Forgiveness And Justice – By Pastor Tony Rapu

People ask about the difference between forgiveness and justice, especially in the context of sexual assault. When one forgives, is there any need to ask for justice? People usually say to survivors, “Why don’t you just forgive and let’s move on?” We tell the survivors, “Well if you can’t forgive now, perhaps after counselling and prayer, you should be able to.”

For a person going through the trauma of sexual abuse, this message only goes to traumatize them further. Survivors are told that forgiving the abuser would mean not taking any action thereafter. At the same time, people who have committed abuse then feel that in being forgiven, they have received a pardon that then makes it unnecessary for them to face the human consequences of their crime. The problem with this position is that many people see forgiveness as the opposite of justice, they feel it’s one or the other and don’t understand how both can work together.

But what we do not understand is that asking for forgiveness without dealing with justice shuts the survivor down, denies them the right to be heard, the right to ask for closure, the right to correct wrongs and actually heaps more shame on them. Forgiveness is about letting go of feelings of bitterness against those who have hurt us.

When we forgive, we embrace the quality of life that hatred can never give. But that does not mean forgiveness needs to be the first thing that we bring up in every situation. Forgiveness is very personal and very complex. When it comes to sexual assault, it does not mean we overlook the atrocity.

Forgiveness does not mean we do not report the offender. Neither does forgiveness imply that we reconcile with the perpetrator who has traumatized us. A lot of women are in torment because they’ve been told, “forgive and keep silent”. And that’s why we often have women in very abusive relationships who keep forgiving and reconciling with men who abuse them to a point of incapacitation. We can forgive and still stand to testify against the one who has assaulted us.

We must encourage forgiveness but let us not use forgiveness to block the way of justice. When we preach forgiveness without justice, what we’re doing is depriving women, and many others who have been traumatized, a pathway to their healing. We need to listen to survivors. We need to protect survivors. We need to break the culture of silence in sexual abuse. We must speak out against the culture that turns the victim into the accused.

Families who know about a sexual assault usually cover up rape cases due to shame or fear of being victimized by their communities and this happens at the expense of the healing of the survivor. We often become guilty of collusion and cover-up in cases of abuse when we arrange mediation and reconciliation without understanding the principles behind justice. Asking a survivor to go into forgiveness before they have acknowledged the issues, processed their emotions, released their anger only urges drives many survivors to turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictions.


The Story Of Tamar – By Pastor Tony Rapu

In these times, we need to revisit the story of Tamar over and over again. Tamar was David’s daughter who was sexually violated by her brother, Amnon, one of David’s sons who then casts her out. Tamar’s brother Absalom then finds out about what Amnon has done and he gives her advice based on his ignorance of the trauma of sexual violence.

Absalom says, “Be quiet now my sister, he is your brother so do not take this thing to heart.” That was so wrong. But it is David’s response that was really painful. We read that he was very angry but he did nothing. He does not condemn his son, Amnon, and he does not vindicate his daughter, Tamar. There are no words of kindness or comfort for his daughter neither is there justice carried out for the sake of her honor. David was angry but he remained silent.

By keeping silent and not taking action against Amnon, what David failed to do opened the door for Absalom to kill Amnon in revenge and then escape to his grandfather’s house, while Tamar was left in desolation. But why was David angry yet he took no action? What David sees in his two sons is really his own sins being repeated again. Not so long ago, David had not only overpowered and had an affair with Bathsheba, he also killed her husband, Uraiah, to cover up his tracks.

Now his sons were fulfilling judgement by committing exactly the same sins. So, David remained silent because he knew he was also guilty of the same act he was to pass judgement over. After Amnon had overpowered Tamar, her cries to him were “Amnon, where will I carry my shame to?” David’s judgement was meant to help alleviate Tamar’s cries but by his silence, the answer to her question was really, “nowhere”.

