Finding Grace After the Disgrace of Abuse

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Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest, author, seminary professor. He is also on the Board of Directors for G.R.A.C.E., which is a ministry that works to help churches prevent sexual abuse and domestic violence. He and his wife have co-authored two books about ministry to victims of abuse and violence, and he shares some of the wisdom from those works.


2 Samuel 13:11-14 (ESV)

11But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”12She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing.13As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”14But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Sexual assault and domestic violence both can cause deep feelings of disgrace. As the church, we can reinforce the truth of God’s grace for these situations, and help people lessen the sting of shame.

How does this attitude of acknowledging that God hates sin more than we do affect the way you think about and respond to evil in the world?
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When someone is wrapped up in despair, what are some of the negative effects of living that way?
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How do you communicate hope to someone who feels like "damaged goods" or attempts to minimize serious abuse?
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God takes no pleasure in the sin of abuse. In fact, He hurts from this sin more than we do. Understanding His kindness is the first step, but what then should the church do? In this follow up video, Justin encourages churches to avoid some poor responses of the past and take up godly, loving care for the abused.


Psalm 147:1-3 (ESV)

He Heals the Brokenhearted

1Praise the Lord!

For it is good to sing praises to our God;

for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

2The Lordbuilds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

3He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Poor responses from the church to the victims of abuse include...
 - blame
 - suspicious questions
 - bad theology
 - shallow platitudes

What are some examples of responses that would communicate further shame, bad theology or shallow platitudes?
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Write a better alternative answer for each of these poor responses that you listed above.
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Does your church have a culture in place such that a person who has been abused will know that he or she can come to your leadership for help?
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How can your church establish or improve this system of help so that victims will come to your pastors, rather than hide these kind of events?
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Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. If you have felt the horrific shame and offense of abuse, rest in the fact that God makes all things new. If you are a leader in the church, remember these lessons, pray for the victims in your own church and make yourself well prepared to help those who come forward for help.


If you would like to learn more about things your local church body can do to help with prevention and post-abuse care, you can find great resources on the G.R.A.C.E. website.