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Some Thoughts on Sexual Abuse

When it comes to the arena of sexual abuse or assault, we as the church need to listen better to survivors and then speak more. The trauma suffered whether once or multiple times among many other things robs the victim of their ability to voice their pain. But even getting to the point of listening may take time and lots of trust built up over time.

Not for a second do I pretend to understand what a sexual assault victim has endured; nor, do I assume the seat of the various other professionals who are poised to help these silent sufferers (like case workers, therapists and attorneys). However, I am learning that Jesus’ church has a place in offering the redemptive healing power of the Gospel for the sexually violated. 

Here are some follow-ups to last Sunday’s talk on sexual abuse:

    • Listen and believe. I mean, why should an abuse survivor believe that anyone will listen? They’ve probably been shut down before. Andrew Schmutzer, a survivor and advocate writes: “Unbelievable experiences tend to create unwanted testimonies.” In other words, people who can’t be believed will not be wanted to testify.
    • Listen more, believe and weep. Often what you initially see or hear is just the tip of the iceberg. This may come more naturally for some than others, but being so moved in mind and heart that you can cry for them— while it won’t change the past— will communicate redemptive empathy. 
    • Believe (genuinely) and become an advocate, a voice, for the person. This is where the “speaking more” part comes in. With the survivor’s permission, you should take up their cause and even stake your own reputation on what is right. This is true especially where children are concerned, but the sad reality is many abused children don’t give voice to their own trauma until they're  much older.
    • As of the first of the this year (2020), the Illinois statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases has been lifted. That is a right weapon of justice for those on whom the legal time clock and possibilities for reparation and justice has past. 
    • Christians and churches aren’t immune to this evil and need to face the music. There shouldn’t be “even a hint” (Ephesians 5:3) of ANY sexual deviance in Christ’s church. When there is, the church must deal with it. If it’s criminal and illegal, they must swiftly report and work with local authorities. 
    • Cultures of male dominance whether or not they existed during biblical epochs have almost always lent toward the minimization or abuse of women. Therefore, they are wrong. For a Gospel corrective to cultures of dominance, check out Jesus in Mark 10:42-45. 
    • Though the abuser statistics sadly skew heavily male, women can abuse, too. Think of the classic case of a high school teacher who grooms one of her unsuspecting, male students. Or, for a sordid biblical example see Genesis 19 of adult daughters to their father.
    • Abusers tend to be skilled manipulators. 
    • Sexual abuse is not just body, soul and spiritual. It’s an attack on gender. This is what Robert Kelleman says: “We are female or male not only in our bodies, but also in the essence of our souls, our selves, our personhood. Sexual abuse abuses the female soul and body or a male soul and body.” 
    • Sexual abuse survivors may have future trouble on what Schmutzer calls “the intimacy spectrum.” That is, “what is awakened in the arena of terror is not easily transferred to the realm of delights.” 
    • Forgiveness and justice are two different things. If we were to look back to the example of David and his sin with Bathsheba. God indeed forgave him, but David still had to endure the consequences of the sin. See the end of 2nd Samuel 12.
    • Forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because a victim may forgive their abuser doesn’t mean their relationship is automatically restored. It won’t ever be the same. And, as Schmutzer wisely points out: “Christian organizations have been the most reluctant to accept that a confessing abuser doesn’t heal the abused.”

That’s enough for now. It was random, I know, but the conversation MUST keep going and our consciousness ever awakened. May God have mercy on us all.

Posted by Will Pareja with

Thanks-living: More Than Just a Holiday


If I had a favorite holiday, Thanksgiving would be it. It’s less commercialized, a day off the normal grind, and a signal that the end of the year is near. It’s often best spent with others, and the sporting events are the whip cream on the pie (not to mention the mouth-watering menu defies the belt size)!

 Other than a holiday, let’s ask: is thanksgiving a feeling or wish? Can you say ‘thanks’ without directing the gratitude somewhere else? We tend to express thanks for something or someone. We’ve all heard the cliché “Thank God/goodness it’s Friday.” But I’ve never heard ‘Thank Friday for leading me into a two-day period wherein I don’t have to work’ or ‘Thank you, car, for getting me safely and warmly to my destination’. Whether realized or not, the point is that thanksgiving is always pointed at something.

 The expression of gratitude for some material or event is to acknowledge that there is a Source behind the object of thanks. Thus, thankfulness cannot be merely a feeling or a wish. Whether it’s a simple ‘thank you’, hand motion, song, poem, post, letter, etc., the act of thanking acknowledges that someONE has brokered a benefit for your good, and that someONE is God himself. Giving thanks is echoing to yourself and others one of the common yet majestic refrains of the Bible: “Oh give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

 Yet, thanksgiving for the Christian is also a lifestyle. “No other religion in the world has emphasized so insistently and incessantly on thanksgiving as the normal posture of the Christian heart” (Pastor David Sunday). We don’t have to wait for a season to be more aware of our blessings. Remember that whether or not your national history has pilgrims, natives, cornucopia, cranberries and turkey in it, every day for the Christian  is “thanksgiving” because every single hour we have reason to thank God for how truly good he is.

 As a church, let’s resolve to be constantly on the lookout for signs of God’s grace in each other, in our homes, jobs and schools. It’ll get contagious. Mumbling and negativity will eventually shrivel and be gobbled up by sumptuous expressions of grace.

Happy ThanksLiving!

 P.S. For a historical reflection on what Thanksgiving is, check out Steve Nichols's blog post over at Ligonier!


Posted by Will Pareja with

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