Judgment and Domestic Violence

“Grateful for God’s forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirming our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, not alone to the ends of earth, but also to the depths of our common life and work.”

“Preamble to the Social Principles,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2016.

What are the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church? Earlier in the preamble to the Social Principles within the Book of Resolutions, the Social Principles self-identify themselves as existing outside of church law. The principles “are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions.”

The Social Principles are neither binding by church law nor restrictive of church member behavior. They are a work born of prophetic zeal and idealism which in the end hopefully points us towards a more holistic understanding of the world around us.

Why am I bringing this up during Domestic Violence Awareness month? I would point out at least two things about the paragraph that I originally quoted. 

First, the Social Principles point towards the value of each individual. Yesterday my post pointed out that there should be a place for redemption in the church. Today I wanted to point out that even when redemption takes place, the redemption of another person’s life does not diminish the importance of wholeness and healing in the life of the victims of domestic violence.

Each person has inestimable worth and part of our common work is to affirm that value in the lives of people who have been demeaned, denigrated, or diminished through the sinful actions of others. Victims of Domestic Violence can feel broken, worthless, or even worth less than others. The lives of people who have gone through this experience are valuable and they are worthy of both God’s love and a loving place in God’s community.

Second, I want to point out that this paragraph points out that we both live within the forgiving love of God and are subject to judgment through and by that love. I’m generally not a hellfire and damnation preacher, but I do not deny that judgment will one day come for us all. I believe that God is far more gracious and kind than us, and I also believe wholeheartedly that God’s loving kindness sees and counts every tear and wound inflicted through our broken behavior and actions. 

As a survivor of Domestic Violence myself, there are times when I honestly do not want to be forgiving. In those moments, there are times when I can only move forward by handing my pain over to my loving God. I can let go of a deathgrip on my anger, pain, and hurt because I understand that in time God will take care of things. 

I don’t need to be vengeful for any vengeance necessary is in the hands of a God who is both kinder and better equipped to bring judgment without cruelty. I don’t need to carry anger around in my heart, for the pain which would fuel my anger doesn’t need to rest within me. I can let God care for the situation and move forward with life. 

Judgment may come, but I don’t need to be the judge. Retribution may come, but I don’t need to be dealing it out. I don’t have to do a thing to harm the people who harmed me, for God will care for those who have done wrong. I am a person of inestimable value and I don’t need to cheapen my value by carrying around worthless and harmful things like rage, anger, and hatred. God has those things, so I can move forward with life without worrying about them every day.

If you have been through such pain, I invite you to consider that God both loves you and will one day deal with the sinfulness of the world. There can be  healing and there can be wholeness even after everything that both you and I have gone through. It is not easy to hand over such things to God, but I invite you to consider what life might be like without carrying the baggage of pain, anger, and hatred with you everywhere you go. 

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

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