A Cry For Justice

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

Articles on Naghmeh Abedini, who is bravely exposing the abusive behaviour of her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini

Naghmeh Abedini is bravely exposing her husband Saeed Abedini’s abusive behaviour. We haven’t yet had time to write our own post on the Abedini case. But here are some articles on it which we recommend.

Chad Estes: Welcome Home Saeed. We are sorry, but there won’t be a parade
(scroll down to part three of this post, where Chad strongly defends and supports Naghmeh)

The Wartburg Watch: To the Naghmeh Abedini Doubters: Saeed Abedini Pled Guilty to Domestic Violence in 2007

Spiritual Sounding Board: Pastor Saeed Abedini Releases a Public Statement Denying Abuse Allegations Against His Wife

Divorce Minister: Naghmeh Abedini And Sorting My Painful History

UPDATE 1  (5 Feb USA time) — I (Barb) am adding two new articles from the Idaho Statesman.

Saeed Abedini beaten in prison, had use of cellphone much of the time The Idaho Stateman, written by John Sowell, Feb 4, 2016 
Here is a quote from this article:

Q: Did he [Saeed] have access to a cellphone in prison?

Naghmeh Abedini wrote last month on her Facebook page that Saeed was able to use his phone after he had been in prison for six months. Naghmeh said she talked with him six to eight hours a day at times. She also said he used his smartphone to watch movies using Naghmeh’s Amazon account and viewed pornography on his phone.

Saeed has not addressed that accusation, other than to say some public allegations about him are not true. But other sources say access to phones inside prisons in Iran is far from unheard of.

In a first-person account for Time magazine, Matthew Trevithick, who was among four other Americans released at the same time as Abedini, said he was able to use his phone during his 41 days at Evin Prison. Saeed spent the first year and a half of his sentence at the same Tehran prison.

In a story published online in December on IranWire, which relies on citizen journalists to report on events in Iran, reporter Fereshteh Nasehi said phones were popular among prisoners at Rajaei Shahr Prison outside Tehran, where Abedini spent his final two years.

“Prisoners who can afford to buy smartphones now spend most of their time online. And the Internet makes access to porn much easier, but, of course, smartphones must remain hidden from prison guards,” Nasehi wrote.

Abedini domestic violence incident in 2007 triggered by laptop argument, The Idaho Statesman, written by John Sowell, Feb 4 2016
Here is a quote from that article:

Last week, the Idaho Statesman reported that Saeed pleaded guilty to domestic battery following a July 2007 incident at the couple’s West Boise home. The Statesman this week obtained a copy of the incident report from the Boise Police Department, following a public records request.

It reveals that Saeed Abedini got into an argument with his wife and shoved her several times during an incident at the couple’s West Boise home on July 1, 2007.

The argument came while Saeed, then 27, was speaking with family members. Naghmeh, then 30, got upset at something he told his family and tried to close the laptop computer he was using to talk with them, Saeed told police.

A description of the argument was redacted in the copy of the report provided to the newspaper.

Naghmeh — who was holding her daughter, Rebekka, then 10 months old — told police that her husband “pushed her several times” and forced her out of the room. Naghmeh said Saeed pushed her in the neck and upper chest, and the officer, Erik Tiner, now a sergeant, reported seeing a “slight amount of redness” in that area, according to his report.

“He told me that he told her to get out of the room and made hand gestures indicating that he pushed her,” Tiner wrote. “I asked him if he pushed her and he denied doing so.”

Naghmeh told Tiner that Saeed threatened to beat her up if she did not leave the room. She also claimed that she had previously been the victim of domestic violence when the couple lived in Iran. She told Saeed she would call police if it happened again, she told Tiner.

Saeed told Tiner that Naghmeh pushed him as she attempted to close the laptop. She denied touching him, according to the report.

When Tiner asked what she wanted done, Naghmeh told him that “she wanted him to go to jail for domestic battery.” She then signed a criminal citation.

Saeed was arrested that day and taken to the Ada County Jail. Following a video arraignment the following day, he was released on his own recognizance.

During court proceedings, Saeed was assisted by an interpreter who spoke Farsi, the Persian language of Iran.

