Hyper-Headship and the Scandal of Domestic Abuse in the Church

(Reblogged from The Gospel Coalition Blog)

by Jared C. Wilson

 

(NOTE: This is the kind of thing I have been praying for – no, BEGGING for – to see happen in the church for a VERY long time. His word-picture about the 3 doors parallels what I have often said: “When it comes to abuse, there is no ‘Switzerland’ – you either side with the abuser or the abused; there is no third choice.”)

Jason Meyer, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, gave a powerful and important sermon this past Sunday.

In it, he defined things like “hyper-headship”:

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse.

Meyer also addressed the issue of domestic abuse, highlighting three lessons in particular they had learned:

  1. Not all abuse cases are the same, even though they may share certain things in common. If you have seen one abuse case, you have seen one abuse case.
  2. We need to distinguish between two types of marital sinfulness: normative sinfulness and abusive sinfulness.
  3. There are spectrums and varieties of domestic abuse. A good working definition of domestic abuse is “a godless pattern of abusive behavior among spouses involving physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to exert and obtain power and control over a spouse for the achievement of selfish ends” (John Henderson).

Calling it a “draw-a-line-in-the-sand kind of moment” for the church, Meyer read a statement from the elders about domestic abuse:

We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.

The statement goes on to give information about whom to contact when abuse is occurring.

Meyer addressed abusers:

If you are an abuser, I call you right now to repent and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The only hope is on the other side of repentance—getting out of denial so you can own your sin. That is the only hope because if you confess it as sin, there is a sacrifice for sin. There is no sacrifice for denial.

He addressed victims:

If you are being abused, the bulletin gives information on next steps. Please let us help. God hates abuse, and so do we. We are committed to help. If you have come to us for help before and have been disappointed, please give us another chance. We believe that the tide of awareness has risen on all three campuses and that positive changes are happening.

And he addressed children:

If you are a child and have seen one of your parents abuse the other, it is not right, and it is not your fault. You are not to blame. We want to get you help as well. You may think telling someone will tear your family apart, but it may be the only thing that can bring your family back together. If you are a child and you are being abused, let us help. Don’t walk this road alone. Tell someone. Please tell the children’s pastor or your youth pastor or a Sunday school worker.

He then closed with an address to men in particular:

Men of Bethlehem, let me address you. I will lay it on the line. At first glance, it looks like there are three possible doors the men of this church can take.

  • Door 1: side with the abusersm
  • Door 2: take no side, or
  • Door 3: side with the abused and stand up to the abusers.

If you are tempted to open Door 2, please know that it is a slide that just takes you to the same place as Door 1. Doing nothing is doing something: it is looking the other way so the abusers can do their thing without worrying who is watching. Saying nothing is saying something—it’s saying, “Go ahead, we don’t care enough to do anything.”

I would strongly encourage you to read the entire sermon, which contains careful definitions of the various kinds of abuse and various principles about abuse. You can listen to the audio here.

For some resources on abuse, see Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s resources:

See also:

To My Mom – on Mothers’ Day

Thank you for providing love, hope, and strengthiStock_000004460545XLarge

When there seemed no reason we should have them.

Thank you for bringing a sense of peace

To the turmoil that we lived in.

Thank you for finding ways

To turn morsels in to meals.

Thank you for singing me to sleep

When I was scared and sad.

Thank you for rescuing me

Even though it didn’t work.

Thank you for tenderly loving me

Through all of the twists my life has turned.

And thank you for being my mom

Not “just anyone” could do it.

Happy Mothers’ Day – May 11, 2014

Absence of Honor

Overheard:

“Even when I really, really wasn’t happy with my mother, I could never imagine ever speaking to her that way.”

When did it become not just “okay” but normal and acceptable for children to dishonor their parents?

I’m not talking about a simple LACK of honor . . . I am talking about the active DISHONORING of their parents by children – especially grown children – that has become so commonplace it is now normal.

