Confronting Domestic Violence with Love and Authority
- Friday, August 16, 2013
“So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused.” –Ezekial 34:22 (NLT).
As the woman approached me I could tell instantly that she was hurting. But when she rolled up her sleeve and showed me some serious black and purple bruises, I felt something rising up in me that said, this is NOT OK with God!
I asked her questions and listened to her story. Based on her hopeless demeanor, the severity of the injuries she showed me, and the pattern of violence she described, it was clear that this was not an isolated “accident.” I explained to her that when there is a pattern of ongoing abuse, it typically does not stop until there is a boundary upheld and a consequence initiated. I asked, “If you don’t take action to protect yourself today, will anything get better?” She said no.
On any given Sunday women just like this are sitting silently in churches across this country. They don’t know a moment’s peace (Isaiah 59:6-8) and they are worried that their only protectors have left the building. They have no hope for how they will overcome the fear and darkness they live with. The only ‘strong protectors’ they can really count on are those out in the trenches, wearing bulletproof vests and packing weapons.
While most of us would agree that God has called us to be peacemakers, if we’re honest, we prefer that our peacemaking looks like fellowshipping over coffee and donuts or teaching children songs in vacation bible school. This is all good. But sometimes being a peacemaker means flat-out confronting evil. And one great big evil that needs to be confronted by the Church today is domestic violence.
Why is domestic violence such a threat to the Body of Christ? Because it’s an enemy we have given untold power to by keeping it hidden. We don’t talk about it with our teens. We don’t talk about it in premarital counseling. And we certainly don’t talk about it on Sunday mornings. National campaigns to end domestic violence tout the phrase “Break the Silence.” Yet the place where the silence often gets most strongly upheld is in church. Maybe we avoid the topic of domestic violence because if it’s happening within a marriage we consider it off-limits territory. Maybe we shy away because we are uneducated or haven’t had any personal experience dealing with it. Or maybe because confronting it makes us too uncomfortable and calls out of us a relational discernment and spiritual authority we’re not sure we have. Whatever the reason, our silence is costly.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Seventy-five percent of all 911 calls are domestic violence related. One in four women will personally experience domestic violence in her lifetime. It is an evil that pervades all ages, ethnicities and religious denominations.
God was never silent on the issue of violence, yet generations of women have given up on Him because the Church, either through its silence or its misinterpretation of scripture, has told them God does not care about the cruelty and abuse they suffer. Somewhere along the line, these women were convinced to grimly stick it out in marriages where they were emotionally, verbally and physically abused, at the expense of letting their hearts die and shutting out the possibility of a God who lavishly loves them. Most domestic violence victims don’t consider the church a relevant place to go for help, because when they tried asking for help in the past, the response they got was weak or passive at best.
Sure, it’s human nature to want to avoid potentially explosive situations. But we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus never backed down from them. He didn’t back down from uncomfortable conversations or violent people and always offered strong protection to women being mistreated or needing refuge (John 8:1-11). Think about His confrontation with the demon-possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes who were “so violent that no one could go through that area” (Matt 9:28). Or what about the crowds in Capernaum for whom he “cast out many demons” (Mark 1:34). Also, consider the story of Joanna, the wife of Cuza, Herod’s business manager, who was one of the women who followed Jesus (Luke 8:3). If the wife of one of King Herod’s highest ranking leaders was seeking refuge with the Messiah, who was a threat to the king, how do you think that marriage was going? Jesus did not send her back to her husband, so we know there must have been a good reason.
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