In the last few months we have all experienced stress. For many, that stress has led to problems in relationships—particularly in the family. Anyone watching the news today knows that reports of family abuse and domestic violence have increased, probably as a result of this stress. I have worked with abuse victims, abusers, and families at risk for over four decades as a minister, counselor, family life educator, and chaplain. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this subject over 33 years ago, when no one was willing to talk about it. We need to talk about it now!
The Church—and everylocal church—has an opportunity to be of great help to people who are experiencing abuse or domestic violence, and in doing so, act as the Peacemakers Jesus praised. In the name of Jesus, we can:
- Be real. A people who serve the one who called Himself The Truth should be open about the existence of family abuse in the community—and in our own congregations. By confronting this reality from pulpits and platforms we create an atmosphere where people experiencing abuse may feel free to seek help.
- Support community efforts rather than re-inventing the wheel. Most communities have public and private agencies organizations doing a good job of providing services to families at risk of abuse. We need to get behind these organizations financially, with volunteers and by referring people in need to them.
- Provide scriptural counseling and instruction on topics related to family abuse and violence. We can teach spouses what it is to love one another as God intended, parents how to discipline their children and communities how to love one another in such a way that the world takes note. We can use sermons, Bible studies, special programs, newsletters and pastoral counseling to make sure God’s Word is taught in ways that are relevant to this problem.
- Provide opportunities for people to build meaningful relationships, combating isolation. Isolation is one of the major risk factors for abuse, and in our zeal to stave off a disease we have increased that isolation for many. But the Church is people, and isolation is destroyed when people seek out one another.
- Meet practical needs. James asked what good is it if I see someone in need and say “Be warmed and be filled”, without doing something about it. Stress is another major risk factor for family abuse, and the isolation and economic impact of the last few months has seriously increased stress for many. We can help alleviate this stress by providing food, household goods, help with rent—even jobs—to those hit hard by the changes of the last few months.
- Stand with one another. The Biblical word for “encourage” means to be called to stand by someone. Whether we can meet all of a family’s needs or not, we can stand with them so that they know they are not alone. We need to mobilize the people of the Church to reach out to and stand with their friends, families, neighbors—even people they don’t know. We don’t have to know what to do or what to say–often it is best to just shut up anyway. We just need to be willing to endure awkwardness and helplessness to show people we love them.
- Focus on Jesus. The biggest need of any person is to have a relationship with Jesus the King. It is He who can give us a sense of worth, community, and purpose. It is He who can meet the needs of those we cannot. So, as we strive to do whatever we can to help people at risk for, or experiencing family violence, we cannot afford to forget who we are, and the One we serve.
I have worked with abuse victims, abusers, and families at risk for over four decades as a minister, counselor, and chaplain. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this subject over 33 years ago, when no one was willing to talk about it. If I can be of any help to anyone dealing with this issue, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know Jesus and Be Faithful.