Widows, Orphans, and the Oppressed: The Lord’s Priority. So step up to the plate, leaders!
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
One of the things we do regularly at ACFJ is to call upon pastors, elders, denominations, church members, para-church ministries, seminaries and faculty, counselors and others to roll up their sleeves and join hands with us in this battle against evil in the church. Namely, the evil of abuse. The evil of abusers and the evil of the church rendering injustice to abuse victims. You can call these victims widows and orphans, because that really is what they are. We are zealous in this work. We are outraged about this evil, especially as it is hiding in Christ’s churches. We try to be the voice of the oppressed, speaking for them and validating them.
As we do this with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, we have (more than once) been accused of being too….too what? Negative. Pessimistic. Accusatory. Judgmental. We have been told that we unnecessarily alienate people who we should be working on gaining as our allies. “We understand your point, but we don’t agree with your methods” is the line that comes our way. “You name names. You ‘attack’ godly men and women. You see abuse behind every tree. You need to chill.” That’s the thing we hear.
We reject these responses, and we believe the Lord rejects them as well. First of all, as seen in the verses cited above (and of course there are many, many others in Scripture), the Lord makes it quite plain that widows and orphans are one of His top priorities. So much so that James says that the so-called ‘Christian faith’ of a person who neglects these afflicted ones is said to be a false, worthless, dead faith that cannot save. And we can infer from James that any ‘ministry’ that neglects the oppression and affliction of widows and orphans is IM-pure and DE-filed. Polluted. Stinky. A ‘sacrifice’ that is unholy and rejected by the Lord. Have I overstated the case? No. This is precisely what God’s Word says. It’s the same thing back over in 1 Corinthians:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Nothing. Hear that? Nothing.
So let me say something here, and I am going to say it very, very plainly. Some of you aren’t going to like what I say. But many of you will be shouting ‘AMEN!’ –
This ministry to the widows and orphans of our day, to the victims of the great and pervasive evil called abuse that has polluted most every local church like leaven, this ministry of ACFJ is MORE important than what so many pastors, churches, seminaries, denominations, theologians and church members are doing in the name of Christ.
That’s right. It is MORE important. The Lord says so.
If your religion that you claim is Christianity does not ‘visit’ widows and orphans, the weak and the oppressed, in their need and minister to them, if that priority is not your priority, then, well let’s just put it out there — your religion is not of Christ. Just think of Jesus. Look at Jesus! Read the Gospels. What kinds of people did Jesus make a priority? Who did He say would be great in His kingdom? What do we see all through the Old Testament as well—
When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved, because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. (Job 29:11-13)
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. (Psalms 68:5)
When I was a police officer
Years ago when I was a deputy sheriff, myself and another deputy were called to a disturbance of some kind in a little, remote town way off in the boonies. It was, of course, a bar fight and as usual the combatants were big and strong. Why do they always have to be big?? Anyway, we separated them and one was particularly belligerent. I told him to leave and cool down or he would be arrested. He and his buddies just stood there. And I had an uneasy sense that, well, that I was alone. The other deputy remained several feet behind me and said nothing.
The irony was that later in the day, as drunks will do, the biggest and orneriest guy was stupid enough to drive to the jail to complain! Ha! I arrested him for drunk driving and he wanted to fight. I was young and much stronger then and had been practicing some pretty good combat moves and I threw a hold on him and he started yelling I was going to break his arm. Off to jail he went.
But all that aside, I told the sergeant later that I wasn’t real happy with the other deputy. Oh, he was there, he had the same uniform on as me, but he just stood back and said nothing. He didn’t stand beside me. And the bad guys knew it. They knew it. I knew I couldn’t count on him and they aimed all their vile words and anger at me. And guess what the sergeant’s response was? “Crippen, don’t talk like that about other officers!” I was the one who got in trouble.
Nothing has changed. I am still hearing the same responses from many fellow pastors and church leaders: “Crippen, don’t talk like that about fellow pastors. Don’t talk like that about these people; they are Christians and Christians shouldn’t bite and devour each other!” Well, I guess I haven’t learned because I am going to keep right on saying what I am saying.
So here’s the deal —
All you pastors and churches and theologians and authors and professing Christians out there — most of you are just standing back behind those of us who are waging this battle. Not all of you. We have had some pastors and others step up. But not many. And believe me, the bad guys know it. The abusers hiding in your churches, they know it. And the victims of the bad guys know it — oh boy, do they know it! They weep to the point of exhaustion because the church is failing to protect them from their abusers.
