A Cry For Justice

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

Abusers are empowered by pastors who are not careful how they teach about marriage

John Wesley wrote in his diary:

I talked with one who, by the advice of his Pastor, had, very calmly and deliberately, beat his wife with a large stick, till she was black and blue, almost from head to foot. And he insisted, it was his duty so to do, because she was surly and ill-natured; and that he was full of faith all the time he was doing it, and had been so ever since.

Wesley made that entry in his diary on Thurs., April 28, 1757.* The frustrating thing is, Wesley does not go on to comment on the man’s testimony. We can only wonder what Wesley thought when he heard the man say that.

***

  • John Wesley, vol. 2 of The Complete Works of John Wesley, 7 vols., Albany, OR: AGES Software, 1997, 450;
    or click here to see the quote on Google Books.

Further Reading

How complementarianism can magnify the entitlement mentality of men, making them worse

“Christian” Enabling of the Abuser Increases His Attacks on the Victim

 

 

 

What is the purpose of marriage? Is it to display Christ’s love for the church?

The Bible says the purpose of marriage is:

  1. the mutual help of husband and wife (Gen 2:18)
  2. the preventing of uncleanness (1 Cor 7:2,9)
  3. the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue (Gen 1:28)
    (as is summarized in the Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, chapter 25, paragraph 2)

Some have extended the third point by referring not only to the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, but the increase of the Church with a holy seed (Mal 2:15). (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, chapter 24, paragraph 2)

However, there are many Christian leaders today who say that marriage has an even higher purpose which is more important than companionship, prevention of sin, and procreation. They are saying that the foremost purpose of marriage is illustrative: to display the covenant-keeping love of God.

Their teaching is causing victims of abuse to stay in dreadful marriages out of a desire to not besmirch the name of God.

The Bible does not say the purpose of marriage is to signify or display God’s love for the church. Let me share with you a few words from Ps Sam Powell:

I could not agree with the statement “marriage is designed to signify the covenantal love between Christ and his church”. The love between Christ and his church is to be emulated in marriage, but marriage isn’t a sacrament. God has already given us the Lord’s Supper to signify union with Christ. (link)

In Ephesians 5, Paul uses the love between Christ and His church to describe how a husband and wife should relate. Certainly, the love between Christ and His bride – all who have in humility recognised and received Jesus as their Savior and Lord –  is to be emulated in marriage. The example of Christ and the church is a model for married couples to aspire to, though in human marriage the spiritual depth of intimacy and oneness cannot be as pure or deep as that between Christ and His bride.

The idea that human marriage signifies the union between Christ and the church is mentioned in The Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony, Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1662. But the signifying quality is not declared to be the purpose of marriage.

The traditional Anglican service begins with a beautiful preamble, then it states the three purposes of marriage. All emphasis in quotes is mine, unless otherwise stated.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

The traditional Anglican service says matrimony “is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.” But does not say that this signifying quality of marriage one of the three purposes of marriage.

After the couple have said their vows, the Anglican minister says the following prayer which refers again to the signifying quality of marriage:

O God, who by thy mighty power hast made all things of nothing; who also (after other things set in order) didst appoint, that out of man (created after thine own image and similitude) woman should take her beginning; and, knitting them together, didst teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom thou by Matrimony hadst made one: O God, who hast consecrated the state of Matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church: Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that both this man may love his wife, according to thy Word, (as Christ did love his spouse the Church, who gave himself for it, loving and cherishing it even as his own flesh,) and also that this woman may be loving and amiable, faithful and obedient to her husband; and in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of holy and godly matrons. O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mystery…mystical union… what’s that all about?

Ephesians 5:30-32 says

For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. On this account must a man leave father and mother and continue with his wife, and the two will be made one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak as between Christ and the congregation.

The word “mystery” is the English translation of the Greek word musterion. The Roman Church bungled that word by translating it into the Latin word sacramentum. Allow me to quote John Calvin’s remarks on this because he explains it well:

This is a great mystery. He concludes by expressing his astonishment at the spiritual union between Christ and the church. This is a great mystery; by which he means, that no language can explain fully what it implies. It is to no purpose that men fret themselves to comprehend, by the judgment of the flesh, the manner and character of this union; for here the infinite power of the Divine Spirit is exerted. Those who refuse to admit anything on this subject beyond what their own capacity can reach, act an exceedingly foolish part. We tell them that the flesh and blood of Christ are exhibited to us in the Lord’s supper. “Explain to us the manner,” they reply, “or you will not convince us.” For my own part, I am overwhelmed by the depth of this mystery, and am not ashamed to join Paul in acknowledging at once my ignorance and my admiration. How much more satisfactory would this be than to follow my carnal judgment, in undervaluing what Paul declares to be a deep mystery! Reason itself teaches how we ought to act in such matters; for whatever is supernatural is clearly beyond our own comprehension. Let us therefore labor more to feel Christ living in us, than to discover the nature of that intercourse.

