Most girls dream of the day when their prince charming scoops them off their feet and carries them over the threshold of marital bliss. Some married couples, like my parents, have taken part in a tradition in which the groom carries the wife over the threshold into their new home as a newly established family. This symbolizes the groom’s role to protect his wife from evil, making sure that she is safe from all harm and danger. In the biblical account mentioned below, the threshold has a different meaning.
In the 19th chapter of Judges, we are shown one of the most graphic stories ever told in the Bible. The Levite in the story has a concubine who decides she has had enough of dealing with her abusive husband and is going to return to her father in Bethlehem.
Months later, her husband heads to Bethlehem to persuade her to return home with him. She has a change of heart and decides to return to her husband. While they are heading home, they stop to rest in a city for the night. Just when we think this story may shed some hope for the woman, her husband—the one who she thought had changed his ways, the one who was supposed to protect her from danger, the one who won the approval of her father—throws her into a violent mob of men like shark bait and allows the crowd to take turns raping her until they grow tired.
She is left physically, mentally, and emotionally drained after the horrific ordeal. Think of the pain she had to endure as she walked back to the house where she was staying for the night. Every step she took, she was crying out for help, and no one was there to hear her agonized cry. As she reached out her hands to open the door, she collapsed to the ground, and her hands landed on the threshold.
The next day, as her husband was leaving, he found her still there, unconscious on that threshold. As he called her to get up, there was no response. Eventually, he took her home only to cut her up into pieces, sending each of the pieces to every tribe of Israel. And as they looked at the dismembered body parts, their response was, “Who is going to speak out about this?”
This story reminds me of an epidemic that is plaguing our societies today. This epidemic is not selective in race, gender, age, or geographic location. I am convinced it has transcended mere epidemic to become increasingly a pandemic of the ages.
This pandemic is spreading every day as we speak. We hear it on the news continuously; we read it on billboards while we drive. It is killing women, men, and children, one by one. It is infecting our communities, and it is seeping into our churches. This pandemic is called Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence.
This account in Judges gives us an eye-opening look into the reality of Intimate Partner Violence. After the woman decided to return to her husband, we read later that she was found unconscious with her hands on the threshold, before she passed away in her final cry for justice. Likewise, we have women, men, and children who are unable to defend themselves—placing their hands on the threshold and crying out for justice in the world every day.
There are women covering their faces and bodies to hide the marks that were placed on them by the men who are supposed to love them as Christ loves the Church. There are men who feel emasculated if they report their spouses abusing them and so stay silent. There are children who act wayward in our Sabbath School classes, and we wonder why, never knowing it is because they have witnessed their father nearly choking their mother to death. Their waywardness is their way of placing their hands on the threshold; it is their cry for help.
My question to you is this: who is going to speak up about domestic violence? What is causing us to keep silent on this issue? How can we manage to hear and see issues of domestic violence in the news and do nothing about it? When are we going to speak out against it? Will we speak up when there is another casualty that ends up orphaning the children of our churches?
Why do we think domestic violence does not occur within the walls of the church when research shows incidences of abuse in some Adventist homes follow the same trends documented in non-Adventist populations?
33.8% of women and 20% of men are victims of domestic violence. It breaks my heart hearing individuals discouraging programs that help raise awareness in our churches. It is disheartening when we spend time talking about Ray Rice and other celebrities involved in an intimate-partner violence situation when we should be addressing the deacon who emotionally abuses his wife 24/7.
It is appalling when I hear stories of women going to their pastors for help and being told that they need to be submissive because God hates divorce. It is painful as a woman to hear people investing their energies to speak out against women pastors and not women victims of domestic violence.
Once again, “Who will Speak Up?”
It is time for us to do something as stewards of our communities. God has called each of us to dedicate our lives to the pursuit of justice as mentioned in my previous article. He has called us to be upstanders, not bystanders. In order for us to do so, we must be able to foster a safe environment in our churches for survivors seeking a place of refuge and educate ourselves in become more vigilant to discern signs of abuse while working with children in our churches.
It is time for our churches to become the Thresholds of Justice, the Thresholds of Empathy, the Thresholds of Safety, the Thresholds of Unity, and the Threshold of Satisfaction because we serve a God who has graced us with our Threshold of Salvation, and His name is Jesus.
 During this time period, a concubine was a second-class wife who performed marriage duties without the same rights as a full wife.
Darnisha Thomas is serving as the pastor for Student Ministries and Volunteer Engagement at New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton, Maryland. She also blogs at www.nishaisnaturallyadorned.com where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a touch of pink.
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