A Cry For Justice

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

Violence of Action: A Proposal for Dealing With Abusers Hiding in Our Churches

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)

This is a difficult verse to understand. I am not sure that I do. At first glance it seems to speak of the enemies of the kingdom of heaven violently opposing Christ’s people. And yet in the context, it seems that Christ is speaking of His people: John the Baptist and the prophets and Elijah. That in some way, Christ is speaking of the zeal and earnestness by which we must press into His kingdom as opposed to being lethargic and careless like the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25). Some of you can probably add some insight and help me out. But here is why this verse came to my mind recently. Christ’s work, Christ’s business, following Christ and taking up our cross in this present life, requires zeal and watchfulness and clear-sightedness. You might call this zeal, violence. Violence of action. I don’t mean that we should pick up guns and do Jihad. No way. But what I mean is that when we are faced with evil, when the enemy is prowling about and infiltrating and deceiving and seeking whom he may devour, it is time for action. For zealous, immediate, definitive, action. That is what I mean by violence of action. I got the term from reading about the military and warfare. More than once the good guys, facing overwhelming odds against them in battle, emerged victorious because they went on the offensive violently. I haven’t seen the recent World War II movie, Fury, But I suspect that there would be quite a few examples in it that illustrate what I am talking about. Violence of action is definitive, offensive, courageous action in the face of evil. A kind of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” initiative in the face of the enemy. I maintain that the Bible record shows us that the Lord whom we serve calls us to this violence of action. A holy, courageous initiative to strike evil when the enemy of Christ’s kingdom comes our way. That initiative may take many forms, like Daniel of old publicly and fearlessly continuing to pray right on as he always had, no matter the threat of the lions’ den. And I would also maintain that this same violence of action is seen in the Lord Jesus on more than one occasion. He goes for it. He drives the wicked out of the temple. He confronts the Pharisees head on. He goes up to Jerusalem no matter what. Now, here is my point. I believe that this is what the Lord is calling us all to do in regard to this business of abuse hiding disguised in our churches. This matter of abusers who sneak in among us and work their way into influential positions and threaten to undo anyone who might oppose or expose them. Here is their victim coming to us and asking for help. What are we to do? Let me recommend to you what violence of action might look like in such a situation:

  • We believe the victim and validate her
  • We provide her with materials and other resources so that she can better understand abuse and get out of that confusing fog abuse casts
  • We offer her protection, housing, finances, assistance in finding an attorney, and so on (working with her closely of course regarding how much she wants her abuser to know about her actions and when he should know)
  • We confront the abuser, especially if he is a member of our church. We suspend him from the church and we let his sin be known to the congregation
  • We stand firmly in the face of any threats the abuser makes against us or his victim

I am not proposing an absolutely fixed set of steps here for every abuse situation. But what I am proposing is that we take definitive, initiating ACTION, so that relief is swift in coming to the victim and consequences to the abuser. Just think about it.  Think of your story. Think of all the scores and scores of stories abuse victims have told us over the years, including how their churches enabled the abuser and increased the victim’s suffering. What is a common denominator. Time. Long, long, drawn out processes and suffering. Often years of couple’s counseling. Years of fruitless waiting for the abuser to “repent.” But what if…just what if…the common practice in the Christian church was radically altered? What if action to help abuse victims and hold abusers accountable suddenly became swift, definitive, and certain? What if, through us as His instruments, Jesus took a whip and drove the evil one out of His church? What would happen? I can tell you:

  • We would bring glory to the name of Christ instead of the dishonor that is so common now
  • We would see victims and their children growing in their love for Christ, for His people, for His church…instead of being alienated from us
  • We would see the power of Christ coming against the wicked
  • We would see justice
  • And I suspect we would see fewer and fewer abusers choosing the church as a favorite place to work their evil in disguise

Evil flees in the face of true righteousness.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Light always wins over darkness.

* * *

For further reading:  Holy Violence, sermon No. 252 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from which comes this quote:

Another reason why every man who would be safe must be in earnest, and be violent, is this, there are so many adversaries to oppose us, that if we are not violent we shall never be able to overcome them. . . . do you still condemn this man, and say that he is an enthusiast and a fanatic? Then God himself comes forth to vindicate his despised servant. Know that this is the sign, the mark of distinction between the true child of God and the bastard-professor. The men who are not God’s children are a careless, stumbling, coldhearted race. But the men that are God’s in sincerity and truth, are burning as well as shining lights. They are as brilliant constellations in the firmament of heaven, burning stars of God. Of all things in the world, God hates most the man that is neither hot nor cold.

Update:  a reader has kindly let us know that the Spurgeon’s sermon is also avaliable on Sermon Audio:
Audio version of Holy Violence sermon by Spurgeon.

11 Comments

  1. Beverley Wilson

    Excellent post. Since ACFJ is screening links I am sending this for consideration. Pastor Jeff referred to Charles Spurgeon’s sermon and the audio is available: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=65019292

  2. Rebecca

    Our God is full of emotion, and He expects us to be too–the heavenly passion that will violently take hold of the Kingdom, like Jacob seizing that angel and saying “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” So much Christian counseling essentially says to invalidate your feelings–“Your feelings are the shallowest part of you”–so that you can exalt facts. But the Bible is full of God’s righteous passions, “feelings,” and what a beautiful example our Lord Jesus Christ sets for us in this. We’re taking hold of the Kingdom of heaven, and we’re not letting go, come hell or high water. It’s a glorious battle.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Excellent Rebecca. Isn’t it ironic that so much of what we have been told is “Christian” charater is in fact the lukewarm, inactive, passiveness that Christ would spew out of His mouth. Hot or cold. One or the other. We must choose “hot”!

    • Preach it, Rebecca! Very good stuff!

