Luke 10:30-37, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
Every week women and children whose hearts and lives are daily broken by the cruelty of husbands and fathers who intentionally destroy them with caustic words or through cruel physical attacks are sitting in church pews around the country. If you look into their faces, these women and children are likely smiling, trying to convince themselves and others that all is well. But, if you take the time to come closer, look deeper, you will see their pain filled eyes and their crushed and broken spirits.
These wounded ones are among us; they are our sisters, our daughters, our friends, our children’s friends. Perhaps, due to God’s grace alone, they are not in every church but, nonetheless, they are in far more churches than we have cared to realize. God has brought them in among us and fidelity to Christ demands that we acknowledge it and seek them out to help them–and do so in a way that honors Him. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus decried the Priest and the Levite who passed by the man who had been beaten and left for dead. When we ignore victims of domestic abuse who are right in our midst, are we not reacting as they did? When we refuse to acknowledge that domestic violence exists in our churches, when we downplay the damage done by abusers, when we shun the victims because we don’t want to believe their stories, we are walking on by the wounded and leaving them for dead.
It is past time for the Good Samaritans in our churches to stand up and acknowledge that abuse does happen in supposed Christian homes. We must take time to listen to those who risk so much to share their stories; moreover, we must believe them. Then we must be willing to stand with them, to protect and to defend both them and their children.
When victims come to the church with their stories of abuse by their men, they are often dismissed. Our reactions are often weighted in favor of the one who has met out the abuse:
- Surely the wife has exaggerated.
- He’s such a godly man; there’s no way he could have done what she is accusing him of.
- He may have an anger problem but so many of us do.
- Perhaps marriage counseling would work; then both partners work out their problems.
We’re so sure that the accused men are good Christian husbands and fathers that the wife is often disbelieved, accused of exaggerating the abuse or is sent back into the fray with orders to love more, submit more, forgive more.
But, would we do the same? Would we ourselves do what we are telling them to do? Would we go back to have our spirits crushed, our bodies broken, our children threatened? If their stories are true, if they could even possibly be true, we need to listen and to consider what is honoring to God. On top of simply ignoring them or denying the truth of their stories, pastors have been known to tell victims of domestic abuse to submit to whatever their husbands dish out and to do it in the name of submission to Christ. This type of response is nothing but sin.
There is no place for softness in dealing with abuse within our homes. Yet, in many churches, the courage needed to confront abuse is sadly lacking. We desperately need courage: courage to confront abusers, courage to teach church members about abuse, courage to protect and defend the abused, courage to speak up when one of “our own” is the abuser and, above all, courage to believe the victims stories in the first place. We must do whatever is called for in order to protect the wounded who are right within our congregations or we risk disobeying our Lord: the same Lord Who has called us to love our brethren as we love ourselves. We have no choice then but to protect, to love, to serve and to defend the least of these for Jesus’s COMMAND to us is go and do likewise. Any so-called Christianity that says to a victim “Lord bless you,” and then moves on to other things while leaving them to suffer abuse has lost its focus.
Who among us wants to be in a battle alone? No one, of course, and yet, all too often, that’s what we’re insisting these wives and children of abusers do: stand alone, manage alone, suffer alone. If we continue to turn these victims away, are we not making a statement about our faith? To claim we love God is one thing, but to really show we love Him requires commitment. When we love Him, we will love His children also. In the story of the Good Samaritan, in order to pass by the man beaten and left for dead, the Priest and Levite had to intentionally blind their eyes, harden their hearts and rationalize an excuse. If we continue to ignore the abuse victims in our midst, are we not guilty of the very same things?
It is costly to get involved in the lives of those wounded by domestic abuse but it is even more costly not to. To fail to serve those most in need of our time, efforts and attention is to fail to serve the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for it is He Who has told us “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 40)
Questions for thought: What can we as a church do to change our reactions to stories of abuse? How can you, as an individual, make a difference in your church? I’d love to hear your thoughts.