From Exodus to Golgotha: A Theology of Peace and Justice for the Child Abuse Survivor

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Introduction

Peace and Justice are two concepts that vary wildly in definition depending on who one asks. For the Christian, what seems straight forward is often not the case as opposing views clash claiming the correct interpretation of scripture. This fact cannot be emphasized enough when talking about a survivor of child abuse who is a Christian. These child abuse survivors are caught between the wrongs done to them and the call to forgive and answer the wrong done to them with love, compassion, and forgiveness. Make no mistake, this is an extremely radical concept for a child abuse survivor, but the ideas of peace and justice are essential to their lives if they follow from a biblical perspective. I am going to outline a biblical foundation for justice and peacemaking that has shaped my life as a child abuse survivor and serves as a radical call to pacifism for the world as a whole.

Background

I think there is no place better to start than with my own story. Personal experience is perhaps one of the most prominent elements that shapes how someone sees the world and experiences other people. How does someone adequately describe 19 years of physical and mental abuse in one presentation? It is quite difficult. What I am presenting in this section is a brief account, but there is certainly much more to share. I was born in 1986 to my mother and father in Richmond Virginia. My mother was 18 and my father was 21. I was born during a time where they were headed for separation. My mother was getting into drugs and my father was sleeping with another woman. They would separate and blame one another for what had occurred when I was two. My father married the woman he slept with while married and they walked the aisle while she was pregnant with her first of three children.

With my father gone and my mother deemed unfit to keep custody, I was headed for the adoption system. It would take the consult of my mother’s mother to convince my father to take me in. What followed for the next 18 years of my life was quite traumatic. I was beat on a weekly basis in the absence of my father by my stepmother out of aggravation that I was simply not her biological child. I was kicked up and down stairs, hit with plastic shovels, and locked in dark closets to play on my fear of darkness. If beatings were not bad enough, malnourishment was also a huge part of my growing up. My father would work late often and my stepmother would deny me dinner or neglect to feed me breakfast with her children on weekend mornings. I was given clothes that were too small and shoes that were also too small.

Things such as fear, paranoia, and seclusion became the norms of my life and still are in some ways. As I got older, I would learn that my father was not totally oblivious to what was occurring. I can vividly remember when I was 10 years old and my grandmother had called Child Protective Services on my father and stepmother to have them visit and see them deny everything. They threatened me before CPS arrived and I stayed mum as they assured CPS that I was just a child who habitually lies. After they left, I received a beating by both of their hands I would never forget.

As I got older, the physical abuse became more emotional, verbal, and psychological. From being reminded of how my mother turned out and being pressured to be perfect to being denied things such as a social life, a job, or a paycheck once I was allowed to start working. The latter were forms of what they saw as punishment stemming from my school grades which I struggled with mainly out of rebellion for the standards my parents put on me. I was allowed to participate in JROTC and excelled there in high school, but there was never once my parents came to a competition and they always brushed off any awards I received. During this time, my stepmother’s first child, her daughter, was given a car and all she desired, while ironically, her grades were bad as well.

Things came to a head when I was nineteen. I was given an ultimatum: Go to community college or go into the military. My parents had money to help with college, but refused to do so saying I must fund it on my own. This is while my father was spending money from my bank account on a repair job one check would have paid for and not allowing me access to the rest. I tried to enter the military and was denied because of recurrent migraines. I took this opportunity to say enough was enough. I never went back to my parent’s home and instead moved in with the family of the woman I am married to today. They would trace me down, call the house where I was living, and inform me I was kicked out for failing and betraying. But I was already gone.

Since leaving, I have become married, earned a college degree with the highest honors possible in Religion and currently study at a Seminary for a Masters in Divinity. This further complicates the issue of how I, as a follower of Christ, am to react to these former events and embrace the peaceful life I have been called to.

Anger and Aggression

What is someone to make of this? Parents are supposed to be nurturing and uplifting for their children and it is clear that in my case (and countless others), parents drop the ball. The transition from victim to survivor has been long and convoluted as I transition from aggression to peace within myself. Make no mistake, the process is long and certainly I find myself going back and forth between victim and survivor in my mind and in my heart. What is clear is that they both cannot occupy the same space in my life. What I have learned is that the aggression must be stripped away completely to allow for the growth of peace and new outlook on life.