I have been witnessing this phenomenon of the rampant disregard for and dishonoring of parents in our society for several years now and it was brought home this week while my wife and I were vacationing.

The above “Overheard” statement was made by the lady whose home we stayed in for most of our trip. She is a gentle, soft-spoken woman who has two grown children.

She lost her husband a couple of years ago and has been managing and growing the family business since that time. She has also been nurturing her daughter through her divorce from a man who was abusive.

As I was sitting at the breakfast bar listening to mothers talk about how their daughters have been relating to them in recent days, I could see how big a deal was to them. And how heartbreaking.

Both of them are very confused. And heartbroken. And they are not the only ones these days.

Many parents of grown children have the same heartbroken disbelief over how the children the love can be so quickly and easily dishonoring.

They simply cannot understand what it was they had done that could have caused their daughters to speak to them harshly, to be short and curt to them, to disregard their feelings as if they are a nuisance, and to rise up in angry belligerence when they disagree with them.

These two ladies were talking about how they – two women I respect and admire – were feeling as a result of how they were left feeling by recent interactions with their daughters – young women I also respect and admire.

And it got me thinking about how far we have come from God’s original, exquisite design.

The Bible admonishes children to do two things: first, when they are young, to obey their parents; second, when they are older, to honor their parents.

Both of these are given as commands, not suggestions, and in both instances it is to the children’s advantage that they do so.

It’s pretty easy to figure out what it means for child obey their parents. But, what does it mean for child to honor their parents?

Do you know what honor is, what the word means?

The Hebrew word underlying “honor” in the 5th Commandment proposes a heaviness, a weightiness, a relentlessness, and a richness, all in a long-lasting, continuing sense.

It implies a lifelong responsibility, thus it is used in the sense of honoring, glorifying, imposing, or being weighty.

In English, honor means “to give high regard, respect, and esteem to; give special recognition to; to bring or give respect or credit to; an outward token, sign or act that manifests high regard for.”

Two English words – respect and reverence — help bring into focus the implications of this commandment.

Respect means “to have deferential regard for; to treat with propriety and consideration; to regard as inviolable.” Reverence means “to show deferential respect.”

Honor has a far wider application than obey. Honor is expressed in courtesy, kindness, respectfulness, thoughtfulness, mercy, and generous, affectionate deeds.

Just as surely as God requires parents to care for, love, nourish, defend, support, and tenderly provide for their children their first moments of infancy, so children in their strength should reflect this back to their parents, even in their perceived “weakness.”

God has not provided a disqualifier for this command, the loopholes, no escape clauses. He does not say, “Children, honor your parents as long as they are worthy of honor.”

When a grown child speaks rudely, harshly, angrily, disrespectfully to their parents – no matter what justification they may believe they have – they are in fact dishonoring their parents.

And it’s not so much about the deeds were the words, but about the heart behind them. In God’s economy, dishonoring one’s parents is dishonoring God.

And, on top of that, it breaks the heart of the parent being treated so – especially a mom.

Mom’s are, for the most part, loving, caring, nurturing, self-sacrificial, lovingly devoted to, easily made proud of, and very often heard bragging about their children.

And even if the child is engaged in embarrassing, shameful behaviors, you won’t hear it from mom.

How is it, then, that a grown child could have such blatant disregard for heart and feelings of the one person in their life who has invested more in them than any 10 others?

And heaven forbid anyone were to come against that child — who do you think would be the first to come to that him and him child’s defense? Would it not be Mom?

To hear a grown child say that they are entitled to respect “too”, while it is true to a certain degree, they are not rise up against their parents and demand it from their parents.

To do so would require them to be dishonoring – and that is absolutely not okay with God.

Bottom line: Children — grown children — honor your parents in the Lord. This is your duty, your sacred obligation, and it is honoring and pleasing to God.

You may just find life turning out richer, better, and longer than even you feel entitled to.

Oh — and if you’ve been dishonoring and disrespectful to your parents — get on the phone and apologize. You never know when you will have waited too long and it will be too late.

Soli Deo Gloria