Almost every day, I hear about new situations where women are killed/tortured/raped/threatened/stalked, by an intimate partner. Today was nothing new. This morning, I discovered that Chris Rainey, a University of Florida wide receiver, was arrested for threatening to kill his on-again, off-again girlfriend. I was saddened, but completely unsurprised.
When I say that I was unsurprised, I do not at all mean that this has become so commonplace to me that I’m cold to or anesthetized to its horrendous fall-out. As a matter of fact, I’m more alert to this than ever. Sadly, before Stacy Peterson disappeared, I was mostly oblivious to the domestic violence in this world. I didn’t understand the insidious nature of the violence that is perpetrated upon these women (and some men) in their own homes. I didn’t understand that they couldn’t “just leave.” I didn’t understand how isolated they had become. I didn’t understand that this was happening in the church at nearly the same rate as the rest of the population. I didn’t understand that these women are literally dying for attention and true and tangible assistance. I didn’t understand that pastors were complicit in women’s continued subjugation in these dangerous and dark homes.
But now I know. And because I know, I’m responsible. And I’m making a difference in and through my church and in my networking with incredible leaders and advocates in the field of domestic violence. It is my desire to continue to bring peace and hope to women across this country who feel terrified and anxious and hopeless. It is also my desire to educate pastors and church leaders about their role in helping to go on this journey with these women, so that they can come out of isolation and into the light of a supportive community.
Why do I believe so much in this cause? Because Jesus does, and he’s called me and anyone else who claims to be one of his followers to offer comfort and healing after we’ve received comfort and healing from him. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 1-2 that:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
God IS love. It is his very essence and because of that, it must be the essence of the church. Pay no attention to a church that is not characterized by its love for the people it is there to serve. So, I will continue to strive for Naperville Christian Church to be a church of rest for the weary victims of domestic violence because that is exactly what Jesus wants us to do.
Matthew 11: 28-30 (Message translation):
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
May we learn to be people of tremendous grace and action as we love these people who are victims of such horrible injustice.
Neil Schori is the Pastor of Naperville Christian Church in Naperville, IL