Jonathon Hollingsworth writes, “By extending mercy to the perpetrator when no one else will, the mob hopes to prove to a watching world just how ‘edgy’ and ‘countercultural’ Christian forgiveness is. The more visible the forgiveness, the better the witness … Too often, Christians mistake the transgressors, not the transgressed, as the ones most in need of grace.”
Excusing and “forgiving” radical sin for the purpose of appearance– that rings a bell. Another church years ago congratulated themselves for their supernatural, gracious response to sin:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?…Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (2 Corinthians 5)
Making assumptions or leaning on our own understanding runs the risk of working against God and His Word. It is important to reign in gossip and slander, opinions, conjecture, and rumors. Leaders and those who care must seek out facts, listen with ears and eyes wide open, guard against bias and prejudice, pray, and take precautions the sake of the weak and vulnerable—even if it causes offense, even if it seems over-the-top, even if it raises eyebrows.
A woman who is confused, isolated, uncertain, or fearful, is expressing a clear need for help. Her response may not be what you’d expect–she may be calm or dramatic, withdrawn or violent–but that doesn’t tell you what you need to know. All it means is that there’s more…so much more.
Addressing pain, hurt, misuse, control, manipulation, coercion, and long-standing patterns is hard. It’s messy. It would be much easier to sweep it under the “conflict” carpet, pull out a Bible study, and throw on a couple of “atta boys.” It would feel better to forgive the perpetrator, minimize his sin, justify his actions and apply judgment to the wife who is already marginalized, isolated, weakened, broken, and “difficult.” Supernatural grace? Jesus put it this way:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 ESV)