Perpetrator and Victim: Part Seven

The Place of Rescue)

Yesterday I made the point that both the perpetrator and the victim of abuse find themselves cut off from the presence of God. The perpetrator by their guilt, the victim by their despair. I explained that they do not have the power to bring themselves back into the light, either. Each requires an act of divine intervention to rescue them from the darkness.

It is not in the scope of this series to fully detail this rescue process. This process is outlined in the Gospel, it is conducted through the Savior, Jesus Christ. Anyone that searches for how one is “saved” in the Christian theology will find numerous explanations. For here I will simply say that this rescue or saving comes by accepting Christ as our Savior, and him redeeming us through no special merit of our own. It begins a new life within us, one of discipleship to Jesus.

My focus in this series has been to examine the hard path that precedes this saving grace. All of us have to be lost before we can be found, that is our common pattern in life. All of us are broken by others, and all of us break others in turn. Accepting these realities brings us to the bleakest place in our lives, but it just so happens to be the very same place where Christ’s rescue is waiting for us.

A dear friend of mine understood this concept and would often repeat the phrase “there is sacredness in suffering.” He understood the courage that it took to admit how guilty and broken one was, and he also understood that it was the prerequisite to a transformation for a soul. Nearly four years ago he passed in a tragic accident, leaving behind his young family. They have had their own “sacred suffering,” to be broken, and to be rescued to a new way of life.

New in the Light)

No one is rescued from the hole as the same person they were before they went in. They can be innocent again, they can be whole again, but they won’t be the same innocent or whole that they were before. That might be difficult for some to accept. Most of us spend so much of our time remembering how we used to be and trying to get back to it, but that’s something we just have to surrender.

This shouldn’t be considered tragic, though. The new person that emerges back into the light will not be equal to the person that went in, they will be indescribably better. We rise higher than we fall, our suffering and healing purifies and strengthens us into a purer form.

Of course, this is a transformation and journey that we never plan on. In the case of the victim it comes about entirely against their will. In the case of the perpetrator it does come about by their will, but they are ignorant of the full consequences they are calling forth. Most of us like to think that the greatest journeys of our lives will be ones that we elect for ourselves, ones that we choose deliberately and then carry out entirely by our own power. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those sorts of journeys are the most insignificant of our lives. The greatest journeys are the ones that catch us by surprise, even against our wills, and feature long periods where we are carried by various others. These journeys are far more dangerous, but the reward is far greater, too. There’s a reason why this is the sort of journey that all our literature has been obsessed with for thousands of years.

Parallel Journeys)

Here at the end I want to revisit a notion I mentioned in an earlier post. Many of us view the victim and the perpetrator as being two completely separate entities. We feel that each has entirely different needs from the other, that the only relationship that they share is those isolated moments of abuse.

But the reality is that both of these souls have a parallel journey to redemption. They both are prone to self-deception and false ideology, they both must overcome these lies to accept the hard truths, they both must come to despair so that they can then be rescued by the Savior.

And, indeed, each must deal with the other in their journey many times over. Even if they never see each other in the flesh again, each must come to terms with the specter of the other. No perpetrator will emerge whole without acknowledging the victim and doing whatever he can to make amends. No victim will emerge whole without accepting that the abuser is still their brother or sister and releasing their hate for them.

As I have suggested several times, I have been victim and perpetrator both. I have walked both journeys at various times, and I know firsthand the patterns of these paths. I know with all confidence that the way is hard, but also that it is beautiful.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 14:13-16

13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.

14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

This story stirs my heart! I love the image of Abram hearing that his kin is in trouble and rushing off to the rescue. Never mind the fact that the army he is pursuing just finished laying waste to the militias of Sodom, Gomorrah, and three other cities. It doesn’t matter what the difficulty of the task is, Lot needs to be rescued, so that’s what Abram is going to do!

I’m also touched by how Lot is called Abram’s “brother” here, not his nephew. I mentioned previously how after the death of Haran (Abram’s brother and Lot’s father) that the record seemed to treat Lot as if he stood in the place of his father, and this verse further reinforces that notion. Of course I’m sure this also has to do with the customs of the time, but that does not diminish the passion Abram clearly has for this “brother” as he smites the enemy, pursues the battle all the way into another land, and doesn’t let up until he has retrieved every single thing they had taken.

The Need for Law- Summary

When one wishes to have the gospel in their lives, but not its laws, it is often due to an image of an exacting and punishing taskmaster God versus that of a loving and forgiving father. There is no question that the law of Moses given in the Old Testament was strict and severe, and yet we say that it was given by the same God who stated “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” One tries to resolve these two images, and finds themselves asking so does God hate the sinner? Or does He love His wayward child?
In the process of this study I have come to the conclusion that this is a false dilemma. Strict commandments do not preclude the caring compassion of a father, and the giving of commandments is a greater act of love than sweeping misdeeds under the rug. There is probably more to be explored on the matter, but for the topic of this study it is enough to know that the laws of God are given as an act of kindness.
Having a proper understanding of these laws puts to rest so many of the fears related to them. Our concerns stem more from misinterpretation than disagreement. Let’s take a look at some of the fundamental principles of law, and how they truly are designed for our benefit.

