Tag Archives: Abuse

God’s People, part 58: Tamar

Read 2 Samuel 13:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” (Amos‬ ‭5:24‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 58: Tamar. The last few months of 2017 went down with a barage of sexual harassment and/or misconduct charges against many prominent and powerful people. People in the upper eschalon of Hollywood, movie stars, politicians and others were outed as having wrongfully forced themselves (in one manner or another) on others because they had the power to do so. Thus, the #metoo movement was born, where countless women across social media shared their experiences with having been subjected to sexual harrassment/assault/misconduct.

What’s more, it didn’t stop with the secular world. Not long after #metoo exploded into our collective conscience, so did #churchtoo. In this social media tag, many Christian women recounted their experience with such abuse within their churches. Some of the sharing was of actual sexual abuse, and some of it was not of abuse within the church, but how the church helped to shame and silence victims of such abuse. Both are egregiously wrong and shameful.

Of course, with such abuse came push back over the length of time between the accusations. “Why did she wait 20-30 years to bring this forward,” skeptical/cynical people countered. Yet, at the heart of this is a fundamental sin we find ourselves falling into. We forget that victims almost always remain silent because they feel shamed by others around them, shamed by the very act of sexual abuse itself, and intimidated by the people who preyed upon them…people who are often in positions of power and authority. Would you report being abused if you knew it was going to cost you even more abuse than the original abuse itself did? Be honest.

Unfortunately, the #metoo and #churchtoo movements are not pointing to anything knew. Sexual abuse and misconduct happen all the time. The citizens of Sodom wanted to rape the male guests of Lot…and Lot was going to offer those evil people his daughters in the place of his guests (#themtoo)! Rape and sexual assault is reported all throughout the Bible and none in more detail than in the case of Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon.

Perhaps, looking at the account of Tamar’s rape will help us understand why female (and male) victims often remain silent. Tamar reported her rape to her brother Absolom who became, naturally, very indignant over the assault. He wanted justice for his sister, though he told her to be quiet (probably for he safety), and brought the accusation to his father, David, the King.

What did David do to Amnon, his firstborn and heir to his throne, to punish him for his crime: NADA. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The Bible says he was angry, but remained silent and did nothing to punish Amnon, his firstborn. What that betrays is the fact that David played politics and put power above justice. #tamartoo. This, unfortunately, is an evil that women have had to endure from time immemorial.

The question for us is this: are we going to allow these patterns to continue? Are we, as God’s people, going to follow after Abraham, Lot, David, Hollywood, Wall Street, Capital Hill, the White House, some church leaders, and others who have either sexually abused people and/or dismissed, silenced and shamed victims of sexual abuse (or any abuse in general)? Is our immediate, knee-jerk reaction going to be to defend the accused over and above the vicitm?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that, in today’s hyper-sensitive and “quick-to-judge, jury, and destroy” world driven by a rabid media and social media, we need to be careful to let the facts of each case come out before making any final judgments toward anyone. It’s not justice to “burn a witch”, as it were, only to find out he or she wasn’t a witch. #salemwitchtrials.

With that said, we can’t allow justice to be obstructed by instantly calling the accusers liars and not allowing for the due process to work out on both sides. We can comfort people who are claiming to be victims, and work toward their healing, while not skewering and seeking the immediate demise of the accusers and their families. But we must not silence victims and perpetrate evil. We must defend the weak and take all accusations seriously. These are tough times to be navigating, for sure; however, God is just and always on the side of the oppressed, no matter who the oppressed is. #soshouldwebe.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Absolom named his daughter “Tamar”, presumably in honor of his sister, whom he cared for and took into his own home following her rape. How can we bring honor, care and healing to victims rather than shame, apathy and irrevocable harm?

PRAYER

Lord, let our hearts be filled with justice and let that justice quell our cynicism, perceptions and quickness to judge and persecute (victims or otherwise). Prepare me, O Lord, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. Amen.

God’s People, part 56: Bathsheba

Read 2 Samuel 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah…” (Matthew 1:6 NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

bathsheba-icons-of-the-biblePart 56: Bathsheba. Now we get to the character of Bathsheba. For the first part of the story she was treated little more than a prop to get us from the widely celebrated King David to the largely scorned and scrutinized King David. She was a literal prop in that David objectified her and lusted after her in order to fulfill his own self-indulgent, sexual whims. She was also a literary prop used to expose the selfish, cowardly, tyrannical, despotic side of David.

