Abuse is never God’s plan
The response of the church has been an issue that has recently been under scrutiny across the nation. Historically, many women who have experienced the terror and violence of domestic abuse have often gone to their faith communities for help, only to experience the heartbreak of being blamed, turned away, or told to return to dangerously abusive environments. This trend is beginning to change, but progress has been slow.
That is why the stance that Highland Park United Methodist Church (“HPUMC”) has taken against domestic violence and abuse is so powerful. When church leaders and clergy begin to condemn domestic violence from the pulpit and in public spaces, they bring light to this dark problem and hope to many women who have suffered. Abuse is always wrong and never a part of God’s plan for a relationship or a family.
Marie Fortune has written an amazing book for women of faith who are experiencing domestic violence entitled, Keeping The Faith: Guidance for Women Facing Abuse. In this book, she states: “To turn the other cheek means that we do not return a blow for a blow. But we can walk away from it. [Jesus] does not mean that we should lie down and allow someone to walk over us many times. There is nothing loving about allowing an abusive person to continue to destroy his family. Violence in the family is evil.”
Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness do not prohibit asking for help, protecting children, calling the police for protection, or even moving on for safety. Forgiveness can be given from a safe place. The cycle of violence in abusive relationships includes a phase of apologies and flowers, only to cycle back to abuse once again. The first priority in any abusive situation is safety. This often means that the abusive person and the person being abused need to separate to determine if apologies can ever move towards true repentance and behavior change. Words mean very little at this point. The blame and accountability need to be shifted, in both faith communities and the larger culture, from the person being hurt to the person who is hurting the people he has been given to love and protect.
One of the most important ways for a faith community to take a stand against domestic violence is for men and women to join together in this endeavor. The power of men coming together and telling other men that abuse is not going to be tolerated is one of the greatest ways to start this process. Domestic abuse is not just a women’s issue. It is the issue of any person who wants to protect their sisters, mothers, and daughters from being hurt or even killed. Real men of God are not abusive to their wives and children. As HPUMC continues to take a stand against domestic violence, the ripples of Christ’s light will spread to other faith communities and to countless families who need the peace and healing love of Christ.
HPUMC has long been providing support for victims of domestic violence. We have strengthened that support through the establishment of Restoration Ministries. We have a full-time therapist who provides services free of charge to women who have been impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault. For more information, please contact Deborah Suderman, LCSW at 214-523-2162.