The depth of the problem
Earle D. Treptow
The problem is significant. According to the nomore.org website, “12.7 million people are physically abused, raped or stalked by their partners in one year. That’s approximately the population of New York City and Los Angeles combined. That’s 24 people every minute.”
Recent high profile cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault brought the issue into mainstream consciousness. Capitalizing on that awareness, the No More campaign produced several public service announcements encouraging people to acknowledge the severity of the problem and to do something about it. Celebrity after celebrity pleaded, with passion, “No more excuses. No more silence. No more violence. No more bystanding. No more.” And then across the screen flashed their vision: “Together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault.”
What a noble goal! Adopting that goal, however, requires us to believe that people are basically good, with the innate ability to do the right thing. Give people the right information and furnish them with the right motivation, the theory goes, and they will invariably live the right way. They will not abuse their spouses or their children.
That seems a reasonable assumption. Human beings can, to a certain extent, carry out the outward works the law requires, whether from fear of punishment or from a desire to be considered upstanding citizens. They often, by focused effort, can refrain from actions they know to be harmful to others. But that power is light years away from absolute. Identifying a particular action as wrong and refraining from that action are two entirely different matters.
Ask the apostle Paul. “What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). Paul possessed the right information. He knew God’s commands in Scripture. Paul had the right motivation. He wanted to glorify God and be a blessing to others. Unfortunately, proper information and proper motivation didn’t consistently yield the proper results. He repeatedly fell into the sin he hated.
The apostle understood why he regularly failed. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18). Paul realized that his real problem was not what he did, but who he was. He was thoroughly sinful, unable to submit to God’s law.
To believe that human beings can bring an end to domestic violence once and for all is to fail to grasp the real problem: the profound depth of human sinfulness. It’s lying to ourselves because we desperately want to believe that there must be something good in us for God to praise.
While we cannot end domestic violence, Christians need not sit idly by and watch it continue unabated. We begin by humbling ourselves before the Lord. We cannot look down our noses at those who have abused, because we have the same sinful nature. Assured of his forgiveness, we turn to the Lord in prayer. We implore the Almighty to protect those in harm’s way. We ask him to grant us wisdom and fill us with compassion as we address the issue with family and friends. We pray that he would work through those who make and administer the laws of our country to put strong deterrents in place to curb the violence. We set aside time and money to help those who have been affected by abuse.
Above all, knowing that the Lord changes lives by changing hearts, we continue to proclaim his word of forgiveness. And we look forward to the home of righteousness, where there will be no more abuse, no more violence, no more sin. No more.
Contributing editor Earle Treptow, president of the Nebraska District, is pastor at Zion, Denver, Colorado.
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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 102, Number 2
Issue: February 2015
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