Recently a wicked abuser, a police officer nonetheless, murdered his wife in public right in front of their daughter. When we featured that news article on our Facebook page, we received a comment from a certain genre of person who really gives me the creeps. He was one of these “fathers’ rights” types, and his take on this brutal homicide was that we should understand that the poor, poor husband was DRIVEN to kill his wife because of all the stress and suffering and torture his wife and the court system had put him through. In other words, these guys love to claim, “you made me do it!”
I have seen this thing and I suspect most all of you have too. After all, we know that abusers are never, ever wrong, right? Even when they are caught on camera, still, they didn’t really do it. But we saw them do it. We heard them say it. No, no, you have to understand. YOU made them do it. So they always have an out.
Myself and two other witnesses saw this very thing when we were dealing with just such a person. We had all heard him make an accusation against one of us. Plainly, openly, he said it. Then, just a short time later when we confronted him with his need to repent of his sin in saying this lie, his response was, “did I say that? I didn’t say that, did I?” All three of us had heard him and we told him so. “No, I don’t remember saying that.” Then, some months later after he had once again made an evil accusation (abusers love to accuse), we confronted him again about it. Now, his “I don’t remember saying that” tactic hadn’t worked that well before with us, so this time — you guessed it — he said “I didn’t say that. YOU made me say it! YOU said it!”
Now, do you see how evil and twisted that kind of tactic is? Christ said that our words reveal the real nature of our heart. So it was with this guy. His “logic” was that even though the words of that accusation and lie proceeded from his own mouth, nevertheless HE wasn’t really the one who said it. Rather, WE had actually said it because WE made him say it. Of course what we had really done was pin him down, back him into a corner, so that he blurted out the evil that was already in his heart.
You made me do it. I didn’t want to hit you, but you made me do it. It really is your fault.
There is no reasoning with such a twisted mind. The only way to deal with such a person is to separate from them as far as is possible.
The abuser’s deceptive way of asking questions; and Jesus’ shrewd use of questions to stymie the wicked
Telling the truth is central to Christianity. In the lead-up to my conversion, God pricked me multiple times about how I was a liar and I had to stop doing it.
Buckling on the belt of truth is the first step in donning the armor of God. If we don’t put on truth, the rest of the armor will be of little use.
… take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth … (Eph. 6:13-14)
For the domestic abuser, lies and deception are core conduct. Many of the lies they tell are designed to make them appear virtuous, honourable and beyond suspicion so they can more easily carry out their villainous deeds.
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Rev. 22:15 KJV)
The guileful abuser is able to make a lie in the form of a question; rather like wrapping up skunk-smell in a box with pretty paper and topping it off with a fancy ribbon.
Let’s look at how Judas did it.
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. … (Matthew 26:14-16)
So, having made a deal to betray Jesus to the religious leaders, having just signed himself up as an avowed enemy of Christ, he sat at the Last Supper with the other disciples and asked an ‘innocent’ smooth-as-butter question:
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (vs 20-25)
Notice how Judas parroted the other disciples’ question. They had all asked “Is it I?”, so he asked it too. The abuser who masquerades as a Christian is a copy-cat; he notices what believers say and parrots their words. And he does it so well that for most people it goes under the radar.
Here is another example of Judas asking a softer-than-oil question:
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:3-6)
How godly Judas was! Such a good steward of valuable resources! So charitable to the poor! Could anyone raise an eyebrow at that? And he was courteous: he didn’t accuse or name anybody outright — he just posed a reasonable question to gently get people to think about their ethics. He was a model gentleman!
Like all forms of speech and writing, questions can be guileful or godly, villainous or benevolent. Questions can be posed to distract from the truth, or to probe for the truth.
Questions can also be framed to deflect the motives of fools, or to obstruct the schemes of the wicked. This is how Jesus often used questions. He asked shrewd questions to stymie those who craftily interrogated him to trap him.
Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (Matt 21:24-25)
But Jesus answered [the Saducees], “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (22:23-32)
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (22:41-45)
When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? (Luke 5:22-23)
Many more examples of shrewd questioning could be cited from the New Testament epistles, not to mention the OT prophets. Maybe you can think of more. Or perhaps you can give examples of nefarious questions posed by abusers (but be careful not to cite examples that might too closely identify you.)
