My understanding of the Mennonite Church’s perspective of humility, laying down one’s life, and speaking and acting for justice all weave together to form a powerful perspective of action regarding domestic violence. I believe the foundations of the Mennonite church in relations to domestic violence are a good place to start as long as they are acted on.
No mater what nice posters or statements of faith exist, our impact still comes down to the messy work of relationships. We hope for reconciliation in the midst of pain and try to empower the voices of those who are broken. That is the difficult dynamic for me in trying to engage the world and extending grace to set the captives free.
What is our part in offering protection at times? We as leaders risk our own safety to help others find their voices and the courage to take action, but not to become one more voice trying to control a situation. Our role is the gentle place of walking with someone offering help when they are not asking for help, at least not in words.
In my experience in churches, and with people in general, few are comfortable facing the violence that takes place in homes. We keep it private. Christians offer prayers, but typically stay at a safe distance.
I don’t think there is an ideal formula for churches to follow other than engaging the reality around them. We need to stop pretending it is not there. That doesn’t mean we need to make everyone’s business over-the-pulpit information. However, those close need to touch the pain that is there and find ways to bring healing.
If we stay close enough to someone, I believe we can touch the pain and genuine hurt that is there. We can reach out not with glib answers and easy formulas for success, but by discovering ways to enter the complexity of relational pains. We can imagine with them choices that are life-giving.
Can we touch? Be close enough to actually risk getting our own lives dirty in the process?
I’m reminded of a time I was preparing to bandage the wounds on a teen’s arm (slashed multiple times with a broken glass bottle). He said I should put on rubber gloves. He was correct regarding proper procedure to protect me. In this moment of caring for his need I neglected my own only to witness his own care for me in return.
There are miraculous healings that take place when we risk getting close to another. Sometimes they heal even our own hard hearts of stone as they begin to take on flesh.