But What About Proverbs 18:17?

In the Spirit of Proverbs 18:17-18 I suggest we listen to the cries of those who suffer

I shared earlier that a common component to the Proverbs 18:17 question is a desire not to make an assumption regarding the one being accused. In my personal experience, this concern is voiced after a wife has disclosed her husband’s abuse and the pastor is fearful of accepting her claim as the truth. While we may not want to assume that the husband is abusive, for some reason we are willing to assume, or suggest by our actions, that the wife is either a liar, overreacting, or ignorant of what constitutes abuse. I’m not sure why we continue to do this, in particular with women.

 

“In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.”

Among the most common questions I receive from pastors and ministry leaders involves this simple verse. The concern is that so many of us who teach and speak on domestic violence prevention insist that pastors and ministry leaders believe victims who come to them for help. This, some may contend, contradicts the wisdom of Proverbs 18 by “taking a side” without first hearing the entire story. “Shouldn’t we first gather more information before we assume that someone is an abuser?” some have asked. While there is much that can be said here please allow me to address just a few concerns.

1. How we read the book of Proverbs.

Most of us would agree that the Proverbs are a wonderful tool in ministry, shepherding and counseling ministry in particular. After all, they are wisdom literature. The caution is that these tokens are written as general observations. In other words, they ring true in almost every situation, but there are exceptions. For instance, I have heard parents claim Proverbs 22:6 as a promise only later to experience the disappointment of a rebellious child. Wisdom literature may offer wisdom but may also require wisdom in how we apply them. Could abuse be one of those instances?

2. How we read this proverb.

Proverbs 18 is a collection of twenty-four sayings that may be applied to a variety of situations including relationships or business dealings. Verse seventeen is addressing the reality that it can be difficult to discern the truth, in a dispute or conflict. (It should be noted here that I do not believe abuse to be a “dispute” or simple “conflict” but the use of power to control another). Verse seventeen offers no solution; it only speaks to the problem.

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