We cannot avoid admiring the acuteness of the Papists, who conclude from the word mystery (musterion) that marriage is one of seven sacraments, as if they had the power of changing water into wine. They enumerate seven sacraments, while Christ has instituted no more than two; and, to prove that matrimony is one of the seven, they produce this passage. On what ground? Because the Vulgate has adopted the word Sacrament (sacramentum) as a translation of the word Mystery, which the apostle uses. As if Sacrament (sacramentum) did not frequently, among Latin writers, denote Mystery, or as if Mystery had not been the word employed by Paul in the same Epistle, when speaking of the calling of the Gentiles. But the present question is, Has marriage been appointed as a sacred symbol of the grace of God, to declare and represent to us something spiritual, such as Baptism or the Lord’s Supper? They have no ground for such an assertion, unless it be that they have been deceived by the doubtful signification of a Latin word, or rather by their ignorance of the Greek language. If the simple fact had been observed, that the word used by Paul is Mystery, no mistake would ever have occurred.
 Calvin’s commentary on Ephesians 5:32 

Here are some other protestant authors who agree with Calvin:

“And they two shall be one flesh,” that is, by virtue of the matrimonial bond. This is a great mystery, v. 32. Those words of Adam, just mentioned by the apostle, are spoken literally of marriage; but they have also a hidden mystical sense in them, relating to the union between Christ and his church, of which the conjugal union between Adam and the mother of us all was a type: though not instituted or appointed by God to signify this, yet it was a kind of natural type, as having a resemblance to it: I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Matthew Henry’s commentary on Eph 5:32

This is a great mystery; either, this that was spoken before of a marriage union between Christ and the church, and its being of his flesh and of his bones, is a great mystery, and so in the latter part of the verse the apostle explains himself. Or, this that was said of the conjunction of Adam and Eve was a great mystery, (i.e. a great secret in religion), as being a type of Christ’s marriage with his church; though not an instituted type appointed by God to signify this, yet a kind of natural type, as having a resemblance to it.
Matthew Poole’s commentary on Eph 5:32 

In his sermon titled The Matchless Mystery, Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached on Ephesians 5:30 – “for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones”.  After expounding on how Adam’s words “she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” connoted intimacy of relationship, Spurgeon says:

But I clearly see another and deeper meaning. It meant, from Adam’s lips, mysterious extraction. I will not make bold to say that he knew what had occurred to him in his sleep; he might not have known all, but he seems to have had a mystic enlightenment which made him guess what had occurred; at least the words seem to me to have that ring in them. “She is bone of my bones”—for a bone had been taken from him, “and flesh of my flesh,” for out of him had she been taken. He seems to have known that somehow or other she sprang from him; whether Adam knew it or not, Christ knows right well the origin of His spouse! He knows where His church came from! There is still the mark in His side; there is the memorial in the palms of His hands, and on His feet.

Where did this new Eve come from, this new mother of all living; from where came this spouse of the second Adam? She came of the second Adam! She was taken from His side, right near His heart!

Have you never read, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit”? Had Jesus never died, He would have been made to abide alone as to any who could be helpmeets for Him, and could enter into fellowship with Him. But, inasmuch as He has died, He has brought forth much fruit, and His church has sprung from Him. And in that sense she is bone of His bones, and flesh of His flesh.

“What do I mean by the church?” asks one. I mean by the church all the people of God, all the redeemed, all believers, as I explained at the commencement. Do you think I mean by the church the harlot of the seven hills? God forbid that Christ should have fellowship with her! How can He so much as look upon her except with horror? Do you think He means, by the church, the politically supported corporation that men call a church nowadays? No, but the spiritual, the quickened, the living, the believing, the holy people—wherever they may be—or by whatever name they may be called; these are they that sprang of Christ, even as Levi from the loins of Abraham! They live because they receive life from Him, and at this day they are dead in themselves—and their life is hid with Christ in God. So the text leads us to a deep meditation as to mysterious extraction.
[paragraph breaks added by Barbara Roberts, for the ease of modern readers]

Many Christian leaders these days are echoing the Roman Catholic view more than the Protestant view

Some protestants take the idea that marriage signifies unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church …and turn this signifying quality into one of the purposes of marriage.

