Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered August 27, 2011 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Gentle Love

Matthew 2:15-16

(RealAudio available)

I know that there's probably not one home in the McDonald Road church that is or has experienced domestic abuse.  But in case there is, I'm going to talk about it. 

I want you to be gentle with each other.  The goal of this sermon today is for you to to be gentle whether you're a woman or a man.  To yell gently, or maybe not even to yell.  To talk gently.  To treat each other with kindness and special tender love. 

Did you know that more than one third of all female murder victims in 2009 were killed by their husbands or their boyfriends.  That's horrible.  Why can't we be nice to each other?  Something is wrong.  God hates ill-treatment.  You may feel ashamed or hurt when your husband doesn't buy you more candy.  Is that really abuse?  What is abuse? 

I want to talk a little bit about physical, verbal, emotional, economic, financial, sexual, spiritual abuse, or a combination of all of them.  I'd like you to turn to Proverbs 11.  I'm going to read this according to The Message Bible.  Proverbs 11:29.  Abuse your family and end up with a fistful of air.  It's a stupid way to live.  You end up with nothing, basically, but a fistful of air.  If you are an abuser, your future is bleak.  You need to stop, and God can give you the power to stop.  God can forgive you of what you have done in the past and give you the power to overcome that in the future.  God can do that. 

I want to speak honestly, openly about abuse today.  Often times people who are abused will come up to me.  I had one this past week that came and the cycle gets worse.  More frequent.  More aggressive.  More violent as time goes by.  Some people, once a year, some once a month, once a week, once a day, many times a day.  Sometimes it's grabbing or forcing, controlling.  Abuse is basically where one person tries to control another person.  That's what abuse is.  So we want to stop that because abuse jeopardizes our lives. 

God designed our homes to be little pictures of heaven.  Snapshots of what life can be like on Earth.  A little bit of heaven on earth. 

However, abuse in all of its forms is on the increase.  Do you know abuse exists in the Seventh-day Adventist church?  They have done surveys and determined that.  Worldwide, the statistics indicate that we do have abuse in our church.  Women and children are often directly affected by this curse.  It's a horrible curse.  Abuse is inspired by the devil himself.  It's satanic.  If you are abusing your wife or abusing your children or even if you're just kicking the cat, this has to stop.  We need to be people who are controlled by the spirit of God and not controlled by those evil tendencies. 

Proverbs 10:11 indicates what abuse results in.  In other words, when I read this verse, I think the abuser will be lost.  You're going to be lost if you keep abusing your family.  Proverbs 10:11.  The mouth of a good person is a deep life-giving well, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.   God created you men with muscles.  Why?  So you can protect your wife.  So you can use those muscles for a noble and great purpose.  But if you don't, you are classified, here In this verse as wicked.  You're wicked.  You're not going to be in heaven.  Unless you're forgiven.  And to do that you must stop. 

A large number of Adventists suffer some type of abuse.  That is such a shame.  What is included in physical abuse?  Well, here's about 17 or 18 little points.  Physical abuse is when you are pushed, or shoved, or slapped, or maybe your spouse bites you.  It's when your husband or your wife has slapped you or bit you on purpose.  Kicked you.  Choked you.  Threw objects at you.  Locked you out of the house intentionally.  Abandoned you, maybe in some dangerous place.  Refused to help you when you were sick or injured or pregnant.  Subjected you to reckless driving.  Forced you off the road.  Kept you from driving.  Not allowed you to get a driver's license.  Threw you out of the car.  Threatened you.  Hurt you, or took a weapon and threatened you with a weapon.  They're all types of physical violence. 

Because of the prevalence of abuse in the Seventh-day Adventist church we are urged to have, on the fourth Sabbath of August every year, an emphasis on abuse prevention.  I am very privileged to bring this message to you today.  I feel very strongly about abuse.  It's wrong.  If you are an abuser, you must stop, or you are going to fail in life and wreck your life.  You're going to kill somebody.  Something is going to happen.  It needs to stop.  We need less abuse.  We need more tender love in our church. 

Here's a question for you.  Are we as Seventh-day Adventists kinder to each other than the general population out there in the world or are we worse?  What do you think?  Is there less abuse among our people compared to the world?  Allow me to share some statistics with you.  Over an entire lifetime, here are the figures for physical violence by a person's spouse or partner.  Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist couples were surveyed in 2007 and the results were compared with the national average of the same year and I want you to realize what is going on.  Here we have Seventh-day Adventists compared with non-Seventh-day Adventists.

