Domestic Violence Sermon Series Suggestions
These sermon series suggestions can help you develop a sermon series that explores justice in the home. These ideas are particularly relevant for pastors who are working on a domestic violence sermon series. You’ll find Scripture passage recommendations, sermon illustration ideas, quotes from notable thinkers and leaders, examples of what is considered domestic violence, and statistics about the prevalence of domestic violence. This resource was created by Rev. Dr. Rev. Dr. Kikanza Nuri-Robins and adapted with permission.
What does it mean to create justice in our homes? How are families unjust to one another? How can one be an advocate for non-violent resistance in our communities when violence is tolerated in the home?
We seek justice in our courts, in the streets, and from those who have historically oppressed our people. But how are we modeling justice in our homes?
Quotes for Reflection
- “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”—Cornell West
- “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”—Samuel Johnson
- “We slaughter one another in our words and attitudes. We slaughter one another in the stereotypes and mistrust that linger in our heads, and the words of hate we spew from our lips.”—Nelson Mandela
“Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:7-8 NIV).
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23 NIV).
“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:36-40).
“O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (Psalm 10:17-18 ESV).
“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).
- Lois was the dean of the school of education, and every day of their marriage, she would rise, make coffee for her husband, and take it to him on a tray with his pipe and the morning paper. She didn’t have to, but it was a small gesture of love and told him and their six children every day that when you love someone you show them in ways that are meaningful to them.
- Elyse and Bernie live in the same house, but each has their own entrance, their own kitchen, their own bedroom, and their own bathroom. They even have their own space for entertaining company. They also have shared space and can visit the other when invited. They’ve been married 40+ years. They have figured out what works for them.
- Lydia and John were married for 50+ years. From the outside, it looked like a happy, prosperous marriage. However, he was a bully. And domineering. He resented her independence, but didn’t stop her. She was devoted but distant, to keep from being hurt and showing her disappointment. When he died, she said, “I’m so surprised I am crying.” Her pastor replied, “If you had had a toothache for 50 years, you would miss it when it was gone.” Her marriage looked like it was working, but it wasn’t. At least not for her.
- Kay and Arthur were only married for six years when she moved out. “Why are you leaving?” her friends asked. “Did he hit you?” “No,” she replied. “But he was killing my soul. I had to leave because I didn’t want to hate him.” Before she left, Arthur asked her to tell him the real reason she was leaving. She wrote him an eight-page letter, listing every slight, mean-spirited comment, act of disrespect, and public humiliation she had endured from him. After reading it, Arthur said, “If someone had done all this to me, I would have left them too.” The wounds didn’t show, but they were deep and long-lasting.
- Joe felt it was his duty to comment on everything his wife ate and every ounce she gained. His libido went up and down with her weight, which increased under the scrutiny and stress.
- Larry didn’t beat his wife, but he frightened her and was violent with his children in the name of discipline. He thought he was respected. In truth, he was feared. He drove his family to church every Sunday, where he taught Sunday School and his wife directed the choir. It was a marriage filled with injustice, and the children carried the wounds into their own relationships as adults.
- Suzanne said, “You can’t talk to me like that.” Arthur said, “You’re my wife; I can talk to you any way I want.” She retorted, “I’m your wife; you are supposed to talk to me better than anyone else.”
Key point: Verbal violence, not just physical violence, is unjust
Scriptural basis: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV).
Verbal violence examples: Calling names. Shaming. Speaking disrespectfully. Yelling. Silent treatment. Withholding affection. All of this is abuse. Verbal and non-verbal violence.
Ask people: If this behavior were played out between high school students, would you tolerate it? Probably not. We learned “Sticks and stones may break my bones.” What is not said is, “But words can kill me.”
Advice: Before speaking, ask yourself, Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Some things are better left unsaid.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States. There are 3,800 animal shelters.
- Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers.
- One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States.
- Battering occurs among people of all races, ages, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations, and educational backgrounds.
- A battering incident is rarely an isolated event.
- Battering tends to increase and become more violent over time.
- Many batterers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.
- 25% - 45% of all women who are battered are battered during pregnancy.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
- Children who witness violence at home display emotional and behavioral disturbances as diverse as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame, and aggression against peers, family members, and property.
Types of Domestic Violence and Examples
Scriptural passages that speak against these behaviors:
“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:19).
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers [and sisters]” (Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV).
Emotional, Psychological Violence
- Using demeaning jokes and/or personal insults, name-calling
- Deliberately damaging or destroying personal items belonging to partner
- Withholding approval as punishment
- Ridiculing partner's roles or abilities; public and private humiliation
- Blaming partner for circumstances not in their control
- Controlling or degrading partner's choices in food, clothing, friends, etc.
- Demanding partner's constant and total attention
- Showing resentment of partner's attention to their children, friends, family
- Sending mixed signals about wishes and desires
- Challenging or questioning partner's sense of reality; accusing partner of mental illness
- Minimizing or denying abuse which has occurred
- Stalking partner; monitoring all of partner's activities and whereabouts
- Eliminating partner's support systems
- Constantly making veiled threats, or threatening to divorce
- Making threats to take away or harm the children
- Making threats to harm or kill partner
- Exposing or handling of firearms or other weapons during an argument
- Throwing household items at partner
- Grabbing, pushing, shaking, or shoving partner
- Bending and/or twisting fingers, wrist, arms, etc.
