Victims of Evil as Untouchables
Luke 13:10-17 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
We have written about this Scripture before, but I think that it is worth re-visiting. Yesterday for some unknown reason I found myself remembering an incident that occurred when I was in the fifth grade. We lived in Southern Oregon and I attended a local elementary school. I didn’t have any friends yet as we had just recently moved there, so it wasn’t the most fun time of my life. One morning, I think it must have been through a newspaper report, my parents were talking about a fatal traffic accident that had occurred near our house. In the night, a man and his wife had smashed into a tree and the wife was killed.
Later that day, unknown to my parents, I walked over to the scene of the wreck (I often walked through that area anyway) and there was the tree. A big chunk of bark freshly ripped off it. And later that day I found out at school that the people in the wreck were the parents of a girl in my classroom. I still remember her name — Norma.
A few days later as I was walking to a store, I happened past a local funeral home and there was the funeral procession for the lady who was killed. People were standing outside the building, I suppose getting ready to head out to the cemetery. And there was Norma. I saw her standing with some other people, someone holding her hand.
Norma had become untouchable. At least that is what happened in my 11 year old mind. Norma was now different from me. Her world and mine had parted and hers was a world that I was afraid of. I looked away and just kept walking. Funny, I can’t remember anymore interaction with Norma after that. Oh, she must have still been in my class at school, but I just draw a blank now when I try to remember any other contact with her.
There is something about evil that makes us afraid of its victims. Take the woman Jesus healed in the account above. She had been struck with an evil malady. No fault of her own, but still — people went the other way. The religionists of the day used their theology to explain the thing, but did nothing to help her. Jesus called them hypocrites.
When we encounter people who are the victims of evil — such as the evil of abuse that we are exposing here on this blog — our human tendency is to go the other way. To enter into Norma’s new world of grief is fearful for us. To listen to the story pour out of a woman who has been wickedly abused for years and years is not comfortable. To have a relationship of any kind with her is to have contact with that which we really would rather not touch or see. It is ugly. We don’t understand it. Our world is so different, we think.
And I have to conclude that this is one of the chief reasons abuse is so often swept under the carpet and victims are dismissed and told to be quite or go away. We don’t want our world rocked by theirs. We want to stay in our happy place where life is pleasant and untroubled by the “uncleanness” of a person tainted by evil. We don’t want to hear about it and we don’t want to talk about it. And this tells me two things about church leaders who cover up abuse:
- They are personally weak and immature at best. They have never truly faced up to their fears, and they don’t want anything or anyone reminding them of the cold, hard facts of life in a fallen world.
- They are hypocrites. I was a hypocrite in regard to Norma. Immature indeed. Just a kid, yes. But I professed at that time to be a Christian. And Christians are supposed to be the pre-eminent people to seek out when death and evil strike, right?
As the people of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to be the leaders in staring evil in the face when we see it and announce its presence to all who will hear. “Hey, look! This lady is bent over double and suffering terribly. Let’s see how we can help her!”
In the case recorded here by Luke, the culprit was some kind of “disabling spirit.” Jesus cast it out. In the cases of abuse that we find, the culprit needs to be cast out too.