Guest Editorial

“Leave her alone!”

Dwight K. Nelson, D.Min., is the senior pastor of the Andrews University Church, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

The story came out of the New York Times. “On March 1, while Lele was holding her 11-month-old daughter, her husband began to beat her with a high chair. She is not sure how many times he hit her. Eventually, she says, one of her legs lost feeling and she fell to the ground, still holding the baby in her arms. . . .

“Lele—her full name is not being used for her safety—said that her husband had abused her throughout their six-year relationship, but that the Covid-19 outbreak made things far worse.

“ ‘During the epidemic, we were unable to go outside, and our conflicts just grew bigger and bigger and more and more frequent,’ she said. ‘Everything was exposed.’ ”1

Common tools of abuse may also include “isolation from friends, family and employment; constant surveillance; strict, detailed rules for behavior; and restrictions on access to such basic necessities as food, clothing and sanitary facilities.”2 Mental health expert Karen Holford valiantly conducted response training for pastoral leaders because “most of them had never experienced domestic abuse situations before.”3

What would Jesus say?

What would Jesus say to the girls and the women who have been wounded and shamed by domestic, workplace, or campus sexual abuse or harassment?4 Remember Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) at the feast of Simon, the healed leper? There she was, kneeling beside Jesus, sobbing as she splashed expensive perfume over both His head and feet. The Desire of Ages draws the veil aside with a disclosure not unlike the headlines of late. As it turns out, “Simon had led into sin the woman he now despised. [Mary] had been deeply wronged by him.”5 He, who was her uncle no less,6 had led her into the shame of his own sexual sin.

So, when Jesus responds to the hisses of disapproval for Mary, He speaks cryptic but forceful words still addressed to every male abuser:
“ ‘Leave her alone’ ” (John 12:7, NIV).

Woundedness

The church stands beside all victims of unwanted sexual abuse—for there is no place in either kingdom or church for this predatory immorality. If you are a victim of such abuse, report this illegal activity to the authorities, if possible. When it is safe to do so, seize the new freedom that many victims are now sensing and speak up regarding your woundedness. Find a counselor or pastor whom you can trust and share your story of pain.

Does Christ forgive sexual sin? Of course, He does. “You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration.”7

Can Jesus heal the victims of sexual sin? The story of Mary offers a resounding Yes. The Desire of Ages promises: “The plan of redemption has invested humanity with great possibilities, and in Mary these possibilities were to be realized. Through His grace she became a partaker of the divine nature. . . .

“The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature. They stand beside the great Sin Bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God.”8

Where better to stand than beside the One who can both forgive our guilt and heal our wounds? No matter the headlines—victim, or even abuser—the light shining from Calvary offers hope to us all.

  1. Amanda Taub, “A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide,” New York Times, updated April 14, 2020, http://nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html.
  2. Taub, "A New Covid-19 Crisis."
  3. Karen Holford, “Abuse in Lockdown—and How to Help,” Trans-European Division News, May 6, 2020, ted.adventist.org/news/1692-abuse-in-lockdown-and-how-to-help.
  4. A version of this was first published as a blog on “The Fourth Watch” at pmchurch.org/blog/2017/11/29/leave-her-alone.
  5. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 566.
  6. Ellen G. White, Daughters of God (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1998), 239.
  7. White, Desire of Ages, 568.
  8. White, 568.
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Dwight K. Nelson, D.Min., is the senior pastor of the Andrews University Church, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

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