-Rev Melissa Fain-
38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:38-42 CEB
In 2011 the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) had an important discussion point. Not the question itself, which was do we minister to the victims of sexual abuse. That was overwhelmingly approved. The question was about a little piece of language tied to the resolution. Do we say victims or survivors. So many came forward and talked about being a survivor, that they were no longer a victim. So many others expressed the importance of the word victim, and how everyone wounded by sexual assault was a victim at some point, but not everyone became a survivor. There was a counter point, that support should not magically go away when someone moved from victim to survivor. Ultimately, the resolution was amended to say we will minister to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
Now, eight years later, why am I returning to it in a discussion about enemies? Mostly, abusers of all types are the result of a cyclical problem. Abusers don't appear out of nowhere. Almost all abusers arrive at their abusive behavior because something happened. They too were victims at one point. When we move from victim-hood to being a survivor we are doing more than healing. We are ending a cycle that perhaps goes back generations. This is because a victim eventually only has two directions in which to go. They can either heal or continue the cycle. What's worse, once they make the wrong decision, and continue the cycle of brokenness, the sympathy towards them becomes almost nil.
Churches get in trouble here. We need to help the abuser move towards becoming a survivor, but not at the cost of the new victims created in the wake of their brokenness. Churches tend to focus on the abuser over the new victims. Then the issue isn't fixing the broken abuser, it's hiding their brokenness. The above scripture is not used like a healing balm, but a weaponized bomb. New victims are told to shut up, while nothing real happens. Meanwhile, the scripture is much more about restorative justice. It's about changing lives for the Body of Christ, not hacking limbs off, or leaving problems that will destroy limbs anyway.
It's our job to move victims to survivors, and abusive victims to survivors. It's our job to end those cycles for Kingdom's sake. The absolute worst thing to do is hide or push away. God is your own worst enemy.
Let us pray:
Dear God, Make me ready for this kind of restoration. Prepare me. Amen.