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By the way, I have not forgotten my promise to write a post about the ethics of using deception as a means of protection when one is under abuse or persecution, such as when the Hebrew midwives lied to protect the newborn Israelite boys in Egypt.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Matthew 23:23-24
Way back in 1980 I was pumped about studying Bible and theology. I took a summer course in Old Testament and I was hooked. For the next three years I worked as a police officer at night and went to graduate school during the day. It was rough, but I was compelled to go on and in 1983 I earned a Master of Biblical Theology degree. Shortly thereafter I was a police officer on Friday and a pastor in Montana on Monday!
A bit over a decade later we moved back to the vicinity of the same seminary and I resumed my studies, eventually earning the standard degree for pastors, Master of Divinity. Two of my favorite courses were New Testament Greek and Old Testament Hebrew. I had 12 years of life experience as a police officer, a bachelor’s degree in biology, and two Masters degrees from the seminary. And guess what?
I was in no way prepared to be a pastor.
Oh sure, I loved to teach and preach Scripture and help people understand God’s Word and grow in Christ. I really wanted to lead unsaved people to Christ as well. But all in all, the thing was absolute misery. Infighting in the church. Grumbling. Rank worldliness in church members. Egos. Craving for power and control. You name a sin and it was there, big time. And plenty of shots came my way I can tell you. I remember one congregational meeting (I dreaded those) when I sat off to the side and watched and heard people arguing heatedly over how much I should be paid (and mind you, the missions agency we were with paid the large majority of our salary anyway!). This was Christ’s church? I guessed it must me. It’s all I had ever known in “church.”
There is a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom. I had knowledge, but I had very little of the wisdom that only the Lord gives. And largely, this godly wisdom which the Bible says is so precious, is not taught in seminaries. It is not really even spoken of in seminaries, or in our churches. Because for godly wisdom to be discussed and taught, the teacher must first possess it himself. Most do not. A few may. But certainly only a few. Oh, knowledge, sure. Facts. Doctrines. Data. This is important and it is all communicated in detail in Christian academia. But wisdom? Nope.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth– Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:1-7)
Wisdom, if you will continue on through Proverbs, is largely about discerning between good and evil. It is about knowing that what you see is evil or good. Wisdom from the Lord enables us to know righteousness and unrighteousness. Here is a prime example:
Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house.
And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.
Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.”
And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings 3:16-28)
THIS is wisdom. Solomon knew evil when he saw it, and he knew righteousness when he saw it. He knew how godliness operates and how ungodliness is treacherous. Solomon knew that there are evil, wicked people who do evil, wicked things. And that is wisdom. The Lord gave it to him.
Oh, I knew full well from my police years that there are bad people in the sense of being crooks. Lawbreakers. The bad guys who were always trying to steal and rob. But what I did not understand is that there are many, many other kinds of even more evil people who are church members, police officers, pastors, medical professionals and others who will never end up in prison. Yet they are wicked to the core. They are sociopaths, psychopaths, and abusers. They appear to be fine, upstanding pillars of the church and popular with everyone. But their methods are evil and dark and hidden and destructive. And they are in just about every single church in the world. Make no mistake. These kind are NOT “Christian brothers and sisters who are just ‘difficult’ people, who have ‘anger issues,’ people with whom we must be oh so patient.” No! They are evil. These people who work to destroy lives. Who wear such a “wonderful facade of saintliness” yet who work in their very nature to drive the righteous out of a local church. This is evil. These are agents of the enemy. God’s Word tells us so. His wisdom enables us to see it.
Very few pastors, very few professing Christians, very few theologians today possess wisdom. And as a result, taking seminaries as an example again (same thing happens in churches), aspiring pastors are taught the jot and tittle of Scripture. They study the original languages. They write detailed papers on this verse and that doctrine. They diagram the sentences of the Greek New Testament, circling the participles and their antecedents, noting the gender, number, and case of nouns and the tense, voice, mood, person and number of the verbs. They are told to strive to arrive at the real meaning of the biblical author so that they apply the verse properly. I did all this. I can do all this. But I can also tell you that without godly wisdom, all that will happen is that in this minute straining out of Scripture’s words you will only end up sorting out the gnat and then turn right around and swallow the camel. That is to say, you will end up totally missing the real Spirit of the text and inevitably you will teach a legalistic, man-made tradition that you think is the Word of God, but is not. You will tell an abuse victim she is stuck for life in her marriage. You will think she is the problem. You will give the disputed baby to the liar.