Today, Tamar’s story is still very common but it is one that’s been difficult for survivors to open up about. We hardly ever preach about Tamar from the pulpit. We don’t tell Tamar’s story most times to preserve David’s reputation as “a man after god’s own heart”. At the same time, silence from us as leaders heaps more shame on survivors like Tamar.

We need to allow our Tamars speak. We need to let them know that their stories need to be heard. We need to let them know that their grief is our grief and they should not feel ashamed. David’s silence should make us all speak today. David’s inaction should get us all to begin to act today. We must speak about Tamar’s story and as we speak of Tamar, we are speaking to the women in churches whose voices are silent because of the shame that they feel.

We are inviting them to a place where they feel safe to tell their story and where they begin a journey of healing. No daughter in the family of God should ever carry shame for the abuse she has suffered. There should be no desolate women in the church, only daughters of God who are seen, loved, and cherished. Today, when we talk about Tamar, we become for our sisters and daughters the advocates that Tamar never had.


She Is Strong, But She Needs Protection – By Pastor Tony Rapu

In recent times, there’s been a push concerning women proving their worth in society and showing that they themselves are just as capable and intelligent as men. There’s a lot going on about women proving themselves in the workplace in comparison to their male counterparts.

Women are being celebrated and empowered and they are succeeding in their fields of endeavour. But inspite of the affirmation women are receiving in the area of strength and success, we still have to admit that they are vulnerable generally in ways that men are not. As more successful and powerful women are coming out with their own stories of assault, the issue is clearly that many successful women have been subjected to abuse.

In the sight of God, He created men and women equal. Women are just as gifted and complete as men are. We can however not ignore physical differences when it is time to confront evil men who take advantage of women’s God-given physical tendencies to abuse, repress and control them.

When people ask questions such as Why didn’t you leave?or Why did you let it happen?It is an assumption of certain level of physical power and command that is removed from the equation. Indeed some women are larger and stronger than the men, but many strong and fit women still get targeted by these men.

The solution is not to lock women away but to guard the women as they navigate the world. We need good men who would use their strength to protect women, make sure when women speak they are heard, and to stop those who target women.

We have a responsibility to teach our young men that even though women are successful, brave and strong, they are also vulnerable. We live in a broken world. The #metoo campaign is helping us understand the dangers women face. Amidst the brokenness, we must let our mothers, sisters and daughters know that the problem is with a broken world and not with them.


Healing From Trauma – By Pastor Tony Rapu

Many people come to church. They sing, they clap, they dance, they look good on the outside, they say the right things, they go through the motions of Christianity, but beneath the externals, they are bleeding internally. They need attention and healing; inside is pain, hurt, guilt, and anger. Even pastors, elders and deacons are themselves victims of torment and anguish of sort.

The Bible talks about those who mourn in Zion. They are adults with trapped little children on the inside.

Many kids are traumatized by fathers. Others are physically and emotionally abused by parents. Some children have grown up hearing harsh words like “I wish you were never born” or ‘Stupid’ or ‘useless; kids embracing rejection and ridicule.

We hear of the abomination of fathers molesting their daughters sexually; too many people crying silently at night, weighed down by grief and sorrow from the past; many full of regrets and pain from previous tragedies.

Jesus said HE was sent to heal the brokenhearted. And where do these broken hearts come from? From abuse, from disappointments, from divorce; from broken bodies, engagements and marriages.

To embrace healing therefore, we have to turn-on the light on the situation that traumatized us. This is the beginning of a journey into healing.

We must confront the terrible, hidden, childhood memories; we must break down the barriers of guilt, shame, rejection and withdrawal as healing commences and as we acknowledge the pain of the past.

Pastors Videos

“The Bible is not silent about Rape!” – Tony Rapu

A lot has been said and unsaid about rape and other forms of sexual abuse in the past week. Pastor Tony Rapu of The House of Freedom says “the scriptures reveal the mind of God on this issue.” Watch the short video below: