Abuse is no laughing matter

I’m not a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’m a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan. But I have become a fan of a player on the Cowboys: Jason Witten.

Jason is now a big tough professional football player, but often in his childhood he was a scared little boy. His father – who himself is the size of a football player – was abusive. He didn’t physically abuse Jason, but Jason suffered emotional abuse as he fearfully watched and heard his mother and two older brothers being yelled at and hit. He’d hide in the bathroom and wonder when it was going to stop. Jason and his mother and brothers escaped from their father when he was 11, but the painful memories remain.

Tragically those who were victims of abuse at times become abusers themselves. Jason has gone against that trend. He has started a foundation to help victims of domestic abuse. A big part of the foundation’s work is to try to connect victims of abuse with positive role models so that children can see that not all men are angry and scary.

During a recent profile on TV about Jason they interviewed his father. It was a rather strange and uncomfortable interview. The father admitted making mistakes but denied being abusive. He said he didn’t know why all his family said such things. He tried to describe what had happened as just having some disagreements. It seems to be a case of the one who inflicted pain having no clue as to the depth of pain he caused.

Sometimes those of us who haven’t suffered abuse fail to grasp how hard and painful it is for those who have been abused, and how difficult it is to deal with the memories.

I think I find humor in a lot of things and I’m somewhat quick to laugh. Sometimes I’ve laughed when I probably shouldn’t have. I still regret a piano recital incident. But I don’t think it’s ever funny when a man abuses a woman.

There is a video going around the internet that shows President Trump hitting a golf ball and then tries to make it appear that the ball hit Hillary Clinton and knocked her straight to the floor. The other video shows President Trump throwing a football with a similar ending of Clinton being knocked down. No matter what your political views; no matter if you agree with the one throwing the ball and disagree with the one being hit; I don’t think watching a man hit a woman on the back of her head with a ball and violently knock her down should ever be something we laugh at. Of course the videos didn’t really happen, but still, should we find something like that funny?

The Bible calls us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20). Attacking others, inflicting pain on others, abusing others is not at all the way of Christ. We are to be gentle, building others up and not knocking them down. The Lord calls for leaders who are “not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” (I Timothy 3:3).

In the Lord we have hope that the day will come when all the anger and attacking and abuse of today will be no more. “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders” (Isaiah 60:18). By faith in Christ we can look forward to the day when the painful, frightening sounds of violence will be heard no more.

Set free from worrying about what they think

I recently posted on Facebook some pictures from a concert I went to. I heard the Christian group For King and Country. The pictures show that there were a lot of lights and color and a variety of instruments. There were drums and guitars and a whole lot of noise. People have various tastes in music and this might not have been everybody’s favorite, but I really enjoyed it.

After I posted the pictures I thought of how some years ago, if it became known that a pastor went to a concert like this, it would have provoked some discussion and some people would have been a bit concerned. Some things change over time and now I don’t think it’s too big a deal. It doesn’t matter much to me at all whether it is or not.

It’s easy to become a prisoner in the court of public opinion. Oh, how we worry about what people think. “Will people think this tie is too wild? Will they think I’m a bum if I don’t wear a tie? If I drive a nice car will people think I’m wasteful with my money? If I drive a junker will they think I’m not very successful? If I buy something at the deli and bring to the church potluck will people think I’m lazy? If I make something will people like it?”

Worry about what people think can influence our actions and cause much stress. Sometimes new paths of adventure aren’t explored, new attempts at serving aren’t tried, and new friendships aren’t developed because of concern over the opinions of others. People keep doing the safe and familiar because they’re afraid of what others might think if they try something new.

Jesus wants to set us free from all that. We can be set free to sincerely serve God and people. We’re free to seek to do what is right, not just what is popular. Because we’re loved by God and chosen by Him, we’re free to fail in our attempts at service. We’re free to worship the Lord. We’re free to enjoy God’s good and gracious gifts. We’re free to give up the pursuit of trying to please the crowd. Instead we can focus on pleasing the Lord.

In the Gospels we see Jesus truly loving people, but not worrying about what they think of Him. It was the religious leaders who cared a great deal about what people thought of them. Some believed in Jesus but wouldn’t confess their faith because of fear of the crowd. “… for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:43). Jesus didn’t worry about what people might think if they saw Him speaking words of kindness to a prostitute, touching a leper or eating a meal in the home of a tax collector. He didn’t worry if people thought, “He shouldn’t hang out with people like that.” They muttered, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner'” (Luke 19:7). Their mutterings didn’t matter to Jesus. He knew how fickle public opinion can be. On Palm Sunday a crowd hailed Him as king. On Good Friday another crowd yelled, “Crucify him!”

The opinions of people bounce up and down. Worrying about what they think is like riding a roller coaster that isn’t nearly as fun as those in an amusement park. We love people and serve them, but we know sometimes our service will please them and sometimes it won’t. Our main concern is pleasing God and following His leading. What pleases God doesn’t change. Believing in Jesus, trusting Him and loving Him, pleases the Lord. His opinion is we’re His beloved children when we have faith in Jesus. That’s the opinion that matters most.