John Piper has been most prolific in this regard. He believes that the chief purpose of marriage is to display the covenant keeping love of God for the church. This was a major theme in his book This Momentary Marriage. And he devoted three chapter to it in his book What Jesus Demands of the World. I could give dozens of quotes to prove this, but I’ll only give two.

…the most ultimate thing you can say about marriage is that it is for the display of God. … Marriage exists most ultimately to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.
Marriage: God’s Showcase of Covenant-Keeping Grace [emphasis in original]

He calls Gen 2:24 a “mystery” because God did not reveal clearly all his purposes for the marriage of male and female in Genesis. There were hints and pointers in the Old Testament that marriage was like the relation of God and his people. But only when Christ came did the mystery of marriage get spelled out in detail. It is meant to be a portrait of Christ’s covenant with his people, his commitment to the church.
Male and Female He Created Them in the Image of God

Tim Challies follows John Piper. And he’s pretty blatant in claiming that he has a more accurate view than the early reformers. He says that the ‘display’ purpose of marriage is more important than the mutual comfort, godly offspring, and a means of avoiding sexual sin:

Though marriage provides many wonderful benefits including mutual comfort, godly offspring, sexual fulfillment, and a means of avoiding sexual sin, these are not its highest purpose. Marriage is not a man-made institution primarily for man’s benefit, but rather a God-made institution primarily for God’s glory. The highest purpose of marriage is to display to the world the sacrificial love of Christ for his bride, the church. Here is how Paul teaches this: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
What’s the Purpose of Marriage? – Tim Challies

Gary Thomas also follows Piper:

The key question is this: Will we approach marriage from a God-centered view or a man-centered view? In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts, desires, and expectations are met. In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.
Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?  – Gary Thomas

John MacArthur, in his book The Fulfilled Family, brings in the word “sacred” – which is reminiscent of the Roman Catholic sacramentum. MacArthur says:

The sacredness of the church is wed to the sacredness of marriage; so by your marriage, you are either a symbol or a denial of Christ and His church. (source)

I could give more examples from other well known protestant authors, but I don’t want to make this post too long.

To sum up

  • Is the purpose of marriage to display Christ’s covenant-keeping love for the church?
  • If a Christian seeks divorce on biblical grounds, is that Christian giving a bad witness to the world because he or she is not displaying the gospel?

I believe the answer to those questions is NO.

***

For further reading

What does the Bible say about divorce?

Hadassah’s Legacy – Truth, Courage, Compassion, Justice & Intimate Partner Abuse

Hadassah’s Legacy seeks to follow the example of Queen Esther in speaking the truth with courage and compassion, to forward justice for the abused. It is a blog written by someone who regularly comments at A Cry For Justice. The lady who writes this blog says:

Hadassah’s Legacy is an avenue to add my voice to those voices already raised against the injustice of intimate partner abuse*, and systemic spiritual abuse through legalistic adherence to some traditions of Christendom in regards to marriage, divorce and remarriage, at the expense of a humble appreciation of the character of God, and the truths and values contained throughout the Bible as a whole, or as a friend said to me, ‘at the expense of human dignity’.

Like Hadassah, also know as Queen Esther in the Old Testament of the Bible, I want to heed her uncle, Mordecai’s caution to her in Esther chapter 4, verses 12-14.

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12-14)

Mordecai cautions Hadassah against remaining silent when her people are about to be annihilated, and encourages her to see her circumstances as an opportunity to seek justice in her times. Likewise, I consider my circumstances an opportunity to speak up, not remain silent, along with the many others who are raising awareness of intimate partner abuse in our current times.

The woman who writes Hadassah’s Legacy uses a different name when she comments at ACFJ. If you are a regular reader of ACFJ you will probably have read some of her comments.

I have added Hadassah’s Legacy to the ACFJ blog roll.

I highly recommend her post Whether Diagnosed or Not which discusses Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Intimate Partner Abuse.