Following being named in 2 Samuel 11, the scene where David sees her bathing on a roof and being summoned to David’s room, she is not named again until after her first child with David died. In that time, she is merely referred to as “Uriah’s wife” or “the woman”, and is not given much of a character to develop; rather, she is utilized in a way that continually points to David’s sin. Much like in real life, Bathsheba is yet another person abused and silenced by those in power.

But who was Bathsheba? We know very little about her because her character goes largely undeveloped. Some have tried to suggest that Bathsheba’s bathing on a roof, in plain sight of the palace, indicates that she wanted to be “seen” and that she was complicit (at least) in the affair; however, the Bible does not write it in such a way that hints at her guilt. Instead, the Bible states that David “sent” (2 Samuel 11:3), “took”, and “lay” (verse 4). Bathsheba, who is only further objectified by the author as being “a woman of unusual beauty”, is shown to have acted passively or submissively to the king. The Bible states that she “came”, “returned” (verse 4), and “conceived” (verse 5).

The textual evidence, though scant, provides us with a fairly clear picture. David was the one who acted in authority and, naturally, Bathsheba did as her king commanded. Even if the relationship were consensual, King David’s act is nothing short of rape given the power differential between him and his subject. Yet, using the language it does, the Bible does not paint a portrait of consensual sex; rather, it tells the tale of a King whose power went to his head and who treated his subjects as playthings for him to indulge upon. What’s more, the Biblical author(s) never refer to the sin as Bathsheba’s sin or both of their sins. The Bible only ever refers to the sin as “David’s sin”.

Later in life, Bathsheba too finds herself wrapped up in power. Typically, in monarchies, the heir to the throne comes from the legitmate, first-born, male child of the King’s first marriage. Sucession, should anything happen to that child (as it did in the case of David’s eldest, Amnon), continues down that line to the the next oldest male child. Yet, Bathsheba gained great favor with the King, and she used that favor to ensure her son would become the next king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

Indeed, Solomon, her son, did end up taking over his father’s kingdom; however, that political manuevering came with a heavy cost. While David’s family was, no doubt, rocked by the scandal of David’s sexual relationship with Bathsheba, this particular act ensured that the fracturing of the Davidic family was complete. Two of David’s children openly rebelled against him (Absalom and Adonijah), and both ended up dead for it. The first was killed by Joab, King David’s general, and the latter was killed by Solomon. What’s more, without doubt, Bathsheba played a role in Adonijah’s death.

The reality is that, as we see, Bathsheba was a victim of David’s; however, as is sometimes the case, the abused ends up becoming an abuser. Bathsheba learned to play the game of power once that power was given to her. She learned how to politically manuever so that her son, and with him her legacy, would out live David and his former wives. How many times have we been victims of psychological, emotional or physical abuse, only to eventually find our own actions mirroring that of our abusers? Perhaps some of us have, and others have not, but we all have the ability to fall into the same power trap that Bathsheba found herself. Let us be mindful of that and turn to God to help us avoid those pitfalls.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid the pitfall of power, and to rely only on your power. Amen.

Princes and Princesses

Read Psalm 31:19-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

Cinderella-2015-film-reviewBack in March, my family and I went to see Disney’s long awaited live-action film adaptation of Cinderella. As can be expected with anything Disney, it was simply magical. The film was very true to the spirit of their original animated classic; however, they updated it with more background and more context which led the audience to better understanding of who girl was and how she got the name “Cinderella”. Lily James was brilliant as this rags-to-riches princess and the entire cast added depth to their characters.

Since most people have seen the original Cinderella, I cannot really spoil the story since the film follows the same basic plot. This film centers on a girl named Ella. She was pretty well off and she lived in a home with her father and her mother. It was a happy life and she was a happy child but, as is always the case, happiness is fleeting and soon that happiness came to a bitter end. Ella’s mother fell ill and the first of many dark shadows was cast over her life. In her dying moments, her mother looked up at her and uttered these words, “Have courage and be kind.” With that, her mother breathed her last.

Those words inspire and define Ella throughout her life; however, they would become more and more challenging to live by. Her father ends up meeting another woman, one who is looking to be upwardly mobile, and this woman has two daughters of her own. They are cruel, prissy, and spiteful like their mother, and they treat Ella poorly. What’s worse, her father never returns home and dies while out on a business trip. Ella’s world comes crashing down around her and it seems like the darkness has finally won. Her wicked step-mother and step-sisters enslave her and make her live in the attic. They mock her and abuse her. It is because she looked dirty as a result of being made to literally do all of the dirty work, that she got named “Cinder” Ella…hence the name, Cinderella.

