We are all familiar with the Apostle Paul's scriptural image of the church as a body. It affirms that each of us constitutes an essential part of a greater whole. Vitally bound to each other, we share a vigor and capability way beyond any of our individual capacities.
As the UCC's minister to men, it has been my joy and privilege over the past few years to celebrate the particular strength that men bring to this body. But the church's life is not just one of shared strength; it is also one of shared vulnerability.
As Paul aptly puts it, "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it." As a man who advocates for men in the church, I am also painfully conscious that members of Christ's body are suffering and that, as men, we bear acute responsibility. Between 1 and 4 million incidences of domestic violence occur annually in the United States and, according to U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 95 percent of the perpetrators are male.
While domestic violence typically has been viewed as a "women's and children's issue," we also must begin to see it as a "men's issue." Scripture tells us that what hurts others hurts us too. The numbers suggest that, as men, we have a crucial role to play in stopping the hurting.
We can start by acknowledging our liability for the problem, and proceed by accepting our responsibility for the solution. Acknowledging our responsibility will mean taking a long, hard, look at our attitudes and behaviors, as opposed to reacting and saying, "That's not me!" The facts don't lie: It is us. We owe it to ourselves and our church to face this hard truth.
Accepting our responsibility means not being content to merely confess, but to engage, with the help of God and others, in repentance. For some of us, this will mean turning to appropriate sources in our churches and communities to get information and treatment. For some of us, this will mean becoming the help that others need by being educated and getting active in efforts to protect victims and treat offenders. If we are willing, God and our neighbors will make us able.
In the body of Christ, preventing domestic violence is a men's issue. "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it. If one member is honored, all rejoice together with it." Let's end the suffering and begin the rejoicing today.
The Rev. David J. Holden is minister for adult education and men's ministries with the UCC's Worship and Education Ministry Team of Local Church Ministries.