God is light and Jesus is the light of the world. A meditation, and some questions.

The people who sat in darkness saw great light, and to those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has begun to shine.  (Matt 4:16)

 

 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. (Is 9:2)

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

After he had said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more,” Jesus said to the crowds in the temple:
I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps 27:1)

For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. (Ps 36:9)

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-4)

Jesus said:
I am come a light into the world, so that whosoever believes on me will not remain in darkness. (John 12:46)

But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

For it is God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, which has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)

He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him. (Dan 2:22)

His disciples saw him transfigured – light shone from his face and clothes:
And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine like the sun, and his clothes were as white as the light.
(Matt 17:2)

Zacharias prophesied that his son John would prepare the way for the Dayspring who would give light to those who sat in darkness:
And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest. For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, and to give knowledge of salvation to his people for the remission of sins through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Dayspring from on high has visited us to give light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.  (Luke 1:76-79)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness to bear witness of the light, so that all through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light that was the true light, who lights all men that come into the world. (John 1:6-9)

When Simeon saw the infant Jesus he said:
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your promise. For my eyes have seen the saviour sent from you, whom you have prepared before the face of all people – a light to give sight to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

Light featured in the conversion of Paul:
But as he journeyed and came near to Damascus, suddenly there shone round about him a light from heaven. And he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, Who are you Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the prick. (Acts 9:3-5a)

Paul later recounted his conversion:
It came to pass, as I made my journey and had come near to Damascus about noon, that suddenly a great light from heaven shone round about me. … And those who were with me saw a light, and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of him that spoke with me. (Acts 22:6, 9)
I saw in the road a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round about me and those who were journeying with me. (Acts 26:13)

You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a peculiar people, in order that you should show forth the virtues of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.  (1 Pet 2:9)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of light, with whom is no variableness nor turning to darkness. James 1:17)

I give you charge in the sight of God, who gives life to all things, and before Jesus Christ, who bore faithful witness under Pontius Pilate, to keep the commandment, and be without spot and unrebukeable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ – which appearing (when the time is come) he will show, who is blessed and sole in dominion, King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, and dwells in light to which no man can attain, whom no man ever saw, neither can see: to whom be honour and rule everlasting. Amen. (1 Tim 6:13-16)

And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to give it light, because the brightness of God did light it, and the Lamb was the light of it. And the people who are saved will walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory to it. (Rev 21:23-24)

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended. (Is 60:19-20)

And they will see his face, and his name will be in their foreheads. And there will be no night there, and they need no lamp, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. (Rev 22:4-5)

Jesus is fully man and fully God. God is light. Light shone from Jesus’ face and clothes when he was transfigured on the mount. So let us consider some questions:

  • Would it be possible for someone to testify that they have had an experience or a vision of Jesus where light was shining from Him?
  • Would it be okay for someone, especially if that person was a child and didn’t have any previous exposure to Christian terminology, to think of Jesus as “the light man”?
  • Would it be heretical to refer to Jesus as “the light man”?

****

Source of scriptures

All NT quotations are from the New Matthew Bible. You can read the NT of the New Matthew Bible on Bible Gateway, but the Bible Gateway platform does not show the notes. You can purchase the NT of the New Matthew Bible complete with all the notes here.

All OT quotations are from the NKJ.

 

Was Paul an abuser before he was converted?

Prior to his conversion, Paul was on a religious crusade to crush the idea that this dead guy Jesus was the Messiah. Paul thought that idea was blasphemous to God, so he was trying to stop it spreading. He was wanting to protect the people of God from being sucked into that error. He fervently persecuted Christians, thinking he was serving God in doing so. He described this fervency when he was addressing the Jews from the steps of the Roman fortress in Jerusalem after the riot had been quelled by the Roman soldiers:

Men, brethren and fathers, hear my answer, which I make to you.

When they heard that he spoke in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence.

And he said, I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and thoroughly taught in the law of the fathers. And I was fervent-minded toward God, as you all are this same day. And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women, as the chief priest bears me witness, and all the elders – from whom also I received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring those who were there as prisoners to Jerusalem, to be punished. (Acts 22:1-5, NMB)

But on the road to Damascus, Paul was confronted by the light and heard Jesus speaking to him, and he realised he was wrong! He realised that Jesus is God. With that conviction he immediately asked, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 9:5, 22:6-10)

An abuser, by our definition, is a person who believes that for his own selfish gratification he is entitled to disrespect, mistreat and wield power and control over those he targets with his abuse. (I used the masculine pronoun generically in that sentence.) 