- Jerking, slapping, biting, pinching, cutting, or stabbing
- Bruising, hitting, punching, kicking, attempted strangulation
- Throwing partner around, to the floor, against walls or furniture
- Restraining partner against will
- Denying sleep, food, medical needs, etc.
- Imprisoning of partner in home, bedroom, basement, etc.
- Threatening with or using weapons such as guns or knives
- Causing disabling, disfiguring, or permanent injury
- Controlling all of the family's finances, including all of partner's earnings
- Making or controlling all economic decisions
- Refusing to provide sufficient funds for basic economic needs such as gas, food, personal needs
- Deciding what partner's personal needs are—and how much money that can be spent for these needs
- Controlling access to all banking instruments—checkbooks, savings passbooks, money market accounts, etc.
- Requiring partner to request funds for every purchase and account for every expenditure
- Denying partner the opportunity to take a job or seek a promotion
- Disrupting partner's workplace and/or work schedules
- Getting partner fired and blaming her for the result
- Making sexual jokes at partner's expense
- Using name calling and demeaning sexual labels
- Criticizing, demeaning, questioning partner's sexuality
- Ignoring partner's sexual needs and desires
- Demanding monogamy from partner while insisting on freedom for self
- Jealousy and accusing partner of seeking sexual relationships with others
- Accusing partner of having sexual affairs
- Forcing partner to perform what partner considers to be humiliating sexual acts
- Touching that is unwanted and forceful
- Labeling sexual abuse as consensual behavior
- Forcing partner to view or engage in pornography
- Using threats to demand and receive sex
- Demanding sex immediately following pregnancy, childbirth, and surgery even if medically inadvisable
- Forcing sex, rape, and sexual relations against partner's will
Two Biblical Examples
Tamar and Judah
In Genesis, we read about Tamar and Judah. Judah was a son of Jacob; he was one of the older brothers who bullied Joseph and sold him to the Egyptians. Judah continued to be a bully.
Tamar was his daughter in law. The laws of the culture at that time were that when a woman’s husband died, she would be married to one of his brothers, so that someone would take care of her.
We could question the practice on the grounds of self-determination, patriarchal autocracy, or economic injustice. But we won’t. Let us just say that Judah did not play by the rules. When his son died, he refused to take care of Tamar—which was tantamount to sentencing her to further marginalization and a slow economic death. So, Tamar got creative.
She took off her widow’s clothes, dressed as a prostitute, slept with her father-in-law, and got pregnant. She had his staff and signet ring as proof that he had been with her, sort like having pictures on her cell phone and a DNA sample. She responded to the bullying by using the power that was available to her as a woman to force him to provide for her and her child.
What makes this story even more interesting are the first few verses of Matthew. Here there is a portion of the lineage of Jesus. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are considered to be the children of Abraham who can trace the heritage of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad all the way back to Abraham and his wife Sarah. And here, in Matthew 1:3, we find Perez, son of Tamar and Judah—the bully, a grandfather of Jesus of Nazareth.
This story is not necessarily a justification for bullies. It can actually be seen as a call to stand up to them. If Tamar had not figured out how to outwit her father-in-law and get the justice she was due, her name would not be in this genealogy, and who knows whose name would be at the end.
The lesson for us today is that we must connect our love for the world with our commitment to justice. Cornell West said that justice is love in action. Love is discipline, and love is responsibility. Love is action. Love means sometimes speaking truth not just to power, but to big scary people. Love also means not being the source of someone else’s oppression.
Vashti and Ahashueras
Esther tells of the origin of the holiday Purim, which is a celebration of life. It involves offering gifts of charity and wearing costumes and masks. The story focuses on two women who showed great courage in the face of cultural norms. In Chapter 1, we meet Vashti, who, when I was in Sunday school, was called the disobedient queen.
Vashti’s husband, Ahashueras, was King of Persia and beyond. He had a party for all the neighboring kingdoms, which lasted for six months! All of the men were pretty drunk by then, and the King was “feeling his oats.” He had, over the six months, showed off all his wealth and power and relative peace among the people, so he then decided to show off the women he controlled. He sent word to his queen to “put on your crown and come to the party room.”
She was being objectified. Women had few rights, and being paraded around a room full of men who viewed women as property didn’t sound like fun or feel like it would be safe. So Vashti did something most women did not do: she said NO.
No one says no to a king, especially a woman—his woman. She defied him publicly. She embarrassed him in front of his peers. She set a precedent for the rebellion of other women. Therefore, she had to go. She was removed from the royal quarters, which meant she was no longer queen. She could have been publicly flogged, banished from the kingdom (a slow death), or killed immediately. We don’t know what happened. We never heard from or about her again.
Additional Scripture Passages
“The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5 ESV).
“His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity” (Psalm 10:7 ESV).
“The human spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14 NIV).
“’You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother [or sister] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother [or sister] will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire’” (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV).
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34 ESV).
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV).
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless” (James 1:26 ESV).
Jenesse Center, Inc.
Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Programs
Rev. Dr. Kikanza Nuri-Robins