Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Most of the time when someone quotes Philippians 4:8, they skip the first two items on the list, true and honest. They focus on noble, lovely, and good report, but delete what is true and honest. Instead, they lie to themselves, and to others.
Was this what the writers to the Philippians intended? Did Paul refuse to look at the ugly? Did he refuse to look at and deal with sin? Did he say their sin was good, was the fault of someone else, or wasn't there at all?
Actually, there are a number of passages where Paul rebukes those who are sinning, a passage where he defends himself against those in the church who are bad-mouthing him. In order to write those passages, he had to spend some time thinking about things that are neither noble, lovely, pure, just, or praiseworthy.
Yet, so many in our churches refuse to look at domestic abuse and what causes it. Last week I told a woman that I am working to fight domestic abuse, and she accused me of wallowing in abuse. Her pet phrase seemed to be, “God is in control, just trust Him.” I told her that is not particularly comforting to the person who is suffering for years and years at the hand of her abuser. She kept wanting to put a spin of “lovely” on everything, and at the same time throw accusations at anyone who looked ugly sin in the face long enough to try to stop it.
Why was it so important to this woman to deny domestic abuse, to blame me for working to bring the freeing truth in God's word to the church's attention? Why did she insist God had not called me to this ministry?
Is it not for the very same reason that the church in general refuses to deal with the issue? And so many that say they are dealing with the issue, put a large portion of their pressure on the abused wives, not on the controlling and abusive husbands. Some say an abused wife may separate from her husband, but she must still subject herself to him. (What an oxymoron! And how ridiculous and blind!) So many churches tell abused wives they are not allowed to divorce their husbands. Some say they are not allowed to separate from their abusers. The bottom line is that the sin of domestic abuse is denied by so many pastors, or blamed on the wife. Other pastors don't deny domestic violence and abuse but they deny its severity, cost, and damage.
Isn't it time the church stops skipping over the first two items on the list? When are pastors going to be honest with themselves, with their congregations, and with abused wives and children? When are they going to STOP dening that domestic abuse is a serious problem? How long are they going to keep on condemning women who have left their abuser? (One woman I know is still being condemned by the church she left because she divorced the man who nearly killed her several times.) How long are they going to claim there is no domestic abuse in their church, while studies have been showing that one in three women have suffered domestic violence in their lifetime--including women in church. In fact, at least one survey showed that 50% of women in church have suffered abuse from their husbands. When are pastors going to teach their congregations to offer friendship and support to abused women, instead of the cold shoulder and/or accusations and discipline?
When will the lying and dishonesty stop? Domestic abuse/violence is neither lovely, nor praiseworthy, but that it is among us is true and honest.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See www.wanetadawn.com A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.