A Cry For Justice

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

“Oh, Now Let’s be Patient With Him — That’s Just who he is”

Someone who listened to one of my sermons in the Wise as Serpents series (you can find the series here) emailed me the following:

My friend told me about a church she had attended where the music minister was verbally abusive. Members would “pat the hand” of the abused and apologetically say, “Don’t be hurt by what he said. He’s a blunt, very direct speaking person. That’s just who he is.

This comment started my memory banks of personal experience churning. And thus, this post.

Over these three decades as a pastor, I have heard that same line many times — “It’s just who he/she is. Let’s love him/her anyway.” These kind of people pull out the “forgiving, gracious, patient” Bible verses to support their advice. For example, when I was the new pastor at a church, the choir director was an extremely abusive person. Power, control, manipulation — that was that name of the game. The simplest suggestion would send her into a fit of anger. Uh, hello? This person is LEADING the church in the worship of God!! Do you see a problem here? Nope. Let’s love her anyway.

One of the “pillars” of the church was related to her and one Sunday after the service (she had blown a cork in front of the sanctuary just before the service in front of many people) walked up to me and said, “Now, Jeff, we all know that [insert the woman’s name here] is a very bitter, angry person. But we choose to love her anyway. Let her do as she wants and there won’t be any problems. It’s just who she is.”

And I saw it in our first church too. Same scenario — church pianist was a lady who prided herself in her stubbornness, boasting that she was the “German general.” She taught a women’s “Bible” study each week in her home and announced regularly that it was HER ministry and that no one in the church had anything to say about it (though a good portion of the women in her study were also members of the church). “It’s just who she is, you know. But we choose to love her anyway.”

And of course I could give many other stories where men were the abusive culprits that “we resolve to just love as they are.”

Well, this is all absolutely bogus, totally opposed the the Word of God, flat out enablement of evil, and a denial of who a true Christian really is (and is not). Try these verses on for starters:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:5-9)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14)

See it? God’s Word says (in contradiction to what these people were saying) that who a person IS is revealed by what that person DOES. If a person is in fact characterized by outbursts of anger, by reviling speech toward others, by selfishness or jealousy, then that person is still living according to the flesh, their mind is hostile to God, they do not submit to God’s law, nor are they able to do so even in their minds! Simply put, they are not, in no way, a Christian. A Christian is a radically changed person whose very mindset has been absolutely altered by the regenerating work of the Spirit of Christ. The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.

So what was the real problem of the two “worship leaders” I described above and so many others like them I have found in every church I have pastored? What was the true diagnosis. They were not saved. They were still children of wrath, dead in sin, energized by the flesh, without hope and without God in the world. Do you think that a harsh diagnosis? For myself, I find such clarity to be refreshing as it blows away all the fog of confusion such people sow among Christ’s people. There it is! Mr. or Mrs choir director. You aren’t saved! Who you ARE is revealed clearly by your actions. You must repent. You must step down from leading worship. You cannot worship the God you do not know, let alone lead others in doing so.

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1John 2:4-6)

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1John 2:9-11)

And on and on we could go, quoting more scriptures just like these.

What is wrong with the abuser? He is a child of the devil. For all of his “God-talk” and apparent “piety” he is unsaved, unregenerate, hostile to God, an enemy of Christ’s truth, and that is why he does what he does. And with this clarity in mind, what do you think now of the person who says “Oh yes, I know. He lashes out like that frequently. That’s just the way he is. But he is a brother in the Lord and we need to love him anyway”? I hope that your answer is “BALONEY! THAT IS A LIE! AND THAT IS CERTAINLY NOT LOVE!”

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (John 8:43-45)

Apparently Jesus our Lord didn’t buy it either. “Yep, that IS just the way she is. And if she doesn’t repent and come to genuine faith and be saved, she is going to end in hell.”

 

 

Wrestling With the Darkness — part 1 of Ecclesiastes sermon series by Ps Sam Powell

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For the next few Sundays we want to feature a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes by Ps. Sam Powell.  The series is not directly about abuse, but because many of our readers are without a church we want to help by offering some non-abuse-related biblical material from time to time.  In addition to learning and growing in the knowledge of abuse and evil, it is good to balance our growth with other aspects of the Bible.

Here is the first sermon in the series:  Wrestling With the Darkness

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Sam Powell blogs at My Only Comfort. He is the pastor of First Reformed Church, Yuba City California. Until recently he also taught Hebrew at a seminary. We’ve featured things by Ps Sam Powell before on this blog and we value him as a colleague in the battle to expose and prevent domestic abuse in Christian circles.