22% of American women report being abused.  22% of non-Adventist women.  Seventh-day Adventist women report that 33% of them have been abused.  One out of every three women that you see in the Seventh-day Adventist church report abuse compared to 22% of the world.  That's not good, is it?  I think there is a little bit of a caveat here.  That is that the abuse statistics that are of non-Adventists were taken over the telephone when a spouse could have been there listening and so they were maybe a little more cautious of what they said.  Ours were not done that way.  Ours was done privately, and so maybe ours were open to more honesty.  I really don't understand that.  That is very unfortunate.  Let me share some other statistics.  8% of non-Adventist women were thrown at, smashed, hit, or kicked.  Those four things.  Seventh-day Adventist women, 27% were thrown at, smashed, hit or kicked.  8% compared to 27%. 

Now this sounds like Adventist men are worse than your general American man.  Less kind.  More dangerous, but so are Adventist women.  Here's another fact.  4% of non-Adventist men were thrown at, smashed, hit, or kicked by their female partner.  4%.  However, 13% of Adventist men were thrown out, smashed, hit or kicked by their female partner.  Those women are dangerous in the Adventist church.  300% more abusive.  That is awful.  I think we all should go home and reread Adventist Home by Sister White. 

I suspect that one excuse that a Seventh-day Adventist man wrongly uses for abusing his wife is a bible excuse.  Don't use it that way.  I want to take you to it.  Turn to  Ephesians 5:22.  It says here, women, be submissive to your husband.  Now there it is.  The man has the right to have a submissive slave or servant or somebody to wipe his feet on.  Is that what this is talking about?  Does that mean that you wives have to take it on the cheek and be misused? 

Actually, what this means is, mutual submission.  Read verse 21.  It says submit one to another.  You both submit one to another out of reverence for Christ.  We both submit one to the other.  Don't use that verse 22 as something to hold over your wife.  That's not right.  A Christian husband will not demand that his wife submit to his headship.  The wife's submission is not a blind yielding of her individuality or personality to be overshadowed by a domineering, out-of-control husband.  It's not that way at all. 

Only as your husband displays the love of Christ should you be submissive to him.  The dominance that the man has is not to be a physical dominance, it is to be that he is the priest of the household.  You men are the pastor of your house.  You're the minister of your house.  As you behave the way that Jesus did, then your wife will behave the way that the church behaves towards Christ.  The church is the bride of Christ, Christ is the head of church and that's the way it's supposed to be.  Ephesians 5:22.  Let's read the whole verse.  It says wives submit to your husbands, then the next four words, as to the Lord.  Only as he acts like the Lord and not like the landlord.  Only as he acts like Jesus, the man is the head of the house. 

How is the man the head of the house?  Christ like.  Spiritual head of the house.  To be the loving servant leader, just like Christ came to this world.  Can you imagine if God were like Adolf Hitler.  If God were controlling.  Abuse is when you control somebody.  What if God tried to control us?  Does God try to control us?  He loves us.  He gives us freedom of choice. 

Ephesians 5:23.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body of which he is the Savior.  Verse 33.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself.  Would you ever hurt yourself?  I hope not.  And the wife must respect her husband, as he is like Christ.  So that verse means just that you love and respect each other without dominance.  Actually, we are a partnership of equals.  That's what a marriage is, because in Genesis 2:24, he made them of how many different types of flesh?  One flesh.  How many?  Two?  One flash.  That's how they were made, and therefore we're equal one to another, aren't we?   Paul urges us to return as much as possible to the pre-fall equality of relationship in our marriage. 

Now I want us to go to our Scripture reading for today.  Malachi 2:10.  This states that we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another.  Don't break faith with the wife of your youth.  When you abuse your spouse, you break faith.  That word is there. 

One Adventist victim said this.  You know, our church family has a hard time understanding our situation in our house, because when we go to church, my husband has his arm around me and he holds my hand on the way out to the car, and after we get out of the church parking lot he starts yelling at me.  He starts abusing me like normal.  I can't get anybody to believe me, that we're having a hard time.  People point the finger at me.  They blame me, and so I've had to attend another church.  That's a shame.  That's too bad.  Malachi 2:15.  Take heed to your spirit and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.  Don't do that. 

Turn to Esther 1:10.  Vashti had some big problems with her husband, and it says here in verse 10, on the seventh day when the heart of the king was merry with wine he commanded his seven eunuchs who served in the presence of king Ahasureus to bring queen Vashti before the king wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, because she was beautiful to behold.  But verse 12 says, she refused to do it.  He became furious.  Now the king demanded that his wife do something that wasn't right.  He was trying to control her.  You know that queens in those days were certainly supposed to be modest.  Here she was invited, commanded, made to come in before the company of a drunken group and display her beauty to them.  Sister White says in the book Conflict and Courage, Vashti did not carry out his orders and she did right in refusing to obey such a command.  She did right.  The King had unwise advisors.  She thought that he would respect her for not doing this while he was intoxicated. 

