The focus of #MeToo has been workplace harassment and abuse, which is well and good. It has been a terribly needed cultural awakening and cultural reckoning.
But there is another place where a man’s treatment of a woman needs the same exposure. The place where how a man is supposed to act is best modeled to the next generation of men. The place where the next generation of women first taste how they should be treated.
And that place is the home.
#HomeToo reflects the many, many women who suffer in marriages and relationships where men who don’t seem to know how to act like men. One of the primary calls on a man’s life to the woman he marries is to serve as protector. One of the most heinous things that can happen to a man is when he stops protecting and instead becomes the one who is the threat.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million people a year are physically abused by their partner. That amounts to 20 people every minute. The vast majority are women who are abused by their husband or boyfriend. One out of every three women have been subjected to some form of physical violence by a partner in their lifetime. Currently there are 20,000 calls to domestic violence hotlines every day.
This is not protecting.
This is sick.
This is wrong.
This is evil.
In Colossians 3:19, the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” And in I Peter 3:7, it says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner.”
That’s how power and strength are to be used—to protect them, not to prey on them. Violence has no place in a relationship, no place in a marriage. A husband may take a blow for his wife, but never, ever, is he to give a blow to his wife. And, just to be fair, women should not be violent toward their husbands.
The same is obviously true for children. Every year, more than 4 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States, involving more than 7 million children. And when it is a sexual assault, more than 90% know their offender. According to a 2012 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, 80% of all types of abuse on children was done by a parent; usually, the father.
No man should do this.
No man should hurt his wife.
No man should hurt or abuse a child.
And if you are a woman on the receiving end of abuse, please hear me: there is nothing about being a godly woman, much less a Christian wife, that calls you to submit to any form of violence or abuse at the hands of your husband.
Silence is not spiritual.
Suffering domestic abuse is not spiritual.
It’s sin against you. That’s first.
Second, if he won’t change, won’t get help, won’t go to counseling, won’t repent and turn from this, you need to leave. Flee. I know you fear leaving him. And people who say you should just walk away don’t know what it’s like to be in your place. He may have even threatened you in very specific ways if you ever do.
And you’re terrified he’ll follow through on those threats…
… that he’ll hurt you or even kill you,
... that he’ll hurt or kill the kids,
... that he’ll win custody of the children,
... that he’ll harm or kill pets or others,
... that he’ll ruin you financially.
The list goes on.
So you feel trapped. But if he’s unwilling to get the help he needs – to change, to stop – you have to get out. Get yourself and the kids out of that home. There are websites, such as NCADV.org, that have safety plans and resources you can use. Whatever you do to work on saving your marriage, do it from a vantage point of physical safety for you and your children.
And if, from that place of safety, he won’t address this in ways that allow you to return, you have complete biblical grounds for divorce. I’m not rooting for that, I’m not hoping for that, but I need to tell you that you are not called to a marriage where violence against you or your child is happening. That isn’t marriage.
The Bible says that one of the grounds for divorce is physical abandonment. Which means your spouse leaves you, or acts in a way that forces you to leave. Physical abuse of you or your children forces you to separate.
And for those of you who aren’t married but you’re dating someone who is violent or abusive, end that relationship now. Before marriage. He is not God’s man for you. It is not to be tolerated and it is not normal. Whatever is taking place now will only intensify after marriage.
This is not unneeded counsel. Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. are physically abused by someone they’re dating every year. More than a third of 10th graders have been physically or verbally abused by dating partners.
And now, a word to you men.
If you are abusing your wife in any way, in the name of Christ, stop. Stop hurting her. If it’s your child, stop hurting your child. Stop the abuse. Get help. Whatever help you need. And if you’ll do that, it won’t be a mark of shame, it will be a mark of strength.
I know that most of you reading this will quickly self-congratulate that you have never hit a woman, much less your wife. But physical abuse isn’t the only kind of abuse.
There can be emotional abuse.
Some of you may have never lifted a hand against your wife, but you have devastated her with your tongue. You have struck her with your disdain. You have assaulted her with your words. You have beat her savagely with your attitude and actions. The bruises may not show on her skin, but they mark her very soul and spirit.
This is not of God.
Men, you’ve been trusted with your wife’s hands.
To hold them.
And to do it with your hands.
Not your fists.
James Emery White
For more on this, click HERE for the .mp3 and .pdf downloads of the “#MeToo” series given by James Emery White at Mecklenburg Community Church.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org)
No More: Together We Can End Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (nomore.org)
National Child Abuse Statistics from Child Help, view online.
Child Maltreat Report 2012, Department of Health and Human Services, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.