To oppress or embrace?

Recently I heard of a true story of a guy returning to Sri Lanka, his place of birth, to marry a ‘good girl’ (aka a virgin and that via an arranged marriage). She considered herself blessed to have such a wonderful opportunity. After giving birth to their first baby, she had got a blood test done given certain symptoms. She was befuddled to learn that she had AIDS – she just couldn’t understand how and was full of fear that her husband would now leave her. As he came home that night, she fell at his feet, in tears, confessing the blood test results and explaining her confusion. He gently told her that he was the reason why she had got AIDS. Actually, the baby had also contracted AIDS and died too.

Many Asian guys have their share of fun and then decide to settle down with a good girl. Guys tend to get away with ‘murder’. I hear of so many stories of men running off with other women, deserting their wives… Or wives forced to leave abusive husbands in order to save their lives..  These women who are suffering enough of heartache are then often subject to suspicious glances from other ‘happily’ married women who think their husbands are the trophies that these ‘desperate’ women want to devour. And then there are the subset of men who think a divorced (or even widowed for that matter) woman who is alone is easy bait…

(Yes, there are indeed many cases where the men are victims too.. so I’m talking ‘generally’ here)

Ultimately these women who are rejected by their husbands (if the husband truly loved his wife in the first place, would he abuse her or be unfaithful to her?) tend to also be shunned by society.. including the “Christian” society. The quote, unquote is to differentiate such people from sincere believers as those who have a relationship with Christ will increasingly have a heart of Christ, that demonstrates His love.  Worse, we use the Bible to tell her to be ‘submissive’ and ‘forgiving’.  If she dies contracting STDs or at the hands of her husband with a prolonged second of heated anger on his part, will we not be a part of the murder?

Let’s take a step back in time and across culture and enter the scene of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  It was a time where Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans – to the extent that they would take the long difficult route around Samaria when travelling instead of cutting through.  It was a time where men did not interact with women let alone people with an outcast.  The time of the day when this dialog took place was at the heat of day, midday.  The outcast woman would have chosen (or perhaps even been forced to chose) this time to draw water – a time when others wouldn’t be around.  Jesus crossed all these boundaries and interacted with her.  He didn’t worry about what the disciples would think when they returned – and yes they did wonder but they didn’t voice it out.

Jesus never addresses her as a sinful woman and doesn’t tell her, “Go and sin no more”.  How often would you admit your “fallen-ness” and that too to a total stranger?  It seems as if she was feeling remorse about her situation, as if it wasn’t something she really wasn’t happy about.  The cultural background may give some light to her situation – this is merely speculation and definitely not gospel truth.  However, exploring any situation helps us be less judgmental as often there is much more to the appearance.

It was a culture where a woman was perceived to literally be a baby making machine.  In the event of her being barren, the husband would simply abandon her.  However, it was also a culture where a female couldn’t live alone… she had to have a male guardian whether it be a husband, father, brother or male relative.  What if this woman had been an orphan?  She may have had to ‘marry’ in order to live.  Well, obviously her barrenness didn’t change so her second husband would have left her too…  Likewise she may have gone through 5 husbands and ultimately there is a possibility that she would have thought it may be better to simply live with a man as then there will be no expectations of a baby from her – an expectation that she could not fulfil.  Yes these are speculations but a possibility of reality in those days.  Which woman would enter a marriage with the hope of it failing?  If the woman had had immoral character, she wouldn’t have got married in the first place!  There are often valid reasons for a marriage failing… reasons that are beyond one’s control to change.  Besides it takes two to tango.

Jesus obviously knew her heart – He knew the void in her heart and thus chose to speak ‘theology’ with this particular lady out of all those from the entire village.  In fact, after her ‘confession’ of her situation, Jesus addressed her as ‘woman’ which was a term of respect in that time.

We read in Scripture of the contrast of the holier than thou Pharisee (religious leader) and a remorse tax collector (sinner) praying and we also read how Jesus responds to this scenario.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.   12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’   13And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’   14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11-14)

Every one of us have sinned… the difference is in the attitude..

A word and even the smallest act of love can do wonders in a wounded heart.  Those who have been abused yearn for acceptance and to be trusted.  Their egos and esteems are already been bruised.  Surely God wouldn’t want us to further bruise them, does He?

A bruised reed He (Jesus) will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench,

till He sends forth justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20).

Jesus also makes it very clear,

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

Empathy springs from stepping into another person’s shoes…   In fact if we are being restored in the image of Christ, this kind of love will come automatically.  If we are honest with ourselves, we ignore the elephant in the room because we don’t have faith in God to protect what is meant as a blessing for us or because we are scared of the abuser (perhaps one in hierarchy) and because we don’t love God sufficiently to do what He would want us to do at whatever cost.  (Yes, there is a time to help and a time to refrain – but we need God’s discernment to know when we are to be the vessels that He uses).

Scripture is also very clear to stand up against oppression.  We often misuse scripture to oppress or ostracise instead of balancing truth with grace.  Abuse in any form – whether physical or sexual or emotional or financial or for that matter power abuse is oppression.  Simple!  We can choose to feed into abuse or we can choose to be God’s mouthpiece and stand up. God sees into our hearts and its reasoning…  We can choose to ignore situations and we can choose to victimise the victims by ostracising them further, but at the end of the day God will hold us accountable for our actions.

Have you experienced God’s forgiveness and His abounding unconditional love in your life?

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