In his persecution of Christians, Paul did not evidence the base fleshly lust that characterises the abuser’s mindset and conduct. Paul did not think “It’s all about me!” Paul was trying to obey and serve God. And he was zealous in keeping the Law. Paul was not motivated by mere selfish gratification. He believed he was serving God by crushing the Christians.

Paul simply hadn’t yet believed that Jesus was God. Contrast this with an abuser: the abuser never wants to obey and serve God. He actually wants to BE God. And the abuser wants his targets to treat him like God.

Paul testified that he received mercy because he did it ignorantly and in unbelief. This is not to excuse his slaughter of the Christians.

Paul  said what convicted him was the law “you shall not covet”. Paul says he died—was slain—by the law:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. But I would not have known what sin meant, if not by the law. For I would not have known what coveting meant unless the law had said, You shall not covet. But sin took occasion by the means of the commandment, and wrought in me all manner of inordinate desire. For without the law, sin was dead. I once lived without law.

But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I was dead.  And the very same commandment that was ordained for life, was found to be to me an occasion of death. For sin took occasion by the means of the commandment, and thus deceived me, and by the same commandment slew me.
(Rom 7:7-11, NMB)

We do not know whether the Apostle Paul ever had a wife, but the chances are he was married at some point prior to his conversion. I say this with a fair degree of confidence, because religious Jews took “go forth and multiply” as a command to marry and bear children. It was the norm for Pharisees to be married men.

Paul may have been a widow when he was converted. Early death from infection and disease was common; many women died in childbirth; any bacterial infection could lead to death in the days before antibiotics.

But what we can know for sure is that Paul didn’t do the kinds of things abusers do to their family  members. We know this because Paul testifies that before his conversion he was blameless according to the law and traditions of the fathers, at least as far as outward observance:

…as for the righteousness that is in the law, I was unrebukeable. (Phil 3:6, NMB)

The righteousness that is in the law that God gave through Moses stipulates that it is a sin to abuse another person.

Pastor Sam Powell has heard many testimonies from abused women and I’m quoting Sam’s words with his permission —

Paul didn’t burn his wife with cigarettes because he got off on it. He didn’t rape his children or other people’s children. He didn’t call his loved ones fat and stupid and lazy and not worth loving. He didn’t go to synagogue and sing hymns of praise and then go home and abuse his wife just for fun, knowing he could get away with it.

Paul never had a sense of entitlement where he enforced absolute terror on his family, cause them to fear every waking moment. He didn’t keep them awake at night in order to terrify them into submission. He didn’t beat his children until blood ran down their legs. He didn’t pimp out his daughters or get drunk and push his wife down the stairs because she wouldn’t give him sexual intercourse. He didn’t starve his children, and make them watch him eat while they starved because they looked at him wrong.

And the church respond to those wives by saying, “Paul was a sinner too, and he repented. You still don’t have cause for divorce. You need to take him back.”

Sometimes victims are killed, like a woman in Minneapolis who was killed by her husband after her pastor told her she had to take him back. Sometimes victims are excommunicated for contumacy, and left penniless and friendless.

And far too often the person who systematically raped and terrorized is still accepted by the visible church as a member in good standing. And the abuser continues scutinising the church attenders, looking for victims to rape, abuse and terrorize.

The church did not simply accept Paul’s word that he had changed. As Sam Powell noted, “The church in Antioch only received Paul because they had supernatural revelation.” (see Acts chapter 9).

The story of Saul/Paul is perhaps the only narrative in the Bible where a persecutor of the church changed instantly and miraculously. That is not the norm. God sometimes brings a person to regeneration very quickly, but the normal means of grace to bring a soul to repentance and rebirth are the preaching of the Word, the sacraments and church discipline.

UPDATE.  Thanks to a suggestion from a new commenter, I would like to amend what I said in the above paragraph. The amendment is in red.

Sacraments and church discipline are not the same as hearing the gospel preached. By themselves sacraments and church discipline do not lead to regeneration. Hearing the gospel preached can and does, by God’s sovereign grace, lead some souls to repent unto the faith that brings rebirth/regeneration.

Hearing the gospel preached can and does prompt born-again Christians to conviction and repentance in their ongoing walk while they live out their lives in their mortal bodies in this temporal world.

