A Cry For Justice

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

How Family Values Can Replace the Gospel and Promote Abuse

Colossians 2:18-23 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (19) and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (20) If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Christianity is not moralism.  Moralism, in fact, is everything that Jesus Christ is not.  Moralism is a system that promotes the merit of moral deeds.  Of good works.  Ultimately, it holds that by living a good, clean life of morality, a person will be acceptable to God.  Anyone who knows anything at all about Scripture knows that this is dead set opposed to the gospel of Christ.  In Christ, we are freed from slavery to sin so that we love the moral law of God and strive with a new free will to live it.  Not to earn righteousness with God, but because in Christ we have that righteousness.

I would like to suggest to you that the decades of emphasis on marriage, the family, and traditional family values have taken their toll.  And it isn’t a good toll. “How can that be!  What are you saying, that same-sex marriages, or no marriage, or abortion and so forth are good!”  No, and if you have been reading this blog for very long you know that is not what we mean.  But here is the problem:  when morality is preached apart from the power of the gospel of Christ, it is worse than nothing.  It becomes positively dangerous, and here is why –

  1. As Paul wrote to the Colossians (quoted above) moral exhortations in themselves only promote a man-made, powerless religion that are NO VALUE in restraining sin.  And it is even worse than that, because…
  2. The Law of God is the POWER of sin.  Did you know that?  Check it out —

1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

Rom 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…

The Law of God is given to actually excite sin in the sinner.  The problem is not with the Law, but with the sinner —

Rom 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.   6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.  7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Now consider this very carefully.  Here we have had this avalanche of teaching:  seminars, retreats, books, sermons, videos, all emphasizing marriage, the family, parenting, headship, submission…. and what has been the result?  Are things significantly better in the church now than 30 years ago?  Call me a pessimist, but I say that not only are they not better, they are far worse.  Ask yourself this  in all of this emphasis upon marriage, the sinfulness of divorce, remarriage, the role of the husband, the role of the wife…. has Jesus Christ been emphasized and exalted?  Do these books and seminars present Christ clearly?  Have they pointed husbands and wives and children to Him who is the Head of the Church, apart from whom we can do nothing?   I must answer, once again, in the negative.

And when you preach empty morality — empty because it looks to man alone to live it — you actually feed sin.  And I suggest we have done just that.  “Do this, and live” has been our message instead of  declaring —

Gal 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Little wonder that we have an epidemic of abuse in the church.

4 Comments

  1. A massive topic, this one. I agree with you Jeff. “Family Values” teaching has brought ephemera to the centre stage of ‘Christianity’. It gives its followers a warm fuzzy sense that they’re pleasing God by fitting into the “good Christian family” model. But it never teaches how to address family violence and abuse when they occur. The air-brushed glossy picture of the good Christian family is held up for emulation, but what about the underbelly – that livid, sickly, white, selfish, heaving mess where abusers intimidate those they’re supposed to love and protect, behind closed doors?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Barbara. When I was in seminary back in the early 1980’s, I went through a marriage and family phase and bought all kinds of books on the subject. Christian books, I mean. Howard Hendricks, Chuck Swindoll, Dobson, and so on. As I look back on it, I realize now that those books were largely devoid of in-depth Bible doctrine. It’s hard to describe. Many of them were more about a philosophy of life rather than taking Scripture — and I mean meaty stuff — and connecting it with marriage and family. It seems to be that as a result we raised up a couple or three generations on role play. Cultural Christianity. Yet I dare say that the doctrines of justification by faith, of God’s plan for redemption as laid out from Genesis to Revelation, the nature of sin and how the Law of God is its power, election, union with Christ, etc., are indeed directly entwined with a truly godly Christian marriage and family. The exterior is always rather easy to imitate. The reality of Christ in us cannot be faked.

      • Well said, Jeff, Thanks for your transparency! And you’ve nailed it again. Generations raised on role play. It’s tragic. Generations being raised to believe that family life is one of the primary ways we model Christ to the unbelievers. I know Jesus said his disciples would stand out because they loved one another. But he didn’t say they would stand out because of their harmonious family relationships and their correct fitting into roles (husband, wife, father, mother, male child, female child roles).

        Didn’t he say something about how the gospel would put a sword (shock-horror) between family members. Oh no! Let’s not go there! Let’s keep our sweet happy family story going, and just devote ourselves to fighting abortion and gay marriage!

        And yes, “the exterior is always rather easy to imitate”… unless your spouses happen to be an abuser. Then you virtually kill yourself trying to imitate the correct model. And when you put your hand up because you’re drowning, Christians tell you “You just need to try harder to fit the role.” It’s easy to dole out advice, when you’ve been brainwashed about roles.

  2. Finding Answers

    Barb commented …..The air-brushed glossy picture of the good Christian family is held up for emulation, but what about the underbelly – that livid, sickly, white, selfish, heaving mess where abusers intimidate those they’re supposed to love and protect, behind closed doors?

    ^That…..in spades.

    Barb also commented Didn’t he say something about how the gospel would put a sword (shock-horror) between family members……

    AKA No Contact.

    Pastor Jeff wrote …..In Christ, we are freed from slavery to sin so that we love the moral law of God and strive with a new free will to live it. Not to earn righteousness with God, but because in Christ we have that righteousness.

    Truth and “not truth”, depending where I am in the cycle of healing.

    God is exposing the “not truth”.

    I am pushing too hard for answers.

    ^That…is truth.

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