Before going further, it must be noted that we acknowledge the creation of human beings as being done by God in His image as the first two chapters of Genesis indicate. What I am proposing as a backdrop for the theology I am presenting is that human beings are a sacred creation designed intimately by their Creator. It seems to follow that actions of physical violence and devaluing of self-worth by a child’s parents is not only an attack against the person themselves, but is a direct attack against what God has created. Anger and aggression are proponents of abuse, but they also can take up the mind of the abused. These concepts seem to be consequences of the Fall and direct challenges to the peace Christians have been called to in their walks with Christ.

I will now proceed with scripture. 1 John is a very challenging read and 1 John 3:14-15 is, perhaps, one of the most important passages that has shaped my journey. The passages states “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.”[1]

What this verse indicates is that the Christian must learn how to replace aggression and anger with love. How profound an idea this truly is to a survivor of child abuse. My own parents committed what was once unspeakable sin against me and I must learn to love them. They perpetrated horrific crimes against my flesh and my spirit and I must learn to respond with love and peace. The inner battle of this is truly damaging. We live in a society that trumpets the merits of retribution and revenge that enables hatred and aggression to flourish. It is here that a young adult lives when they finally see the truth of what occurred against them that they could not process as a child.

Torn piece of paper with the word "Peace" in the woman's palms.
Peace is in your hands.

My own experience has shown me that as a child victim of abuse, there is little to no way to process what has occurred without proper outlets and help. I had very little help processing so my default defense became shoving the events down in my spirit hoping they would never resurface. However, something unique happens in two ways. First, the events still do manifest themselves despite efforts to suppress them. From varying nightmares to interactions with others in society, it becomes clear that these events have not been properly dealt with. Second, the body does seem to act out in the most unusual ways. My entire life I have been plagued by migraine headaches and it is no shock to me that they are caused by stress, even stress I do not experience at the forefront. In the midst of all of this, a victim must find the way to peace and careful navigation through the words of Scripture.

Pharaoh and Child Abuse

I admit, as a child I had some exposure to the Christian faith through my grandmother. She was a Southern Baptist who was extremely passionate in her faith and did take me to her church on an almost biweekly basis. Reading the Bible and taking in the stories as a victim is quite overwhelming and empowering, but not in the typical ways we are taught. When I read the Bible, I saw God as retaliatory. To me, God was the wielder of justice and death to all those who come against His children and it would not be long before God delivered me and outright slaughtered my parents. Where death, dying, and murder are outright horrifying for children and most adults, I found comfort in it. This is the first part of me that needed to die in order to find peace.

tissot_pharaoh_notes_the_importance_of_the_jewish_peopleI think of many stories that formed and shaped this childlike view I had. Perhaps the story I resonated most with was the story of the Exodus. Here is Moses, this child who was given to a different family only to be betrayed when he became a peacemaker. He goes on to lead slaves out of Egypt and witness God outright murder the Egyptians who sought to end their lives. As a child victim, this story seemed quite magnificent. The waters rose and God used them to wash away the Egyptians so they could not harm the Jews in any way. In this very real sense, death becomes the misguided conduit for peace and justice.

As an adult working for peace and embracing the survivor in me, it becomes clear that my childlike interpretation is not only not accurate, but it is unacceptable as well. First, the text must be addressed. I have become quite fascinated with Jerome F. D. Creach’s handling of this text as he reveals a greater truth behind it. Creach speaks to Pharaoh having a level of anonymity and says “But having Pharaoh nameless also allows him to appear as a representative of forces opposed to God, even as a paradigmatic or symbolic figure.”[2] In this light, Pharaoh is not necessarily someone, Pharaoh is an out of control force. Pharaoh becomes the embodiment of something that challenges God directly and God must take on.

Because Pharaoh is a force, he is not necessarily a human being and nor should he ever be. Pharaoh is inflated to something that is metaphysical and out of the realm of human hands to deal with directly. This is where Creach rightly asserts that “we understand God’s battle with the Egyptian king and his people properly as a story of God’s defense of creation itself against the forces of chaos.”[3] This helps in the healing process for someone who has experienced abuse. Carrying the childlike interpretation of necessary physical death of a person as proper punishment into adulthood is something that is difficult to grapple with as I recognize that my parents are both alive and doing quite well for themselves.

