“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1.31a)
The Scriptures begin with the declaration that God created the cosmos, and called it “very good.” Unfortunately, many of us do not experience the goodness of God’s world on a regular basis because the goodness of creation has been overshadowed by darkness. Perhaps there are those among us who are overwhelmed by the images of violence on our newscasts each night; and wonder how a God who claims to be the source of all love and peace can allow the perpetuation of such evil? Many of us may resonate with that concern, but some are aware of violence in an acute sense, because you are currently in or grew up in a home where suffering is a normative experience. Your story involves the constant fear that if you make the wrong move, or say the wrong thing, that you will endure the wrath of family violence.
When God created the earth, his intention was that there would be no violence among people. The “very good” creation project is an image of what God desires this world to be: a place where perfect love, harmony, and peace exist. In the first two chapters of Genesis there are four relationships humans are designed to have that emerge out of the narrative: to God, others, creation, and self. The ancient Hebrews came to understand this reality as the state of “shalom” which is the Hebrew word for holistic peace. Violence often outdoes the glimpses of shalom that still exist in our world. Why is this? The answer to this begins in Genesis 3.
In the overarching story of the Scriptures, we find that humans did not choose to live in shalom. Instead, humanity rebelled against the Creator and shalom was disrupted, coming under a curse.
The story gets worse when a chapter later the first recorded human bloodshed (a great violence) takes place in the human family. Cain kills Abel, his brother, out of jealousy. One family member slays another. Family violence is born and has been creating victims ever sense. We truly live in a violently fallen world. And although God’s story began with a shalom-shaped universe, our experiences reflect the brokenness of a fallen cosmos. My story is no exception.
Some of you may know that when I was a child, my parents divorced young. I lived with my mom at that time, who made a series of choices that led to poverty and pain. Early on, she began to date a man who would be the source of much pain. He turned out, over time, to be a raging alcoholic (who used his habit as a means of justifying his problems with pursuing power through violence). For many years he beat up my mother and I. This was mostly kept secret from my father and grandparents because I was always willing to lie for her, believing that the lie was a source of protection for her. The abuse and grief caused by this man continued up until I was eleven years old. At this time my mom had made him promise never to return to our ‘section 8’ home again because of a violent fight that they had just finished. He agreed, but returned the next day and raped her. Praise the Lord that I was at my dad’s house that weekend and did not endure potential suffering. After this incident I lived with my grandparents for a few months until my mom decided to press charges and get him out of our lives. The physical pain finally ended, but it would take several years for me to process the grief and allow Christ to bring me to wholeness.
It would be easy for me to tell you that childhoods like mine are rare, but the fact of the matter is that the statistics for family violence in this country are staggering.
- About 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
- One in four women experience domestic violence during the lifetime.
- 15.5 million U.S. children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.
- It’s also important to add that there are countless situations, many which go unreported, of men being abused by women as well in the home.
What a traumatic list of facts that demonstrates the lack of shalom in our world. God’s desire is that the church would be a community committed to subverting distortions of the family that lead to violence. In fact, we do have hope that a day is coming when this will be reality. Just as the Bible begins with creation, we also know that it ends with the hope of a coming new creation!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…. No longer will there be any curse. Revelation 21:4, 6b; 22:3a
God is preparing a new creation, meaning that this world will be restored to what was intended from the beginning! Jesus conquered evil through his resurrection and left behind the old contaminated world of violence and death. Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of God’s new creation. The old reality still remains, but we can now experience God’s new, emerging reality. A universe where God’s shalom is being worked out in the present and will be fully realized when he returns and restores shalom for eternity! And as we experience this shalom from God’s grace, we can show our culture what human relationships were always meant to be like from the beginning.
The following passage expands this idea:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
In this short verse we find that new creation can already begin through people who embrace God’s story. “If anyone;” that’s talking about your story (my story). “Is in Christ;” that’s talking about God’s story of bringing shalom through the reconciling power of Jesus’ resurrection. If our story gets lost in the story of God, new creation is possible!
Maybe your story is similar to my childhood or even worse. Maybe you have been dealing with other consequences of the lack of shalom in this world. Whatever the case may be – we are called to be people of new creation, which begins by allowing our story to truly cross paths with God’s story. This is the intersection of new creation where violence against anyone is in antithesis with God’s emerging reality that will be complete upon Jesus’ return.
So, are you in an abusive family? Do not be silent any longer. God is inviting you to experience shalom, and we are prepared to stand by you from start to finish. New creation begins today!
Are you a perpetrator of violence in your household via physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual abuses? God is inviting you to admit you don’t have it all together and to come to the cross for forgiveness and to your church family to get the help you need.
Perhaps some, who are not in such a scenario, know of a household that needs the reality of new creation? God is inviting us to creatively bring shalom into that situation.
Will we be the kind of church that is committed to reversing the effects of the curse of evil in our city and world? May we enthusiastically answer yes, to that question and decide that new creation and the reality of shalom begins today!
 Cost of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.
 Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” (2000).
 Intimate Partner Violence in the United States. 2006. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
It was pointed out to me by one reader that this sermon feels very slanted toward domestic violence towards women. I would respond by saying that this person was correct in that my personal story plus the few facts I read, would make it appear that men are never really victims. If I were to actually preach this sermon, I would include some info about male victims as well, because they often are assumed to always be the offender when this is in fact untrue.