A Cry For Justice

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

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

Matthew 18:17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 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. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Jesus is Light.  Jesus is Truth.  Therefore, all that we do in His church must reflect those same qualities.  Sadly, local churches most frequently permit darkness and deception to reign within them.  And perhaps no greater example of this sin is in regard to how the church typically handles domestic abuse within its ranks.

In the church, unrepentant sin is to be pronounced from the rooftops, in the hearing of the entire church.  It is to be exposed and dealt with openly, so that those who profess Christ’s name yet cause that Name to be blasphemed by unbelievers are expelled from the body of Christ, and Christ’s Name thereby is once more honored.  If a pastor is going to deal biblically and righteously with an abuser who is a member of his church, that pastor must resolve to do so in openness and in truth.  There can be no cover up, no minimization of the evil, no political maneuvering designed to save face or cover anyone’s tail end.  The evil must be exposed for all to see, and the unrepentant evil one delivered over to the realm of darkness, outside the church, in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the pastor must be willing to do things and speak of things that most of his own congregation will find quite unpleasant. The nature of abuse must be exposed and taught.  In a specific case within the local church, the specific sins of the specific abuser must be identified and revealed.  People will think this to be “impropriety.”  They will recoil and object that their sensibilities have been offended.  They often will sit in the pews and wish they each had three sets of hands so they could see no evil, hear no evil and put the other two over the preacher’s mouth so he cannot speak any evil.  But this must not be yielded to.  The Lord brought the hidden silver stolen by Achan from Jericho right out into the open in front of the entire congregation of Israel.  Achan thought he had it hidden very well within his own house, but God rooted it out.  So must we.  When there is deadly cancer in Christ’s body, killing the innocent, it must be exposed and removed.

The admission that such evil is present in our own church is humbling.  It is humiliating to our pride to have to face up to the fact that something (abuse) that should not even be named among us has been practicing its vile acts right in our midst for a long while.  This is one main reason that pastors and Christians run so quickly to minimization and denial and blaming when an abuse victim steps forward and comes to us for help.  It is the same dynamic in many ways that we see in cases of rape.  The victim is often blamed.  If we can somehow attribute at least some of the blame to her, then in numbers of ways the thing is easier for us to take.  She had it coming.  She made the guy mad.  She should have….   All of these lies make the monster out to be a little less monstrous and enable us to go on our merry way thinking that things are not so bad after all.

Many years ago when I was a deputy sheriff in Portland, Oregon, I was dispatched to what we called an “auto-ped.”  In other words, a pedestrian had been struck by a car.  I didn’t like those calls as they were most often fatal and typically rather gruesome. In this case an elderly lady had been struck and killed by a drunk cement truck driver as she crossed a busy street to her mailbox. Her mangled remains lay in the road and we had a real mess of traffic on our hands to deal with before someone else crashed due to the confusion and backed up traffic.  [I remember seeing some object, rather unrecognizable, in the road when I first drove up.  What is that?  It was the victim.  It didn’t even look like a human body].  While we were attending to the initial pressing needs, the usual crowd of “rubber-neckers” gathered to see what they could see.  One man shouted out at us — “why don’t you cover her up with a blanket or something!”  One of my associates very properly responded, “why don’t you move on!  Nobody is forcing you to be here!”

Here is my point in this illustration.  People don’t want to see unpleasantness.  At least not for the right reasons.  They may want to hear sordid details for some juicy gossip, but only when those details concern a complete stranger.  Had that poor lady who was killed been a close friend of that man, there is no way he would have been there staring and wanting to see “the action.”  When the unpleasantness of evil strikes too close to our home, we don’t want to hear about it.  We immediately respond in denial.  And that is what abuse is.  It is ugly, putrid, vile and demonic.  And there it is, right in the pew next to us.  “Throw a blanket over it! Cover it up so we don’t have to look at it!”  This is the kind of thing the pastor will hear.  And it is the kind of thing the pastor must never yield too.  Evil within the body of Christ must be exposed in truth and in light.  Justice for the victim must be exercised. The sin must be denounced for the evil that it is and the entire congregation must be educated as to its nature. The victim must be vindicated and protected.  “This is what has happened among us!  This is the ugly nature of what John Smith has done, and has been doing for years!  This is what this lady has been enduring in silent suffering!  In the Name of Jesus Christ we expose it and we remove it from among Christ’s church.”

One of the most wicked, abusive men I have ever known was a member of a local church in our area.  How he could talk “Christian-ese.”  He fancied himself a Bible teacher and could always find gullible followers.  The last I heard of him he had been “commissioned” by a denomination to plant a new church!  [The intentional carelessness of denominations and missions agencies in appointing candidates as pastors, church-planters, and missionaries is another scandal in the church that no one speaks much about].  I had occasion to speak with two pastors about this man.  He had been in both of their churches and in fact was currently a board member in one of them and had been creating all kinds of strife and division.  I told those pastors that this man in no way should be considered a Christian, let alone qualified to be on a church board! They didn’t agree.  They said he was just a troubled man from a troubled background.  I told them that Scripture instructs us to discipline and reject a divisive man, so why had they not done so in this case?  They answered “well, your church may be able to handle confrontations like that, but our churches are just not strong enough and our people would probably leave if we did it.”  That wicked man continues his evil as a church-planter to this very day!  The newest and most baby Christian knows enough of Christ’s truth to be able to “handle” the open discipline of an evil, unrepentant man, and because every believer is taught by the Spirit of Christ to hunger and thirst for righteousness, such action will never cause them to stumble.

