DOES see what he’s up to has been very healing to me as I have learned to base reality in truth instead of how X feels that day. But X and his allies won’t feel the sting without divine intervention.

      • I’m replying here not just to Chris but also to Ellie and anyone else reading this thread (and the blog set up provides ‘reply’ buttons only on some comments but not on comments that more deeply nested in the comments thread. . . )

        It sounds to me from Ellie’s comment 12 Sept 10.38 pm that she is quite rightly and wisely talking about how she believed she could best apply the ‘turn the other cheek’ principle to her abuser. And she recognizes that not all abusers are the same and that another victim of abuse might choose different action to apply the ‘turn the other cheek’ to her own situation.

        I suppose that the best way to discuss this perplexing stuff is to allow each victim to creatively apply the ‘turn the other cheek’ principle in the way that best suits her situation.

        Naturally, if she is accorded this liberty and is not told ‘You should. . . ‘ or ‘You ought to. . . ‘ or ‘This is what turn the other cheek will look like in all circumstances. . . ‘ she will feel free to choose her own responses, taking in to account
        a) her abuser, where he is on the spectrum of abusiveness, his typical MOs and patterns, the extent and nature of his network of allies, etc.,
        (b) her own level of safety and the level of emotional risk she is willing to face at that time,
        (c) the advice of any victim-advocates who are supporting her and helping her assess her level of risk, and
        (d) any other factors that she feels may pertain to her situation.

        So when we accord the victim the liberty to creatively choose her own responses to the abuser’s privilege and sinful conduct, we implicitly honor her ability and creativity to make godly wise responses and choices.

        Of course, If we feel concerned that she is putting herself at unwise risk, we can tell her that. And if we observe her responses and believe that she is seeking to take vengeance on the abuser, rather than leaving vengeance to the Lord, then we can caution her not to do that, but we need to try to voice that caution in such a way that we do not break the bonds of respect and trust we may have built with her. And we always remain open to her giving us more information about the back-story — and about and her own perception of the abuser’s patterns of power and control.

        Chris, you gave three examples from Jesus’ teaching: turning the other cheek, letting the offender take your cloak, and going the extra mile. They were each good examples and I appreciated your explanation of them.

        I think that there may be a potential problem however in this sentence of yours:

        “Jesus taught his followers the power of resistance and the importance of holding oppressors accountable, by highlighting the sinfulness of their behavior by exposing their privilege.”

        Why do I see a problem in that sentence? Only faintly is it a problem, perhaps, but is it a problem. As we can see, Ellie (and potentially therefore other readers as well) heard you as implying that because it is *important* to hold abusers accountable and to highlight the sinfulness of their behavior and expose their privilege, you meant that all victims ought to do this.

        Now Chris, I don’t think you meant to *should* on victims or write a prescriptive recipe that instructed or commanded victims on how to highlight the sinfulness of their abusers’ behaviour or to how to expose their privilege. However, perhaps this little discussion shows us how easy it is to inadvertently write things that seem to be *should-ing* on victims.

        As a victim/survivor myself, I know how easy it was for me, especially in the first few years of coming out of the fog and leaving my abuser, to feel that a writer or teacher was *should-ing* on me, telling me what I *ought* to do. And so often, that hurt. And it did not acknowledge or honour my liberty and creativity in applying a principle in the way that seemed safest to me in my unique circumstances.

        Exposing the abuser’s privilege may be something that is relatively safe and sensible for a facilitator of a men’s behaviour change program to do. It may not be safe for a victim to do in her particular context. Or it may be safe for her to do sometimes, but not other times. Praise God that victims discern their own individual levels of safety and risk and make strategic decisions on a moment by moment basis!

        Also, I think it may help us all to remember that Jesus himself did not always expose the abuser’s privilege. Sometimes he was just silent, not saying or doing anything that exposed the abuser’s privilege:
        And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15:2-5 ESV)

        And sometimes he just walked away from his abusers:
        And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:29-30 ESV)

      • And I think too that this long discussion highlights how difficult it is to write a blog on this topic when you are writing to a mixed audience, some of whom are survivors, some of whom may (we hope!) be pastors, and some of whom may be abusers (we wish! but that would presuppose they wanted to change . . . )

        I appreciate you dilemma in who you are writing for Chris and I think you are brave to jump in and have a go anyway, even though you find it maddeningly difficult to figure out who you are writing for! And I don’t blame you for that difficulty. It is a real difficulty.

        Perhaps (ideally?) you would be writing for pastors who want to learn better how to understand and deal with domestic abuse. Good luck with developing that audience! [Did you detect a shade of cynicism there? you were probably right.] . . . However I don’t want to be too cynical: there may be an some pastors who want to learn — an audience which you could seek and attract, and then nurture and develop. 🙂

    • Thanks ladies, I appreciate helping me think through this stuff. You know Ellie, I need reminded that I’m not taking the same risk that a victim/Survivior would be taking when I confront an abusive man, and I try to do my best to make sure the target, as you put it, is safe before I do so. Truth is, I know that most pastors/leaders are not confronting this behavior and are in fact often making it worse. This has to change. I cringed a little this week as I heard well-meaning Chritian men respond to the Ray Rice abuse with a bullying, violent solution, as if Jesus would want us to physical assault Mr. Rice and teach him a lesson, and it was even worse that I heard men claim everyone was over-reacting, or even blame his wife. I guess we have a long way to go. Barbara, you’re right that this process has been/ is a little maddening. I know there are pastors reading, and I know that some former clients of mine are reading but they have no interest or little time to interact. In fact the most common request I have from pastors are for resources, which is good, and the constant, “you need to write a book” comment as if I can Just whip one of those up 🙂 This blog has been fun as well, I don’t regret it, but it is so difficult to cover this topic concisely. Being consise in each post is important to me because I need to improve as a writer. it is kind of funny when the comments are longer than the post, but I guess that’s not uncommon. Thanks again y’all. Continue to pray for me, and keep those comments coming, even the long ones 🙂

      • Chris, it is heartening to know that pastors are asking you for resources and urging you to write a book. If I may, I’d like to give you some of my thoughts . . .

