In July, Gabby and her fiancé left on a cross-country trek to visit national parks in the U.S. West. He returned; she didn’t. Remains found yesterday, September 19, 2021, in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park are believed to be Gabby Petito’s.
When I saw Gabby was missing, but her fiancé returned to his home with her van, I realized she was dead. Most women in a romantic relationship who go missing do so at the hands of their intimate partner. His refusal to speak to law enforcement told more than mere words ever could.
I watched the police cam footage of Gabby crying tears of shame because her fiancé was upset by her needs. I knew the two of them should have been separated, so Gabby could be taken to a domestic violence shelter. I cried for her. When I saw his scratched face and heard his explanation, I knew he was telling a partial truth. Abusers are pros at keeping the narrative under control; calm, cool, and collected while the victim looks crazy or out of control. Gabby might have felt confused, flustered, or crazy, but she wasn’t crazy. She was living in the spun web of her abuser while he took pleasure in the pain and confusion he was causing. Did Gabby scratch him? Yes, but her body language and soft-spoken crying told of being on the defensive out of fear.
You may think these are premature assumptions, but as a woman who has lived through domestic abuse, my heart heard her heart. My mind understood how her mind believed the narrative that everything was her fault. My body felt all over again the tension of feeling and thinking the lies I believed about myself. Once again, I saw the objectification of a young woman living in a world that often places men first. Women are often considered subordinates, made to follow his leadership at all costs and meet his emotional, financial, and sexual desires without thinking twice about herself. These types of men rarely allow a woman to have ideas, dreams, feelings, or needs.
Am I saying he was always a monster? Of course not, or she would have never been attracted to him. The pictures tell a story of a young couple having fun together. Still, the fun can turn in a split second to frightening, uncontrollable darkness. By the time the police cam recorded Gabby and her alleged aspiring murderer, she was already caught up in the manipulating continuum of domestic violence. She likely died believing she brought all of it on herself. She didn’t.
I know many women stuck in the manipulating continuum. My heart and goal are to help them find the truth in scripture that God doesn’t expect them to endure the abuse. Most of the women I minister to are married to their abuser or trying to safely leave him.
How does this apply to the social justice label?
I hear some of you refer to my ministry, and other ministries, as social justice. Twitter is an echo chamber for the social justice mantra used against advocates. It’s a popular term to throw around in Christianity lately. Especially since it helps many churches and leaders avoid accountability for the harm that has come to sheep while under their care. Every time I hear this, it is in a negative light…as being unscriptural, ungodly, intrusive, or based on fictitious problems. Was that how you referred to Jesus when He bent down in the sand to write a message to the men eager to stone the woman caught in adultery, or when He spoke truth to the woman at the well? Was that what you thought when He cast out demons? Was that your opinion when He heard and healed the blind? Jesus responded in righteous anger in the temple when he saw his Father’s house used as a den of thieves. Did you call that social justice instead of Godly justice? Do you remember when Pharisees hated Jesus for His ministry to the poor, the sick, the sinner, the outcast, and the hurting?
Is social justice how you refer to those who minister to the homeless? Is that what you believe about missionaries helping Afghan refugees escape Afghanistan? Do you call Christian counselors social justice warriors? Do you tell them their ministry is their identity? What if it’s a ministry to which Jesus called them?
Allow me to submit to you that you are using the wrong terminology.
I’m not into social justice. I’m being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’m living out the gospel message in a tangible way to victim-survivors of sexual, spiritual, racial, and domestic abuse. (These aren’t the only people to whom I limit my ministry and care). I teach and convey the heart of Jesus because Jesus is relevant to what these sweet sisters, and some brothers, are living through. I use scripture, pray over them, encourage them, and point them in the direction of professional help they may need. There are over 100 scriptures that teach us to help the oppressed, and never once is caring for them called social justice. It’s simply called help.
You’re wrong when you tell us we’re into social justice and not listening to the Holy Spirit. I’ve tried to change the trajectory of my ministry multiple times due to the stress on my tired and disease-riddled body, but the Holy Spirit leads me directly back to these hurting souls on the side of the road. They are image-bearers of God who are beaten, wounded, bleeding, naked, and mentally abused. I understand them because I’ve been them.
Please, stop with the harsh and wrong judgments. I, and others, are doing the work of Jesus!
We are all members of the body of Christ. You do your function, and we’ll do ours. For me, there are still more Gabby’s out there who need to hear that:
- God is not the author of confusion.
- God does not expect us to tolerate domestic, sexual, or spiritual abuse.
- God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- God gave us a desire for one true love and a happily ever after, perhaps because our inner being desires Jesus and eternity in heaven.
- Jesus came to set us free, and He esteems us greatly.
- A study of Jesus’ ministry on earth shows a Savior who believed in and valued the worth of women when the culture around them didn’t.
- Jesus is relevant to our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And there are young men out there who need to know it isn’t acceptable to treat other humans with disregard; women aren’t your object to use and throw away like trash. Women aren’t yours to control and abuse.
Back to justice verses ministry
Ministry isn’t only about preaching, church attendance, staff, business meetings, and being voted in as a leader. Evangelism, Bible study, theology, prayer, serving, and spiritual disciplines are all part of being a disciple of Christ. I actively participate in all of these. I have not replaced them with ‘social justice.’ Being a disciple is also learning to sit with others in their pain and trauma, acting as the good Samaritan.
God is just, and justice is biblical. Instead of social justice, the correct term is God-honoring, biblical justice, but mainly it’s just helping those in need.
Suppose you’re asked to participate in a seen need. In that case, it’s not to pull you into a political agenda or turn the church into a social movement. It’s inviting you to care for a deep spiritual need and participate in the soul care of injured sheep while protecting uninjured sheep from harm.
Instead of social justice, the correct term is God-honoring, biblical justice.Tweet
God is just, and justice is biblical.