How do we deal with the abuser in our midst?  We expose his evil in truth and light.  And if we will not, let no pastor nor any local church congregation imagine that the Lord is on their side.

Go to Part 6 of this series       Go to Part 8 of this series

12 Comments

  1. “They said he was just a troubled man from a troubled background. I told them that Scripture instructs us to discipline and reject a divisive man, so why had they not done so in this case? They answered “well, your church may be able to handle confrontations like that, but our churches are just not strong enough and our people would probably leave if we did it.” ”

    Exactly. And if they all left, and no church was left, what kind of church was it anyway? Sometimes these pastors forget who the church belongs to. It’s Christ’s and His alone and if their organizations gets blown apart and there’s no one left to pay the bills, then they can go preach in the streets and make tents for a living.

  2. Amen to Ida Mae’s comment.
    We should not condone heinous sin or sweep it under the carpet for fear of man. And if people retort “Oh, but we should speak the truth in love; we can’t be so harsh on the guy!” well sorry, but they need to go back and repeat Love101. Jesus showed what love towards religious hypocrites is supposed to look like when he excoriated the Pharisees and declared that they were children of the devil.

    Also, here’s a quote from George Simon Jnr., to counter that myth that the abuser is “just a troubled man from a troubled background.”

    When a cat is stalking a mouse for lunch, it would be ridiculous to assume that it is doing so out of fear for the mouse, is angry with the mouse, has “unresolved anger issues” in general, or is “acting out” past trauma of victimization by a mouse, etc. Yet these are precisely the kinds of assumptions many mental health professionals and lay persons alike make when they march predatory aggressors into anger management classes or fear of intimacy groups. It’s hard for some people to understand the simple underpinnings of predatory aggression… (Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, pp 81-82)

  3. I believe that part of the problem is that the church is all inclusive today. Everyone must get a hug, everyone’s feelings are important. 50 years ago you could have pointed out the sin and it would have been accepted. But 50 years ago men were more involved in the leadership of the church. And men are not so much concerned with hugs and feelings. However, today the men have for a myriad of reasons abdicated their roles forcing the women to fill the leadership. Society also has coined the “tolerant” atmosphere which has contributed to this as well. Anyway, you get my point!

    • Jeff Crippen

      PSRK – I am not positive that I clearly understand your point. Men abdicating their roles, if I get what you mean by this, would probably be more common in liberal churches than conservative ones. However, here is the catch. Abusers are just as prevalent in conservative churches as in others and in many ways they may actually find the conservative churches a “safer” place to put on their facade and then practice their evil behind the scenes. And even if you went back 50 years when, as you suggest, men were more involved in the leadership of churches – if, I say, that really was the case – then I personally would conclude that you would find that abuse was going on back then in churches. What would the rate have been as compared to today? That I do not know. But my point is that merely having men be in leadership in local churches is not going to solve the problem of abuse in the church. I mean, look at the Roman Catholic church where all the priests are men. No, the key is that genuine, godly, re-generate people who are qualifed biblically according to 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 to pastor and shepherd Christ’s people, must be in leadership. And they have to be leaders with godly wisdom so that they can spot evil hiding in their midst, and so that they are people who have a zeal for effecting justice for the weak and oppressed.

      • You make some valid points. Especially about more conservative churches providing a better atmosphere for abuse to thrive.

        My point is that I believe the church has become to inclusive, seeker friendly, and accepting of anyone who walks in the door. The church has become afraid to judge. After all “thou shalt not judge” the mantra of the younger generation. Was abuse happening 50 years ago at the rate it is today? I don’t know either. But they at least pointed sin out back then. Would they have pointed this particular sin out? Probably not. Don’t want to rock the boat. Might be a pastor or deacon that’s the abuser. Or perhaps he is a big tither in the church. I can hear it now. But he’s such a good christian! Barf

        Spotting the evil is a good start and this zeal for effecting justice for the weak and oppressed is talked about without action today. Clouds without water! Few people as you know have enough zeal to really make a change.

        Bless you for being in the fight with us. Cindy and I check your site frequently.

        Doug

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thanks much, Doug. I see your point now. Yes, have you noticed how often pastors, in their preaching, address the entire congregation as Christians? Grace has become cheap. After all, the sinner’s salvation is largely up to the sinner himself. A rather impotent “god” is sad-faced, pitiable, and pleading for sinners to choose him. The old, biblical gospel commands the sinner to repent, effects a work through Christ that infallibly saves Christ’s own sheep, and they hear His voice only because He has given them ears to hear and a heart to come to Him.

