The Abuse Victim as the Poor Man
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
James 2:1-4, My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (2) For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, (3) and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” (4) have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
As I read this Scripture, I imagined a married couple standing in front of me in my office. The husband is the wealthy man with the gold ring. The wife is the poor man in shabby clothing. Which one am I going to listen to? You know what the answer OUGHT to be. If you are an abuse victim, you also know what the answer is usually going to be. It will be the abuser who gets to sit in the nice chair while the wife sits on the floor.
As Christians, as pastors, we do not consider ourselves to be biased in our judgments. And yet the truth is that we are. We do not show just impartiality as often as we fancy that we do. We give preference to the party who has power, assets, influence. Our ears are more attuned to his case than to the words of a victim. Why? Because it is just easier and less trouble to side with the man of influence.
When we as judges (and that is what we are when an abuse victim comes to us to state her case and ask for help), when we as judges make unjust distinctions, James says we have become judges with evil thoughts. How many of us think of ourselves as evil judges? And yet who can deny it? The experience of abuse victims in their churches condemns us. The abuser receives preference in our courts while his victim is shuffled off to the side.
What is the remedy? Get your eyes off the gold ring and fine clothing. Stop looking at the shabby clothing of the poor person. Those things mean nothing when it comes to justice. In fact, as James says a bit later in his epistle –
James 2:6-7, But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? (7) Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
Talk to abuse victims. Let them tell you their stories of custody battles with their abuser. Most often, the victim has few resources and the abuser has many. Indeed, the abuser is the rich one who oppresses, who drags his victim into court. When we are cowardly and unjust, when we refuse to render justice and help to the victim, James says this to us –
James 2:9, But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Render justice to the poor. Stand with her. You won’t go wrong in doing so.