Saeed initially pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge, but changed his plea to guilty on Jan. 25, 2008, according to court records. He was given a suspended 90-day jail sentence and fined $76. He was placed on probation for a year by Ada County Magistrate Michael Oths.

Saeed was also ordered to attend eight hours of sessions on anger management. He completed that requirement before entering his guilty plea, records show.

UPDATE 2 (added into this post Feb 5 USA time. Pls be forgiving as to date:  Barb is on the other side of the international date line…)
Naghmeh Abedini, Franklin Graham, and the Silencing of Evangelical Abuse Victims by Libby Anne, at Love Joy Feminism,  Feb 3, 2016.
Here is a quote from that article:

I grieve for the position in which Naghmeh now finds herself. Franklin Graham, perhaps the most prominent public evangelical figure of our era, has stated publicly that there are “two sides” to the story, and her husband, Saeed, has publicly accused her of lying. Meanwhile, both of them have positioned the restoration of the couple’s marriage as a victory from God and the destruction of their marriage as a victory for Satan. In other words, if Naghmeh decides to make the separation permanent, she will have allowed Satan to win. Think, for a moment, about the impossible position in which that puts Naghmeh.

There’s something else to note in Saeed’s positioning as well. Evangelical women typically lose any hope they might have for their community’s support in leaving an abusive husband when that husband professes to be actively working to listen to and submit to God. As long as her husband says he is working on his relationship with God and that he wants to fix the marriage, an evangelical woman will typically be seen as the one destroying a marriage if she leaves, even if her husband is actively abusing her. Saeed has positioned himself as the reasonable one, the one listening to God and dedicated to restoring his marriage. This perfectly positions Naghmeh as the unreasonable one, the one willing to flee in the face of God’s efforts at restoration and destroy a marriage.

A Follow Up to Our Prayers for IamMyBeloved’s- Please Keep Praying

This is an update and thank you from IamMyBeloved’s who, you will recall, has been the target of not only an abuser but of an unscrupulous attorney who is trying to foreclose on her home after he ran up an exorbitant bill against her during the divorce. Please keep praying for her and her children, that the Lord will bring this evil to light and enable them to keep the home. Some of you have sent funds to her through us and we have forwarded them to her. She writes:

I am writing to say “thank you” so very much for the generosity of spirit you have all demonstrated toward me and the gifts you have given to me. I cannot express my deep gratitude for all you have done for me. I know this giving was sacrificial. God’s timing is perfect!

I would ask that you continue to pray for us as I continue this ongoing battle with the ex attorney. He continues to threaten to displace us, but I am ever so confident that the Lord is hearing all our prayers and will soon answer. I have had to take additional steps this week, but I would ask that you pray for closure of this and release for me and my family. Pray that all investigating this would have their eyes opened by God and that truth would prevail. His Word says that no weapon fashioned against us shall prosper and every tongue that rises against us in judgment we shall condemn and refute. I believe this and continue to pray this over my circumstances. We know God is faithful and there is nothing impossible with Him. 
Please also pray for continued strength for myself. My battle has raged for six straight years now with abuse for decades before that. I am tired. I also need to have quicker bounces back from the triggers I experience in all of this.
Abuse is a long road to recovery for victims and I will also remain praying for all of you as you take this journey. Where would any of us be without Jeff, Barb and this blog which has been used so incredibly by God in all our lives. Glory be to God for Him using these people in our lives in such a beautiful way. Who else do we know that we have never met, who support, help guide us and love us like these people do? Thank you again so very much. I believe we will all meet each other in Heaven one day. Sort of like the ending of Les Mis. 
My love and prayers to all of you, always~ 
IamMyBeloved’s

Wise as Serpents: What Does Evil Look Like? (Part 7 of a sermon series by Jeff Crippen)

I saw that my abuser has the same spirit as a murderer. But he is well able to hide his murderous intent. If anything bad was to happen, he wouldn’t care less except about being caught, and no-one would suspect him. He fools most people with his appearance of being a good, responsible and reasonable person, but it is a complete facade. Most of the time he managed to keep the dark side of his nature invisible from me too, but occasionally the mask would slip. Then just for a few seconds at a time I would see the evil grin, the look of pure selfishness and greed, the contemptuous hatred, the expression that seemed demonic. Even now I’m not sure what he’s capable of, because his real self is so hidden.

