Torn by Loyalties
When describing love in the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul teaches us that it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Since we desire to be loving, it means that we do not live our lives suspecting our loved ones of being guilty of terrible wrongdoing. If we do suspect them of this without good reason, we are guilty of thinking sinful, unloving thoughts about them.
This is an incredibly difficult thing to do when a family member is accused of something horrendous, such as abuse. Imagine that a woman hears that her adult son has been accused of abusing children. Here are some possible scenarios:
* shock – this cannot be happening to us
* not wanting to face the reality of what is happening
* if she does nothing, she will lose the relationship with the child. This is especially painful if the child is a grandchild
* if she does take action, she may lose her relationship with her son
* she will fear what people will think of her as a mother
* she may wonder where she failed as a mother
* she may want to protect her son
* there may be a fear of what the future may hold
* fear of what the son or the family of the child might do
* disruption of family life – things will never be the same again
* worry that others will shun her and the family
Caring for those Involved in the Abuse
On the level of actions that this woman should take, she has to speak to her son and the family of the child involved. Accusations of abuse need to be reported to the police and the social services. Their instructions about what to do, say, and what kind of contact to have should be followed. The laws regarding abuse are not the same in every country. Since a minor is involved, it will be crucial to ensure that the child is safe. This should be done under the guidance of the local authorities.
When this happens in the church, care needs to be given to all involved. This involves the child, the child’s family, the accused, and the accused family. At times like these, gossip can spread like wildfire. While loving those involved, care needs to be taken that people are not gossiped about because it is seen as a scandal.
Trusting in and Focusing on the Lord
During such a time of crisis, the woman’s heart will be inclined to fear. We can see fear in a few of the items on the short list above of possible things she will experience. It would be normal for her to fear losing relationships, hardship, being punished by others, what people will think and do, and being shunned.
Paul calls us in Philippians 4 to think about the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Clearly, the alleged abuse and the fearful speculations about possible future outcomes do not fit into these categories.
It is important for this woman to continuously focus on the Lord, trust him, and in so doing, control her thoughts. By thinking of who he is in this situation, she will be thinking truth. She can know and trust that the Lord is omniscient, judge, protector of the oppressed, provider, and comforter. He knows and sees all things and will lead and provide.
Such terrible situations involve deep suffering for all involved. It is in our nature to try to avoid pain and suffering, but in such difficult situations, we will suffer. It is vital that in our suffering we do so with the Lord, knowing and trusting him while he works in our hearts and in the situation.
When a woman is torn by who to believe and what to think when loved ones are accused of terrible wrongdoing, she will not want to be unloving by thinking unfounded suspicious thoughts. However, she will need to take some actions to ensure that the law is obeyed and those involved are protected and cared for. While doing so, she trusts the Lord, thinking about his character and how this is true for her and her family, knowing his comfort and strength during a time of incredible suffering.