Pastor: We’re holding this meeting today to talk about ways that we as a community of believers are going to get involved and act as Jesus would to the world of sex trafficking.
Member #1: That’s great—I’ve been hoping we could get involved! Our community has been ripped apart by sexual abuse. It even occurs in our churches, Christian schools, mission programs, Christian universities, Christian camps, youth groups, etc. I have so many friends and neighbors whose lives have been shattered, and they’ve never encountered a church community willing to come alongside them, help them heal, and stand for justice in their oppression.
Member #2: Yes! There are actually some even in our very own church who are suffering the effects of abuse. They feel alone, unheard, and afraid to speak.
Elder: Wait! I think you’re misunderstanding. We want to help those who have no resources – young women and children in foreign lands whose lives have been devastated by poverty and abuse. We want to raise money to send to them.
Member #1 : This may seem unrelated, but since we’re talking about this, shouldn’t we consider how our own pastors, elders, and lay counselors address abuse issues? Isn’t it odd that we’re ready and willing to stand with strangers, but in our own community we’re more comfortable supporting some of the abusers?
I mean, I know we don’t officially support abusers. We preach against abuse and we host seminars. But when it comes to actually being involved with individual families, we just don’t want to get involved. Should we look at modifying that?
Member #2: And are you all aware of the abuses many of our own members are still fighting to recover from? Many were victimized by those who make no claim to Christianity, but others accuse pastors and religious leaders. Others by men in our own church.
What should we do in those situations? We can’t set up a program for overseas victims but ignore our own–or could we?
Pastor: You don’t seem to understand. Some of the offenders here are our personal friends. Supporting those abusers isn’t the same as supporting abuse. We are just showing our loyalty to our personal friends. We’re also demonstrating hearts of forgiveness and our own humility as we might be the ones accused next.
So, are we all in favor of putting together this program for foreign abuse victims and survivors? There could be all sorts of benefits to pursuing this. Helping trafficking victims is a hot topic right now, and getting involved would place us on the cutting edge of creative church ministry. Our wives and others could benefit from developing a business that’s beneficial to all. Our families can have a cultural experience by traveling to some of the countries that struggle with these issues.
Elder #2: We could set up an international business that would provide a way for trafficking survivors to sell some of their arts and crafts. Our church community here would benefit from the beautiful artwork. Our church would be setting the precedent for creative assistance. We’d be an example to the other churches and pave the way for others to follow in our footsteps.
Member #2: I want to be involved in these international ministries. How about if we invite those in our community who’ve been victimized in similar ways to be a part of this. We could learn from their experiences so that we avoid inadvertently causing more harm through our ignorance.
Pastor (chuckling benevolently): No, no. You’re misunderstanding. This meeting is about how to help those who are far away. Those who’ve been victimized here aren’t our concern. It would be gossip to intervene in abuse that is within our immediate community. The Bible says not to cause division in the body of Christ. The offenders you mention are part of our local body. We need to forgive them and remember that we’re just as great sinners as they are. We need to ensure that those they victimized are reconciled to them, that they’re living out forgiveness, and that they avoid gossiping about their abuse.
Member #1: But, how do we stop the pattern of abuse that is continuing here? Shouldn’t we do something?
Elder: Yes! You can urge the abuse survivors to trust that God has a purpose for their experiences. He never wastes suffering. You can encourage them to work through their bitterness. We have a class they can sign up for where they’ll be held accountable for their reactions.
Pastor: Yes, the survivors in our community simply won’t be satisfied, no matter what response they’re given. They love their roles as perpetual victims. They’re bitter and just won’t let it go. They’re simply choosing not to trust us to know better than they do and tell them how they should be reacting. Besides, they’re accusing well-respected leaders within our community. We need to stand with these leaders even when we disagree with them. They have good intentions and just messed up.
Member #2: But how can we truly help those who have been victimized in foreign lands when survivors within our own community are shunned?
Pastor: Oh, they aren’t shunned. They’re welcome. They just need to forgive and let go of their bitterness, and then they can join us. You know that people like “that” are exhausting to the church, right? We give and give to them and it is never enough. They want us to actually stand WITH them against abuse. They actually want us to speak up about the wolves in our midst that devour our sheep.
Elder: You have to understand that the local abuse survivors often have mental health diagnoses. They are messy and they don’t trust easily. We really don’t have time for that. So, all in favor of pouring our resources into this new proposal?
A majority vote in the affirmative.
A few days later, another member approaches the pastor:
Member #3: Pastor, I heard all that was discussed at the meeting. I realize you aren’t really interested in helping abuse survivors in our community, but I keep hearing of more and more situations where some of the pastors and elders here at our church are actually supporting abusers. Doesn’t that concern you?
Pastor: Well, you have to understand that we’re all free to make our own decisions before God. None of us leaders are really accountable to any of the other leaders because we all trust each other. Besides, you know that most victims exaggerate about their abuse, right? I mean, when they’re in the middle of it, they say very little. Then, when they start to find some safety, they suddenly start sharing details of abuse that just aren’t believable. Also, even when there is abuse, pastors can’t take sides. Just remember that God sees the good deeds we’re doing overseas. You’d do well to take note of that. You’re so focused on the things within our own community. If you won’t be so self-focused, you’ll find that you’ll be much more content.