'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16
Several women in my life have experienced domestic abuse, both physical and verbal. It is impossible not to have compassion for them. My heart breaks, my spirit ebbs and flows to try and speak hope and life into their situation. The church is divided on how to address this issue in many cases.
I hashed out thoughts on this subject with one of my best friends. I voiced my struggle, “The hard thing is, it is easy to love the victim and want to help them…and we should! But, as much as it disgusts our human minds at times, Jesus died on the cross for the abuser, too. We are called to love and restore the abuser, not just the victim. THAT is the truth of how deep the love of Jesus is. THAT is the test of how much we look like him.”
My friends eyes welled up as she pushed out the hushed words, “Jenna, when I hear you say that, I think of my abortion and...it’s like…I was that abuser. I was that murderer.”
My eyes burned back tears. Oh, how I love her. My, godly, courageous, beautifully restored friend. Yes. We are all the abuser. We are all the murderer. We are all that thief on the cross who needs saving. My best friend, who had carried the shame for so long, needed the people of God to love like Jesus and say, Come in, there is love here for you. There is forgiveness here for you. There is restoration. There is freedom.
Jesus can change anyone. No one on earth was excluded from the work done on the cross. It hit me: If I feel disgusted that Jesus even offers salvation to vile offenders, then I have no real sense of who I was before Jesus saved me. Bill Hybels reminds us, “You have never looked into the eyes of someone who does not matter to God”.
Seriously, I've used this quote many times to test my level of understanding of the love of Christ. I’ve held up photos of Hitler, looked into his empty eyes and said out loud, You will never look into the eyes of a person Jesus didn’t die for. There is no evidence that Hitler ever accepted this gift of salvation of course, but was it offered? Yes, by the work of the cross. I only go to this uncomfortable extreme because without it, how do we understand how deep and wide is the love of Christ? How will we ever be able to understand the power of his blood on the cross?
Jesus paid it ALL.
"Jesus paid it ALL.
ALL to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."**
Do I believe he has the power to do that? For me? For Hitler? For the wife beater down the street?
Are we intentional in seeking after abusers who want change, saying, There is hope for you! It is imperative that we crowd around the people they have hurt, offering them a safe place to stay. Let us not diminish our distinct, urgent call to aid and protect the abused, as well!
But then what of the offender? Do we never look back?
What if Ananias had not gone to see Paul after he was blinded on the road to Damascus? Here was a man who was overseeing the murder and persecution of Christians. Paul was an abuser; possibly a murderer.
God knew it would be hard for Ananias to believe such a vile man could change. He graciously spoke to Ananias in a vision instructing him to care for Paul because he was God’s ‘chosen instrument’(Acts 9:15). What if he had not been obedient to care for Paul? What if he refused to go heal him as God instructed? What if he did not believe God could restore a, man like that?
Without realizing it, Ananias was a huge catalyst in the spreading of the gospel and the writing of the New Testament - all because he trusted God’s power and was obedient. He was one of the first people to offer Paul the tangible acceptance of Christ after his radical conversion, even referring to him as, brother.
There are two forces at work here. The most significant being the work of God Himself. God blinded Saul with his power. God must do the work to bring someone to repentance. Ananias had no power to bring Paul to faith.
The second is also the work of God, but, it is Him working through his people. He used one of his people to give Paul back his sight. We have a role to play. We must understand God has called us to participate in the restoration of others--no matter their offenses.
I think of my best friend and what a powerhouse of God’s love she is. God is moving and using her life in crazy, beautiful ways to bless others. And it makes me think, "what would the kingdom of God look like without her?" The answer: not the same. Jesus crafted a role just for her. In His power, I foresee her moving mountains. I have no doubt God will partner with her to bring restoration to other women. She will have the honor of acting as an Ananias.
What if she had been left to her condemnation? What if she had remained in the shadows and believed her name was ‘murderer’? What if Paul remained the same way?! What if Ananias never said to him:
"Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Acts 9:17
Oh, Satan would have loved for Ananias to keep silent. He wants all God’s children to remain blind to their divine purposes. He wants us to keep our old names.
Remember, Satan is forever bound to his name, which means, ‘the accuser’. He wants us to be forever bound to our condemning names as well. We should not listen to him.
We should listen to one whose name means, “God Saves”; our precious savior, Jesus. He tells us the truth of who we are.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
Let us not be silent regarding this truth. Pull the people around you closer to the foot of the cross. Show them their new name carved into the wood. On the days they forget who they are, engage in the work of restoration. Take them by the hand and go back to the foot of the cross. Find your new names. Say them out loud. Praise God!
by Jenna Masters
**Jesus Paid It All, words by Elvina M. Hall, music by John T. Grape