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Abuse

This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's
Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.

What position and advice does the Assemblies of God offer the Christian spouse, child, or others who find
themselves in a truly abusive situation?

The Assemblies of God strongly opposes abuse and the many tragic forms of dysfunction now plaguing our
world. It must grieve the heart of God, who cares greatly for the downtrodden, to see one human being abuse
another. It must also grieve the heart of God too if His children observe abuse and sit idly by, allowing the evil
to continue.

Defining abuse:

"Abuse is the imposition of one person’s destructive will or actions upon another person which inflicts harm to
the victim on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level." Ultimately the victim’s will or future well-being is
neither considered nor respected. Abuse usually occurs because of the abuser’s misuse of his/her higher
standing, position of authority, or psychological/physical strength. In inflicting the abuse the authority and/or
strength of the abuser overpowers the will of the victim. In nearly all cases the victim is incapable of preventing
the abuse.

Differentiating abuse from other actions of anger:

We are all subject to anger and frustration. In these weak moments frail mankind responds. At times the
response takes the form of an emotional outburst. Often at the root of such actions lie unrelated feelings of
stress, resentment, anger, anxiety, annoyance, or general displeasure. But what determines when a relationship
becomes abusive and violates trust? Certainly the distinction can be difficult to make. When parents administer
discipline and correction for their children they may unwittingly engage in lesser degrees of mistreatment.
Studies show angry and disparaging verbal comments can wound deeply and create lasting emotional scars.
Therefore the Bible rightly admonishes Christians to refrain from such behaviors. In the case of spouses, the
Bible commands, "Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her
husband" (Ephesians 5:33). In the treatment of children the Bible says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children
[to overly irritate the child’s spirit so as to inflame anger and rage]; instead, bring them up in the training and
instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

In situations where a Christian’s actions or words are becoming abusive, he or she should ask the Holy Spirit to
guide in correcting the behavior. If the Holy Spirit brings conviction for statements or actions, be quick to
resolve the matter by repenting, apologizing to the injured party and asking them for forgiveness. If such actions
recur, one should talk with a pastor or Christian counselor. It is important to be accountable to someone who
can help in the process of overcoming this area of weakness. Most important, make room for Christ to dwell in
your life (Ephesians 4:29-5:2). Through daily prayer and Bible reading, and choosing to obey what God says in
His Word, we draw closer to God and take on the temperament and character of Christ, bringing our emotions
under control.

Confronting the extremes of abuse:

It would help if we could readily discern between appropriate discipline, emotional bouts of anger, and actual
abuse that creates long-term harm. Occasional outbursts of frustration occur within most families. This is much
different from beatings, molestation, and other types of sexual abuse, all of which constitute criminal acts
carrying legal penalties. Each state has specific laws and interprets abuse differently.

The Christian home is not always immune from the extreme forms of violence and abuse. Such actions touch
Christian families, though to a lesser degree than in general society. The Assemblies of God speaks out to its
own constituency and society at large encouraging alertness to and awareness of the various forms of abuse.

Though abuse is sometimes difficult to determine, especially when it moves into psychological and emotional
mistreatment, its more obvious forms include rape, incest, battery, and other types of physical violence. It is
also seen in other aberrations such as sexual exploitation by counselors, the use of children in producing
pornography, the imposition of sadomasochism on spouses, indecent self-exposure, etc. When any of these
abuses take place in the family, they are doubly reprehensible, for the home should be a place of love, trust, and
safety.

Reporting abuse:

Several questions arise when recognizing abuse. What should one do if a spouse is guilty of inflicting abuse?
What if a child is involved, either as an abuser or recipient of such mistreatment? What if abuse is occurring
outside one’s sphere of influence? In such cases is one still responsible to help resolve the problem?

Our action to report abuse is vital because victims often feel they are somehow responsible for being abused.
Such guilt often results in silence which allows abusers to repeat the sin.

The first step for anyone who becomes aware of abuse is to report it to someone who can help stop it. This
should occur regardless of who is involved; how it takes place; or where, when, or why it transpires. Far too
often abuse is never reported. This silence is caused by fear -- fear of retribution by the abuser, fear of losing a
relationship with an abusive loved one who could possibly face criminal penalties for his or her actions, and
fear of the truth being opened to public view. Regardless of the reason, such fears create silence among victims
and families, and the silence in turn allows the abuse to continue and even perhaps escalate.

In other cases, a lack of understanding the crossover point from non-criminal actions and activities into abuse
also allows the cycle to continue. For example an abused Christian wife may hold a distorted view of the
husband’s biblically authorized position as head of the home and thus allow the husband to tyrannize her and
the family.

God is opposed to all abuse. In condemning murder, Jesus declared that thinking angry thoughts toward another
is subject to divine judgment (Matthew 5:21, 22). It is the responsibility of the abuse victim, or of anyone
(including the church) who becomes aware of such abuse, to report the abuse with the hope of stopping it. If it
involves parties in the local church, the pastor should be notified. Depending on the state in which the actions
take place, the witness may have a legal obligation to report the abuse to a civil authority. Christians who report
abuse must then refrain from gossip. Too often additional damage is unintentionally inflicted on those involved
in abuse simply as a result of idle talk.

Correcting abuse:

After abuse is reported to officials, confronting the offender becomes the next objective. Those who abuse
family members or others often refuse to admit their problem. Often abusers harbor a history of being abused
themselves. In all cases, where possible, the abuser should be referred to trained, professional Christian
counselors. However, ultimately the abusive person must accept responsibility for his/her own behavior.
One who does not accept correction and continues to abuse others is in reality walking deeply in sin and
refusing the opportunity provided by God to change. When life is threatened (especially in the case of children)
separation (for a time) may be necessary to secure safety and hopefully allow for healing and intervention.

The innocent must be protected, and the abuse must be stopped and the abuser dealt with appropriately.

Hope and healing for those involved in abuse:

There is hope for all in situations of abuse. God is able to forgive and change the abuser, and to restore all those
involved to a whole and normal life. This is possible only through the saving grace of Jesus Christ who
willingly died so we could turn from such sin in our lives and be healed. In Jesus, "all who are weary and
burdened will (find) rest" (Matthew 11:28). Psalm 34:17-18 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears
them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are
crushed in spirit."

There is hope for the family that has been affected by abuse. God desires to heal broken relationships. Families
who have received Christ as Savior have found a key in forgiveness. Through the wisdom and strength that God
gives they are transformed from dysfunction to wholeness.

Former abusers who remorsefully struggle with the guilt of their past must remember the words of the apostle
Paul who himself persecuted and executed many of the early Christians, "Do you not know that the wicked will
not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers
nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom
of God." Then speaking generally of all sinners Paul goes on to say, "And that is what some of you were. But
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit
of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). What hope and peace this truth holds for all in Christ, including those guilty of
past actions of abuse. Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
Jesus." The focus for Christians is not our past but our future, thanks be to Jesus Christ our Savior and
Redeemer.

The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.

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