Violence In the City: Stories of Three Women
Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her. – II Samuel 13:1, 14
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. – Genesis 34:1
Two women. Two stories. Similar plots. Tamar and Dinah. They were beautiful young women living in ancient times, in a culture where men dominated. Lusted after by wicked men, perhaps with an accomplice or two, they were horribly raped and then shunned by their attackers. I can imagine their tears and nightmares continued for nights on end. Both their fathers remained silent and did nothing to console or protect their broken daughters. Because of the times, no one would marry them because they had been defiled. Finally, following the rapes, their brothers carried out twisted justice that only further scarred their already shattered reputation. And then their stories end.
The same rush of emotions flood over me as I read each tale: inexplicable evil, no one to speak up for them, and justice carried out wrongly. We do not see the lives of Tamar and Dinah unfold, but we see just enough to know that God cares. He has allowed their stories to be written down and passed on for thousands of years so that we would know they are important to the story of Christ redeeming a very fallen and broken world. He has heard their cries and He hears ours, too.
Thankfully, we have the privilege of knowing another story. There is a third woman whose name is Mary Magdalene. We don’t know Mary’s childhood or her whole life story, but I can only imagine she was abused as well. She had seven demons in her. She was known as a prostitute, self-mutilator, and participant in countless other sins and erratic behavior. She was a social outcast. Nobody wanted to be her or around her. Until Jesus came along. He cast out her demons and changed her into a different person. If he were speaking to her, he might say something like this:
Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. – Isaiah 54:4-5
Jesus deals gently with Mary Magdalene. He welcomes her. He listens to her. He heals her. He protects her. He exalts her. Out of all His disciples and followers, she is the first to witness His glory after His resurrection (Mark 16:9).
Time after time in the Bible, God empowers women with these tender words. Mary Magdalene is not the only one, He also changes the lives of many others: Ruth, Esther, Anna (Luke 2:36-37), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26), the woman who washes Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), and the women who assist Jesus in His ministry (Luke 8:2-3), to name a few. They are evidences of the glory He receives through the actions of those who have learned to trust him.
Jesus extends this work of healing into the lives of His people today, as countless men and women can identify with Tamar, Dinah, and Mary Magdalene. Maybe you can, too. Especially in cities like Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Camden, violence is rampant and starts in childhood. Screwed up family systems place children in abusive situations. Violence is demonstrated in the form of bullets. Police action may not change the circumstances and may feel more like the enemy than safety. Numerous times I have driven down Collings Avenue in Camden to see grade school or middle school children yelling, fighting, or hitting each other. Their mothers are sometimes standing in the background cheering them on. My own story isn’t the same as Tamar or Dinah or bullied school children, but life hasn’t been easy either. I’ve had people hurt me, and others who haven’t helped me like they should have done. The same pattern of inexplicable evil: no one to speak up for them, and justice carried out wrongly still happens.
Because we have the privilege of seeing how Jesus works in the lives of His people in the Bible, we can know that He will do the same for us. In fact, He gave the ultimate sign of love: He gave up His life for us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. – Colossians 1:13
I can assure you that healing does happen because it’s happened to me. My story has moved beyond any horrific circumstances. Through His great love for me, He has completely changed my life, made me a new person, and still blesses me far beyond what I could ever imagine. He can, and will, make an addendum to any harrowing tale: continued grace, continued healing, and a story to be continued.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – I Corinthians 15:55, 57
I would like to thank my friend Reverend Matthew Fisher for his preaching every Sunday night and encouragement in writing this blog post. You can listen to his sermons at www.villagepca.org.