        When one writes a book it is a very arduous and time consuming process. Jeff Crippen wrote his book A Cry For Justice in 3 months; that is a very short period of time, but he had done a lot of research and reading in the many months prior to that, and he was NOT administering a busy blog at the time (the ACFJ blog was not yet started, or only germinally so, I may not have the time frame exact there. . )

        It took me three years to write Not Under Bondage. And many more years trying to find a publisher and then, once I accepted that I would not find a publisher, I bit the bullet and had to publish it myself — so had to learn how to be a publisher which took at least another year, because I was single parenting at the same time. . .

        Chris, I am thinking that you would not have to learn how to be a publisher, and even if you did self-publish you could do so through some web based firm like Lulu (that is not a plug, I just happen to now that name but not others). But the book writing time would be . . . well, as long as it takes. And who knows how long that would be.

        I’m thinking of several things here. In no particular order, here they are:
        With pastors asking you for resources, would you be able to recommend to them that they read Jeff Crippens’ book — at least in the interim till you get one published?

        If you do write a book, I suggest you take pains to not just replicate what Jeff Crippen has said in his book. Books sell best when they address a topic in a way that previous authors and books have not covered. Hasten slowly, carefully read the books that have already been published in your subject area, and try to discern for what is missing from all those books that you, Chris, can contribute with your special training, skill set and experience. And try to figure out how to match that with what the needs of pastors most are.

        I think if you can hone and refine you mission so to speak, and your eventual end product, whether that be a book or just a very informative blog that pastors can use for self-training purposes, then you will contribute most effectively to this kingdom work. Mulling and fine tuning to discern your purpose and how to fit your skill set to the needs of your audience is probably not going to happen overnight. This is new territory, most pastors have not done this before. But calibrating your mission and fitting it to the needs of an audience is worth doing.

        Since you have pastors following your blog and asking you for resources, maybe you might like to refer them to our blog for some of the resources they need, at least in the interim. We have a very extensive list of resources http://cryingoutforjustice.com/resources/ and we have ways to search our blog by keyword, category or tag.

        Also, maybe you might like to survey pastors or open up conversations with them to find out more about a) what resources *they* think they need and b) what resources *you* think they need. Those two things can be slightly different, as we know. :-/ Many pastors think they ‘get it’ when in fact they need to have a lot deeper education involving a recalibration of their theology and their approach to marriage problems before they can really start to get a grip of what is required to make an intelligent and biblically astute response to cases of domestic abuse in their own congregations.

        Pastoral pride is often the first barrier, and in my observation many pastors fail to jump this first barrier. Put simply: they resent being told that they don’t get it. And they tune out and reject our message.

        Sorry for another long comment!

      • healingInHim says:

        RE: Barbara Roberts says: September 13, 2014 at 9:45 pm
        Chris I felt somewhat concerned at the prospects of you thinking you should write a book … Barbara stated her suggestions very well and am so glad she made her “long comment”:-)
        It’s difficult to express how thankful I am to hear that there “are” pastors seeking resources. Hopefully, it’s not just for educational purposes. I pray that they be humbled and angered enough to reach a point like Pastor Jeff Crippen and say ‘enough is enough’ and do something.

      • Thanks everyone. You know Barbara there are several oppertunities for me to write, but I do want to be careful to offer the “right” material. I think that has paralyzed me to an extent. I’m working on a couple booklets that should be published in the next year and on the project with Leslie. The pull I seem to feel is for the need for a pastoral response to men who use violence which is a much larger project than a couple hundred pages. A friend is currently helping me organize and prioritize my ministry. 2015 will be my eighth year of intervention work and my third year of speaking at other churches and conferences about what I do and the church’s response to abuse. I’m hopeful that this year will see some solidification of my role in the work and how my voice is to be used.

  7. I hope you don’t mind, Chris, but in light of this comments thread I’m going to give you and your readers a link to a document called Honouring Resistance, which I frequently recommend. If you think I’m being too directive on your blog, that’s your call. 🙂
    I would understand — it’s your blog and you set the tone and the teaching that is imparted here. 🙂

    Honouring Resistance is a PDF document.
    Unfortunately I can’t give you a direct link to the PDF. To get hold of it, go to http://www.calgarywomensshelter.com/resources—how-women-resist
    and scroll to the bottom where you will find the following words:
    “Want to learn more about resisting abuse?
    Take a look at our publication Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships”

    Then click on the link to the publication and it will download as a PDF.

    I have found this PDF very helpful both in my own recovery and in my development as a victim-advocate. It really shifts the focus from seeing the victim as a person with deficits (e.g. *someone who is liable to be abusive in reaction to abuse*), to seeing the victim as a person who creatively and intelligently resists abuse.

    And btw, the PDF comes from a women’s shelter in Canada; hence the British spelling of ‘honouring’.

  8. Katherine says:


  9. Sorry everyone, I’ve been away and unable to respod to comments this week. I’ll try to share some thoughts, even if a little late 🙂

  10. Final thought here. If you are interested in identifying male privlege and how a man adresses these issues I recommend Tony Porter. Here is a link to a video we watch with our men fuels a discussion about the Man Box.
    Trigger warning: Tony discusses issues of manhood that include death and sexual assualt.


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