A love buster is anything that your spouse does, or you do, to hurt each other, which therefore damages the romantic, caring love that you have for each other.  It'll bust your love.  Selfish demands.  Commanding your spouse to do something that will benefit you at your spouse's expense or effort.  People who make demands just don't seem to care how other people feel.  People who do that are controlling, manipulative.  These controlling demands are nothing short of abuse. 

Instead of selfish demands, why not make a thoughtful request.  You don't have to demand something.  Make a thoughtful request.  Would you consider doing this?  That would mean so much to me.  Don't yell at them.  Don't nag your husband.  Don't yell at your husband.  Don't abuse your wife.  Treat each other as if you love each other. 

Here's another example.  Genesis 31:50.  This is the story of Laban.  In verse 50, Laban makes a statement.  If you mistreat my daughters and if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.  He said if you afflict my daughters, if you abuse my daughters, or if you take another wife, God will be a witness between the two of us.  We realize what that covenant was.  They made a covenant there.  They set up stones and this was a covenant between them.  We know part of the words of that covenant.  You have part of the words of that covenant memorized, because it says this in verse 49.  May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another.  Remember that?  But we don't remember the rest of the covenant.  Two things.  Don't abuse your wives and don't commit adultery.  Don't take some other woman.  So we need to exercise that.  I think we need to follow the words of this covenant ourselves. 

It's interesting that Laban put these two conditions in his covenant with Jacob and so many people in the Seventh-day Adventist church argue today that there are two reasons for divorce in the Seventh-day Adventist church.  One is adultery.  The other is physical abuse.  A lot of people will argue that way.  Violence is always unacceptable.  Force will destroy your family.  It will destroy your wife.  It will destroy your children.  It will destroy your home. 

Kids can be abused too.  A man tells a true story.  I'm going to relate this to you.  He says, I was walking down a dimly lit street late one evening when I heard muffled screams coming from behind the bushes just a few feet from where I was.  Alarmed, I slowed down to listen.  Panicked when I realized that I was hearing the unmistakable sounds of a struggle.  There was heavy grunting, frantic scuffling, the tearing of fabric.  Only yards from where I stood a woman was being attacked. 

Should I get involved.  I was frightened for my own safety and angry with myself for having suddenly decided to take a new route home that night.  Why did I do this?  What if I became another statistic?  Shouldn't I just run to the nearest phone and call the police?  Although it seemed like an eternity, the deliberations in my head had only taken seconds.  But already the girls cries were getting weaker and I knew that I had to act fast.  I just can't walk away from this.  I couldn't turn my back on this unknown woman even if it meant risking my life. 

I'm not a brave man.  I'm not athletic.  I don't know where I found the moral courage or the physical strength but once I had finally resolved to help the girl I became strangely transformed.  I ran behind those bushes.  I pulled the assailant off the woman and grappling we fell to the ground where we wrestled for a few minutes until the attacker jumped up and escaped.  Panting hard I scrambled upright and I approached the girl who was crouched behind a tree sobbing and in the darkness I could barely see her outline, but I could certainly sense her trembling shock.  Not wanting to frighten her further I at first spoke to her from a distance.  I said, it's okay. the man ran away and you're safe now.  After a long pause I heard her words uttered in wonder and amazement.  Daddy, is that you?  And then from behind the tree stepped my youngest daughter, Catherine.  True story. 

There's too much abuse in this world.  Do you agree?  Abuse behind bushes.  Abuse behind your front door.  Your bedroom door.  Wherever it is, abuse is wrong.  As your pastor I beg of you, treat each other kindly.  Exhibit tender love in your home.  Let's not be abusive or abused.  Fortunately I have never been abused and I have never abused.  I'm happy about that. 

I want to be tender to you and I want you to be tender with each other, even as God is tenderhearted and merciful.  Let's be more like Jesus in our homes.  Our homes deserve that.  Our children deserve that.  If you have done wrong, ask for forgiveness.  Ask for strength to stop.  If you can't stop, then get out of the way of someone else's life.  Don't ruin them.  Leave.  May God help us to be what he wants us to be.

Hymn of Praise: #21, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Scripture: Matthew 2:15-16
Hymn of Response: #652, Love At Home
Sermon Notes:  Sermon notes available as PDF

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 10/25/11