But so far in my searching of scripture, I can find no scriptural warrant to say that the sacraments, or the right use of church discipline can, in and of themselves, without the preaching or reading of the Word, bring a person to rebirth.

Paul was not an abuser by my definition. Here is how the ACFJ ministry defines abuse:

Definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or in-actions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.

Definition of a domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.

  • Sometimes the genders are reversed—see our posts about male survivors.

Churches must address adult abuse as well as child abuse – a guest post by Now Free

I thank God for the fantastic teachers I had at Bible college, past ministers long gone into glory, ministers who put real problems before us to think about and digest. I’ll never forget one of those old teachers telling us the ministry we were going to enter was a very precious ministry, but also a very painful ministry. “You will face things that, whatever you say or do, you will have people against you. Whatever you face, follow God and what He is telling you to do. Follow His word. Ensure your own conscience is clear with God, not with men. You will still receive great heartache and strong opposition, often feel no matter what way you turn, you can’t win, but ultimately you answer to God. You may be put out of churches or lose your ministry, but do the right thing, follow God and not man.”

I’ve never forgotten his words. We knew he had been there. This was not just talk, it was deep rooted from his own pastoral experiences.

My wise old boss once said, “The best way to learn is not from your own mistakes. It is by observing others and learning from their mistakes. You then, hopefully, ensure you don’t make the same and undergo the pain.”

In the pastoral ministries class, many of us, if not all, were in tears as he revealed “real” stories as scenarios, stories we knew were from his own experiences. Often, we cried together with him in class. It was such an eye opener and meant more, as we knew this was not textbook stuff, this actually happened. This was the real world!! After our time, we had “faced up to life”, at least in theory, and how we as God’s people should deal with things. Believe me, it did not make things easier in ministry, but it was often relied upon when I faced different dilemmas. I can only hope and pray I did what I feel Jesus would have done in everything. Only eternity will reveal all. At times, really thinking through the application of scriptures into real situations was a horrendous and difficult task. I believe, though, the class was very much all about training men and women to stand for truth and justice, rather than for a denomination or ministry for church growth. It is, after all, supposed to be God’s work, not our own.

I fear a lot of pastors have lost sight of that. The ministry has become more valuable than the ministering to. I saw in ministry how easy it was to cross the line of creating worship to “the worship or ministry”, rather than worshipping the creator and truly ministering. I have heard it often said, “But if we expose this sin (abuse), it may do damage to the work (ministry).”

I can only remember once seeing true discipline administered properly in a church. I had a lot of respect for that church, who challenged sin and harmful conduct. They had godly, strong leadership, and the members knew they could not just do as they liked regarding sin and conduct and get away with it. They were brought quickly to account, dealt with in love, and the church functioned well. Those who wanted to do their own thing or have control did not like that and left. The church remained solid in its teaching and practice, with good biblical teaching and standards.

In contrast, I knew another church who refused to discipline, and it gave rise to more problems between the members and the person who should have been disciplined. It caused more hurt in the end, and more damaged relations than if the church had acted correctly in the first place.

Good church discipline must involve genuine love and a time frame to see genuine repentance. Many abusers often show their true colours, if disciplined. Discipline does not bode well with their sense of entitlement, and often at some point their facade of genuine repentance will unravel.

There is such a desperation in some churches for leaders or people to be involved (especially smaller churches), sin is overlooked or covered up, including the sin of abuse. I’ve witnessed people come through the door a few times, share they did some preaching or were involved in their last church. Without any checks or scrutiny, they were suddenly delivering God’s word before the congregation. Over time, I’ve seen that work for a few churches, but on the whole, I’ve seen it destroy churches, as eventually the person was found to be controlling and abusive. The church acted unwisely and too quickly in desperation.

In a few cases, people were “planted” from other churches to take over a smaller congregation and bring their own extreme doctrines. In others, such people were power hungry and manipulative, seeking to eventually take over and press their own ideologies and agendas. If they didn’t get their way, a split occurred as they left with many of the congregation.

Strong leadership is necessary for good godly discipline. However, I’ve found sound teaching must accompany good leadership for a church to function well and administer that discipline correctly.

There should always be a period of proving yourself. Abuse, if not dealt with correctly, will eventually bring destruction. If the leadership allows manipulating abusers to continue unchecked, or congregations allow leaders who are abusive and controlling unchecked, those fellowships may have some mode of function, but it will eventually bring further destruction.

