by Neil Schori
This past I celebrated Easter at my church and it was incredible! Three people committed their lives to following Jesus. It was a truly moving day. As I really took in the true meaning of Easter, I started to think about how so many people misuse religion in selfish attempts to control others.
I can't even believe how many Christians and community leaders and even pastors that I encounter that seriously believe that abused women should not leave their abusive husbands. It is shocking to me that people are that warped about a God who modeled the exact opposite of what THEY teach.
When Jesus has just started his public ministry, he went to teach in the synagogue. He opened the scroll of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, and he read these words:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV)
After he spoke those words, he said to the crowd: "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Profound words! Jesus came to bring good news to everyone that had been held back and was disadvantaged in his society. He stood against suffering and pain and subjugation of all kinds. He came to set us free! Not just in a strange and unknowable "spiritual" sense...but in a real and tangible and life-altering way. He really came to set us free. And yes, that includes abused women. Wake up, church! Give dignity to victims. Quit placating the aggressors and falsely applying scripture to the lives of victims. Stop blame-shifting. Stop enabling sinful behavior. Stand on the side of Truth.
Jesus was all about giving dignity to women. In a culture that made it a practice of minimizing women and their rights, Jesus flipped the script on the misogynists of his day, and he continues to do it today. Jesus gave dignity by offering conversation and counseling to a desperate woman he met at a well (John 4). He saved a woman from legalistic laws that called for the execution of a woman caught in adultery by reminding the men that they were not sin-free, themselves (John 7). And Jesus, in all of his wisdom first appeared to his female followers after he defeated death by rising from the dead (Mark 16).
Throughout his earthly life, Jesus showed us what God cares about. And as a follower of Jesus, I'm proud to carry his name and tradition of offering dignity and shelter to women who have been oppressed. I'm grateful for all of my fellow armor-bearers as we fight for this noble cause. That is GOOD NEWS.
Neil Schori serves as lead pastor of Naperville Christian Church, and is a remarkable advocate for those in abusive relationships. He is a certified trainer of the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit through Document the Abuse. His church is known as a haven of safety for the abused.