He is all about control. Most of his methods are clever and covert. It’s only when people stand up to him that he becomes aggressive and angry. Eventually I came to realise the whole problem could be summed up in that one word, control. In hindsight the signs of his true nature were present very early on, but I didn’t know how to make sense of it all. They aren’t necessarily the things that people warn you about. He didn’t hit me and he didn’t order me around, at least not in the beginning. He didn’t have addictions or mental health problems. He wore a suit and tie and had a good job. He was a church elder and he gave elderly ladies a ride to church every Sunday. I met him through friends who are beyond reproach.

When I first met him I asked around to see what people thought of him. The reports were glowing. There did seem to be one or two people who didn’t like him. But I found I couldn’t get to talk to those people, they kept their distance and they weren’t willing to talk. So I thought any problems must not be that important. I realize now that the people with bad reports were afraid of retaliation for speaking out. It was a sign of ruthless and wide scale impression management.

At the start he was often pleasant, but just occasionally he would fly into a rage for no reason at all, and blame me. None of this ever happened in front of witnesses. An important sign I missed was that he never took responsibility for anything, he was never sorry for anything. Everything was always someone else’s fault. Because of this behaviour early on, I tried to back off out of the relationship. But he seemed to see that coming and manipulated me into staying involved. After a while I realised that my circle of friends had got dramatically smaller. I was discouraged from meeting people and from following my own interests. It was all done by deceit and manipulation.

I felt confused and tired. I knew something was really wrong but I didn’t have an explanation. If I ever raised these problems with other Christians, they reassured me that everything was alright. So I just got wound up tighter and tighter in the abuser’s web.

It was never a normal relationship. The abuser was not a normal person. He was never not controlling, he was never not telling lies, he was never not prepared to be physically violent if other methods failed. The only way to prevent this kind of abuse is for people to learn to identify controlling behaviour at the very first sign. And most importantly, to recognize the real evil behind that behavior.

Something good has come out of this. I’ve taught these lessons to the young people in my life, and they are spreading the message. They’ve already been able to help and rescue some of their friends. That’s something very good.
[comment by KayE, survivor of domestic abuse]

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men…” (Matthew 10:16-17a)

Jeremiah knew of these things all too well:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.  (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

“Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD.

In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ 

For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? (Jeremiah 23:11-27)

Identifying marks of Evil

As we have seen these past few weeks, evil always comes on the scene right on the heels of truth. We see it here in this account from Jeremiah. Chosen as God’s prophet, Jeremiah faithfully announced the Lord’s Word to the Jews, and very quickly he was plagued by these false prophets and lying priests. Prophets and priests. The “church” leaders of the day! Notice that their tactic to gain a hearing was to tell the people what they wanted to hear – no disaster shall come upon you.  And so it is today. Evil flatters. Evil does not call the wicked to repentance, but pronounces them to be righteous. Evil denies the Lord’s coming judgment of sin.

Notice also here the energy of these evil prophets. I did not send the prophets, yet they RAN. And they claim God’s authorization for themselves. Most often the agents of evil in the church are the most zealous, the most “sacrificing,” the apparently most energetic of anyone in the entire church. In the church. Remember, we are learning that evil most often shows up among God’s people, working to deceive them.

How do you recognize evil? It is soooo deceptive. Listen to Robert Hare describe the psychopath. Remember, evil always comes to us in a person. Evil is not some disembodied non-personal “dark side of the force.” It always comes in flesh and blood. What do its emissaries look like? –

“[Evil] is often witty and articulate. It can be an amusing and entertaining conversationalist, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast itself in a good light. [Evil] can be very effective in presenting itself well and is often very likeable and charming.”
(
Robert Hare, Without Conscience*, The Guilford Press, 1993, p. 34.  I have altered Hare’s pronouns here to apply his description of the psychopath to what I am called “evil” people.)

