James 1: 27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (ESV)
Each one of us has an incalculable impact on the lives of others. What we say or fail to say, what we do or fail to do, what our lives stand for or what we fail to stand up for, openly displays our convictions for all to see. Daily we prove our devotion to God by our choices: little devotion shows itself in excuses, much devotion shows itself in being obedient to Him even when no one else will be.
Those of us who write about or minister in the area of domestic abuse–especially as it relates to Christians–are often accused of “over-emphasizing it”, “creating problems” or “attacking” other Christians, especially leaders, who have repeatedly refused to address this issue.
Yet, when one out of every three women is affected by abuse during her lifetime, when one out of every four women experiences domestic abuse in her marriage, when a woman is abused every 9 seconds, how can addressing such horrors be over-reacting? The abused and their children are, for all intents and purposes, widows and orphans and we are commanded to care for them.
So, in order to be pleasing to God, we must get the emphasis off of those of us who do write or minister for or to the abused. Our focus should be first and foremost on the glory of Christ but since it is He Who commanded us to care for the widows and orphans, I believe that we are bringing Him glory when we address it. It isn’t the only thing we ought to address but it is definitely one thing that we should. So, then the question should never be “Why does she, why do they, talk so much about abuse?” for that is focusing your attention on frail humans (where it doesn’t belong) rather than on God (where it does). Instead, let’s ask:
“Is ministering to the oppressed mandated in Scripture?”
“Does my theology show itself in my obedience to this mandate? Or, does it show itself in my refusal to obey?”
“Since Jesus said what we do for “the least of these” we are doing to Him, what does my refusal to minister to the abused speak of how I honor and value Christ?”
Be sure of this: the devil is on the side of the abuser; he’s all for abuse maintaining its hold in the church. That should tell us something about where we ought to stand on this issue, don’t you think?
Since one out of every three women is affected by some form of abuse in her lifetime (not necessarily by her husband), it is quite probable that in a church with 30 women, 10 have suffered abuse. In a church with 300 women, approximately 100 of them will have experienced abuse at some point in their life. What if one of them were you? Would you want the leaders to speak up, speak out and defend you? Or would you be content with it continuing to be ignored?
There is a desperate need in the church today for godly men and women to be willing to openly address this issue. To educate themselves on domestic abuse. To be willing to call out the abusers. To minister to the abused. Believe the abused. Most Christians aren’t. Even most Christians in Reformed circles aren’t. By failing to speak out in behalf of the abused, by pretending this isn’t an important issue (or that we are somehow infringing on other’s rights by addressing it), we are speaking very loudly about it. Very loudly, indeed, and our silence is heard in hell.
If we aren’t speaking out against the abusers, we are silently endorsing their sin. If we aren’t ministering to the abused, we are heaping more abuse on them. Worse, when we fail to stand for truth, we ourselves are sinning against a holy God.
The obligation to speak truth lies with each one of us. We’ve been silent far too long. We must teach about abuse and minister to the abused because the abused are important to God. This isn’t an easy issue to address; if you take a stand on it some folks won’t like you. Some already don’t like me for taking such a stand but that’s okay; it’s God Whom I am seeking to honor, not a person. I’m walking into the fray and we invite you to go with me. We might get singed but since many of Jesus’ followers have been burned at the stake, that’s a small price to pay. I pray that many others feel the same.
Have you ever stood against abuse of any kind (abortion, rape date, verbal, emotional, physical…)? What was the response of others?