God told them in a dream to flee the evildoer. Safety planning in the Christmas story.
Flee the abuser – that was what God told Joseph in a dream. Do not return to the abuser – that was what God told the Magi in a dream.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they [the Magi] departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. Matthew 2:12-13 KJV)
My point is simply that sometimes God gives specific instructions to individuals in dreams… or in visions or ‘words of knowledge’. Some of our readers can testify that they had direct and specific instructions from God about when to leave their abuser. Not all of us have had that kind of experience, but it’s important to validate that such experiences do happen. And these dreams in the Christmas narrative confirm that principle.
I am not for a moment suggesting that the ‘flee now!’ instruction is to be applied to every victim of abuse. I always allow victims to make their own decisions about whether and when to flee their abusers. And if any victim chooses to return to her abuser, I never judge her. I understand the complexities. And each person’s case is different.
Now, to wish you all a happy and hope-filled Christmas, I want to share with you an article by Boz Tchividjian which was originally published at Religion News Service. Boz has said it is okay for us to reblog it here.
Winter inside the Church and the hope of Christmas
As the dark horrors of sexual abuse finally begin to surface across all spectrums of our society, we are once again reminded that our churches are not immune from this wickedness. The #metoo and #churchtoo movements are a sobering and painful reminder that a dark winter exists inside the Church … a community that claims to follow the One who is the Light of the world. My 20 years of confronting and addressing sexual abuse within churches and other faith organizations has convinced me that abuse within the Church will only end when professing Christians stop distorting Jesus for the purposes of excusing abusive behavior and silencing the abused. We distort Jesus when we empower and idolize abusive Christian leaders because of all the “great” things they do “for the Kingdom.” We distort Jesus when we celebrate institutions that share the “good news” about a God who silenced and sacrificed Himself in order to save the individual, but then turn around and silence and sacrifice abused individuals in order to “save” the institution. We distort Jesus when we silence victims by decrying their cries for help as sinful “gossip.” We distort Jesus when we cover up the horrors of abuse within our churches in order to allegedly “protect the reputation of Jesus.” We distort Jesus when we tirelessly advocate about “Merry Christmas,” “wedding cakes” and kneeling during the national anthem, while exhorting suffering victims to simply “forgive and move on.” The list could go on and on. Be encouraged. There is hope for the Church. The undistorted Jesus is the great light who “shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” He longs for us to be a reflection of this hope-filled light into the dark places of the world, including inside His Church. We reflect the light of Jesus when we follow the path of the good Samaritan and spend our lives crossing roads and getting into the dirt with those who can’t move and have given up. We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we speak up and advocate for those who have been abused and whose voices are either too weak or too exhausted. We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we expose abuse wherever it is found, regardless of the consequences to individual careers or institutional reputations. We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we believe, affirm and welcome survivors who have bravely stepped out from the shadows.
We reflect the hope-filled light of Jesus when we tirelessly work to make our churches the safest places for victims who are suffering in silence, victims who long for the day they feel safe enough and loved enough to step forward.
This list must go on and on.
For too many precious souls, inside the Church is always winter, but never Christmas. God gives me great hope that one day light will indeed overcome darkness and there will be no more sexual abuse … and those who have been abused will experience unconditional love from Christians all over the world.
They will finally experience Christmas.
(Boz Tchividjian is the executive director of the nonprofit GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)
Boz is a former child abuse chief prosecutor. He is also a Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. Boz is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham. He is a graduate of Stetson University and Cumberland School of Law (Samford University).
Previous Christmas posts at A Cry For Justice