        As you say, in most churches today — including the supposedly conservative ones, i.e., the ones who claim to believe the Bible as the inerrant Word of God — people can even live together in an unmarried condition and nothing will be said to them. Children are born out of wedlock and the church acts like it is a normal, healthy event; though that child is going to begin life without two parents and a healthy, loving home to grow up in. In other words, for the most part, the church is just like the world. It is not surprising that the sin of abuse thrives in it. If these sins were biblically confronted in our churches, attendance and finances and reputations would diminish very quickly. I think pastors and leaders and members know this. They have an image to maintain. Like the pagans sacrificing their children to Baal, the church sacrifices victims of abuse of all kinds to contemporary gods.

      • Jeff, yes sadly the repent ye sinners has been thrown to the side. I actually hadn’t thought of that until you just mentioned it. Thats a good point.

        Also He has given them ears to hear and a heart to come to Him. Is perfect. He is the one who calls us. I love that part. He is the initiator and the completer of our salvation. I’m so glad for that.

         the church sacrifices victims of abuse of all kinds to contemporary gods. This is interesting and can lead into a great discussion all it’s own. Pastoral fear of losing finances or being lynched by the frozen chosen leave them powerless.

        On another note: one of my rants is there is less preaching of Jesus and Him crucified, and more life coaching from the pulpit. This has no power. All it does is maybe make people feel good for a few minutes. But there is nothing there. There is power in the name of Jesus, sadly His name is seldom said anymore.

        Again thanks for your part in the fight Jeff and sorry if I didn’t explain myself adequately earlier. Sometimes I get on a rant and forget that people can’t read my mind.

        Soon and very soon were going to see the King!

        Doug Burrell
        The Creators Clay
        http://www.hurtbylove.com

      • Jeff Crippen

        Doug – Ha! Yep, I do the same. No problem. As to the condition of what professes to be the Bible-believing church today, it is anemic and really rather pathetic. And the reason, as you say, is it is man-centered rather than God-centered, which means Christ and the cross are set in the background. After all, the cross is foolishness to the natural man, and the fact is that our pews are filled with natural men and women who think they are saved. As Pastor Larry Dean has written on this blog so often, repentance has been removed from the gospel, so that it is no gospel at all. After all, where there is no sin to be confronted, there is no repentance required. And so into this scene marches domestic and sexual abusers. It is a very warm and cozy environment for them because so many others there are also hiding behind their facades. Including many pastors. Of course we will be charged with being negative and judgmental in saying these things, but that is to be expected. In the current environment of our churches, the world’s “tolerance” doctrines have been embraced so that really, anything goes. Except of course calling sin, sin.

  4. Linda Robbins

    I too know a man like this…. my ex husband; he assaulted me, cursed me, verbally and emotionally beat me down. I reached out for help from the Pastor at the new church that my husband fled to….. This pastor is a sole believer that this evil angry abusive man is a godly man; he actually went to my now ex husband and told him about my plea for help. What do you think that did to the abuse? Indeed made it worse and also empowered my abusive husband to know that he has this pastor manipulated and under his control. I was shunned for dare saying this man who left marks on my body, the man who put me in the emergency room, the man whom i have hours of his trash mouth recorded…
    Could be anything less than the godly reputation he has built for himself!

    • Dear Linda, I am so sorry. Your story is like many, many others. Abusers are super manipulators, but that doesn’t excuse the pastor who believed your ex’s lies. Yes, when the victim seeks help, the abuse usually escalates because abusers hate losing control and they believe they have the right to punish their victims for seeking freedom and release from domestic terrorism. And abuse tends to escalate MORE when the abuser has won powerful allies such as pastors. If only pastors knew this!

      • Barnabasintraining

        And abuse tends to escalate MORE when the abuser has won powerful allies such as pastors. If only pastors knew this!

        This happened at the church my friend attended too. She went to them seeking sanctuary and as soon as one of the leaders found out the situation of separation he took it upon himself to contact the abuser without talking to the victim about such a course first. It went down hill from there and has never recovered and I don’t believe it ever will as they have a theology that allows them to condemn the one who “won’t forgive” as the ultimate problem so no matter what any abuse victim says, if the victim wants to flee and knows her (it will most likely be a her) abuser is not repentant she is now the problem who will be canned from the assembly because she won’t forgive and seek reconciliation, especially if the abuser cries and moans that he wants to save the marriage, because, as we all know, the marriage is what God is most concerned about. And we can prove it too, if we just tweak the Scriptures here, ignore this part there, redefine this part here….

  5. Finding Answers

    Pastor Jeff wrote ……They answered “well, your church may be able to handle confrontations like that, but our churches are just not strong enough and our people would probably leave if we did it.”…….

    Presuming the words “our churches” refer to the people in their church, isn’t it rather condescending of the folks speaking to Pastor Jeff to assume “their churches” are not strong enough to handle confrontations? If those churches were not strong enough to handle confrontations, wouldn’t that be greater reason to turn to Christ?

    If their churches aren’t strong enough to handle the confrontations, maybe these folks need to ask themselves “Why?”

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: