A Cry For Justice

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

Does the Bible Teach Meritorious Suffering?

The following illustration has been used to convince abuse victims that the abuse they are suffering is God’s determined will for them, and they need to submit to it.  Divorce is out of the question –

There was a man, who was given a cross to bear through life. As he traveled he noticed that this cross was very long and it kept getting caught on stuff. He decided to cut it down a bit and make it easier to carry. After a while, it got heavy again and he decided to cut it down some more. He did this repeatedly until it was easy enough to carry. After all, it still looked like a cross. Well the day came for him to cross over to the “other side” and he was told that he needed his cross to span the great chasm between him and eternity. He laid his cross down but found it to be too short…

In other words, stay in the abuse, suffer, and you will make it to heaven.  Refuse to keep suffering and you will come up short on the day of judgment and end in hell.

There is nothing biblical about this illustration.  In fact, though a professing Protestant is telling it, this is far more Roman Catholic in its theology of suffering.  WE DO NOT SAVE OURSELVES BY OUR CROSS-BEARING.  Jesus Christ has made full atonement for every one of His people.  Following Christ in obedience, no matter how difficult, is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  But WE do not pay a meritorious, suffering death on that cross.  It is the Cross of Christ by which we are saved.

Furthermore, when Christ calls us to take up our cross, He is telling us to follow HIM.  Not for the purpose of carrying out supposed meritorious deeds of suffering so that we can earn our salvation, but to follow Him in obedient faith.  Every genuine Christian will most certainly do so.  Not FOR salvation, but because of salvation.  And we are following Him.  That means that if this illustration is correct, then every abuse victim must agree that the Lord Jesus Christ is leading them into that abuse and that if they depart from it by leaving and divorcing their abuser, they must necessarily leave off following Christ.

That would require any person pushing this illustration to be a prophet.  It means that they are authoritatively able to declare the Word of God to every victim of abuse – Thus saith the Lord, stay here and let this wicked man abuse you and your children.  

I can only call such a person a false prophet.

See a related article by Steven Tracy’s entitled “Domestic VIolence in the CHurch and Redemptive Suffering in 1 Peter.”

10 Comments

  1. Steven Tracy has a good article called
    Domestic Violence in the Church and Redemptive Suffering in 1 Peter

    I’d be interested to hear people’s comments on it.

  2. Sorry my HTML is shocking, here’s the link:
    http://www.mendingthesoul.org/files/2009/02/dv-in-church-1-peter.pdf

  3. Jeff Crippen

    Thanks for the article link, Barbara. I will check it out. Distortions of suffering for Christ are a dark return to the middle ages. We may as well start telling victims to crawl on their knees until they are bloody and then Jesus might think about accepting them. Maybe.

  4. won't tell

    i think some of my confusion about true Christianity is as much the fogginess of absorbed Catholicism (mom was Catholic) as well as abuse within a “Christian” family.

    while suffering was never preached overtly, I absorbed it.

    Now, I see people teaching suffering is Christlike and a testing. If we fail, we go around the mountain… again. If we keep circling the mountain, when we die,, we don’t go to Heaven because we didn’t trust Christ and we were like the Israelites.

    Recently I realized Moses didn’t go to the Promise land. He saw it, but couldn’t enter.

    The Promise Land is an allegory for Heaven. Is it? Moses did go to Heaven.

    Suufering for Christ… the gospel.. bcause of profession and living for Him will be rewarded.

    Suffering for sufferings sake? no.

    Suffering is becoming a god itself in the Church and those who teach suffering is a gift from God dont’ themselves suffer.

    If they did, they would accept the “treatment” from those who don’t believe this ‘doctrine’ with sweetness and humbleness.

    Suffering is part of humanity. Suffering can bring God glory.

    Suffering as a doctrine is evil

    • Amen to all you said, Won’t Tell!

      And I have seen scores of Protestants who have that fogginess from absorbed Catholicism, so I know what you mean. I didn’t live that journey myself, thank God, but I’ve seen many others living it. From what I’ve observed, most people get fully free of that fog, especially if they were indoctrinated in Catholic schools. But of course, God is the great fog dispeller. Direct revelation from Him can dispel the most clinging fog, even the stuff that has gone through your pores and alveoli and into your interstitial tissues.

