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.
A Church That Heals
Inaction quickly reveals itself for what it truly is; injustice. But a church that heeds the instructions of Romans 12 can provide healing for survivors.
'Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.'
- Romans 12:9-12
When I think of the Church, I think of healing.
If you hear my story, that might surprise you. Not too long ago, I experienced horrific sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of a beloved church leader. Senior church leaders, who I thought would protect me, did not believe me or help me when this was brought to light.
They never laid a violent hand on me, but I believe they unwittingly caused me far more harm. I endured deep spiritual trauma for three lonely years.
It almost broke me. Almost.
Each time I read Romans 12:9-12, it speaks to me of what came after that time. What came after has been a season of healing, a kind of healing I could never find outside of God’s people. My aching heart has received sincere love - instead of cruelty, injustice and inaction.
What strikes me about Paul’s words is that they are instructions to do. He has spent the last 11 chapters explaining doctrine, but now he wants us to put those truths into action. These instructions are pragmatic. And they are particularly helpful for victims and survivors. When we pursue these acts of love, we create cultures where victims and survivors can heal and flourish.
Often churches do not move beyond theologising and smiling pityingly at victims. Passiveness and hesitancy doesn’t help us hate evil nor does it help us cling to what is good. Inaction quickly reveals itself for what it truly is; injustice.
Does your life express hate for the evil that is violence against women?
Because that is what healed me. It was spiritual leaders who looked me in the eye and said, I hate what happened to you. It was the church family who wept with me, and roared in righteous anger on my behalf.
What healed me is the devoted love of the dearest sisters and brothers. What healed me was kind, powerful men who honoured me above themselves.
What healed me was the recognition of the small, strong light still flickering in me: when my zeal, spiritual fervour and service for the Lord was seen. When pioneers (especially when they were fellow survivors) assured me that my experiences did not disqualify me from ministry, but actually strengthened me to be a minister.
What healed me was a place at the dinner table, the beach trip and the leadership team. What healed me was Jesus working through His body, the church. His Healing is the only reason I am able to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.
- What challenges you about Romans 12:9-12? Which of Paul’s instructions is your least practiced?
- Why do we find it hard to hate what is evil? What does it look like to hate evil?
- What is a realistic action you can take in the next few months that expresses your hate for gender-based violence?
God of sincere love,
we thank you for the healing that we/some of us have received from you, amongst your people. We grieve - on our own behalf, or on behalf of others - the times where this has not been the case. Make our churches places where we hate what is evil, and cling to what is good, and are wise enough to distinguish which is which. You are devoted to your church, and to us. We thank you for that. Make us joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
Read this article for more steps church members and leaders can take to participate in God’s healing for survivors: https://www.commongrace.org.au/10_things_that_will_need_to_change