Part 2: Biblical Marriage Counseling
In Part 1 (http://tinyurl.com/mcr26y), we highlighted “safety first.” Now, with protection for the abused spouse in place, biblical marital counseling can take place. Consider the following introductory principles your Readers’ Digest version.
Unfortunately, couples rarely enter marriage counseling proactively when things are going well. Typically, they come for counseling as a last resort. This is especially true in abuse situations. Tension is high. Pain is deep. Hope is all but lost.
Our role as pastors, biblical counselors, and spiritual friends is to infuse hope. Help the hurting (and often sinning) couple to know that Christ’s changeless truth can change their lives individually and as a couple. Remind the couple that new elements have been added—you, biblical counseling, the Body of Christ.
Even if only one spouse is willing to attend counseling, help that spouse to know that their responses can change, they can glorify God, and they can find Christ’s peace.
For the Marriage and for God’s Glory
In biblical marriage counseling it’s vital to help Christian couples to understand that you are not “for” or “on the side of” one or the other. You are “for” their marriage. You are “on the side of” their marriage.
Ultimately this means you are on God’s side. You are called to help them to glorify God through their marriage. And an abusive marital relationship that results in repentance, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and mutual love glorifies God in amazing ways.
When a couple understands that you are for their marriage, then often you are able to “win/win.” That is, both the husband and the wife understand that you are there to help both of them.
However, almost inevitably, you will at any given time need to confront one of them and support the other one. Perhaps you are strongly confronting the husband and refusing to allow him any excuse for his abusive behavior. He may very well say, “So you’re on my wife’s side, just like everyone else!” The wife at this point feels very supported and protected. “Finally, someone strong enough to stand up for me and to stand up to my husband.”
This is the “win/offend” aspect of biblical marital counseling. You respond by reminding the couple that because you are for their marriage, you must show them where they are failing to love one another biblical. You also candidly remind them that there will be times you will support and comfort one spouse while confronting the other spouse.
The CFR of Biblical Marriage Counseling
After the first post in this series, someone asked, “Is the counselor’s response different if it is the husband who is being abused?” Good question. Actually, the response is always somewhat different when counseling a male as compared to counseling a female.
To understand why, we need to understand the “CFR” of biblical marriage counseling: Creation, Fall, Redemption. As biblical counselors, we understand God’s Creation design for maleness and femaleness and for husbands and wives. We examine Genesis 1-2 to see what it means to be a godly, mature male/husband and a godly, mature female/wife.
We then explore Genesis 3 and many other passages to understand the Fall and how sin and depravity marred God’s original design. What are the unique ways that males sin against God and others? What are the specific sins of an ungodly husband? What are the unique ways that females sin against God and others? What are the specific sins of an ungodly husband?
But we never stop at sin. We move to Redemption. We study passages like Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy, etc. Passages like these teach us God’s description of a godly male and of a mature husband. They show us what it looks like to be a godly female and a mature wife.
This is the beauty of biblical counseling for pastors, spiritual friends, and professional counselors.
*We understand males and females and husband’s and wives—biblically—through the Words of the Creator.
*We diagnose sinful maleness and femaleness and ungodly living as husbands and wives—biblically—through the Words of the Creator.
*We prescribe God’s solutions that lead to godly maleness and femaleness and mature living and loving as husbands and wives—biblically—through the Words of the Creator.
Where Do We Go From Here?
In our next post, we’ll move from these general, foundational principles to a more specific discussion of biblical marriage counseling for abuse. How does the counselor and how does the Body of Christ join together with and for the couple to help them to move toward confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and biblical marital love and respect?