But this Cinderella does not give up hope…ever. Nor does she let her step-mother and her step-sisters change who she is. Rather, she keeps on remembering her mom’s last words, “Have courage and be kind.” While she does learn to stand up to her abusers, and she does eventually find away to leave them and their abuse (as the abused should never, ever, put up or stay with an abuser), she never stops having compassion on them. She loves them even though she doesn’t like them. She never let’s them control who she is. While she didn’t have control over anything else, she had control over who she was and who her mother (aka God) called her to be.

I would say that in her death, Ella’s mother parted the greatest gift to her child: LOVE. It is true that it takes courage to love and to be kind. Ella had that courage, and like Ella God is calling us to have the courage it takes to LOVE and to be kind. If you are abused or in an abusive relationship have the courage to do what it takes to get out of that relationship, seek help from anyone who will give it, even if that means going to the authorities if need be. Have courage and be kind and love yourself. God does not want you to be abused. Even for those of us who are not abused, we all have circumstances in our lives that can easily alter our call to have courage and be kind. Don’t let the dark days of life snuff the bright, bold and warm days of LIVING. God calls us all to have courage, to be kind, and to LOVE. Like Cinderella, we may have cinder and soot on the outside of us; however, within us are the princes and princesses of God’s glorious kingdom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

PRAYER
Lord, I want to utilize the courage you have given me in order to be kind and to love. Guide me in this, I pray. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #7: Being Rivals or Boastful

Read Matthew 20:20-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT)

1304abandonedThe discples had been traveling for days in order to get to their destination. When they arrived at the upper room, they sat down at the table and Jesus began to speak. “Blessed are you, my disciples, for you know just how powerful I am. You love me and recognize that I am the most AMAZING person to have ever walked on earth, let alone water, and so I leave you with these rules. Only you twelve are ordained to do ministry, to lead the flock, and to carry on the life of the church. When you unanimously decide who will succeed you, only my power will transfer onto them, and from them onto their successors. Everone else is to listen mindlessly to you and have blind faith in what you say. If anyone disagrees with you, crush their opposition as harsly as you can.”

Ailment #7: Being Rivals or Boastful. I bet you are puzzled right now! You are probably thinking, “There is no way on God’s green earth that Jesus said the things that he’s written above!” If so, you are right. The above words are NOT Jesus’ words; however, they are the words that the institution of the Church convey to people, both the faithful and the unfaithful alike! Again, the Pope was addressing this to his Curia; however, this is not exclusive to the Roman Catholic Church. This is a church-wide reality. Every denomination is rife with rules, regulations, and stipulations on what is reserved solely for the upper eschalon of the church, for the clergy, and for the lay people. And within the laity, certain people have more “rights and privileges” than others.

Before I go on, I must put this caveat out there. Not all rules, regulations or stipulations are bad. As clergy, I understand why it is important for the church to weed out those who don’t have the gifts and graces for pastoral ministry from those who do. It’s not so much to say that one is called and the other isn’t; however, it is the church’s way of both affirming that all are called and helping to discernt to what each person is called. Not everyone is called to be a bishop, or an elder, or a deacon, or a treasurer, or a committee chair person. Yet, all are called to be ministers in their own right and the church should helping all Christian to discern where their gifts and graces are.

Often times, though, the church gets in it’s own way when it comes to that discernment. Often times, it crushes the Spirit rather than giving it room to move. Often times the church gets caught up in power plays and power struggles and abandons the Spirit altogether. This happens at the denominational level, at the local church level, and at the individual Christian level as well. The only thing that this does is cause rivalry and division in a church that is supposed to be united in its mission to follow and serve Christ.

Today’s challenge for you, individually, is for you to reflect on the following questions. Have you been giving room for the Spirit to move, or have you been crushing the spirit under petty and oppressive rules, regulations and/or stipulations. Have you been claiming the power of God, or boasting in your own powers and abilities? Are you following Christ or are you following yourself? Are you helping to discern the Spiritual gifts and graces of others, or are you deceiving them to think that they NEED you in order to be followers of Christ? These may be tough and painful questions to ask yourself; however, they are questions each of us, as Christians, should be asking of ourselves. Like Jesus, we should be empowering people with the spirit, not hoarding what isn’t ours to hoard anyway. Remember you are empowered by the Spirit to empower others through the Spirit and that in this empowerment, not false power, lies the LIFE of the church!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” – Aristotle

PRAYER
Lord, allow me to give up whatever power I think I may have, in order to be empowered by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.