  3. Still Reforming

    I fear I have no deep thoughts on the verse provided, but unless “suffers violence” is a kind of cultural idiom perhaps it means what we know the words to say: that the prophets were always killed before Jesus (Luke 13:34), church history is replete with same, and our day won’t see change in that regard. Perhaps the violent (sons of Satan) are trying to take it by force, as they have from time immemorial.

    When I used to share incidents or words from my abusive home with my (former) pastor, he said more than once to me: “Well, I don’t know because I wasn’t there.” Ouch. He may as well have said, “I can’t determine if you or your husband is lying, so I will throw my hands in the air and be done with you … but…. if he chooses to stay and you’re uncomfortable around him, please watch the door so it doesn’t hit you on the way out.”

    It occurred to me this morning while pondering these things that surely others in our congregation or the deacons have told our pastor things that he didn’t witness himself, yet he believed them. Or did he choose to throw his hands in the air with everyone unless he was an eye-witness?

    Whatever happened to Godly discernment? And is this how he would treat members of his blood family? His own daughters if they were so abused? Aren’t we to expect better from the family that the Lord has given us? Am I not family to him?

    Why is the church at large so silent on this matter? Is that Christ’s church? And every single (but one young woman in her 20s) congregant let me go as well, many saying, “I don’t know what you’re going through – and I don’t need to know – but we’re praying for you.” (pat pat pat on back)

    Is this the lamp stand unto the nations? Is this light shining into the darkness – or is it light under a bushel, allowing the darkness to invade and a fog to take over?

    I keep thinking how it’s an unpopular view I hold now that I’m sharing mostly abuse issues on social media and how few “likes” I get or how few people really check in with me anymore. But then I think of church history and reflect on how many prophets and Reformers weren’t “popular.” So maybe being on the fringe isn’t such a bad place. And having few “friends” isn’t so bad. If God is for us, who can be against? Better to be on the narrow path than the wide road.

    After all, Jesus said if we’re lukewarm, He’ll spit us out of His mouth. (Rev. 3:16)

  4. Still Reforming

    Something else that just occurred to me is that the state of the church today (at least in America) in my experience is that pastors seem to want to convert their congregation. I have heard more “altar calls” and “gospel proclamations” to people who (presumably) are already Christians sitting in the pews. And if they’re not, well, it’s not the job of the preacher to convert them, but to “feed the sheep.” God will do the converting.

    So the pastors preach to the lost instead of feeding the flock. Which means these pastors accept the lost and unrepentant in the fold willingly, instead of protecting the sheep. And yet, how many of the books of the Bible were written to those who weren’t and aren’t God’s children? The prophets didn’t write to those who weren’t Israel. The oracles were for God’s people. Likewise the epistles to the Christian church – the followers of Christ, be they Jew or Gentile. They weren’t written to non-believers, but the church seems to be very accepting of the lost in their pews, at the expense of the true church.

    • You raise good concerns about the sinful acceptance of evil people. However, the Old Testament prophets often addressed the nations that were not Israel as well as addressing Israel. Jonah was sent to Nineveh but resisted that call and resented God’s insistence that he complete the mission. Jesus often spoke to those who were not his disciples and followers. Matthew 23:13-36 is one example of this; he had many interactons with non-believing Jews.

  5. Still Reforming

    raswhiting,

    Thank you for pointing that out. I guess I’m just bothered by the easy acceptance of abusers among the flock. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the unsaved shouldn’t be welcome in church.

    What I meant was that I don’t hear or see so much of the flock being fed and grown as much as I hear “the gospel call” over and over and over again.

    As I see it, the OT prophets may have addressed nations outside of Israel, but the oracles were not written to or for them (at least not before Jesus’ day). Paul says as much in Romans 3:1-2 (and to some extent in Romans 11:23-24). Jesus said He came solely for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24). Of course, post-resurrection He told the disciples to carry His message to the ends of the earth. I think the NT was penned to the redeemed in Christ, although it’s certainly available to all – saved or not.

    The example you cited of Matthew 23:13-36 is a good one. I would like to hear similar language today in the church, calling out those who pretend to be believers and are not. In fact, I think that example speaks as much to my point as your own. Jesus was speaking to those who were among Israel but were not believers, yet Jesus’ words there would be seen as too harsh by many a pastor today I think – because they seem more interested in attracting non-believers and conversions.

    When I read that Jesus thrice said to Peter “feed my sheep,” I tend to think that there is where the heart of the pastorate should be. It is my opinion that we’d have a better-versed church overall if that were more the case.

    • I agree that pastors need to be feeding the sheep.
      — AND discerning the false believers and admonishing and warning them in the tones with which Jesus admonished and warned the scribes and Pharisees.

      Re the OT prophets addressing nations outside Israel, I recall Amos prophesying against all the nations around Israel . . . and then homing in to denouncing Israel for its sins.

      • Still Reforming

        Barbara,

        I don’t disagree that God addressed nations outside Israel. My thoughts were merely that those nations may or may not have even seen those declarations since it was uniquely to Israel that God gave His Word as instruction, Law, and admonition. Scripture doesn’t tell us how or when other nations may have heard the Word, but they certainly weren’t responsible for guarding or carrying forth Its treasure. That was why I cited Romans 3, since Paul said that the Jew has advantage in having been privileged to carry forth the oracles of God and in Romans 11 that s/he can more easily be grafted back into the olive tree than the wild branch.

        I also agree that the whole counsel of God needs to be given to those sitting in the pews, be they Christian or not. Getting back to the post topic, maybe it’s precisely because the whole counsel of God isn’t being preached that abusers are allowed to *easily* and *comfortably* sit there week after week.

      • maybe it’s precisely because the whole counsel of God isn’t being preached that abusers are allowed to *easily* and *comfortably* sit there week after week.

        YES. Exactly so.

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