The Poison of Serpents is Under The Lips of the Abuser
Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. (Romans 3:13)
Abusers, naricissists, sociopaths — whichever term you choose, have something in common. Poison comes from their mouth. Poison is in their words, in their glances, in their mannerisms and expressions. Proverbs nails it:
A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord (Proverbs 6:12-14)
Motivated by their wicked lust to be first, to have power and control and the worship of others, abusers are adept in their medium of choice. In both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication they sink their fangs into their targets and inject their poison. Proverbs says this poison sows discord. It alienates people from one another, poisoning them against the person the abuser is trying to tear down. It only takes a glance, an eyebrow raised at just the right time and the poison is delivered. The fangs are hidden “under the lips” says the Apostle Paul. Just like deadly serpent fangs that are retractable.
So effective is this evil poison that there doesn’t seem to be a reliable anti-venom to neutralize it. Once poisoned, people generally become loyal allies of the abuser, at least for a long, long time. You can recognize the people in your life who have been bitten. They begin to stand off from you. They accuse you. They no longer believe you. All of you who have been targets of an abuser know exactly what I am speaking of.
As I have mentioned before, my experience with these poisonous serpents has been in the local church. Hidden in the disguise of an eminent saint or pillar of the church, they really are like a well camouflaged snake in the grass. The Apostle Paul battled them constantly in the churches he planted. They worked their evil and spread their poison in order to undermine Paul’s ministry and the gospel he delivered, all to exalt themselves in the eyes of the people. Here is an example:
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ–I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!– I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. (2 Corinthians 10:1-2)
Read through 2 Corinthians (and most other books of the Bible) and you will find the Apostles and Prophets and Christ warning the flock about the leaven (poison) of these evil workers of iniquity. In the verses just above, you see from Paul’s words that these false brothers at Corinth were accusing Paul of being two-faced, a fraud, and no apostle at all. Poison. Venom. Sowing of discord.
In our church over the years we have ministered to many people. And we have seen many people come and go. Some simply did not want to face up to the sin in their lives. But many others, as we have come to realize after the fog lifted that the wicked cast . . . many others kept distant from us and departed because they had been poisoned. In hidden places where no one could see, modern day Diotrephes (see 3 John) spread their poison. Then, when relationships broke down . . . you all can guess what happened. Diotrephes laid the blame on me or our elders — but particularly on me.
That is my experience of the poison of serpents. Most of you have probably experienced it in the setting of an abusive marriage. Some of you may have been targeted by a serpent who was the pastor. But the dynamic is very much the same. Spread the poison. Alienate people and deceive them into being allies of the wicked. Paul wasn’t exaggerating, was he? The poison of asps really is under the lips of the abuser.
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Coda by Barb
I knew a man in Australia who was a snake catcher. Actually, he worked with all sorts of native wildlife, but one thing he was good at was catching snakes. He had often been called out by home-owners in the country whose house had been entered by a snake — an unwelcome visitor. He would catch the snake and take it out into the bush and release it safely. He would never kill it if he could avoid doing so. He cared for native wildlife. And some native wildlife is endangered in Australia, even some kinds of snakes.
This man I knew — someone told me that he had been bitten so many times in the course of his work that if he was bitten again he could very quickly die. I guess he carried an Epipen with him all the time. He could die swiftly from one more bite because his reaction to venom had been so heightened from so many bites, that his body had developed an ultraquick and extreme reaction if he got bitten again. This reminds me of the PTSD that some victims develop after the trauma of repeated and chronic psychological and spiritual abuse.
Coda Coda by Jeff:)
Excellent illustration, Barbara. And this shows us all the more clearly why our Lord doesn’t want a serpent in the garden. That is to say, we are to strive to keep our churches “serpent free” so that people can heal – particularly those who have been bitten by abusers.