Secular work situations have time periods to prove a good workman, why should the church be of lesser respect? Secular work situations have warnings and rules to be adhered to, discipline given even to the point of dismissal if wrong conduct has happened. The church and its leaders should be operating to an even higher respect than the world. Where are our standards?? Cover ups of unrepentant sin do not and will not work. The truth sets you free!

I remember attending a seminar series. One weekend of the series dealt with listening, with the idea saying nothing, just listening, should be the first thing in any counselling session. Nothing else; definitely no admonishment or instruction. Pastors are all too quick to express their opinions or agendas than truly listen, including letting a victim vent if he/she needs to. Venting is release of much pent-up emotion and pain that has been bottled up and kept under wraps for their own safety and out of fear. All that must come out before you can even begin to pour in healing from God’s word to help in those areas.

The second weekend of teaching was to listen, but only after listening properly can you give encouragement. After listening intently, getting hold of the truth of the real problem, it is only then time to “put an arm round” (not literally) someone’s deep problem, and be there for them and start building them up. Nothing more. No criticism, no questioning, or cross examination.

The third weekend of the series was exhortation. Only after the first two criteria were met should we exhort, a time to challenge and exhort into action. Helping them see the scriptures in their situation and how to take action and make moves for better change. The order should never be confused, but all too many so-called Christian pastors who are ill equipped jump in right away to challenge and say what they think, rather than properly listening first.

In all the failings I’ve heard reported here on ACFJ regarding pastors / leaders and families, I do not think once I’ve read that anyone truly took time to listen, let alone encourage. However, there was plenty of exhortation, and it brought more damage many of us are still trying to recover from.

To me, the church on the whole does not counsel in any way near in the way it should, perhaps due to lack of education and training. This lack is something I think all denominations need to ensure is addressed. More and more we need top quality counsellors in our churches. Ones who listen and understand the problems faced by people today. I was once told more and more pastors today are not getting time to concentrate on the ministry of the word, as so much time through the week is given to counselling and dealing with pastoral problems. In this person’s opinion, from some time ago, churches needed to re-address and have appointed full time Christian counsellors, as church leaders were often not well equipped, and only trained in biblical scholarship. As a result, many were going crazy under the stress of the sheer volume of problems the church was facing.

A two-pronged approach is needed for ministry education. 1) Upcoming pastors trained by the various colleges most closely linked to churches need up-to-date training (meaning lecturers keeping brushed up and curriculums changed or adapted), and 2) a retraining approach of pastors already in existence who will not be going through seminary or college training. It’s approaching it from both sides. If the law says you need child abuse policies, etc. then churches need to update their own training. In some areas, it’s left to individual churches what their policy is, but it must include certain things, and must have people give training that are registered with the authorities. Some churches will adapt accordingly and some be far better than others. Some training is updated each year, but is mainly aimed at prevention and reporting. I’ve yet to see anything regarding how the church would help survivors, there’s virtually nothing in most church policies to help those still in church and families who are surviving. We cannot just leave that to authorities, there must be help in the church. Pastors need to be not just providers of the flock (food), they must realise they are also to be protectors of the flock.

The church cannot truly operate as the body of Christ on earth, if it’s not acting in keeping with the word of Christ and with the heart of Christ and in the spirit of Christ! There’s so much more to shepherding a flock than just speaking words to a sheep, or caring for them with a few nice words and I’ll pray for you.

I had absolutely no one except God, so with a prayer of desperation I sought the net, found ACFJ and Barbara and started for the first time in years getting specific answers to my situation.

The results from a pastor interfering – damaged emotions, spirit broken, confusion, deep hurt and pain, little to no self esteem, loss of ministries, friends, church, but hallelujah NOT LOST GOD!!!, ever true to His word. It took well into my marriage to be totally convinced I needed out. With the added confusion, another period of lengthy time to a stage of moving away in my head, another time period of sheer hell every day after my pastor and his wife put me away quietly, and yet ANOTHER lengthy time of not knowing who I would come home to, not knowing minute by minute who I lived with, with ever increasing threats and living in fear. I took the step to contact Barb, and it took more time to eventually break free. Pastors, you have no idea of the struggle we face and the pain we have endured!! I say to you do not add to it!! Be very sure before you act on God’s behalf!