See it? This is vital to get hold of. Evil is very often the most charming, “likeable” man in the room. The most “saintly” fellow in the church. I recommend to you that there are many, many, many of these flatterers in pulpits and pews today. In contrast, how do you suppose Jeremiah, God’s true prophet, looked? He wasn’t widely perceived as the most likeable saintly fellow! He was the seen as the scumbag bigmouth they threw into the well in the courtyard. 

NOTE: We need to frequently remind ourselves as we are learning more about evil and its tactics, that the Lord Jesus Christ is Victor over evil. There is a danger here of forgetting that. Evil is everywhere in this world today and it is everywhere in local churches in its disguises. As I hear the true stories every single week, and really most every single day, of how evil lurking in churches victimized and oppressed the innocent, and how its agents are enjoying fame and comfort and large followings, I know that we must guard against sliding in to hopelessness. And a real remedy for us is to remember regularly that Christ sees it all, just as He saw it in the “church” when He was on this earth:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  (Matthew 6:2-5)

Understand? These hypocrites were and are in full view of the Lord’s eyes. He knows and He sees and He is going to repay.

Love

We know that in His very essence and being, God is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1John 4:7-8)

It is not surprising then that Scripture repeatedly identifies love as the Christian’s badge.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1John 3:11-15)

Jesus said the same:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

And again:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

What does love look like? And what does a person look like who does not love others?

Love Has Empathy. Evil is devoid of empathy.

It is one thing to speak of loving one another, or of not loving one another, and still another to truly grasp what love or its lack looks like. A fundamental quality of love is empathy.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)

Empathy is that emotion, that aspect of love, which enables us to do what Jesus says fulfills His Law – bearing one another’s burdens. Let me call on Robert Hare and then Scott Allen Johnson for some assistance here in helping us learn what empathy looks like, and what it’s absence (evil) looks like. Hare deals in his work with psychopaths, but do not make the mistake of assuming that these type are mostly locked up in prisons. Nope. They are quite commonly around us and in churches as well, parading as “saints.”

Psychopaths, says Hare, are egocentric, without remorse, have shallow emotions, and are deceitful, and these qualities, he says, are “closely associated with a profound lack of empathy (an ability to construct a mental and emotional ‘facsimile’ of another person). They seem unable to ‘get into the skin’ or to ‘walk in the shoes’ of others, except in a purely intellectual sense. The feelings of other people are of no concern to psychopaths.” (Without Conscience, p 44) 

This lack of empathy is a very commonly noted quality in the accounts of victims of evil. Jesus made note of it in regard to the religious leaders of His day:

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44)

No empathy for these widows, you see. Quite happy to exalt themselves and even take from the widows and not be bothered about it at all. This is evil.

Now, you might be thinking something like this right now, “Ok, there it is. Evil is recognized by its lack of empathy. I can watch for that.” But let me warn you, a lack of empathy and therefore, evil, is NOT easy to see. The thing is very, very deceptive. No doubt the people thought these hypocrites in Jesus’ day were pious, great, godly men! But they weren’t. People missed it. They didn’t see it for what it was – EVIL. No one dreamed these “holy ones” were the devil’s children. But the were!  So it is today with us.

An example from my personal experience:

Over the years as a pastor I have had to deal with many wicked people. So have many of you. In the last few years, I came to a realization. The “lights came on” you might say, and I realized that I had been largely blind to evil, specifically, it’s quality of an absence of empathy. We have had many very difficult situations dropped into our laps in this church over the years. Myself, the elders, and many of you experienced it and these situations were nothing that any of us asked for. Yet, there it was. And we had to deal with it and face it the best we could. The Lord sustained us and preserved us through much criticism, attacks, and accusations.

I remember some years ago after still another one of those very unpleasant meetings when we had to deal with people and their sin and we received the typical, even hateful, accusations. “You did this. You didn’t do this. You never…” and so on. And I was sitting in my office afterwards after having to hear all of that sort of thing again, when it was as if a switch was thrown in my head – one of those “light bulb” moments – that allowed me to put things in proper perspective. And the realization was this: in all of this turmoil and heartache, in all the grief of having to make decisions and tell people things they didn’t want to hear, and in having to call people out in regard to their sin, never once did we experience empathy from these accusers. Not ONCE. And that really struck me, not because it enabled me to feel sorry for myself, but because it hit me that this was so incredibly wrong. But I hadn’t seen it before. It was right there all along, but I had been blind to it.

