Have you been following along with the current Time of Grace series on abuse? If so, I’m betting you—like me—have been thinking a lot about how the church can do more to help. It has caused me to do a lot of pausing and praying about practical and loving responses to abuse.
But can I be totally honest with you? This topic intimidates me A LOT. It intimidates me because it involves people who are already deeply hurting, and I get scared that I don’t have the right words or actions to help them. I get scared that—in my attempt to help—I will make things worse. I have no idea how to confront abusers in a direct and loving way. I don’t know how to bring comfort and healing to victims in my community.
Recently, I confessed this to someone who works with abuse victims. She told me two things: 1) I probably WILL say and/or do the wrong thing, and 2) the biggest needs in our world are almost always foreign, scary, and messy like that.
It took me a minute or two for both those statements to sink in.
I wanted to protest what she said. I didn’t want her to be right. I wanted her to tell me I was being silly and that there’s a simple solution to this whole thing.
But she was right. It’s true.
- Well-intentioned helping often leads to unintentional hurt.
- There are many challenges in life that fall outside the boundaries of a “quick-start help guide.”
- Finding the perfect balance of a direct-yet-loving confrontation truly is hard to do . . . and even harder for a person to receive in humility and appreciation.
Helping others is messy, scary, and confusing.
And it’s exactly what God wants us to embrace in the church.
This didn’t fully click for me until I thought about the story of the good Samaritan.
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers attacked him. They stripped off his clothes and beat him. Then they went away, leaving him almost dead. A priest happened to be going down that same road. When he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. A Levite also came by. When he saw the man, he passed by on the other side too. But a Samaritan came to the place where the man was. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him. He went to him, poured olive oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey. He brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins. He gave them to the owner of the inn. ‘Take care of him,’ he said. ‘When I return, I will pay you back for any extra expense you may have.’” (Luke 10:30-35 NIRV)
The man in this story was abused. So abused that, without help, he would have almost certainly died.
Out of the three people who passed by this man, none were specifically qualified with a medical degree or first responder certification. None of the three had completed a specialized training on therapeutic techniques for resolving post-traumatic stress disorder caused by roadside beatings. None of the three were wearing sterile surgical scrubs made for dressing a bloody wound.
But one of the three didn’t let that stop him.
He simply did what he could, even though he may not have had the proper training, attire, background, or resources. I’m guessing there were moments as the Samaritan was helping the beaten man that the hurt man winced or asked him to stop. I’m betting it wasn’t the smartest idea to lift a nearly dead man onto a donkey.
But the Samaritan saved that man’s life just by imperfectly, mercifully doing what he would want done for him.
In the Bible, Jesus calls this response “being a neighbor.”
If Jesus were in our church today, I’m pretty sure he’d tell us that this same method will work as well for us as it did on the road to Jericho. We can address the abuse in our communities, churches, and families by imperfectly, mercifully being neighbors to the people God brings into our circles.
And we can start today by asking God to give us the courage it takes to stop letting fear, inexperience, or messiness keep us from doing what he has made us for: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIRV). “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 NIRV).