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 who have been broken by the cruelty of abusive husbands and fathers are sitting on church pews hoping someone will care enough to try to see behind their mask. 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 catch a glimpse of their crushed spirits behind their pain-filled eyes.
God has brought these suffering ones among us; fidelity to Christ demands that we seek to help them. In the parable 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 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 or don’t want to get involved, we are walking by the wounded and leaving them for dead–just like the Priest and Levite.
It is past time for the Good Samaritans in our churches to take a stand against abuse. 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, and protect and defend both them and their children.
We don’t have a good history of this in our churches. Sadly, when victims come to the church for help, 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 very often 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. To suffer for the cause of Christ.
But, would we do what we are telling them to do? Would we go back to one who has abused us knowing it means that our spirits will be further crushed, our bodies broken, and our children threatened? Few if any of us would be willing to do that. So why do we ask it of them?
There is no place in our churches for softness in dealing with domestic abuse. Any so-called Christianity that sides with the abuser over the victim or says to the 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, survive 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 also love His suffering children. In the parable 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 the church do to change their reactions to stories of abuse? How can you, as an individual, make a difference in your church? I’d love to hear your thoughts.