by Michael E. Brooks
Domestic violence is one of many moral problems in South Asia. Almost every daily newspaper contains stories of men who burn their wives with acid, cruelly beat, or even kill them. Often the motive is extortion of money (dowry) from her family or anger at their failing to provide it to him. Many other, less severe, acts of violence are suffered regularly for various reasons.
Recently I was asked to mediate in a domestic dispute of a different kind. A couple was frequently quarreling and fighting and neighbors tried to intervene to help them. According to those neighbors it was the wife who was the aggressor, continually tormenting her husband not with blows but with words. She accused him groundlessly and wildly of misconduct, cursed him, abused him with foul language, and spoke with great disrespect of him and his family. She repeatedly threatened to kill him, using poison, suffocation or other means.
I am not suggesting that her abuse was worse or necessarily equal to that of the malicious husbands described above. I do point out however that everyone has the potential to sin against and harm others.
But that is not my primary reason for citing these examples. Rather it is to say that this kind of behavior, though not unknown in other nations and cultures, is especially prevalent here. I cannot help but believe that one reason it is so culturally pervasive is the absence of significant Christian influence.
The Bible makes it plain that such behavior is sin and totally unacceptable. Unfortunately not all religions or philosophies contain the same teaching.
When Christian missionaries come to evangelize non-Christian areas of the world, our emphasis is always to present Jesus’ promise of eternal salvation. Ours is a message of invitation and hope. Yet we need to present Christ’s challenge to a world lost in sin – we do not have to live like this. We can do much better.
Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:22-24 are directly to that point. He commands us to put off the old sinful way of life and live as God intended. God will help us but we must make a diligent effort.
In the remainder of chapter 4 (verses 25-32) Paul describes the kinds of change that are required. He tells us to stop stealing and work honestly for what we need (28). We are to quit lying and tell the truth (25); refrain from sinful actions, even if we are angry (26); and be kind to each other, practicing forgiveness (32).
Prominent among these changes is our habit of speech. No corrupt word is to depart from our mouth (29), and we are to avoid all evil speaking (31). In contrast we are to speak only those things that are good for necessary edification and that will impart grace to the hearer (29).
What a different world we would live in if all would follow those instructions. If honest labor, true speech, and positive language were the common characteristics of all, what joy and peace we would know.
We understand that most will not follow God’s will. But that does not lessen the importance of each one of his people making their very best effort. The changes described above are one definition of conversion (Acts 3:19).
Those times of refreshing surely include the positive results of our behavioral changes. Every time an abusive husband repents and comes to Christian faith, or a profane woman purifies and controls her tongue, they, and society, are refreshed.
May we labor diligently to help that happen more frequently.