Ephesians 5:11 and Exposing Evil — A Real Case

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible  (Eph 5:11-13)

Jesus exposed evil. The Light of the World does that. His people are the light of the world and we are to do the same evil-exposing that He did. His Word shows us the pattern:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23:25)

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor 5:1-2)

Need I go on? This is the pattern of Light exposing evil as God commands. Is it the typical pattern we see in churches now? Hardly.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Notice very carefully that the failure to expose evil hiding in the church is necessarily then to participate in that evil. When child molesters parading as Christians are tolerated, excused, “forgiven,” “loved,” and thereby not exposed for what they are, the church leaders and members who refuse to obey the Lord are in fact molesting those children themselves because by their disobedience they are participants in these sordid deeds.

Every pastor, church leader, or professing Christian who makes the accusation that exposure of an evildoer is gossip or slander against a “Christian brother” is calling the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles gossips and slanderers.

Recently myself and our church elders had a firsthand encounter with wickedness. A man who had come to our church one Sunday over a decade ago suddenly showed up again. Walked right in, all dressed very meticulously in suit and tie, very pious looking, taking notes, carrying his Bible and so on. It took me a bit to remember who he was, but eventually I did. The last time he was there was his last time there! We had told him to leave and not come back. Why? Because he was on a mission. He was carrying a whole pile of books on marriage and divorce and the reason he had come was to “enlighten us” with his discovery that anyone who is divorced is not permitted by God to remarry while their ex is living and if they do, they are guilty of adultery AND therefore he was “called” to tell them that they needed to divorce from their present spouse. Fun guy, eh?

No, you aren’t going to do that here. You are gone.

Now here he is back again over a decade later. Pious smile. Pleasant greeting to me. Speaking of what a fine church we have. This is what you can call crazy-making. It’s like a guy smiling at you and saying in words how much he likes you while at the same time he’s pointing a gun at you! It’s all done very intentionally. “Ok, Mr. M., you need to come back to my office with me.” Certainly, that would be great!

So we sit down with M. “Don’t I recall that we had some trouble the last time you were here?” “Oh yes, you told me I was a prideful man and needed to leave.” Still a pleasant smile, pleasant tone, no hint of anger.” “Do you still hold to those notions about marriage and divorce that you did and is it your intent to tell others those things?” “Oh yes.” Still smiling. Calm tone. Friendly face. Meticulous tie, dress shirt, suit.

“Well, M., you have to leave. You cannot be here. You are not allowed here.” I opened the door for him.

“Oh, well, you want me to leave? If I had known that I certainly would not have wanted to cause any problems. Certainly I will leave.” Exit out the door. STILL mind-boggling “pleasantness.”

Ha! Our two elders who were present and who had been getting ready to pray for the worship service about the begin, looked up and said, “What just happened?”  We all just shook our heads. We knew this guy’s motives, whatever they were, certainly were evil. BUT I ASSURE YOU THAT IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT HE WAS THE NICEST GUY. And you may well have thought that we were being harsh to the poor man. After all, he had also told us “my wife is still very ill.” Yes, and most people assume that his WIFE is the problem!

I have absolutely no doubt that many if not most professing Christians and pastors are convinced that to handle a fellow like this in this manner is unloving, unkind, un-Christian, and just plain wrong. The Bible says otherwise. I choose to go with Scripture. This man was exposed. His darkness was illuminated. Evil was put out from our midst. And if we could only know what such men have done and continue to do in the darkness, we would agree with Paul that it is so shameful it is hard to even speak about them.

Further Reading

The Holy Spirit Calls us to Expose Evil — People Tell us to be Quiet About it

Expose the evil in truth and light, and remove it (advice for pastors Part 7, by Ps Jeff Crippen)

FAQ Highlight — What about sexual abuse in marriage?

The topic of sexual abuse is very hard for victims to raise when speaking to counselors or supportive friends. It’s hard to bring up, but once it has been raised, it’s easier to talk about.

Domestic abuse researchers have found that victims are often glad when a counselor or support person brings up the subject of sexual abuse. A gentle way a support person could bring up the subject would be by asking something like, “Have you been pressured or coerced into sexual things which you didn’t want?” Or, “Has your spouse ever sexually abused you?”

We have compiled over a dozen posts that address different aspects of sexual abuse, both before and in marriage.

FAQ — What about sexual abuse in marriage?

TRUE things I wish I’d been taught

I don’t have a relationship with most of my adult children. This wasn’t supposed to happen.  If I followed all the rules and sacrificed my life for my family I was told that I would be enjoying the fruits of my labor and that society would benefit from them as well. Lies, lies, and more lies keeping us working like monsters only to realize that it was for naught.

