Note: I wrote this for publication before the NFL and its players were in the headlines. However, I feel that it’s especially timely now.
Domestic violence is no respecter of age, economic status, race or educational achievement. Fortunately, the gospel applies just as universally. In situations where hope seems lost, where evil seems to be winning, Jesus speaks to victims and abusers. There are no cliché answers but there is a consistent Savior.
To the victim
You are deeply loved. Your abuser may have told you otherwise, but you are loved. Your worth is not based on performance, appearance or moods. Christ died for you. The Son of God loved you enough to die so you could have hope, the hope of being accepted as you are.
Your sins have been paid for. Whatever grievances your abuser may claim to have against you, you do not deserve the punishment they inflict. God is the only true judge and He said, “It is finished.” The abuse is not your fault.
You’re not alone. There are others like you who suffer in silence. Jesus promised that He would never leave you. Even in your darkest days, He hears your prayers, feels your pain and stays. Often He makes His presence known in the words and actions of another person. You need other people to walk with you through the healing process, to navigate the effects of the trauma you’ve endured. Counselors, other survivors and friends are there to help you if you’ll ask.
It’s okay to leave. Your loyalty, your desire to help your abuser and your commitment to marriage are noble, but you have permission to leave. For the sake of your life and the life of your children, there is no shame in leaving an abusive situation.
To the abuser
Your sin is not bigger than Christ’s salvation. You may hate yourself when you get violent, but you can’t seem to stop. Your sin is not too much for God to handle. Jesus’ death on the cross covers your offenses, too.
You need a Savior. Despite your efforts, your attempts to stop, your promises that it will never happen again, it does. You can’t change by yourself. You need the God who created you to change your heart, your mind and your behavior. In that way, you are no different than the rest of humanity. And, like the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus says to you, “Go and sin no more.”
Help is available. The abuse you endured, the rage that overcomes you and the habits that die hard are not battles to be fought alone. In addition to a Savior, you need people to walk with you through the healing process. There are counselors and recovery programs that exist for the purpose of helping you find your way again.
It’s okay for them to leave. Your loved ones, those who have been at the receiving end of your anger, need to feel safe. They need to be safe. Deep down, if you love them like you say you do, you know this and you know their safety cannot be guaranteed with you… at least not right now. Let them go. The only behavior you should be trying to control is yours. Maybe their absence will be the motivation you need to work toward lasting change.
Sometimes God asks us to give up the very thing that it most important to us, for the sake of showing us something better. It’s not easy, but He always has our best in mind.
This article first appeared in The War Cry (2014, September), p. 28.