A Cry For Justice

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

Love covers a multitude of sins, but not all.

Update: Jeff Crippen’s sermon The Badge of a Christian explains what “love covers a multitude of sins” really means and how we can apply it in our lives and our churches.

***

Love covers a multitude of sins is one of the texts that stymies victims of abuse. It is delivered with a wagging finger by other Christians, and it recycles like a mantra in the victim’s own mind. We can’t ignore this scripture, but we have to be careful when applying it to the situation of abuse.

1 Pet. 4:8  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

James 5:19-20  My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Prov. 17:9  Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Prov. 19:8  Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

These texts talk about love covering sins.  But look at this text:

Luke 12:1-3  “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

Hypocritical sins which are covered shall be exposed: that is God’s will. And it’s not simply that God shall expose them on the last day. God commands us to expose such sins.

Ephesians 5:11-14  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, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Prov. 17:15  He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

When we are helping cover up someone’s sinful pattern of hypocrisy – the ‘behind closed doors’ sin of domestic abuse is a perfect example – we are implicitly justifying the wicked by keeping his sin secret. In her book “Why is he so mean to me?” Cindy Burrell encourages women: “Tell your secrets. Tell someone how your husband mistreats you.

As victims we feel ashamed to even speak of the things our abusers do in secret, but we are commanded to do so. This doesn’t necessarily mean going on the internet and telling the whole world. But it does mean telling those who need to know because they have a duty of care towards us and/or towards our abusers.

UPDATE — the next paragraph was inserted June 1st 2015 by Barbara Roberts, after The Village Church’s reponse to Karen Hinkley and her erstwhile pseudo-husband Jordan Root (confessed viewer of child porn) was brought to light at Watchkeep’s post She Speaks.

If telling church leaders and those who have a duty of care to us and/or towards our abusers and their other victims has NOT been effective in protecting victims and promoting justice, then telling the world via internet — along with full documentation — is quite legitimate. The only caveat I would add here is that, under normal circumstances, it is unwise to publish the material if publishing would be a breach of a secular court order.

A duty of care includes the duty to restrain the abuser and deliver appropriate punishment for his wrongdoing (see Romans 13:1-7).

So when should we cover a sin, and when should we expose it?

I guess this will be a matter of discretion, but certainly we may consider some guidelines. If the person has confessed and truly repented of their sin, covering the sin is usually a good idea. They don’t need it brought up in their face all the time. However, it would depend on the seriousness of the sin. For example, a confessed or convicted pedophile should never be allowed to work in a situation where they have access to children. That’s wisdom and common sense, knowing what we know about how difficult it is to cure pedophilia.  So ‘covering’ that person’s sin might not mean we proclaim his former sins to everyone who knows him, but it does means telling those who ought to know, such as the leaders in the church he has started to attend, so they can exercise a duty of care to the children in that church.

UPDATE — the next five paragraphs were inserted June 1st 2015 by Barbara Roberts, after The Village Church’s reponse to Karen Hinkley and her erstwhile pseudo-husband Jordan Root was brought to light at Watchkeep’s post She Speaks.

The manner in which the abuser’s confession came about must also be considered. Most abusers hide their evildoing from everyone except their victims. The vast majority of abusers do not confess what they have been doing so long as they are getting away with it and so long as they are receiving few negative consequences for their wicked behaviour. The vast majority, I would venture to say ALL domestic abusers do not admit to or confess their evildoing unless they get exposed by their victims and/or get caught by law enforcement.  And from what I have read in forensic psychology and criminology, that is also the case with perverts, pedophiles, and other heinous sinners.

And the vast majority of such heinous sinners, when caught, when exposed, confess to PARTS of what they have done. The abuser does this partial (pseudo) confession to get people off his back. The do-gooders of this world, and Christians are often in that category, are delighted to hear a ‘confession’ from an abuser, and they are often so naive that they think the confession is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Abusers know how naive most people are in accepting pseudo- and partial-confessions, and they play us for all they can.  

So, if an abuser’s confession and supposed ‘repentance’ has only come about when prised out of him — when he realises that the s#*# has hit the fan and he’d better start confessing some things, so he can keep the rest of his crimes out of the spotlight  — if the confession and ‘repentance’ has come about like that, the wise person will NOT credit it. The wise person will put on his or her shrewd-as-serpents hat (Matthew 10:16) and suspect that the abuser has not told the full truth and nothing but the truth. And the wise person will proceed accordingly.

When the wise person takes this stance, he or she  is not  being ‘unforgiving’ or ‘unChristian’ but is obeying the precepts of Christ.

When should a victim of abuse cover her abuser’s sins and when should she expose them? What we know about domestic abuse is that it takes often years for the victim to realize she (or he) is being abused. So there has already been a long period of her ‘covering’ her abuser’s sin by default because all that time she was in the fog, she didn’t realize the seriousness of what he was doing.