Law is Inevitable

Societies have experimented with anarchy from time to time, and always to disastrous effect. Notably, anarchy does not survive. There never has been a successful and lasting nation that was not structured on some sort of government or law. Even on the most basic level, it is in our nature to band together under clans and tribes, to submit to a set of rules, and to function as a society.
Even more than this, though, we belong to a world of order and rigidity. Physical laws govern every material interaction of our lives, and provide us a sense of dependability. Were it not for the presence of natural law, all would be chaos, and life would be impossible. Our very existence depends on there being a set of universal rules.
And there is still more. For we are not only material bodies, but also composed of an immortal spirit. These spirits are the creation of God, and therefore inherently bound to the laws of heaven. That is their natural place to dwell, and so must adhere to its commandments or else divorce themselves from it.
Thus it is necessary for us, first and foremost, to recognize the parts that we are made of, and from the recognition of our nature, then accept the laws that inevitably apply to us. To live without law would be to stop being what we fundamentally are.
John 3:5-6- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Mark 12:14, 17- And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Laws Inherently Divide

Inherent in law is the division between those that adhere to its commandments, and those that defy them. To be a law, there must be two states of recompense defined and exacted: reward for those that obey the law, and penalty for those that do not. If these qualities are absent, then there are not any laws, only a list of suggestions.
Thus the laws of our government have punishments defined for those that break them, and securities promised to those that follow. Those that respect the laws of physics will enjoy a life far freer from pain than those that pay them no mind. And so, too, our spirits suffer or thrive dependent on our adherence to divine law.
Our problem, of course, is that we are all doomed to fall on the wrong side of natural and divine law. If we possessed a never-ending source of power we could stave off entropy, and maintain our body’s vitality forever. But we do not. And if we had perfect self control we could resist every temptation, and maintain our spirit’s purity forever. But we do not. Instead we are all bound for the grave and bound for hell. The temporary benefits of predictability and structure that these laws give us in mortal life, come at the cost of eternal woe afterwards.
2 Nephi 2:5- And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
2 Nephi 2:13- And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

The Law of Christ Spares Us

However, if the terms of these first laws have been satisfied, then a new law can be erected in their place. Thus, to our fallen state came Jesus Christ, sent to atone for our sins, sent to die the death of our mortality, who then turned and offered us resurrection and forgiveness instead. He did so, under the domain of a new law, his law.
But as we have already noted, for this to be a law it must have terms and commandments, which provide reward for their fulfillment, and punishment for their transgression. The rewards for Christ’s law are resurrection and forgiveness, the punishment is simply to default back to the hell required by our inability to perfectly follow divine law.
But this new law could only be beneficial to us if we are aware of it, and knew how to make use of it. And thus the gospel was written out and given to us in the form of scripture. Thus our conscience was instilled in our hearts. Thus teachers and guides were inspired to direct and educate us. All of these were provided for the express purpose of teaching us us the terms and conditions of this new law. In these sources we find every stipulation laid out in exhaustive detail. We learn over and over again that the law of Christ requires us to have faith in him, to repent of our sins, to enter into a covenant by baptism, and ever recommit to following him when we fall short of his example.
If we do these few things, then the saving of our souls is sure.
Luke 4:18- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
Isaiah 51:4-5- Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

Romans 8:2- For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

The Captive Heart- Question

The end of my last study was very impactful to me. It brought up the point of how we so often choose the very things that hurt us the most, and how God must intervene to save us from our own selves.

But to be sure, each of us are also victims to the onslaughts of others. Indeed most of our own acts of self-harm have their roots in the way others cut our confidence out from under us. We were made to question our worth, and that wasn’t right. So God must also intervene to save us from others.

Yet is it any wonder that others have learned to be cruel, given how harsh and uncompromising this world can be? Sometimes it is neither ourselves nor another that causes offense, it is the misfortune of nature, of chance, of having a physical body and a frail mind, of being subject to disease, deterioration, and death. So God must also intervene to save us from the mortal world.

And He does so. With this study I would like to examine how we are assaulted, and how we find reclamation in the gospel. In the meantime I would invite you to consider in what ways you have been hurt by yourself, by others, and by the world? How are you hurting right at this moment? In what ways is God trying to rescue you? Are there ways in which you are blocking Him? What are the reasons why?

Our Dual Nature- Question

In my last study I examined how God gives us laws so that we may receive blessings and grow spiritually. But then we require a Savior to save us, because inevitably we end up breaking those laws instead. It frankly seems like a very roundabout way of doing things, which would suggest that there is more to the story.

Our problem, of course, comes from the fact that there is a good part to our nature (the spiritual), and a bad part (the carnal). If we just didn’t have this carnal side, then it seems like everything would be solved! We wouldn’t be swayed by temptation, we could effortlessly keep all of God’s laws, and we wouldn’t require saving.

So a few questions naturally arise. Why do we have this carnal side to us then? What is God’s reasoning behind raising imperfect children who require a Savior to rescue them? How does this all fit into His plan?