Do some churches inadvertently promote gender-based violence?

This week was the start of the international campaign of “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” (focussing on violence against women and children).

“Police statistics indicate that the murder rate of women in South Africa has increased by 16% in the past five years and the number of reported child rapes in the same period has gone up by about 3,000 from 15,000 to just over 18,000.”  (EWN News)

According to research, intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.

As Christian people, we ought to be at the forefront of condemning any form of GBV.

We are commanded in the Bible to love our neighbours as ourselves and to especially care for the weak and vulnerable.  Husbands are called to love their wives and be willing to die for them.

Our churches ought to be safe-spaces where victims of abuse receive help, care and support.  We ought to assist in reporting any perpetrators of violence to the civil authorities.

I wonder, however, if some of our more conservative churches may unintentionally promote intimate partner violence in their teaching about marriage and divorce?

Continue reading Do some churches inadvertently promote gender-based violence?

For Better, for Worse

This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating at a wedding in a township church in South Africa.  The marriage ceremony took place as an addition to the Sunday morning service.

The vibrancy of the singing was contagious and the warmth of hospitality humbling.

In African culture there is no such thing as RSVP!  If you attend the wedding – and all are welcome – you join the feast afterwards. And there’s always enough food.

I reminded the wedding couple, and the church, that the Bible has a lot to say about marriage.

Continue reading For Better, for Worse

When does the Bible permit divorce?

No-one ever marries intending to get divorced, but divorce is a reality – even in the church. Divorce can be for biblically permitted reasons or non-biblical reasons. In my experience we are tempted to make two common mistakes in the church when dealing with divorce:

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Sanctity of marriage

In my previous post I mentioned some of societal factors hampering good marriages.  I mentioned that we needed to get with God’s plan for marriage.  Jesus spoke about God’s intentions for marriage in Mark 10:1-12.

 Jesus reminded the religious leaders of the day that marriage was God’s plan from the very beginning by referring to Genesis 1.

In V6-8 Jesus said, “at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.”

 Marriage is a creational ordinance.  Marriage was not invented, discovered, enacted by law or forced on people by the church.   God knew for humans to be happy and healthy and enjoy God’s good world, marriage is what’s needed, not cohabitation, civil partnerships or multiple-partners.  Because marriage is a creation ordinance it is good for all people, nut just Christians. Continue reading Sanctity of marriage

Till divorce do us part

We live in a world with a high divorce rate, many children born out of wedlock, teenage pregnancy, marital unfaithfulness and premarital promiscuity.  People are still getting married, but they are getting married later, less frequently, more hesitantly and less successfully.  A prenup contract is the norm, as often we expect divorce.  A large number of people, Christians and non-Christians, are realising that there is something seriously wrong.

We know that we live in a fallen world and sin pervades every aspect of our society, including our relationships and marriages.  Here are some ways, I think, sin has affected society and caused the failure of many marriages*:

Continue reading Till divorce do us part