How this helps is extremely important to address. In light of my father’s refusal to apologize for his actions towards me and the abundant physical life they live, this story of Pharaoh becomes told at a level that is intensely deep, and perhaps, too deep for a child. Pharaoh was vastly rich and had command of a dominating empire. He had absolutely everything he ever wanted. We might rightly say that Pharaoh thought himself to be a god, if not THE God. He enslaved God’s people and he abused them in the name of progress as his ego swelled. God calls His people to life and Pharaoh defies that call and stands in the way of it. God handles Pharaoh by ultimately wiping him out.

Yet, Pharaoh is not a real person, rather he is a representation of the forces against God as I discussed prior. In this way, I view my parents as soldiers in Pharaoh’s army. They are under the authority of sinful power that blinds their eyes to their rebellion against God’s creation. On the surface, they appear to be living great lives. At a level beyond comprehension, God is doing battle with the Pharaoh that still has control of their lives. It becomes clear that justice by way of death is not the desired outcome. My parents may be soldiers in Pharaoh’s army at the moment but they can be reached by God who will come to them like the crashing waves of the sea that took the metaphorical army in the Exodus story.

Parents as “Enemies”

What has occurred in my situation is the reluctant acknowledgment of my parents as “enemies”. In normal circumstances, this correlation is reserved for teenagers who are growing rebellious of their parents as they sort out their identities. In this case however, it is an adult sorting out an identity they had been denied for the entirety of their childhood and adolescent years. This is especially compounded when the parents find no fault in their actions. It is with these qualifiers that I refer to my own parents as “enemies”.

However, further definition is certainly needed to give a more biblical definition of “enemies”. Matthew 5 contains the Beatitudes which really speak against ideas of violence and serve as a sincere call to love and mercy as believers seek to actualize the Kingdom here on earth. The passage of focus for this section is Matthew 5: 43-47 in which Jesus states:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.[4]

It is in this passage that Richard Hays makes a case against violence by fully actualizing who the “enemies” were Jesus was addressing. He comes to the conclusion that “enemies” are persecutors and those from outside.[5] In the preceding section I referred to my parents as soldiers in Pharaoh’s army. What this represents on a larger scale is that my parents stand opposed to my calling as one of God’s people. They are outside of the covenant because they have not accepted it and they persecuted me for most of my life until this point. This makes them “enemies” in a way that allows for them to be redeemed.

People become redeemed through the love of Christ and it is clear Christ is calling for that love to be shown to all enemies. This love transcends the love one would have for a parent and requires the power of the Holy Spirit to actualize. Yet, the distinction must be made that the love that is offered is not an entitlement, it is a mercy and a grace just as forgiveness is. This means that if a survivor reaches a place where they can demonstrate Christ’s love to their parents, it is not out of obligation. Rather, it is a direct reflection of Christ to the parents that transcends human capability.

Retaliatory Efforts

I have spoken a bit on my interpretations as a child. Once I came to the conclusion that God was not going to outright slaughter my parents, I found myself weighing my options in legal settings and beyond. This is where retaliation takes ahold of life. The pursuit of retaliation involves a level of emotion that is certainly heightened and blinding to the individual pursuing it at times. Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld speaks on the idea of retaliation as being a part of justice when he states:

The notion of retaliation reflects a deeply held conviction that wrongs incur debts that must be repaid in order for the wrong to be set right, informing a wide range of practices in the justice systems of nations, then as today, from compensation, restitution, to the death penalty, depending on the offense of the crime. It is also reflected in the Lord’s prayer, where some versions have ‘debts’ rather than ‘trespasses’ (compare Marr. 6.12; Luke 11.4).[6]

Our current society today operates in a rather interesting way. First and foremost, it operates under the assumption that only women can be victims of abuse and violence and any male that talks about their experience is either lying or greatly exaggerating their claim. The roles and traits pushed upon women that feminists have tried to shed appropriately somehow draw focus away from the pressure put on males to be strong, brute, and emotionless. And yet, this is clearly not appropriate. Still, what results from this is the idea that men are to be retaliatory and take justice into their own hands.

Most are aware of some of the options out there. Retaliation is encouraged, nurtured, and often presented as the only means of closure to those who have been wronged in any number of ways. Specifically, abuse victims do have the option of seeking money or incarceration for those that have offended them. However, this form of retaliation seems misguided from a Christian perspective on two fronts.

First, when suing for a financial amount, the humanity of the person being sued is lost and they become tools to self-recovery.  The question becomes: Is money an aid in recovery? The answer is always a resounding “no”. No amount of financial benefit can aid in the recovery process in any way. Recovery requires self-work and guidance from those who have been trained adequately to do such things. The other side of this is a deeper ethical dilemma. If the abused sues their offender, they can drive them into a financial state which will cause bankruptcy or worse. To society this sounds appealing, but taking a life away from someone is not going to solve the things forced upon and denied to a child victim of abuse.

