God never forces anyone to be in relationship with Him. Never. The whole idea of love is that it is an invitation. The moment a relationship is coerced, where one person is manipulated by the other to stay in it, that relationship is no longer about love—and it no longer reflects God.
Have you ever thought about how serious and sobering that might be? When we claim to be Christians, whose purpose it is to reflect God to the world, what picture are we showing people? God created marriage to be the most powerful picture of love—intimacy, authenticity, connection, and expression—you will find in the world around you. When people see your marriage, do they see God? Or would they, instead, be horrified to know the god you are reflecting? Would they want to run for the hills from the raging and contempt, the name-calling and disgust, or the coerced “submission” and devalued sexual intimacy?
Are we truly honoring God here?
Spiritual abuse is a powerful weapon. From both sides of the fence—those perpetrating the abuse and those suffering from it—there is often a very deep desire to honor God, which fuels the tenacity to stay and repeat the patterns. Those who use Scripture to overpower and coerce, and those who believe Scripture condemns them to a life of use and abuse because that’s what they unknowingly “covenanted” themselves to, are missing God’s design and purpose. Thus, they are also missing the true depth, connection, and abundant life that come with living within the context of relationship as God intended.
What is spiritual abuse?
Spiritual abuse can be subtle. Like any other kind of abuse, its intent is to overpower another person’s God-given autonomy for one’s own benefit, in this case utilizing Scripture, faith, religion, morality, or values to “keep them in line,” make them stay, shut up, and serve. Those suffering the abuse wrestle with how such a good, loving God could stand by and let this happen, even as they struggle with what their “rights” are in standing up against it. As you have probably seen in the news lately, this is a huge issue even among significant church leaders and denominations and is perpetuated through the pulpit.
The bottom line is when love is distorted within the context of marriage and relationships, Satan effectively twists the image of God to the world, which keeps that world from even remotely wanting to know God or be like Him. There is much more at stake than simply the health and well-being of your relationship! When you don’t love like God created you to, you incapacitate your own ability to be authentically emotionally connected. You hinder God’s purposes in the lives of the people you are impacting. And you create a context in which people are encouraged to hide. Fear, manipulation, coercion, demanding, and belittling have no place—ever—in a marriage. God’s design and purpose for marriage is first and foremost to show Him to the world, to be an example of authenticity, intimacy, connection, and unity.
Take a hard look at your marriage or relationship.
Are you reflecting God in such a way that your spouse wants to know Him better? Are you making it easy to forgive or to hide? Do you make room for your spouse to become the person God created him or her to be, or are you shaping them into who you want them to be? If people were to really know what your marriage was like, what picture of God would they see? What could you do differently to free your marriage from spiritual abuse?
Taking the next step
Are you experiencing spiritual abuse in your marriage? Or are you reading this and realizing that you have been mistreating or abusing your spouse in this way? We can help. We offer a variety of programs and counseling options to help couples and individuals heal. Contact our Client Care team here, or call us at 206.219.0145.