When she starts to wake up and disclose the abuse to others, it is quite inappropriate to tell her “love covers a multitude of sins” to persuade her to give the abuser a long string of further chances. He’s already had way too many chances from her already as she covered his sins,  overlooked them, blamed herself when he was to blame, made allowances and excuses for him, been compassionate and long-suffering, etc., etc.

Therefore, if you tell a victim that the best way of loving her abusive husband is to cover his sins, that is fruitless, wrong and harmful. It tells her she hasn’t been covering his sins already! – which is quite false. It pushes her back into the lion’s den. It tells her that you think she hasn’t tried hard enough yet. It impugns her good name, her character, and her virtue. And it wrongfully binds her with guilt for having obeyed God by taking no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead exposing them (Ephesians 5:11).

17 Comments

  1. no name please

    Amen! Amen! I could not answer people when they would quote that verse to me. I knew it FELT wrong, but couldn’t define why. Now I can.

    • Wow thanks NNP, that has to be the quickest comment I’ve ever received. I only published the post a few minutes ago. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. no name please

    other side of the world from you, am up eating my breakfast then need to hit the ground running for a busy day. It just resonated so much, I had to say something. Be blessed!

  3. Anonymous wife

    Amen !! You have no idea how timely this is for me. I will be taking a copy of it with me when I meet with my pastors this week. Thank you so much 🙂

  4. Diane

    “Ephesians 5:11-14 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, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
    “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.””

    I loved this article! Thanks. Sorry for this long comment but it brought out some rambling thoughts of mine.

    Totally unrelated to the post, but I take such comfort when I read those verses. I have heard many pastors preach from Ephesians starting with verse 22 and have yet to hear a sermon on verses 1-21. It is hard for me, at times, to read verses 22 on down with all the obey, submit and headship distorted teachings I have heard claimed as biblical and necessary for my salvation. So many pastors have just wrecked that portion of scripture for me.

    “However, it would depend on the seriousness of the sin. For example, a confessed or convicted pedophile should never be allowed to work in a situation where they have access to children. That’s wisdom and common sense, knowing what we know about how difficult it is to cure pedophilia. So ‘covering’ that person’s sin might not mean we proclaim his former sins to everyone who knows him, but it does means telling those who ought to know, such as the leaders in the church he has started to attend, so they can exercise a duty of care to the children in that church.”

    I would not trust the duty of care of leaders– especially if your leader is the very popular leader of a certain FV church in the NW who at one time claimed he “covered sins for a livng” and proceeded to officiate at the marriage of a convicted pedophile last year (who was sentenced to life in prison for multiple counts reduced to 2 years and lifetime probation – never allowed to be alone with children-his own included) via a courtship arranged (for which he and an elder bore responsibility) marriage to a young woman in his church. Leaders fail and do not exhibit a duty of care. This particular one did not even tell his own congregation that this pedophile had been in their midst living among them for 18 months (in their homes as well) until 8 months after his arrest. I do not think you can depend on the leaders. I don’t know what the answer is except for us all to tell every parent there is a pedophile in their midst, if that is the case. That’s what my husband and I do. (I am willing to be corrected on this.)

    “When she starts to wake up and disclose the abuse to others, it is quite inappropriate to tell her “love covers a multitude of sins” to persuade her to give the abuser a long string of further chances.”

    Couple that advice with a church membership covenant that may have some vague forgiveness language such as-we covenant before each other and God to forgive quickly as Christ forgave us- and that is a terrible mix. I read one the other day and the exact wording was, “…to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.” Even reconcilliation is to be without delay? How dangerous. Sure hope pastors are doing better than telling someone that during abuse counseling.

    • Jeff Crippen

      As a result of our study of abuse our elders changed that quick reconciliation business in our church covenant.

      I agree with you. No one should be very trusting of church leaders to protect the flock. Many wouldn’t admit a wolf is a wolf even if it had no sheep disguise on.

    • Hi Diane, thanks for all you said. I agree wholeheartedly about the dismal failure of many church leaders to exercise duty of care to their congregations. I was making the point that Scripture gives us these principles and they are GOOD principles. I wasn’t saying church leaders are following them. Far from it: they are often obstinately and deliberately violating them. It is high-handed sin on their part. That FV church you talk about sound diabolical!

      • Diane

        Thanks Barbara…I understand what you mean now.

    • Anonymous

      I know which so called “church” you are referencing here, and no one should call themselves a shepherd of God’s sheep, who would endanger the entire flock, because he has a twisted view on “covering sins”. You are also right, when you say they are deep into FV, a heresy being spread around numerous churches.

