A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

I have come to fulfill the Law

I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

When I was writing Not Under Bondage, I thought a lot about what this means.  One thing that came to mind is that the true, pure Law of the Old Testament laid down through Moses (not the Pharisaic additions and circumventions of the Law ) was like a deciduous tree in winter: no leaves, just dry branches and twigs. The shape of the tree is present, but the color, the fullness, the robust, intricate, exquisite life found in foliage is absent.

When Jesus came he not only explained but demonstrably lived the fullness of what the Law means: love, justice, mercy, tender personalised attention to wounded and sick souls….
The tree put forth its foliage; the leaves were abundant and flourishing. The tree’s final magnificent shape became gloriously visible for all to see. The branches and sticks hadn’t changed, they were all still there, but their purpose and reason had been fulfilled: they were there to structure and support the foliage.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:17-19)

Here is an extract from the ESV notes on this passage:

Jesus “fulfills” all of the OT in that it all points to him, not only in its specific predictions of a Messiah but also in its sacrificial system, which looked forward to his great sacrifice of himself, in many events in the history of Israel which foreshadowed his life as God’s true Son, in the laws which only he perfectly obeyed, and in the Wisdom Literature, which sets forth a behavioral pattern that his life exemplified. Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom does not replace the OT but rather fulfills it as Jesus’ life and ministry, coupled with his interpretation, complete and clarify God’s intent and meaning in the entire OT.

Jesus demands a commitment to both the least and the greatest commandments yet condemns those who confuse the  two.

The entire OT is the expression of God’s will but is now to be taught according to Jesus’ interpretation of its intent and meaning.   Jesus calls his disciples to a different kind and quality of righteousness than that of the scribes and Pharisees. They took pride in outward conformity to many extrabiblical regulations but still had impure hearts.

Just like the scribes and Pharisees took pride in outward conformity to extrabiblical regulations, many Christians today take pride in outward conformity to rules that come from over-emphasizing one Scriptural precept and under-emphazing  another.  Take the rule against gossip:

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish … that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2 Cor. 12:20)
Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. (1 Tim. 5:11-13)

How often is the precept about gossip expounded (indeed, hammered), compared to the Scriptural precept about exposing evil and wrongdoing?

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (1 Cor. 5:11)
As for those [elders and leaders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Tim. 5:20)

Christians today don’t invent new rules in quite the same way the Pharisees did, but they create unBiblical rules by stressing some things while underplaying other things. The result is not much different from the Pharisaic system: believers are trapped and guilted into a false belief/conformity system, where everyone wears masks, the unregenerate pass themselves off as sheep and shepherds,  the evil prey on the weak and the ignorant, and everyone pretends that it’s  fine because ‘we are following the Bible’.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. 

13 Comments

  1. joepote01

    Good post, Barbara!

  2. According to most churches I have been in, gossip is defined as saying anything negative about anyone at anytime to anyone for any reason.

    • Yes, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it; or it would be, if it weren’t so tragic.

      According to that definition of gossip:
      Paul should not have rebuked Peter for refusing to eat with the gentiles while the Judaisers were in town (Gal. 2:11).
      Paul shouldn’t have denounced Diotrephes (3 John, verses 9-10 ) or Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim 4:14).
      Nor should he have mentioned that Demas loved this present world too much (2 Tim 4:10).
      Peter should not have denounced all those false prophets in 2 Peter chapters 2 & 3.
      And come to think of it, John should not have denounced Cain in 1 John 3:12 (although maybe it’s okay to gossip about someone who has been dead for centuries; after all, when you make discerning critique of historical figures, you can look pretty spiritual, can’t you?).
      And Jude should not have said “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” After all, some of Jude’s readers probably knew who Jude was referring to, and we mustn’t gossip, must we? I mean, those people are doing ministry! Many of them are even in leadership! And we have to love everybody, don’t we! I mean, I mean,,, God loves everybody, doesn’t he!

  3. Diane

    Your post was an encouragement this AM. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the teaching that gossip is anything repeated about someone that is negative, even if factual. Negative facts repeated about someone is always gossip no matter what the reasons for repeating may be. Sure does shut discernment down, doesn’t it? I have seen Ephesians 4:29 used to shut down negative
    speech as well. But we would not be able to do what is called for in the very next chapter of Ephesians and verse 11, if we do not speak of negative things.

