The churches have been in the media recently with research that shows that while domestic violence among practicing Christians is at a much lower rate than in most other contexts, there are nevertheless professing Christians who are both victims and perpetrators of violence towards family members.
This calls for great wisdom, compassion and resolve on the part of all Christians who desire to not only see their brothers and sisters flourish in life, but also to see the name of Christ honoured through godly, loving and self-sacrificial marriage and family relationships.
In relation to those facing violence, I believe we may apply Jude 1:22-23:
‘Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear…’
This means taking all means, even at our own expense, of giving protection, refuge and advocacy for the victims of abuse.
In relation to those who perpetuate violence, we are called to reflect the actions of the Father towards us – which involves both the ‘severity’ of loving discipline, and the ‘kindness’ of grace that always seeks reconciliation in the context of genuine & proven fruit of repentance (Romans 11:22).
In any case, we should not be reticent to use God’s gift of government as an instrument of justice (1 Peter 2:13-15).
At the heart of our response to family violence should be the Gospel. It is in the cross of Christ that we see the full character of God as the just judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25, Romans 3:26). His justice is never merely punitive (punishment alone), but always restorative (seeking the transformation of perpetrator and victim).
Jesus going to the cross shows us shows that our God has both compassion for the victims, and grace for the perpetrators, of abuse. He was at the same time the innocent victim of abusive institutionalised violence, and the one whose death was the means by which even those who killed him might be forgiven.
The cross ultimately provides solution to the dilemmas of the innocent person trapped in a cycle of violence, and the angry and violent person who won’t or can’t see their sin. And so a Gospel-shaped response should always be two-handed: A passion for the protection, healing and restoration of victims, and a desire to see Christ magnified through the transformation violent people into those who love with gentleness and humility.
The glory of God will one day be displayed in that in Christ, both abusers and victims will stand reconciled before the throne of the Lamb, both conquered by Love. Let us pray for wisdom and grace for His church as we seek to live out this hope in anticipation of that day.