Evil, you see, and those who are its agents, are very deceptive. They accuse and guilt and shame in such a way that YOU think YOU are the problem. But I came to realize that something was seriously out of order in the evil ones we had to face. Namely, to state it once more, that never once were they ever heard to say anything like: “Wow, this is an incredibly difficult and painful situation that you have been put in and it must be very, very hard for you. I can’t imagine having to go through the things that you have had to deal with.”

Sounds logical, right? Common sense? Empathy. But evil does not empathize. And when you realize that what you are facing is a vacuum of empathy, be assured that you are looking at the face of true evil.

An example from the author Scott Allen Johnson:

Scott Allen Johnson gives some excellent and wise observations about evil people and how an absence of empathy evidences them as such. Let’s keep this in biblical perspective. Scripture, you see, gives us statements like this:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. (1John 3:14)

But what we are working to bring into more clarity is, just what does this love look like? And what does an absence of this love look like? These things are not as easy to see as we might think. As Johnson mentions “abuse,” insert the word “evil.” And where he speaks of “empathy,” think of “love.”

Abusive behavior as a rule demonstrates the lack of empathy. There are three characteristics of empathy that I believe are important to demonstrate genuine empathy. These aspects are cognitive recognition, emotional connection, and behavioral demonstration

Cognitive recognition refers to the understanding of the definition and concept of empathy…understanding the concept of being a victim, that is, to appreciate what victims of abuse experience.” A basic ability to grasp a fundamental idea of empathy.

Emotional Connection refers to experiencing and being able to identify with the guilt, shame, and fear that the abuser’s behavior has caused his victim….and understanding the possible consequences of behavior.”
Behavioral Demonstration refers to practicing what you preach. This means that you will do what you say you will do and behave in ways that live up to and demonstrate your beliefs, morals, and values. Repentance, we would call this.
(Scott Allen Johnson, Physical Abusers and Sexual Offenders*, Taylor and Francis, 2007, chapter 10.)

Johnson continues and lists a large number of behavioral indicators that demonstrate the presence of empathy (love). The absence of these indicators is a sign of an absence of love. Namely, of the presence of evil. Notice as we look at just some of this list how deceptive evil is in regard to these things and how very often in the church, professing Christians distort Scripture to put the burden back on the shoulders of the innocent.

  • Love (empathy) allows the victim to vent and to recount the evil that was done to them. A lack of empathy simply wants the victim to “quit talking about it and move on.” People who do the latter habitually over the course of their lives are, plainly, evil. If they are parading as Christians, they will use such “pious” statements such as “if you were really trusting the Lord with this you would stop dwelling on it.” 
  • We have all failed to show empathy toward someone on occasion in our lives, but a person with empathy will ultimately acknowledge their sin, admit what they have done, and take full responsibility for it. Evil, however, evil people who do not love, blame the victim, make excuses, rationalize their behavior, and choose to repeat it all over again. That is what not loving looks like.
  • A person who lacks empathy and thus evidences an evil heart, often apologizes quickly. Do you see the deceit in this? The evil person, the one whose heart is devoid of empathy, expects (after this quick and glib apology) the victim to forgive and forget, and the evil one then rushes the victim’s recovery process with a “get it done now” attitude.  [How many times has such wickedness hidden itself behind a “Jesus commands us to forgive” distortion of Scripture?]
  • Evil, an absence of empathy, becomes irritated when confronted and held accountable for its actions.
  • An evil heart devoid of empathy frequently gives ultimatums to the oppressed. “If you don’t do…I will…”.
  • Where there is a heart empty of empathy, you will often find the tactics of working to turn the victim’s support network against the victim.
  • Evil habitually engages in double standards, expecting one thing from their victim while not holding themselves to the same standards.

Johnson actually provides a much longer list than this, but this sample gives you a clearer picture of what genuine love and a lack of it look like. The deception can be remarkable. Do not be duped.