Other than those people who are dead set against divorce for abuse, those who claim we are making too big a deal out of this business… other than those types who obviously are against us, there are those of you who say you agree. You say abuse is wrong. You say it is a problem. But you stand back behind. You don’t step up to the battle line. And then you go back to doing the stuff that you do.
I’ve lost count of the number of Christian conferences against homosexuality where Christians bang the drum for ‘upholding the biblical concept of family’. But most Christian leaders are hiding their faces from the afflicted Christian victims of domestic abuse! It’s time to take your agenda not from your peers but from the Lord. Psalm 22:24 with emphasis added by Barb Roberts, to drive the point home:
The Lord has not despised or been disgusted
with the plight of the oppressed one.
He has not hidden his face from that person.
The Lord heard when that oppressed person
cried out to him for help. (GW)
He’s not put off
by the suffering of the suffering one;
He doesn’t pretend He hasn’t seen him;
when he pleaded for help, He listened. (VOICE)
For He has not despised or detested
the torment of the afflicted. (HCSB)
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one (2011 NIV)
For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted (earlier NIV)
For he has not ignored or belittled
the suffering of the needy. (NLT)
Very, very few pastors comment on our blog. We expose this evil hiding in their churches, yet church leaders and theologians for the most part are like that deputy I could never count on. You guys, so many of you don’t preach about this evil in your churches. When you plan annual denominational assemblies, you never include this issue of widows and orphans being wickedly abused in our churches as the subject of those meetings. When the subject of abuse in the church is brought up, a great silence prevails. I know. I have heard that silence. And then back you go to your comfort zones where your world will not be rocked, even though the world of the abuse victims in your churches are savagely rocked everyday. Even though many churches have abusers in key positions, faking it.
Myself and the elders and members of our own church are dismayed and disgusted at all this. And so is the team here at ACFJ. We see for example, reformed churches (and others also) hammering it out with each other over secondary doctrinal issues, debating, writing, accusing, dividing. So I want to tell you what the Lord thinks of this. I say it by authority of His Word. What you are doing isn’t as important as what we are doing. In fact, because of your neglect of the oppressed whom Christ loves, what you are doing isn’t important at all in His sight. The wicked still hide among you. Some stand in pulpits, others lead your worship, serve on your boards, greet people at the church door. It is a reproach to our Lord. And yet you would rather engage in debates as abstruse as whether 1/64th of an inch equals 0.4 mm or 0.3969mm.
Are you outraged about the evils we write about here at ACFJ? Are you incensed against the wicked abusers hiding in our churches? Are you enraged even that abuse victims are being sorely treated at the hands of people who claim to be Christ’s undershepherds? Then DO something about it. Confront it in your church. Educate yourselves by reading our books. Actively engage yourselves here in the discussions on this blog. Confess your sin of neglecting the weak. Root out the “church pillars” and “eminent saints” hiding in your pews who are really abusers. Judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Be willing to pay the price for fighting these battles, even if the cost is that you get booted out of your pulpit. Invite us to come and speak and instruct on this subject. Make abuse the focus of your annual convention, which is to say, make rendering justice for afflicted widows and orphans the focus. Then go DO something about it.
Because, brethren, if you don’t, that Day is going to see a whole bunch of wood, hay, and straw going up in smoke. Our “big things” will turn out to be “no-things” in the sight of Jesus Christ our Lord.
It IS a plague
One final point. I know that some who read these words are going to be thinking — “Man, those people at ACFJ have gone over the edge. That’s all they talk about. Abuse, abuse, abuse. Why, you would think that the thing is a virtual plague in our churches.” You got it! It is indeed a plague. A plague of evil. What do you suppose the word on the street and topic of conversation was back in Europe during the black plague? Do you imagine anyone in their right mind would be saying to people, “enough of this plague talk! We are tired of hearing about it!” They couldn’t because the bodies were strewn in the streets and the cries of “bring out your dead” were non-stop.
We here at ACFJ are testifying to you right now, publicly, that we hear from myriads of Christians, mostly women, who are abuse victims — sorely oppressed. And the majority of them are oppressed by a wicked man who puts on airs as an “eminent saint” in the church. Far too many are actually pastors or missionaries or elders or seminary professors. We have the testimonies. If that weren’t bad enough, in the vast majority of these cases we hear about how pastors and elders and churches added to the abuse, enabling the abuser and casting out the victim. You all would hear these things too if you started standing against this evil so that the victims around you will see that you can be trusted to believe and validate them and bear their burden. Step up pastors. Step up elders. Step up brothers and sisters, and practice what God calls, true religion.
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Here are some related ACFJ posts which call for men to stand up and speak out about abuse:
Non-Abusive Men: Speak Up and Stand Up (by Barbara Roberts)