Wisdom in a sense is only taught by the Lord, though it certainly can be described to us by people who possess it. And one of the primary ways the Lord teaches His wisdom to us is by taking us through difficult and hard experiences in life. I came to have wisdom about abusers and their tactics because the Lord allowed quite a few of them to target me over the years in my pastoral ministry. Even then it took a long, long time until — I suppose kind of like the Lord leaving Moses in the wilderness for 40 years and then calling him to lead His people out of bondage — there came a point when I was reading a book on sexual and domestic abusers and FLASH! The lights came on. “Jeff, THIS is what has been happening to YOU in your churches all these 25 years!” I saw it. I could see the evil and I could see the righteous. How could I have been so blind?” The answer of course was, I had to be trained in righteousness and in the knowledge of the Lord. He had to put me through the flame so that I could see the fire for what it was.
I have found that if a person like myself were to address a group of pastors, or if by some miracle I was asked to speak on the subject of abuse at a seminary, there would be shock and silence. That is to say, when professing Christians do not possess God’s wisdom, His wisdom seems like foolishness and unpleasantness to them. They do NOT want to hear it. The evil is all around them, in their very church pews, yet they cover their eyes and do not want to see it or hear about it. Some of you read the comment left at this blog a couple of weeks ago where a lady said that in her church cases of abuse are properly dealt with by keeping them secret from everyone because, she said, it is just too unpleasant for many people to hear about. A church like that could properly be called a ship of fools. Because godly wisdom simply does not exist there.
If you have been brought through the flames and the floods of abuse, then you resonate with the things we write about here at ACFJ. Why? Because the Lord, through the wilderness years of your abuse, has taught you His wisdom. When we say that there is evil in most churches today, you do not mock us and dismiss us as crazy people. Because you know it is true. You know what evil looks like.
And THAT, is a very good thing.
Dale Ingraham with Rebecca Davis
Dale and Faith Ingraham are warriors for justice and righteousness in Christ’s kingdom. They know all too well what it means to be a victim of sexual abuse within the community of the local Christian church. Sharing their own story about how Faith was molested for years by her Baptist pastor father, the Ingrahams open their lives to us and help us learn how this evil creeps into churches, hides behind a remarkably effective facade, and when exposed is so often covered up and enabled by the church community.
This is a good one! It is listed on our resources page here for easy ordering. Thank you Dale, Faith, and Rebecca for this good work.
[This post was written by IAmMyBeloveds, a long-time reader of this blog and abuse survivor]
Luke 17:1-2 Then said He unto the disciples, ‘It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones’. (KJV)
As I was praying one morning, struggling through the prayer due to more abuses being hurled at me, God led me to this passage. I’d read it an innumerable amount of times before. But this time, I decided to really open it up and pull it apart and look deeper into it, believing God had led me there for a reason and for a deeper understanding of Who He is and how He felt about what was happening in my life. This post, is the result of that study.
Let me start by sharing with you some definitions. The word “offence” here is not what one would most likely think. It is not about being offended by something someone said to you like “having a bad hair day, aren’t you” or “your yard was prettier last year” etc. It is not about giving that kind of offence. In short summarization, offence in this passage means,
“A trap set, which causes entrapment, resulting in possible ruin for the one entrapped.”
This is much more than someone saying they don’t like your hairdo or saying your yard isn’t as nice as it used to be! This offence has to do with the ruination of the one being offended in many ways, but also includes the ruination of someone’s faith – causing them to doubt God in their life or to stumble in their faith or to turn completely from their faith in God.
The term little ones in this passage is referring to the lowly humble people of God, which could include children, but it is not singled out to just be children. So it is you and I folks. All of us that belong to Christ, young and old alike. There are instances where the term is used just for children, but that is not the case here.
Next let me address the word offend at the end of verse 2. Its meaning is much the same, but is more about the one causing the offence.
“To be a stumbling block to someone. To cause to offend; lead astray; lead into sin; to fall away from the truth.”
Let’s apply this now. When one is living in abuse, one is pretty much living in constant offence. A trap is set by the abuser and it is definitely intended for your ruin and from what I have read from victims of abuse here on this blog, including myself, more often than not, it involves your faith. So, the intent of the offender is to cause you to stumble in your faith to your own ruination. Does he come right out and say that? Of course not. The ruination of the offence comes in many other forms as well, not just your faith. It includes everything that could be ruined about an individual, such as their character and reputation.