Is this person demonstrating the love of Christ as evidenced by the presence of genuine empathy for others?  —  If the answer is no, and if the answer remains “no,” and this absence is characteristic of a person you are dealing with, then you are most certainly in the presence of evil, no matter how “righteous” its disguise.

The Beauty of Christ’s Empathy for Us

Here is a hands-on real-life example of true empathy in action:

My light bulb moment came six months after the new minister (who loved God more than people playing politics) became visibly angry as I told him what had been going on for the past decade and what the responses of the “establishment” ministers had been throughout my ordeal. A teacher at my kids’ school had been noticing me every morning as I brought my daughter to her kindergarten class. She actually left her class in the care of her assistant so she could come to my home. She rang the doorbell and, when I came to the door, asked that I forgive her if she was minding my business but she was very, very concerned about me.

I was completely surprised; I wasn’t able to recognize in myself what was obvious to someone else (not having received validation in my family of origin after a circle of boys sexually assaulted me when I was around 7 yrs old. The invalidation and abuse continued in my dating relationships, then in my marriage and in the church. It doesn’t end until you can see it for what it is and name it and end its presence in and interference with your life.)

She asked if she could arrange for a social worker to come and visit me. I said OK. I could tell she cared for me, so I trusted her, even though I was oblivious to the politics and dangers in the world. (I learned years later that our church was classified by some as a cult.) The social worker came within the hour, sat down at my kitchen table and asked me a lot of questions and wrote things down on her forms and notepad. She then told me I needed to go to an office with the city right away and speak with a social worker named __________.

I did – and this woman was so gentle and kind. She asked me a number of questions as we talked briefly in her office, then she said, straightforward but very gently, adding that she wanted to make sure I understood what she was going to say: she did not believe I would survive if I stayed in this relationship.

It was like her words had somehow made these heavy steel clockwork parts grind open (that I didn’t even realize were locked around my mind/awareness) just enough that I could sense the truth and gravity of my situation for the first time. I was in very deep water and would soon drown. My vision was like that of the blind man after Jesus touched his eyes and asked him what he saw and he said men walking around like trees – though it wasn’t yet clear, it was nevertheless a degree of sight.

I left that night for the women’s shelter with our three children and one garbage bag with whatever they thought was precious and with what I thought we would need.
(comment by Survivor on this blog) 

All those years, this lady had been in a church. But before that new minister came, the place was devoid of the love of Christ and that was evidenced by their lack of empathy. 

The Lord Jesus Christ is characterized by empathy, and if we want to know if our thoughts about who God is are accurate or false, then this is a very good place to begin. How did Christ respond to people who were downtrodden and suffering? What was His reaction to the arrogant religious leaders who oppressed such people? As we answer those questions from Scripture, we find that we are seeing God truly:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Don’t be fooled by evil. Don’t let the evil one’s emissaries deceive you.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1John 2:26-29)

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This sermon can be found in both audio and PDF format here.

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Great is Artemis! Don’t Threaten Our Idol!

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. (Acts 19:23-29)

Have you ever been confused about the reaction of so many churches and church leaders and professing Christians when you called attention to the evil of abuse hiding behind a facade of Christianity? Why do so many people, people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, totally freak out when you point out the existence of evil among them? The thing is widespread. We are not talking about some rare anomaly, but something that really is, well, the norm.

I have seen it and so have most of you. When I first started to really wake up (or rather be woken up by the Lord) to this wickedness lurking in the pews, I was excited about all this truth coming my way. It was extremely freeing because I was being freed from so much of the bondage that had been worked against me for so many years by abusers. But on more than one occasion when I shared what I was learning, here are some of the reactions by one or two “pillars” of the church that tried to shut me down:

  • “That is gossip! Don’t ever talk to me about this again!”
  • “No! No! No! What is this anyway? You are wrong. You have no evidence. Stop it right now!”

I have no doubt that if these people could have driven me away from our church, they would have done so in a minute. By God’s grace that did not happen. Such people always try to recruit a crowd, like Demetrius did, but this time round it didn’t work. It was the Lord protecting us.

