Reviewed by: Stephen B. Green
Date posted: 04/10/2011
Freeing the Oppressed: A Call to Christians concerning Domestic Abuse, by Ron Clark. Published by Cascade Books, 2009. Paperback, 153 pages, list price $20.00. Reviewed by OP minister Stephen B. Green.
Domestic abuse in the evangelical church, like in our culture at large, is a growing problem. Ron Clark, author of Freeing the Oppressed: A Call to Christians concerning Domestic Abuse, speaks about this issue. He expresses some theological views with which we in the Reformed church will disagree, but he is actively preaching and teaching about the realities of domestic abuse.
One of his points with which I strongly agree is that the gospel is transformative. God, through the gospel, intends to confront and redeem the brokenness of our culture. If we do not believe this, or if we lose sight of the power of the gospel, we will hide our eyes from the effects of sin within the camp. Clark tells a story of his attempt to train some Russian pastors to deal with domestic abuse. One of them believed his focus should be on reaching the lost instead of bringing the gospel to bear on domestic abuse. Pastor Clark rightly responds that the gospel speaks clearly to domestic abuse, among other sins. Jesus’ redemptive work brings spiritual, emotional, social, and physical healing and transformation. The gospel calls sinners to repentance and change, and empowers us to follow that call. Those involved in domestic abuse, either as perpetrators or victims, need the healing touch of the gospel. We who believe the gospel and know its transforming power should be eager to bring the gospel to bear on the realities of sin, in whatever form it takes. Jesus’ gospel is good news for the oppressed (Luke 4:18–19).
How do we bring the gospel to bear on sin in our culture? We believe the Bible is God’s word and our guide, both for what we are to believe and how we are to live (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 5). The Bible teaches us that marriage is to be held in honor and is lifelong. It also teaches us that we are to work hard to insure that marriage is all that God intends it to be. Jesus is working diligently to present his bride to himself without spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Eph. 5:26–27). In my ministry, I find some people want either to terminate their broken marriage or simply endure it until Jesus ends it. But God calls us to work on broken marriages, trusting that he will redeem and restore them. Pastor Clark reminds us that God intends marriage to be an accurate reflection of Christ’s relationship with his bride. He points out that God himself is unwilling to remain in an empty marriage with his people and exiles Israel, divorcing her, in order to redeem his marriage (Ezek. 16).
I have benefited from Clark’s challenge to think more biblically about dealing with domestic abuse. He presents real issues and circumstances. We ought to study how to bring the reality of the gospel to bear on this issue, both as we uncover it in our congregations and as we face it in our culture. OP pastors and church leaders should read this book and prayerfully consider how God is calling us to address domestic abuse.