Abuse victims are perceived as ‘unclean’; yet they reach for the fringe of Christ’s garment
[February 18, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
(Matthew 9:18-26 ESV) While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district. [Emphasis added.]
This story conveys the woman’s plight so poignantly. She’s been bleeding for years; and she’s unclean and untouchable according to the law. Shyly, inconspicuously, but with a determination that springs from her deep pain and need, she reaches for the fringe of Christ’s garment. And she has simple, profound faith that He will make her well. He will staunch the flow of blood, bind the mysterious wound inside her which has been depleting her energy, stripping her of all her social respect, and filling her with shame. Her unobtrusive approach to Jesus shows her shame. She knows the crowd will shame her if they discover her condition; but she knows Jesus will not shame her.
And the way her story is slotted into the middle of the narrative of the ruler’s daughter, is similar to how she unobtrusively slips up behind Jesus in the crowd. It is also similar to the way Christian authors often write about abusive marriages: they slip in a brief mention about abuse, in passing: a parenthesis here, a sentence there, a paragraph or maybe even two; but rarely a thorough treatment of the complexities of the topic. Book after book is written about marital problems and how to fix them, case study after case study is paraded down the cat walk, most of which have happy endings (are these case studies real, or are they invented by the Christian authors who write marriage books?), but usually the topic of abuse makes only a cameo appearance. Yet readers whose pain is deep and whose wounds are un-staunched, continue to reach for the fringes of Christ’s garment.
[February 18, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to February 18, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to February 18, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to February 18, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (February 18, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Well said, Barbara. I have often wondered about those “case studies” as well.
Yes, Larry. There’s something that feels inauthentic about most of the case studies they quote, at least the ones about domestic abuse.
Abuse is rampant, in and out of the church, so I doubt these people have not heard stories, they simply refuse to believe that the problem can be anything other than lack of proper “submission” on behalf of the wife. Women are naturally more sinful than men” (because of Eve) “and men are just trying to deal with our demands, moodiness and controlling behavior.
I was once told that the reason there are so many problems in Christian marriages is because the wife’s standards are too high. This was met with agreement by the other women in the room. I felt like I was at a meeting of the Stepford Wives. I was just waiting for the bell to ring and everyone to take their pills!
Thanks for the post, Barbara, and Jodi, you must have attended my former church….
Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog [Internet Archive link].
A hearty “Amen” to this and may all abused women (who wish to remain hidden and unnoticed because of the shame they feel), by God’s grace and mercy, reach out to take hold of that “hem” and touch the One Who can and will rescue and deliver them from the grasp of their abuser.
Thanks, Barbara, Jodi, Anonymous, Speakingtruthinlove and Anonymous. I say “Amen” and “Hallelujah”. I touched the hem of His garment. And am clinging on for dear life. I want to be rid of the shame. This blog is a blessing.
I too am a victim of domestic abuse, yet when I have reached out to members of several churches for emotional support I get nothing. One church even went so far as to tell me that only Jesus can help me, people can’t. These are leaders at the churches I have reached out to. It is very humiliating to tell your story only to hear from someone that calls themselves a Christian leader [say] that they can’t help you. My husband’s family is very involved in church, his dad being a deacon. They are aware of the abuse but deny it, going so far as to blame me.
I have lost my ability to trust and have faith. I hear things like, “in God’s time” He’ll fix things. My children and I are broken and desperately seek healing. I hear “go stay at a shelter house for battered women”. The unknown of how I can care for my kids, not all of which I can take due to the age of my oldest son, is beyond the fear I live with by staying. I just want healing.
My husband says he believes in God, so why can’t God send in a divine intervention so things can get better for us? I have prayed that God would send along a strong positive male role model that will tell my husband face-to-face, he’s wrong. No one will tell my husband he’s wrong for how he treats kids and me. Not even his own Christian family….
Dear Lisa, my heart goes out to you. Your story is one of many: the tragedy, the wrong and twisted teaching; the leaders who fear man more than they fear God; the limp-wristed brush-offs that leave you feeling blamed, afraid and humiliated. I understand how the risks of leaving can seem worse than the risks of staying. It’s an awful situation to be in, and one that only you can weigh up. I hope you will keep coming to this blog if it is helping you. We don’t judge you. We aim to provide the validation, support and fellowship in cyberspace that local churches are failing to provide to victims.
No man is standing up to your husband and telling him he’s wrong. Maybe no man ever will — until Christ tells him on the Day of Judgement. I guess you’ve thought about that fact that although you long for your husband to be properly confronted and disciplined, your longing may be in vain. Many of us have faced this situation, and in the end decided to leave / walk away / flee for safety. I know that some refuges don’t take adolescent males, and that’s really tough. I wish it were not like that. I have no pat answers for you, but I do believe you.
Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [*Affiliate link] He has another book called Should I Stay or Should I Go? [Affiliate link] which he co-authored with Jac Patrissi. It may help you. Bless you, and thanks for sharing.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.