Second, incarceration brings no real closure. This is not to say it should not be pursued if there are other children who are at danger or the parents are a continued danger to their children or themselves. This realization is from the vantage point of an adult survivor and this is why incarceration is not ideal in most circumstances. In the case of parents who will not admit to their wrongdoing, is having a court tell them they abused their child going to solve anything? It certainly will not lead to a change in acceptance of the crime. It also deepens the wounds that exist between the parents and the child.

Then we have the words of Jesus in Matthew 26. He has been agonizing in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane only to be betrayed by Judas, one of His own disciples. As Jesus is being arrested, one of His disciples pulls out their sword and cuts the ear off a high priest’s slave who was present![7] Jesus rebukes the disciple by saying, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”[8] Jesus goes on to further indicate He could call down legions of angels to protect Him, but if He did, prophecy would not be fulfilled.[9]

What is obvious here is that Jesus had the opportunity to retaliate against those who betrayed Him and seized Him for death. Yet, He rebukes the disciple for attacking another human being. This is the sort of violence Jesus spoke against and ultimately absorbed on the cross. Yet, the prohibition of retaliation even in the face of certain death is outright scandalous for the human mind to wrap itself around. How much more so for a child abuse victim and survivor as they navigate the confusing lives and narratives thrust upon them and threatening their lives as well.arrest-in-the-garden

The proper solution is complicated. On the one hand, the solution seems to be a restorative justice scenario if viable. This scenario would ideally have the adult survivor and their parents sit down with a mediator while the survivor explains the abuse perpetrated and why it was not only damaging to their personhood, but outright wrong to do. However, this is not always possible. For many valid reasons, the survivor may feel too threatened to engage in such an attempt at reconciliation. This is where things get quite trying. In this scenario, the adult survivor becomes the one working on reconciliation by themselves.  While this is difficult, it is also quite important in the actualizing of closure in the life of the survivor.

The Cross and Forgiveness

For the Christian, the cross is the symbol of the ultimate sacrifice. God provides His only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind on a hill known as Golgotha in a way that shows Jesus being nonresistant to His fate. We so often want to go from the cross to the resurrection in a sort of blur that almost takes away from the crucifixion itself. The idea is tempting to fast track to the resurrection because we know that it is coming. And yet, we do a disservice to calls for peace and justice when we spend so little time reflecting on the cross. The cross is where Jesus shows at the fullest what kind of love, peace, and justice Christians are called to.

I am still fascinated by the words that Miroslav Volf offers regarding the cross when he states, “By suffering violence as an innocent victim, he took upon himself the aggression of the persecutors.  He broke the cycle of violence by absorbing it, taking it upon himself.  He refused to be sucked into the automatism of revenge, but sought to overcome evil by doing good—even at the cost of his life.”[10] Jesus took on the aggression of His persecutors and, on a broader scope, the world without physically resisting the fate coming for Him. He did, for sure, resist in emotion during the agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. I do not want to lose sight of what Volf is offering here and what it can offer for survivors of child abuse.

2280580353_ff39460b2f_bWe must be careful here to make a distinction between Jesus and a victim of child abuse. Jesus willingly went to the cross after sincere inner turmoil, but a victim of child abuse does not willingly suffer. A child abuse victim has abuse forced upon them whereas Jesus absorbed the abuse and mockery thrust upon Him. These distinctions are necessary from the onset in order to adequately make the important distinction that a child abuse victim need not continually subject themselves to abuse to somehow imitate Christ.

I cannot stress enough the importance of the word “innocent” in Volf’s quote. I would argue that Augustine has not left any mark bigger on Christianity than the concept of original sin. With that, some twist it to mean we are sinners from the time we come from the womb. However, it must also be recognized that this does not excuse sins that are committed against us in such a way that says “You’re a sinner too, you must forgive”. This has a tendency to minimize the fact that someone who has been abused as a child is innocent and really misses the overall function of forgiveness in countering such horrific events.

Just as God offered forgiveness through His mercy and grace, a child abuse survivor only offers such forgiveness from mercy and grace. In this way, the power of the Holy Spirit becomes quite profound. It is Christ doing the work in a victim to make them a survivor and bring them to a level of spiritual maturity that is able to offer forgiveness. In this way, forgiveness becomes a comfort for the child abuse survivor and a rightful condemnation against the abuser.

