When I was a little girl and I did something wrong, my instinct was always to justify on the basis that I was provoked, or one of my sisters did something worse…. “But she…” or “But what about her?” My mum would ask me, “Who are we talking about here Tam? Whose behaviour are you responsible for?” The answers of course were, “Me,” and “Mine.” This exchange occurred so often it has become something of a running family joke these days, but it was formational for me in learning to take responsibility for my actions.
This came to mind today because I read Andrew Bolt’s response to Julia Baird’s report of the role of Christian churches in enabling and concealing domestic violence. Here’s my summary: “Julia said Christians have a domestic violence problem. But what about Aboriginals? And Muslims?”
See the blame shifting? Bolt points to others whose problem is apparently greater, in order to take the heat from the Christian community.
The irony here is that Bolt’s words, meant to defend Christianity, are sub-Christian. Now, as far as I know Bolt’s not a Christian, so you wouldn’t expect him either to be conversant with Christian theology, or to act in a Christlike way. But to point the finger at others when an issue or a sin is brought to light is the opposite of a Christian reaction.
Why? Because the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin. When wrongdoing is brought to light, we ought not despise it. On the contrary, we acknowledge it as the work of the Holy Spirit. If we excuse it, cover it up, shift the blame for it, or point to someone else, we are actually obscuring the work of God the Holy Spirit. And according to 1 John 1, that not only makes liars out of us, but out of God himself.
But Christians are people who want to keep in step with the Spirit, to live in the light that makes everything visible, the light given by Christ. That light not only compels us to expose sin, but also drives us towards love of one another: you cannot claim to be in the light if you do not love your sister who has been a victim of domestic violence. If we take 1 John 2:9 seriously, our reaction to Julia Baird’s piece, and especially towards women who share their experiences of domestic violence, is nothing less than an indication of whether we belong to God, or are still in darkness.
So let me instead suggest how Christians ought to respond to Baird’s report.
Firstly, let us praise the Holy Spirit for doing His work, for exposing sin and leading us into truth, through this report. Let us thank Baird for her role in that.
Second, let us examine ourselves and our church structures, that we might confess to one another and to God where we have obscured the Holy Spirit’s work in the past, or have failed to love one another. Let us be honest about this with the wider society watching on, so they can see how serious we believe sin is, and how great our confidence of forgiveness is because of the one who advocates for us, and on whose account we have been forgiven.
Third, let us cease sinning, because we have the life of God in us.
Fourthly, let us do the work of making all things new alongside our Master, renovating churches and their structures.
Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, we are free to face our sin, be it personal or structural. And in His resurrection power, we can go about bringing light where there was darkness, rescue where there is oppression, healing where people have been hurt, and flourishing where people have not been afforded their God-given dignity.
Image credit: Rocco Fazzari
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.