Claudine Roberts
Speaking out about violence against women

Violence committed by men against women and girls is not a new problem. There are several detailed accounts of gender-based violence in the Bible, beginning in Genesis in the stories of Hagar and Dinah. The book of Judges gives us the horrific stories of Jephthah’s daughter and the unnamed concubine, and 1 Samuel 13 tells us about the rape of Tamar. The Bible isn’t silent on this issue. These stories of violence against women are included in Scripture to show us just how far God’s people can stray from His plans for them.

I wonder when you last heard any teaching on those passages of Scripture. I don’t recall ever hearing a preacher talk about domestic violence, sex trafficking or child marriage. These are subjects seldom discussed in polite company, but is the silence of the Church on these matters a problem? Could our silence be perpetuating the violence? Aren’t we called to expose the works of darkness and bring them into the light? As followers of Jesus, we should be speaking out against injustice and oppression.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:8-11)

If you’re part of a church leadership team and you haven’t tried to talk about this on a Sunday morning, I can understand why. If you’re male you may think it’s not appropriate for you to try to speak on gender-based violence, particularly when you have no idea of the experiences of some of your female church members. But if not you, then who? It is difficult and it is uncomfortable, but we all need to try. We need to take the lid off, stop the silence, let in the light.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that one third of all women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner, or sexual violence by a non-partner. This means gender-based violence very probably affects some of the women in your church. If we never talk about this injustice those women might feel like the topic is off limits and as a result they may feel unable to tell their own stories – stories of past suffering or stories of present danger.

Silence is an inadequate response to oppression, whether that oppression is slavery, murder, pornographic exploitation, marital betrayal, or rape; those who have been wounded need to feel God’s love through God’s church.” (Craig S. Keener)

There are women in our churches who need to experience God’s love for them through the healing of past hurts or through practical help to escape abuse. We want our churches to be safe places to report, where victims of abuse are listened to, believed and loved.

We also have a responsibility to teach the whole canon of Scripture in order to equip Christians for the work God has called them to:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

We know that the Bible is relevant and applicable to our lives today, so let’s teach into people’s life experiences. This applies to experiences of gender-based violence, as well as the topics we no longer hesitate to cover, like debt, sexuality and mental health. The Bible isn’t silent, so we shouldn’t be either.

Claudine Roberts is a former human rights solicitor who now works on the operations team for New Ground Churches. She is also a member of the preaching team at King’s Church Oxted. This post originally appeared on the New Ground Blog.


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