The Church and Domestic Abuse

I really love football. I really do. I’m more of a college guy than a pro guy. I joke that my three loves in life are my God, my family, and my Ole Miss Rebels, and sometimes Ole Miss climbs that list based off how they are doing,

I don’t have a pro team, I guess the Saints, but in truth I root for whoever has the most Ole Miss players on their team.

So, I’ve watched the whole Ray Rice saga more from the perspective of a passive football fan. I’ve not been impressed with the leadership of the NFL as it seems like it’s more about damage control than anything else.

And I have become discouraged about where we are on issues of domestic abuse. It’s easy to fixate on Ray Rice, but as mentioned above, I’m a fan of Ole Miss. And one of our former Rebels is in some very hot water over this very issue, as well.

domestic-violenceMy perspective on this issue comes, though, not from being a football fan, but from someone who has seen the effects of domestic abuse first-hand, and from being a pastor. This past Annual Conference, Bishop Swanson asked me and Ginger Stevens from the Wesley House in Meridian to help him lead a workshop on domestic violence and think about the ways that we as churches and pastors can respond.

I think that we, as the church, and as Christians, and really as humans, miss the point. For instance, I mentioned Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. What Hardy did to his girlfriend is appalling. Why is there not the same outrage? Simple. There is no film of it. When we see what happened, we instinctively pull back. The written word is not as offensive. A picture (or video) really is worth a thousand words.

There are so many others who have written more eloquently, and put into words what I’m thinking. But here, for me, is the bottom line.

Abuse is always wrong. Physical, emotional, verbal. Any abuse is wrong.

This has shaped me, and is one thing that I have no patience for as a man, a husband, a father (to a daughter – and a son), and as a pastor.

We as Christians, and as the church, have to speak out on these types of issues. We have to help the women (and, yes, sometimes men) and children that are in these cases find the help and safety they need.

But here’s the reality on these types of cases. They are messy. They are confusing. It’s often a “he said/she said” type of situation. There are conflicting stories. There are in cases like the in the Ray Rice situation where the victim reconciles and doesn’t want to press charges.

So it’s easier for us as the church and as Christians for us to look away and walk away.

But we can’t. We can’t look away. We can’t walk away. We can’t. Even when it’s messy or hard. We can’t look away. We can’t walk away. Because we serve a God that saw us in the midst of mess and didn’t look away or walk away. But instead, through Jesus Christ, entered into our mess to save us. How?

By being abused. Beaten. Mocked. Spit upon.jesus_crucified

Jesus keenly understands that type of abuse. Because He (for the sake of our redemption) received the same type of abuse.

What do we do? I’m not 100% sure. But I know we can’t look away. And I know we can’t walk away.

Here at Asbury, we have a list on file of resources for individuals caught in this situation. We have friends that work in this area and we know where to refer people, if they are ready to receive help.

We will do all that we can to help get them there. We can’t make or force the decision. But we can help, when the decision has been made.

There is more, much more we can do. But I know this. I will not, and our church will not, look away or walk away.

As believers, that’s simply not an option.

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