There are three things I wish I’d been taught —  TRUE things I wish I’d been taught:

  1. Not all humans are capable of loving others, and what this means is that they are always only playing games with other humans.  And like their father, the devil’s fate has already been determined because “These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations…” Isaiah 66:3. I was NEVER taught this biblical truth and I certainly wasn’t allowed to believe it once I discovered its relevance. The church community tried to KEEP me from believing it but God has shown me the truth of it all–in His word and in my life.
  2. Being well-behaved with good manners and articulating words perfectly are simply another means that abusers use to make us feel they have a right to judge us and waste precious brain cells too. I wish I’d have spent time with the few people I’ve known over the years who do have a conscience and have been through hard times. This would’ve been time well spent. They didn’t even notice that I didn’t display perfect behavior or pronounce every word just right. Unfortunately we were all going through the same honing process and didn’t realize it and we were in the midst of raising the many children we couldn’t afford or figure out how to guide because none of the Christian books we read explained it so we were just trying anything thinking if we just did MORE, all would be well.
  3. Marriage and children are not God’s plan for everyone. Jesus didn’t say that we needed to have kids in order to please Him. He did forewarn us that when the end times comes it will be hard on nursing mothers. And Jesus (in His word) is always about our individual relationship with Him and God and how we are to view Him and how we are to view our biological families. Matthew 12:50. And if He does put it on your heart to marry, there’s no hurry, no pressure. He’ll guide you.

If I had to do it all over again my life would be completely different and as a result I would not be the person I am today. I’m not saying I’m grateful that I am this person just that I wouldn’t be who I am if I were given the chance to change it all. So that means that any of the hard, hard, super hard wisdom that I have been forced to learn is in spite of what I want and thus it only comes from GOD himself, so if it blesses anyone else, you can thank HIM. I would have high-tailed it years ago and found a nice cave to live in with maybe God sending some food on the wings of a dove or some thing like he does. And I’d remind him every time he visited me, that he was to tell no one where I was, and that I need several decades of no emotional and spiritual rape in order to be well rested enough to be prepared to be around other humans. I’ve been sucked so dry from them all!

So there’s my Christmas card! (I stopped doing Xmas cards years ago. Another of the social norms that kept me feeling guilty —like I needed to do more and more).

I would LOVE to receive a card in the mail like this. I would laugh and cry and be amazed that somebody else got it, and I would hold onto them and love them.

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An anonymous reader left this comment on our post Don’t Fall for the Abuser’s “Repentance” — Lessons from Zacchaeus.  It was so good we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to see it.  Thank you, Anonymous!

I Have Married three Abusers — Am I Stupid?

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:15-18)

Over the years in this ministry to abuse victims at ACFJ we have been fairly regularly contacted by victims who are not only presently married to an abuser but who have been married previously to other abusers. And in most cases they are asking themselves, “Just how stupid can I be?” Or, “What is wrong with me?” Or, “Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?”  These questions and more.

I suspect many of you who follow this blog can relate very well to this scenario. And many people who are ignorant of abuse and abusers will be quick to answer those questions  — “Well, yes, you must be stupid.”  “Yes, there surely is something wrong with you.” But in reality all that has happened in most of these cases is that a wicked, deceiving person came along, identified some vulnerability in his target, capitalized on it, and deceived her.  All of us have had that deception dupe us in some relationship or other and most often more than once.

Was the Samaritan woman at the well a loose woman, a whore who went from man to man? That is usually what is claimed, but surely there is a very high probability that she was the victim of deceiving, using men and she was an easy target for them.  Why? Might I suggest it was because she was “thirsty,” but she was looking for the wrong kind of water to quench that thirst.  John 4 is the record of that day when Living Water met her and she was never the same again.

Yes, I would suggest that a victim who has been duped by abusers several times does need to look within herself. Not to blame, but to try to understand what it is that is making her so vulnerable to evil ones. Does she fear being alone? Does she believe she is just rather worthless if a man doesn’t want her? Maybe she is just too naive about evil? None of these possibilities is sin, but each one is certainly dangerous.

It seems to me that a woman who has been repeatedly abused in a sequence of “marriages” must be somewhat similar to the traumatized rape victim. Through deception and guile the rapist drew her in, used her by force, and cast her away. Or if she is still with the abuser, he is killing her slowly, just as a rapist so often murders his victim.

We know numbers of women who have been through this chain of abusive marriages, and I am sure that they could be greatly helped by our readers, especially those who have had the same experience. What have you discovered about why this happened to you? Did you have some awakening moments when some truth jumped out at you that helped you? How can a victim of this serial abuse make some changes to break out of this cycle of being a target? (We are not placing any blame on victims at all here by the way).

Let’s hear from you.