No set of circumstances is the same. Each person is an individual with unique situations they face. There are no black and white situations, but loads of grey ones, with plenty of complications. However, in abuse situations, there are many non-negotiables and it would do a church well to make them one of the traits and practices of the church. Just as we have child abuse policies, we need to go one further and have policies for adult and domestic abuse.

God’s character and attributes are not to be dismissed when reading His word. I am ever reminded the trinity is in operation upon the God breathed inspirational word as Timothy puts it in 1 Timothy 3:16 – “All scripture is God breathed and useful for ……”

God the Father revealing His spoken word out of His heart via mouth involving His breath and vocals – Christ the Son of God is the word (logos) become flesh and God the Holy Spirit as the breath of God, (the pneuma) all in operation. When God speaks, the trinity is always in operation. When Christ or the Holy Spirit speaks, the same trinity is operating. God cannot be separated from Himself or His word. Just as we live and breath and our words involve our hearts and our breath and we cannot be separated from ourselves, God is the same. We must interpret His word with the same spirit, knowing God’s heart and character and thinking, what would Jesus do and listening to God the Holy Spirit as He reveals God in His word.

More emphasis is made on church building than church character building. I’d rather have a smaller church filled with godly encouragement and love than a multi-functioning church like a shopping mall, but full of critical silence and hypocrisy. Is this why there’s so much damage to God’s people? Pastors and leaders ministering in denial, walking in pride and fear and defensive, opting for the “easy way out”. Getting rid of marriage problems, trouble makers or someone that’s too risky for church to have about by brushing under carpets, covering up or simple prayer.

Pastors take note – we need more than the prayer of faith and a bit of bible study. Your “sheep” deserve your very best you can give them. If you need reinforcements, go get them.

Woe unto them I say – God is very much against them if they do not take a stand for the oppressed.

There’s a serious lack of education and training in most churches. Too many pastors are ill equipped, and instead of passing it on to experts, try with disaster to undertake in their own strength. Lethal operations take place every day in churches, as leaders make decisions that kill the mind, body and spirit. In the Latina ladies article here at ACFJ, Evaliz made it clear it was the law of the land to report regarding abuse, and the church needs to operate within the law and report matters to the law. Let law matters be dealt with by the law and people who are trained and qualified to deal with it.

Stop couples counselling as the be all and end all of marriage problems. After each session, abuse may be intensified. Pastors need to be aware of this: Some victims and survivors may have been through counselling over many years, only to be more confused as the pastor does not “get it or get me!”

I do not believe Christ on judgment day will be in the least bit interested in how big your church is or how fantastic your programs. He never was interested in that on earth; what possesses us to think things will be different then? He was a people person! I think He will more likely ask about what you did about Mrs. so-and-so when she was at the end of her tether with life over her constant beating and brow beating by Mr. so-and-so. How did you protect her and her children? I think these are more what the Christ I know and love will be interested in. I still see Him rush to Mary’s aid, and defence of children, widows, blind, the lepers and oppressed! Defending Mary, who’s sister was trying to build a better home, a better surrounding for Christ. Work, work, work, but Christ wanted devotion. He is interested in people, not empires. Interested in the church as people, not the church as a mere ministry or work. He is the Lord God; He is not going to change! The sooner we get hold of this in the church the better. Pastors what is your priority? Or should I say, who is your priority??

I’m glad the voice here at ACFJ calls “a spade a spade”. Many people don’t like those who are like that, but though I sometimes do not like the abrupt, sometimes wrong nature, I’ve always said at least I know where I stand with that person. There may be no airs or graces with them, but there is no hidden agenda behind the scenes. They are what they are with no facade. I’m sure Barb and others here would only hope for the day such a site was not needed, as churches take up each case so well. In the meantime, we will speak up and share for the sake of each other and in the hope that the true church changes to serve Christ on earth, rather than their own agendas.

God IS LOVE! God IS TRUTH!! We must act in love; we must act in keeping with truth.

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An example of church training can be found in Child Safety Training – by Ps Jimmy Hinton, the son of a pedophile pastor.

An example of updating education about trauma and recovery can be found in Wound Healing. Make sure you read the comments on that post too as they add more detail about how to facilitate the healing of wounds.

For those who don’t know, Now Free is a Christian man who has suffered abuse from his (now ex) wife. If you are following this blog you will have probably seen his comments on various posts.