Genesis 42:21, “And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear….”
An abused woman goes to her pastor, weeping she tells him that her husband has been abusing her. She relates many incidents to him and asks him for help. He listens with sympathy. He hates to see unhappy marriages. When she tearfully finishes recounting the abuse, the pain, the endless fear and confusion she and her children live in, he sits back in his chair and offers his take on things. If he’s like many pastors, his advice might sound something like this:
“Your husband is a good man. He’s been under a lot of stress lately. You, as his wife, must be patient with him. Now, you might have had a rough day or two with him, he might have even gotten too angry now and then, but it’s not really as bad as all that, is it? Anyone can have a bad day. You need to be praying for him. Look for ways to make things easier for him. Examine yourself and see how you can do better. Make sure that being at home is relaxing for him. Make sure that you aren’t doing anything that is causing him to get bent out of shape. Now, this is what I want you to do: go home, get yourself made up, cook him his favorite dinner and make sure he has a relaxing evening. Tell him you are sorry for not giving him the support he needs. Then I want you to pray and ask the Lord to help you to be a more submissive wife, to make you kinder, more obedient to your husband. Then, with your added love and respect, whatever anger issues he has, they will get better and better and so will your marriage. How does that sound?”
The abused wife listens in horror. She might tearfully protest. She might beg him to listen, to understand, to stand with her and help her protect her children. She might plead with him to do something, anything, to help her escape the endless cycle of abuse. She might hang her head and go home to once again face her husband’s wrath.
Some pastors might send her away before she can get started, refusing to even listen to her. Some might call her abuser to him know his wife came in for counsel. Some might listen, pat her on the shoulder, tell her that it’s her job to submit and obey no matter what her husband does and send her back to be abused some more–for the glory of Christ.
Except Christ isn’t glorified when a woman is abused by her husband. He isn’t honored by pastors who ignore women who are crying bitter tears, pleading for protection from their abusers. The Lord calls us to care for those who are oppressed. He speaks of the cruelty of the violent man, and of escaping from one who does violence. Surely, this applies to wives who are being abused by their husbands.
The pastor who ignores the wife who has confided in him about her husband’s abuse is guilty concerning his sister because he sees the anguish in her soul, he hears her desperate pleas, he witnesses her tears yet, just like Joseph’s brothers, he ignores her and sends her away…back to the slavery of domestic abuse.
Joseph’s brothers pronounced themselves guilty “concerning our brother”. Where are the pastors who will search themselves and acknowledge that they are guilty concerning their sisters–sisters who are daily beaten, broken, battered and abused–verbally, emotionally, sexually, and physically at the hands of one thought to be “a good man”?
The church is waiting for the answer.