I love Valentine’s Day. A lot of people bash the day as artificial and commercial, saying we should show our love for each other more than once a year. While all that is true, I still love it. It’s cheesy, sappy, and hopelessly romantic, which pretty much describes me. And my husband does show me his love for me every day and Valentine’s Day. But this Valentine’s Day I, along with my husband, want to bring attention to an issue that is very important to the both of us. And that issue can be summarized as this:
Love is NOT a weapon. Love is not an excuse to hurt, physically or emotionally, another human being. Love is not an irrevocable promise that allows a person to abuse themselves or others and then demand forgiveness and reconciliation because “you said you loved me…” Love does not give you license to do anything you want. Love is a commitment that you will hold yourself to a higher standard and not do anything to diminish that love.
It is a sad fact that Jacob and I see love, or what is called love, used as an excuse to hurt more often than we would care to in our ministry work. And while we feel the church has been very progressive lately in taking a stance against domestic violence we inevitably get the question of,
‘But you are a pastor (or pastor’s wife), don’t you think divorce is wrong?’
Let me tell you what I believe.
I do NOT believe in divorce. But I EQUALLY DO NOT believe in a marriage where one person has broken their covenant with God and their spouse. This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly that marriage should take place in a religious ceremony. When you get married in the context of a religion you enter into a covenant between yourself, and your spouse, AND God. A covenant is a solemn agreement to engage in or refrain from a specified action. When you pledge yourself in marriage you are making a sacred contract with yourself, God, and your spouse to love, honor, cherish, protect, etc.
If a person engages in physical or mental abuse that covenant, in my opinion, is broken. The abuser has FAILED to uphold their covenant to their spouse and God. When a person abuses drugs and alcohol they abuse their spouse and the trust that spouse had in them to love them.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org) 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is one of the most under reported crimes in this country. Some other facts about domestic violence are:
- 85% of domestic violence incidents are perpetrated against women.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are TWICE as likely to abuse their partner and/or children when they grow up.
- Up to 60% of perpetrators who abuse their partner also abuse their children.
- Research has demonstrated that continued alcohol or drug abuse is one of the major risk factors for violence in intimate relationships.
What is probably the saddest fact about all this is that often the victim ends up blaming themselves. Some victims believe that they were ‘not a good enough partner’, and that is why their spouse hit them. Or they may think they were not ‘worthy’ of true love, that is why their spouse hurt them. Or if only their love had been ‘good enough’ their spouse could have kicked their addiction to alcohol or drugs, or wouldn’t have started in the first place. Abuse is never your fault.
A lot of people will argue that God loves us unconditionally and therefore we must love our spouse unconditionally. This notion is misguided and is one many of us believe. Unconditional love is possible, but it requires a conditional relationship. My husband and I learned this at the very start of our marriage luckily. Our good friends Jon and Jess introduced us to a pastor who has devoted his life to promoting the state of marriage and what it really means. This pastor is Mark Gungor and what follows is based on his seminar on marriage:
God does love us unconditionally, BUT to be in relationship with God, God DEMANDS a CONDITIONAL relationship. John 3:16 says:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
That is a CONDITIONAL statement. You have to do something, you have to believe. Another example is that God forgives our sins when we repent, conditional. Yes God loves us unconditionally, but that demands a conditional relationship.
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE REQUIRES A CONDITIONAL RELATIONSHIP. That is what marriage is. Because your love is unconditional you then pledge to not do anything to violate that love.
Do I believe that love can overcome all things, do all things, and be all things? Yes. BUT in the situation of abuse you must end the relationship in which the abuse is occurring. That relationship is broken and any attempt to rebuild on that broken foundation will result in disaster. Do I believe abusers can heal? Yes. But I do not believe an abuser can heal while maintaining a relationship. Healing means that person must heal themselves and their relationship with God. They have to heal themselves first before they can have any hope of healing a broken relationship.
Love is not a weapon. Love is not supposed to hurt. This Valentine’s Day I urge you to cherish the loving relationships you have and spread the word of what REAL love looks like.
If you agree with this blog entry and agree that we should take a stance AGAINST Domestic Violence and Abuse I urge you to make your Facebook or Twitter status “Love is not a weapon” with a link to this blog for Valentine’s Day. You never know who might be looking for help. Remember, 1 in 4 are looking for someone to notice them or help them this very day, Valentine’s Day.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship the following resources may help: