How to Deal Properly With Abusers Posing as Christians
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
Largely, I probably only needed to cite this Scripture in this post and sign off! It says it all.
In the course of giving instruction regarding the care of widows in the church, Paul tells Timothy that primary responsibility for such care falls upon the relatives of the widow. But certainly we see here a fair application to the “widow” abuse victim. We have pointed this out before. Abuse victims are practical widows. They have no husband. What they have is worse than having no husband in fact. And their children are orphans. Widows and orphans, as made plain all through Scripture, have a special place in God’s eye.
Now, Paul says that anyone who does not provide for his relatives, especially for his own family, has done two things: (1) He has denied the gospel. In other words, he is a practical apostate, and (2) He has revealed that he is an unbeliever of the worst kind. Worst, because many people who don’t even claim to be Christians nevertheless care for their own families.
So why is it then that we keep hearing things from churches such as “the abuser must be held accountable and taken under the care and discipline of his church. He must be informed that there are going to be consequences if he continues to abuse.” What?
You will notice in such an approach that the abuser actually is still being considered a Christian, still a member of the church, even though now busted with his guilty hand in the cookie jar (a pretty rare event in itself in most churches) he is going to be forced to put the cookie back and stop raiding it anymore. That is to say, this “Christian” is having external pressures put upon him to force him to live like a Christian! Of course we all know where such an approach is going to end. He isn’t going to change, except perhaps for the worse.
A true Christian is a new creation. He is indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus and taught by that Spirit. He is led by the Spirit and by the Spirit he puts to death the deeds of the flesh. Once a hater of God, he now loves God and loves God’s Law. He does not need to be forced to love others, including his wife and children, and stop abusing them. If these things are not true of a person, then he is not a Christian at all and HERE is the point — the church must not keep treating him as a Christian. He must be declared to be what he is — an apostate and WORSE than an unbeliever. And then of course put out of the church.
Because this single verse says everything. A man who does not provide for members of his own household has denied the faith (no matter how much God-talk he spews) and is the worst kind of unbeliever.
Why in the world churches and pastors and elders and church members persist in treating the abuser as if he were a Christian just boggles my mind. Why will they not, for the glory of God and for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, openly announce the truth of the matter? “This man is no Christian and he is to be put out from among us. Do not even eat with such a one.” Why? Why is that so hard? What is “in it” for a local church keeping such a wicked person in their midst? I can think of a number of answers to that question. None of them are good reasons. Every one of them involves disobeying our Lord.
There is one final observation I would make regarding this Scripture. We all know that all too frequently pressure is put upon abuse victims not to divorce their abuser. That is putting it mildly. They are frequently “forbidden” to divorce their abuser is more accurate. And one of the reasons given for this prohibition is that her husband “is a Christian” and she can only divorce (the claim goes) a spouse who is a non-believer and who doesn’t agree to live together with her (1 Cor 7 normally cited and misused here). But check it out. Paul says that the abuser is WORSE than an unbeliever! He isn’t just an unbeliever who is ignorant of the gospel. Oh no. He is a person who KNOWS about Christ, who has professed Christ, who has “tasted” (Hebrews 6) Christ. And yet, he spits in our Lord’s face and tramples on our Lord’s blood by his wicked treatment of his own household. So of course an abuse victim has the right before God to divorce such a person.