Further still, the offering of forgiveness is an action as well as a way of life. It invites the child abuse survivor to let the life of revenge and retaliation die. It invites the child abuse survivor to let go of their anger and aggression. It invites the child abuse survivor to put those practices on the cross to die. It tells the Pharaoh that no matter how deep his clutches are in the abuser, he is fighting a losing battle. This is not to say that such a thing is easy. Perhaps picking up the cross daily, for the survivor of child abuse, involves reliving the traumatic events in ways that require them to make daily commitments to the peaceful way of Christ and dying to retaliatory efforts just as frequently. This has certainly been the case for me in my faith walk and self-work. It is here that the words of Anslem are actualized, “Thus I must condemn their cruelty, imitate your death and sufferings, and share them with you, giving thanks for the goodness of your love.”[11]

Activism

break-the-silence-stop-child-abuse-25008411-500-251

John Howard Yoder, reflecting on discipleship, states:

But if we may posit- as after the preceding pages we must- that the apostles had and taught at least a core memory of their Lord’s earthly ministry in its blunt historicity, than the centering of the apostolic ethic upon the disciple’s cross evidences a substantial, binding, and sometimes costly social stance. There have perhaps been times when the issues of power, violence, and peoplehood were not at the center of ethical preoccupations; but in the waning twentieth century they certainly are. The rediscovery of this ethic of “responsibility” and “power” can no longer at the same time claim to be Christian and bypass the judgment or the promise of the Suffering Servant’s exemplarity.[12]

The survivor of child abuse has worked through the difficulty of “letting go” of the encounters they had with their abuser and against their personhood. What lies next? Perhaps a life of activism is a worthy venture. As I have come to grow in my identity in Christ, I have understood the sincere need to become an advocate for children who are being abused and survivors who lack courage to step out from the rooms they lock themselves into. This is not something all survivors can do, but it is something some are called to.

What we cannot deny is the call for all followers of Christ to call out injustices in their societies, even at the risk of vulnerability, incarceration, or even death. A child abuse survivor can (and I argue should) become an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. In this instance, it is children who are mistreated, malnourished, or abused. As a whole, society has cheapened the definition of abuse and abuse survivors have an opportunity to correct the injustice of misappropriation. Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger notices the issue of calling things “abuse” that do not fit the criteria. She has this to say as she channels Marie Fortune, “the word “abuse” is sometimes used so loosely that anything that is considered harmful or that lowers a person’s self-esteem is labeled abusive, making the term too broad to be helpful.”[13]

A survivor of child abuse has a unique story to share which takes the allure away from the word “abuse”. If a survivor is vulnerable and honest about what they have encountered in their lives, it opens the door for society to gain a better perspective on what true abuse is. The recent phenomenon of throwing “abuse” around to classify any action that goes against self-interest is one of the grossest injustices of our time for true victims and survivors of abuse. We can make no mistake that before we can call out abuse for what it is, we must be able to adequately define what it is. That is, in the case of my own abuse, parents use physical violence to encourage submission to the parent’s will (physical) and shaming and humiliating a child to maintain control over them and keep them from outside areas of possible help (psychological) .[14] Being beat down on a continual basis in varying physical ways and being fed lies about one’s personhood are deeply impactful and are experienced at an inner level that so often is impossible to tap into.

My sincere hope is that survivors of child abuse embody the prophets of the Old Testament. Abraham Heschel notes, “the calling of the prophet may be described as that of an advocate or champion, speaking for those who are too weak to plead their own cause.”[15] Further he states, “The prophet is a person who is not tolerant of wrongs done to others, who resents other people’s injuries.”[16] These two statements show the focus of the prophets. They were against injustice and sought God’s righteousness to be practiced in Israel. A child abuse survivor can stand for righteousness and justice in their cities, their faith communities, their states, and even globally. The prophets were able to speak on injustices because they knew God and what God desired for the land. Christian abuse survivors know Christ and what He has taught to be justice and righteousness in the world. The prophets also knew injustice because they witnessed it firsthand and even experienced it. How true that is of a survivor of child abuse as well.

