Erica Hamence opens our series of 16 days of prayer against Domestic & Family Violence - Foundations for Christian Action by reminding us that we pray because our God has promised to transform the world.
Beauty to Ashes
God longs for his people to be a healing presence in the world, but to do that we must acknowledge our own brokenness, serve with humility, listen and collaborate.
'The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.'
- Isaiah 61: 1-3
Two years ago the Gold Coast Mayor and 30 Senior Pastors from different denominations met for the first time to discover how they might serve the city together.
After a series of workshops wrestling with social issues they felt God asking them to create new innovative solutions to the problem of Domestic and Family Violence on the Gold Coast, which has the highest rates of Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland. The Pastors have developed a strong collaboration with each other, the Mayor and several key specialist Domestic and Family Violence Service Providers to immerse themselves in the various issues. One key outcome has resulted in a strategic partnership with Griffith University to focus on developing a primary prevention program specifically to raise awareness, educate and empower Christian bystanders. This is being piloted now and we intend to roll it out across all churches on the Gold Coast in 2020. I have been privileged to walk alongside this process.
Recently I had an opportunity with a couple of brilliant Christian leaders to present at a national conference on primary prevention of gender-based violence. The university who was running the conference wanted us to present what the Christian community is doing to prevent gender-based violence. It was clear to us that this secular audience held the view that the Christian church was guilty of sweeping Domestic and Family Violence issues under the carpet, just as it has done with other significant issues.
After seeking God, we felt that Christ would have us be brutally honest with our secular friends, and to openly acknowledge our own brokenness. So we shared that we as a collective Christian church are flawed and that we are guilty of making wrong judgement calls, for which we deeply regret. That we are not experts and that the way forward is not to stay in our silos but to humble ourselves and start collaborating. That while we recognise our differences fundamentally, we all share God’s heart for justice. That we care deeply about the victims, the perpetrators and all those impacted by this evil and complex problem. That we’ve also seen what can happen when God binds up the broken hearted and sets the captives free.
The response from the audience was amazing. The director of the conference commented saying “I cannot tell you the amount of people who approached me after your session to say WOW! They respected your vulnerability, authenticity and passion to be the change. They were inspired by the impact a team of church ministers could have on responding to domestic and family violence.”
Despite all its flaws and failures, God hasn’t given up on using his church to redeem both lives and culture.
Just as he heals and restores us individually, he also works through His Church to bring healing and restoration to the culture we are part of. Even where we have made profound mistakes previously.
But stepping into that purpose demands that we acknowledge our own brokenness first, and start our conversations with humility rather than a superhero cape. With questions rather than answers. And with a commitment to serve in collaboration with others rather than seeking to build our own status, empire or story.
Unfortunately we are seeing unprecedented levels of abusive behaviour in our culture as well as the subtler issues that support harmful and abusive environments including in our own churches. Despite these overwhelming realities God is working in the midst of grief and has a purpose for His Church. According to Isaiah, and following in Jesus’ footsteps, “He has anointed us to proclaim the good news — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Where do you need to believe again that God’s restorative healing power could be at work in yourself and your community?
Where do you need to name again the brokenness of your heart and your community?
What might it look like for you to:
- Acknowledge your own brokenness first?
- To start conversations with humility rather than a superhero cape?
- To come with questions rather than answers?
- To commit to serve in collaboration with others rather than seeking to build our own status, empire or story?
you declared that you were the one who came to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free. May we see this in our lives, and in our churches. Help us acknowledge our brokenness. Help us listen with humility. Help us to collaborate for the greater good. Please be at work through your people that beauty and joy may abound.
There is great power in acknowledging that we have much to learn. ANROWS has a number of great resources to help you learn more: https://www.anrows.org.au/resources/
Why not contact your local women’s shelter and ask them what support and collaboration they would welcome?
Your local council is likely to have a number of initiatives aimed at addressing domestic and family violence in your area. Why not contact them to see what they are doing and how your church might be able to partner with them in it?