      • Oops. I made a big typo on that comment. I should have said “From what I’ve observed, most people don’t get fully free of that fog, especially if they were indoctrinated in Catholic schools.”

        It was 2am when I wrote that.

  5. won't tell

    i was feeling left out until you corrected. 🙂

    thanks for correction.

    one step at a time for me. God honors honesty, so if I am terrified by a teaching, or confused, I tell Him. and either instantaneously or gradually, the Truth is revealed.

    He is awesome!

  6. questioning

    Whenever I have read passages in the Bible on suffering I relate it to suffering for righteousness sake. Suffering for the name of Christ, fighting against sin. I have never thought of this as including domestic abuse or suffering violence at the hands of a spouse, etc. When I think of Paul or one of the other apostles giving this teaching in it’s context it is for the reason of believers as a whole being persecuted by sinners. Enduring hardship as the church. Paul says you have not yet shed blood because of your beliefs. He was encouraging all believers to stand in their faith and not to capitulate to what was unjust or wrong.

    • Hi questioning, again I changed your screen name from the one you’d given, as a precaution for your safety.

      You are right that Paul was speaking of suffering for righteousness’ sake, suffering for the name of Christ, fighting against sin.

      I think you are fortunate that no-one has ever told you that Paul’s exhortations about suffering meant you ought to have stayed with your abuser. Many of our readers who have been abused by their partners have had that line laid on them by so-called Christians in books, counseling, sermons, etc.

      The verse where Paul says to the churches “you have not yet resisted unto blood,” is especially dangerous when it’s applied to the victim of domestic abuse. It suggest to the victim that unless and until her abuser actually causes her to BLEED from his assaults, she has no right to leave him. This is advice, this mis-application of the words of the Apostle Paul, puts a woman’s life in severe danger. How can she know that her abuser will ‘only’ shed her blood but not KILL her?

      And by the way, some abusers KILL their partners without ever having been physically violent to the woman before.

      A person who applies ‘you have not yet resisted unto blood’ to a victim of domestic abuse is a very dangerous person!

      • Raped By Evil

        Questioning, Your heart is pure and you clearly want and are seeking the truth. Barbara gives wonderful, biblical information and I’d like to say something else.

        Along with this use (misuse) of biblical truth, there’s another one that abusers / erroneous teachers preach. It is that we are supposed to remain silent in our sufferings….supposedly to be like Christ. But pay attention when you read about Christ’s “silence.” When he was at this point in his ministry it was because he was in the midst of the sacrifice of himself–the sacrifice of GOD–which ONLY he was capable of doing for us.(When He refused to answer in court, on the cross etc. He was fulfilling prophesy.) Most of his ministry he was anything but silent. Abusers tend to “forget” this part of Jesus’s ministry. Many abusers not only violate our boundaries but they tell us that if we are truly like Jesus, we will shut up and suck it up. They are putting US in CHRISTS position–but the truth is THEY often believe themselves to be god and they just want our compliance.

        Throughout the ministry of Jesus he used many different ways of dealing with and confronting abusers and also those who were truly seeking. He often asked questions of the person talking to him, pulling out their heart and their motivation. (Remember, he is / was God so HE already knew the answers; he was doing this for US, pulling out the speakers heart by talking to them FOR US–for those of us reading his word today. So that we would have a model to go by, and we are able to use ALL the ways he dealt with people….just like He did. It is our “right” as his children and when we do this we are acting like him and he honors his children. We can be brave because He lives in us.) If we feel like someone is simply trying to “test” us, we have Jesus’s authority to refuse to answer them or to tell them we don’t want to answer them etc.

        It’s our right, privilege and duty to weed out the chaff. The church is supposed to be our safe house, educator and model for these many biblical ways of dealing with people. I have never found this biblical teaching or biblical truth spoken or taught anywhere else but on this website. And probably at Pastor Crippen’s church….

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