    • Thanks Diane, yes, I should have mentioned Ephesians 4:29 as one of the key verses used to condemn gossip. And you’re right.
      “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (4:29)

      This verse in itself could be used to teach what gossip is, and what gossip is NOT.
      Here’s my attempt, feel free to enlarge or rewrite it.

      Gossip is corrupting talk: talk that is done with malicious intent, or without heed for the unedifying or sinful consequences, and/or to immature persons who will likely not understand how to deal appropriately with what has been imparted to them.

      Talk that is good for building up (edifying talk) is talk that exposes and denounces sin to persons who need to know about that sin; or talk that seeks counsel from wise Christians or trustworthy people who can be sounding boards, advisers or companions as we seek to navigate through life’s difficulties.

      Talk that gives grace to those who hear is talk that encourages, stimulates or provokes the hearers to repentance and faith in Christ and to Christian virtue; it is talk that imparts sound doctrine and brings others to full-orbed biblical worldview.

      • Diane

        I agree with all you wrote Barbara. I think that if one is spreading negative facts with a smile…relishing it and enjoying it…like how Proverbs describes gossip as a tasty morsel, then it is obviously not pleasing to God. But if one is heartbroken and grieving and educating someone with the facts, and si trying to warn other…that’s helpful to me to differentiate. Think to myself -am I enjoying revealing these facts or am I heartbroken and mourning about the sin. Probably pretty elementary thinking there, lol, but I am simple. The sermons I have heard and numerous articles I have read equate corrupting talk with negative speech about someone, especially a leader. Not true, as you elaborated above. Corrupting talk is not negative speech that seeks to warn and prevent others from making the same mistakes you made. As if giving grace to those who may hear could never mean something negative that will save them from error. How can you be a watchman if you do not warn?

      • Diane

        Oh-forgot to mention that I bought your book last Sunday and it should be arriving today. I am looking forward to your address of Malachi 2:16.

  4. That’s a great definition of what gossip is and isn’t, Barbara!

  5. Jeff Crippen

    This is a HUGE point when it comes to exposing wicked, abusive people in the church. Yes, there is this notion that gossip is anything that is “negative.” I have pointed out evil to people in the past, warning them to beware of an individual, and have been attacked for doing so — accused of being a gossip. But evil thrives in the darkness and as long as it is permitted to hide. It is not gossip to expose it. If what we are saying is spoken with good intent and if it is true, then it is a good thing to say it. And it is a bad thing to not say it.

    • Diane

      “But evil thrives in the darkness and as long as it is permitted to hide.”
      Jeff- that reminded me of Ephesians 5:11–

      “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them”

      You can expose without being emotional or disrespectful to the one performing these deeds, especially if performed by a professing brother or sister is Christ. Just the facts, and present questions for people. Is this something a brother or sister in Christ should be doing, teaching, saying, covering up…etc. Why would a pastor cover up abuse for months at his church and then marry off a convicted pedophile to a young woman? Why would a pastor flee his own church while seeking refuge in another–leaving behind hundreds of people with whom he has not reconciled, nor has any intention of doing so? Questions like that- that hopefully generate some uncomfortable feelings and cause people to think instead of going along with everyone else…or always thinking the best, which I also hear a lot. But I know that is an uphill battle as people want to keep their friends.

      There are times when you cannot think the best and have to fact the facts…imo, anyway. Thanks.

  6. Belle

    Excellent!

    There are some things I have been taught that I need to think through in a balanced through Biblical way. I would love to hear thoughts on these. First, “Enter marriage with your eyes wide open and close them after marriage.” I used to think that meant that after marriage one should overlook the spouse’s sin, shortcomings etc. Secondly, “Don’t think about your spouses shortcomings, but think only about the good things.” How do we balance all this out?

    • “Enter marriage with your eyes wide open and close them after marriage” sounds like poppycock to me. (1) It does not say anything remotely like that in the Bible. (2) Close your eyes to any sins or bad habits that your husband does? No: that would not be loving him; it would be enabling him to dig his sin ruts even deeper.

      “Don’t think about your spouse’s shortcomings, but only think about the good things.” That one is a bit more tricky to discuss because it all depends on what the shortcomings are. You should try not to dwell with resentment on things that annoy you if they are just little things having to do with his temperament, his tastes, or his skill-set. But if they are things that lead to him mistreating you and violating you (= abuse) then you should NOT ignore them. Read the definition of abuse we have on the side-bar of this blog. And then read chapter one of my book for an extended description of what constitutes abuse. If there is any abuse from your husband, you should not ignore it.

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