Now people may say that is carrying it a bit too far to use this in dealing with abuse, but we have all lived it and know what the intent really is. If an abuser can get his victim to turn from God or as in a lot of cases, the abuser can ruin his victim’s witness with the Church and the Church in turn sees her as the guilty party, then there remains the possibility in the abuser’s eyes that his victim will turn from God and belong solely to him. Isolation in its completeness. It is the age old story of satan in the garden, thinking that if he can draw Eve away into his darkness, she will turn from God and follow him instead. Remember, an abuser belongs to the father of lies – he is not born again of the Spirit and therefore not an adopted son of God. We know that abusers love power and control and being on top, right? We know that abusers have murder in their heart, right? This passage is very clear about these kind of offences. They are meant to entrap and ruin an individual.
If a victim is not a Christian, the intent remains the same. Even though the abuser may not be trying to draw her away from her faith in Christ, he is bringing ruination nonetheless and it is his intended trap for her. There are many ways to ruin someone. For example, the term can also mean to bring to financial ruin. How many victims of abuse are financially devastated by their abuser? And this verse makes it clear that the offence (entrapment) is set with the intent for ruination – no matter what form that takes.
The trap is always laid by the one causing the offence. That would be the abuser. At the very least, the offence is meant to entrap someone. How many of us feel/felt trapped in the abuse?
The good news is, that we don’t have to allow the offence which has entrapped us, to lead us to ruin. In Christ’s strength, we can remove ourselves from it. We can stand in our faith and the truth and say “not anymore”. I believe this is all part of coming out of the fog of abuse.
Jesus says that it would be “better”, meaning the best thing that could happen to a person like this, would be for a millstone to be hanged around his neck and for him to find himself at the bottom of the ocean. That would be much better for him. God is saying that there is a day coming for abusers and their cohorts that they will wish they had never seen. He is saying that their punishment will be so horrible, that they will have thought it better to be cast with that millstone tied around their neck into the ocean. That is what God has to say on the subject.
Now let’s apply this to the Churches that send victims back to their abuser. It seems to me, that they would be partners in this judgment, as they are sending the woman back to live with the evil one who has offended, ie entrapped her to her own ruination. They entrap the victim all over again with words like “reconcile”, “forget”, “look at your own sin”. So, is there a millstone for them as well?
Why is it so often that victims of abuse find themselves in a Church, where they are told to continue living with the offence of abuse that is known to be set upon them to their ruination – including the ruination of their faith? Why?
I am so disheartened. I am broken that the Church is so unconcerned for the evil that has besieged it. I am concerned when someone cannot discern between good and evil – and I am concerned when a Church does not care enough to know and interpret rightly the Word of God. I am concerned when they become unteachable.
There is a millstone awaiting every abuser and every supporter of the abuser or abuse in general. “Who is a supporter of abuse? Certainly not us”, they would say! “Now I’m offended that you would accuse me of supporting abuse” – they would say. But the truth is, if you don’t stand against the abuse by aiding and protecting the ones being abused and standing openly against the abuser and his tactics, then you really are an endorser and supporter of the abuser and his abuse.
A millstone for the abuser and for every person who endorses the abuser or forces a victim through coercion or guilt, to return to that offence. That is God’s judgment to them – not ours.
Wake up Church.
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:10-17)
We have here the Lord’s words to His own people, Israel, in the days of the Old Covenant. So corrupt had they become that He calls them Sodom and Gomorrah. They continued on with their multitudes of sacrifices, claiming to worship the Lord faithfully, but the Lord rejects it. He sees the reality of their hearts and motives and all that their “worship” is to him is a “trampling of His courts.” He commands it to cease. Their offerings are disgusting to Him. Rank iniquity and a supposed “solemn assembly” simply cannot co-exist. They stood in their worship services and spread out their hands to pray. Those same hands were covered with guilt — with the blood of the ones they had oppressed. They were doers of evil. Now notice very carefully in the Lord’s command to them to repent that the “good” they needed to learn involved seeking justice, correcting oppression, bringing justice to the fatherless, and pleading the widow’s cause. Isn’t that interesting? This tells us that one of the most wicked evils carried out by the “church” of that day was the oppression and abuse of widows and orphans. Therefore, as we have said in other posts on this blog, where there is injustice dealt out to abuse victims and where the abusers are allowed to remain in the assembly of the “church,” spreading out their hands in “worship” each Sunday, you can be sure what the Lord thinks of the entire mess. He calls for such a church to cease from its worship and repent. It would be better for the doors of such a place to be locked shut until everyone washes themselves from evil by true repentance. The oppression of the weak, of victims, even the abuse of children is quite widespread in today’s churches. Isaiah plainly tells us here what the Lord thinks of such places, AND what such “churches” truly are in reality.