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.
To tell the story of God’s people means telling the story of how women are abused.
'When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.'
- Judges 19:27
Content warning: rape and abuse of women.
We were in chapel at my Bible College when I realised that something was wrong.
It started as an inchoate sense of something not quite being right and finally crystallised in the realisation that I was bleeding onto my shoes.
As we sang heartily of the blood of Jesus covering it all, my menstrual blood was dripping onto my shoes and pooling onto the floor.
There was nothing I could do to stop it. I jammed my legs together as hard as I could, and glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed. Everyone appeared to be focussed on the songs we were singing.
There was nothing to do but hold on until the service had finished, and then to shuffle, knock-kneed to the bathroom to begin a desperate clean up effort.
Later, I confessed the situation to some female classmates, and they leapt to action, offering pads and tampons, painkillers, and, most movingly, to go and clean up the crime scene for me. It was hilarious, for all of the embarrassment involved, made more precious by the secretive, shared nature of it.
This memory has become a powerful symbol for me of what it’s like sometimes to be a woman in the church.
To do most of our most meaningful and beautiful and messy work in private, around corners and huddled in bathrooms. To have men go about their business unaware of the hum of activity happening at another, hidden, level. Men can be so dominant in the church space, and their participation so much less contested than women's’, that it’s easy to get the sense that God’s business is men’s business.
That as women are bleeding, literally and figuratively, and hurting and healing - that’s all side business, inconsequential to the main tasks of the church.
However, when we turn to scripture we see a different picture.
Judges 19-21 is the story of the Levite’s concubine, and what follows from her rape and murder. It describes how women’s bodies are abused and their personhood dismissed. It describes how their stories are manipulated by narcissists who spin their own self-serving narrative, and how these lies are readily believed by a gullible, naïve audience. It’s horrifying and incredibly resonant for anyone who has any familiarity with domestic and family violence.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at what the story of the Levite’s concubine tells us about domestic and family violence. But for today, let’s focus on what this story’s inclusion tells us.
Strictly speaking, the narrative of Judges would have worked just as well without this story. Her rape and murder precipitate a civil war, but we might only have had this mentioned to us in passing. Instead, we have a full chapter, an entire narrative arc, dedicated to this woman’s story.
In other words, God makes it central. He makes this woman’s story necessary to our understanding of Judges as a whole. Her story becomes the marker of how deeply morally diseased the people of God have become as a nation. Though this woman is merely an object to her master-husband, and to her rapists, though she is diminished at every point and in every way - the narrator draws our eyes to look at her with compassion, to notice her ‘hands on the threshold,’ and to call her what she is - ‘a murdered woman,’ and not just a man’s concubine.
God noticed her. And he thought it significant enough to make sure we notice her too. He considered the story of his people incomplete without the story of this woman.
At a time when Israel did only ‘what was right in their own eyes,’ (Judges 21:25) God offers a different perspective, one that reveals, rather than dismisses, what happens to women in their midst.
To tell the story of God’s people means telling the story of how women are abused amongst them, and to mark this reality as a horror, a tragedy on a communal scale.
To be God’s people means reckoning with what life looks like for all of God’s people - men and women.
Open your eyes to see how women are abused in your context? Where is there silencing, exclusion, dismissal? How can you be an antidote?
Open your eyes to see how women are noticed in your context? Where is there welcome, valuing, listening? How can you further encourage this?
El Roi - the God who sees - it is painful for us to see what you see. To know that part of the history of your people is the abuse of women made in your image. But we also thank you that you do not allow us to deceive ourselves about this.
Even more than that, we thank you that you do see everything - even the things that are hidden or dismissed or twisted by liars.
Open our eyes to see like you - to stand, to listen, to speak and to cry with those who are abused. Help us to treasure your image in each other.
This reflection is drawn from a sermon Erica preached earlier this year. Find it here to think more about this challenging passage.
Interested in what the Bible says about domestic and family violence? Read more here: https://www.saferresource.org.au/the_bible_on_domestic_family_violence
 See https://www.barneys.org.au/talks/the-concubine/ for more on how the narrative highlights the woman.