Activism does not require violence. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has taught society anything in this regard, it is that peaceful resistance is the means of protest for Christians. Yes, the survivor of abuse is to be a pacifist in regards to violence, but should be encouraged to become vocally proactive. Children are perhaps one of the best examples of those who are truly defenseless and desperately need advocates and the call to defend them seems quite clear.

Broadening the Scope

Child abuse survivors can serve as great examples of what pacifism and non-retaliatory living looks like. Today, we live in a world that is engulfed in turmoil at every corner. We live in a world that pursues war as the first step in diplomacy. And yes, we live in a world that uses drones in foreign lands to kill in the name of national security. The heart of a survivor is in states of turmoil as they continue self-work, but the conscious dedication to peace should always be at the forefront of their life and walks with Christ.

The world can learn a great deal from child abuse survivors because they have been physically attacked and emotionally fragmented and yet, they are not killing their offenders if they are following the example of Christ. If someone who has actually been physically assaulted can learn to meet the offense with peace, how much more could America when we see “enemies” abroad? This does not excuse tragedies such as 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, but it does show that there is another route America can take. Indeed, we can return violence for violence, but that simply ensures the cycles of violence continue.

We often refer to ourselves as a Corporate Israel. What that means is that Christianity is not limited to a country, it is entirely global and transcends the confinements we try to place on it. Therefore, we have a responsibility to care for the world and the people in it. If we truly believe that killing and violence is bad, then why do we so willingly employ it to accomplish whatever goals we can espouse? Quite simply, we have not read Christ’s words without our own preconceptions about them. In other words, our bias informs our reading of Scripture if we are seeking violence.

The personhood of someone is sacred. If we truly believe that God has created each person in His image, then we can see the sacredness of life therein. God does not take time to craft things by hand that He wishes for harm to come against and we would be wise to remember that. Yet, we are still met with people who devalue life in any number of ways or actions. These people should be called out for what they are doing, but seeking the termination of their life is not the answer. We can learn as much by acknowledging that the ministry of Jesus took place within a context of outside imperial oppression. Yet, Jesus never lifted a finger in violence and He waged no wars.

Conclusion

Child abuse survivors deal with many complex issues. From struggles over self-worth and social identity to clashes over personhood, it seems that falling into the trap of retaliatory action is appealing. Yet, if the Exodus story shows us anything, it is that the battle against abusers is fought on a level higher than we can fathom. This leaves violence out of the hands of the abused. However, the life and sacrifice of Christ replaces violence with strength. It is this strength that allows the victim to become the survivor and learn the weight of forgiveness in the face of deep wounds that never seem to go away.

The world has much to learn from child abuse survivors who take seriously the call to peaceful response and social activism for the oppressed and the sanctity of human life.  It is often said that war and violence are inevitable and I think that is akin to saying that child abuse is inevitable. We cannot sit back and allow cycles of violence, oppression, and aggression to rule our lives and take precedence in our diplomacy with one another and with other governments.

It is in all of this that the survivor recognizes that peace and justice come from only one source. That source is God. God is the author and wielder of justice who has shown us how to seek justice through the example of His Son. Jesus did indeed take on the aggression of oppressors and the violent and removed any rationality for violence from our theology. And yet, it persists. It persists in homes behind closed doors, it persists in our neighbor’s homes, and it persists globally. Survivors have a difficult and unique cross to carry for the entirety of their lives: the cross of peace and justice in the face of total aggression and outright disrespect of personhood. Yet, they do not carry their crosses alone because Christ is alongside walking towards Golgotha to lay aggression and retaliation to rest once and for all.

[1] 1 Jn 3:14-15 (NRSV).

[2] Jerome F. D. Creach, Violence in Scripture (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013): p. 81.

[3] Jerome F. D. Creach, Violence in Scripture: p. 81.

[4] Matt. 5:43-47 (NRSV).

[5] Richard B. Hays, “The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation”, in A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics, (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996): pp. 327-328.

[6] Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld, Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011): p. 21.

[7] Matt. 26:51 (NRSV).

[8] Matt. 26:52 (NRSV).

[9] Matt. 26:53-54 (NRSV).

[10] Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996): pp. 291-292.

[11] Ellen T. Charry, “Learning the Cross of Christ: Anselm of Canterbury.”  In By the Renewing of Your Minds, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997): p. 173.

[12] John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002): pp. 127-128.

[13] Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel, and Pastoral Care, (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015): pp. 42-43.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, vol. 1, (New York: Harper & Row Publishers,1962): pp. 204-205.

[16] Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, vol. 1: p. 205.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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