  5. Ella Walker

    I too, was confused for a long time about “love covering a multitude of sins.” I was shamed and blamed for speaking about my former husband and marriage inappropriately, even though I was very discreet and careful with what I told and never shared the worst of what he did to anyone but counselors. One counselor advised me to find someone I trusted, to share with very closely about what I was going through. It was wise counsel but I chose the person to share with, unwisely. I thought I could trust this person but she downplayed much of what I told her and laughed at some of the painful things I shared. Before long a family member told me that I had no business talking to others about my marriage, that they heard how inappropriate and disloyal I was.
    But I don’t believe it is true love to cover and hide abuse or behavior that harms me or my children or anyone else. Isn’t it more loving to stop people from being harmed and even to open the possibility for the abusers themselves to get help? None of which can happen if it is not exposed. The criteria to determine whether to expose an issue or not is whether someone is being harmed by it and whether the person who is perpetrating that harm is lying and trying to deceive others and living in hypocrisy.
    I believe “Love covers a multitude of sins,” is talking about protection. It has taken on new meaning for me in the recent past, especially since I remarried. Example: my husband is not a perfect man. He has faults and flaws and sins like anyone else. But since we have a relationship of mutual love, honesty, humility and openness with each other, those things are covered over by love. I do not need to talk about those things to others. I protect him rather than exposing him.I think the same principle applies in any relationship, whether it is friends or family or church family relationships. It is not true or healthy protection to hide behaviors that harm others.It is certainly not protecting those who may be harmed by it and it is not helpful to the person who is harming others.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Way to nail it Ella!

  6. cindy burrell

    Perhaps it might be better said that MUTUAL love covers a multitude of sins. Too often in abusive relationships, the victim is weighed down by the notion that he or she has a responsibility to love without reservation in spite of the treatment or response of the person we are attempting to love. One person striving to love while the object of our love is consistently cruel is not genuine relationship at all. We are wise to forgive, but we may be fools to forget.

    In one telling discussion with my counselor years ago, I was sharing my grief about the loss of my marriage, crying, and I told her, “I gave him everything.” She quietly responded, “Why?” I said, “Isn’t that what love does?” And she said, “No. We love out of who we are and give out of what we have while remaining whole. You should never give yourself away.” Come to think of it, I think our Lord loves perfectly, yet He is never less.

    Further, telling our secrets with the intent of seeking counsel, support and direction is crucial. It is only gossip if the intent is simply to put our spouse down and try to build ourselves up without any desire to pursue help or change. Most victims have been so beaten down that they question whether they can trust their own understanding or instincts – they need a listening ear and some healthy feedback! I don’t know anyone who has succeeded in addressing abuse or getting out without some measure of emotional support. Sadly, some from whom we seek support may not “get it.” Thankfully, there are many others – like those here – who do get it!

    • Thanks Cindy. I love that phrase “We are wise to forgive, but we may be fools to forget.”
      And what you said about mutual love is spot on. 🙂

  7. Anonymous

    A pedophile who is truly repentant, won’t have to have someone “cover” their sin for them. They will openly and honestly acknowledge that they brought immense harm to children, but have repented. They will openly and honestly acknowledge that they should not be allowed to be in contact with children alone at anytime and that they are humbling asking for accountability and someone to help watch over them, lest they harm anyone ever again. That would be what true repentance looks like. The pastor who covered for the pedophile, was not really exercising an act that demonstrated what true repentance would look like. Someone who was really repentant for that kind of sin, would want others to know that he was previously capable of that type of sin, so that they could help him not harm again. That pastor, just gave him a license to hide and sneak and carry on his sinful patterns. It was selfish and prideful for the pastor to behave that way. I wonder what is wrong with his congregation, that he is still the pastor there. Sounds like a pretty deceived bunch of people to me.

  8. Verla

    1 Pet. 4:8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

    Could we also interpret this scripture in another light? Notice it says “keep loving one another earnestly”. The “love covers” spoken of in this verse is attributed to BOTH people in the relationship.

    If the sinning person truly loves the other person, he will genuinely repent and his love for Christ will compel him to “cover” that sin. He will be truly sorry for what he has done and will turn from it and make it right. If he is truly repentant, the party that was sinned against will also love and forgive, thus covering the sin.

    I think it is also speaking of the model Christian relationship. Someone who is full of sin and sins repeatedly (such as an abuser) is not a Christian at all if he makes it his habit to behave in such a way. Christ makes us new creatures when He saves us. A true Christian would not do the things an abuser does. How could love “cover” his sin?

  9. Jeff Crippen’s recent sermon The Badge of a Christian explains what “love covers a multitude of sins” really means and how we can apply it in our lives and our churches. I highly recommend it.

Leave a Reply

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: