Tough Topics: From the Heart

Why have I been writing about child abuse?

Because I’m spending the Summer reading the Psalms. I don’t read the Bible casually. It affects me. I mean, really affects me. I’m not always sure it affects me the way it’s supposed to, but neither I am sure that it doesn’t.

There are two big issues that I grapple with in the Psalms. And if you search the Christian literature about either of these things you will find that very much more knowledgeable Biblical scholars and theologians than I disagree about, and struggle with, these same two issues.

  1. The first is: Was Bathsheba raped? I don’t have an agenda here, truly. I read 2 Samuel – and I have read it over and over again, in many different versions including the King James Version, NIV, ESV, and the Jewish Talmud, trying to understand what happened to Bathsheba. The secular way the story gets told is not what the Bible says. For example, nowhere does the Bible say that Bathsheba was bathing on the roof, let alone seductively trying to tempt anyone to sin. She was a married woman whose husband was away at war, bathing in her own home (some commentators say at a mikvah, a bath house used by Jewish men and Jewish women for ritual cleansing prescribed in Leviticus) late at night. The King went up to his roof, looked at her, wanted her, and summoned her – one can’t refuse the King. the King doesn’t issue requests – the King commands and his subjects must obey. And why would she want to refuse his summons anyway? She probably thought she was being summoned late at night to hear that her husband had been killed in battle. She had no possible way of knowing that it was because the King saw her and wanted to have sex with her. When Nathan the prophet confronts David they both agree that “the man must die” — but that would only be the correct penalty according to Scripture if it had been rape. If it was “adultery” (as it is often paraphrased) they both should have been sentenced to death (Deuteronomy 22:22-29). There are people who can cite more scripture than I who argue that it was not rape, and they may be right. But I can’t read it without identifying with Bathsheba — the silencing and blame of those who are abused — the assumptions and stereotypes that give the more powerful person the ability to shape the narrative according to their own perspective, and to silence the voices of those they’ve abused. And Jesus certainly didn’t advocate siding with those in power just because they were able to silence those less powerful (Matthew 5:1-12).
  2. The other question here comes in thinking about how much the wounds created in those who are abused hinder our ability to serve God. The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that we are supposed to love ourselves. But it does say that the most important thing, after loving God, is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. (Mark 12:30-31) This presupposes that one doesn’t hate oneself. I wonder if those of us who have not yet healed from abuse perpetrated against us as children actually can carry out the second of these, and maybe even the first.

So where this is all coming from, in my own heart, is a belief that we can’t comprehend God’s Word as He intended us to understand it (the Psalms, for example), and we can’t give our love in service of His plan, until we have healed the brokenness still inside us that is left over from having been abused as children.

I believe that we can recover from past abuse and that we must in order to serve well as instruments of God’s will. And I also believe that we can’t do these things as God intends us to unless we address the task of healing ourselves first, or at least in parallel … even when that is hard.

Fortunately God promises he will help us with this

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

Praise God, and Hallelujah!

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