But what is this? Why this instant flare up and rage? I think I can confidently answer that question. It is the result of the very same cause that fueled the riot in Ephesus. At the root of these rioters’ religion was idolatry. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Their religion, their money, their entire worldview was all wrapped up in an idol. The gospel is a severe threat to false gods and to the people who worship them. Light was shining and the darkness hated it.

And so it is today.

Many local churches, many “eminent saints” in local churches, actually worship an idolatrous “Jesus” fashioned by their own hands. When someone is being set free of the bondage to that idol by the work of the Spirit of Christ in them showing them His truth, well, the Artemis worshipers don’t like it at all. That truth is a threat to everything that they call Christianity. The rank patriarchy. The legalism. The distortions of Scripture regarding forgiveness, reconciliation, love, submission, and mercy. Those perversions of God’s Word start teetering when truth begins to shine. The local church that is so “perfect” turns out to be an idol factory full of wickedness — the whitewashed tomb full of dead, rotten corpses Jesus spoke of. And the idolaters hate this exposure. “Great is our ‘Jesus’! Great is our doctrine of marriage and family and parenting and ‘purity’ and ‘holiness.’ ” These things have long brought “no little business” to these people who are just certain they are serving Christ, so watch them rage and riot in confusion and madness with gnashing teeth when God’s freeing truth comes in among them.

You see, to admit that in fact old Jack over there, a long time pillar of the church and model father/husband, is in fact a wicked, evil man who puts on a convincing disguise at church but is a terror to his wife at home, is to admit that we have been wrong about many, many things. Wrong about evil. Wrong about Jack. Wrong about his wife (we have been blaming her for any problems). Wrong about who a true Christian really is. Wrong about the “health” of our fine church. Turns out that in fact these words of Christ are a more fitting description of our church:

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev 3:17)

Once in a very great while, there will be real repentance. But far more often? A riot like Ephesus with idolaters shouting the praises and defenses of their false Jesus.

Where abuse and evil are exposed and where the reaction is that of a riot, you can be sure that the root cause is that you are dealing with idolaters.

Thursday Thought — Suffering for Christ

A gem from our GEMS page. . .

The hardship that comes with leaving the abuser is what “suffering for Christ” is, rather than staying and “suffering for evil.   (by Surviving Freedom)

“But King David Did it” – A Line we Hear Repeatedly When Some Leader’s Evil is Outed

Recently we had a bit of a go ’round with a fellow who has been a Bill Gothard follower for years. He still wanted to defend Gothard by insisting that we must withhold judgment until “the facts are in.” We maintain that the facts ARE in and Gothard is to be rejected now as still another example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Anyway, this fellow pulled the King David card on us and I think it is important that we carefully think through this typical tactic used by people who simply will not admit that their idol is in fact an evil person hiding behind a facade. Here is what he said:

A man [i.e., King David] committed adultery then murdered to cover it up. Pretty bad. In time, God’s prophet confronted the man, he eventually repented and now and for all time, God says “David is a man after my own heart”.  And the episode, though destructive short term, did not invalidate all the good that David did before the adultery.

There is sooo much wrong in these words. First of all, it is erroneous to compare someone like Gothard with King David. Why? Because, yes, David did in fact repent. Genuinely. Authentically. We have seen none of this in Gothard, nor do we see it in most all the big name “Christian” celebs and leaders who get exposed for what they really are. What we do see in them is denial, superficial tears, and even more telling, their insistence that since “God has forgiven me, you all must forgive me too and let me keep right on in ministry.” David did none of this. David knew he deserved nothing but death. He knew he didn’t deserve to be king. Furthermore, God pronounced longstanding consequences upon David and his family for David’s sin. Yes, David WAS a man after God’s own heart. And that is the fundamental difference between him and these scandalous icon types we see so frequently today.

So don’t let anyone pull the David card on you. Abusers do this all the time, as most all of you know. You have to forgive them, they say, no matter how evil they have been against you, because God forgave David. Well, Mr. Abuser, here’s the catch. YOU are no King David whose Seed would be Messiah and of whose throne there will be no end. You are not, unlike David, a man after God’s own heart. Unlike David, you do not authentically repent. And therefore, not only does your victim not have to forgive you, God Himself does not forgive you.

 

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