A Cry For Justice

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

How We Respond to the Oppressed Demonstrates if We are a Sheep or a Goat

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46)

The teacher in our main Sunday School class last week pointed out this Scripture to us and made direct application to the common rank injustice given to abuse victims by their churches. I mean, the Scripture virtually applies itself, right? Think about it. How many of those adjectives fit the Christian who is being terrorized by an abuser:

  • Hungry
  • Thirsty
  • Stranger (isolated by her abuser)
  • Naked (another sign of economic oppression)
  • Sick (most victims suffer from poor health)
  • In prison (abuse is a prison, and the legal abuse so often effected by the abuser through the courts is a kind of prison)

Who is it that Jesus has a beef with? “Christians” who blew off such a person’s needs. Notice carefully (read the entire passage to see this more clearly) that Jesus is saying that the acid test that discerns a sheep from a goat is how a person treats one of Christ’s true people when they are in need or distress. This passage is not about the typical social ministries churches so often carry out and even boast of (prison ministries, feeding the poor, etc). No. Jesus is speaking of true Christians who are oppressed for being Christians and how a person who claims to be a Christian responds to them.

As we concluded in last week’s class at our church, this Scripture would indicate that there are lots and lots and lots of pastors and church leaders and church members who CLAIM to be followers of Jesus Christ but who, indeed, are not. How do we know? Because the typical response of churches to abuse victims is… well, you all know the answer, don’t you?

And therefore, there are many people today who claim the name of Jesus Christ for themselves who ought to be doing some serious soul-searching about the reality of their professed salvation. After all, they are flunking the very test our Lord has set out here.  Pretty sobering, huh?

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19 Comments

  1. healinginhim

    These are words of that all need to cling to. Only those with a sincere and contrite heart towards God will acknowledge this truth.
    Thank you for posting this.

  2. MarkQ

    I’ve been convicted of this in my own life. I don’t have people asking for help, but I haven’t exactly gone looking either.

    I was thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan, and it hit me that it wasn’t primarily a commentary on the church leaders. It was a commentary against all of us. We are happy to volunteer in a soup kitchen or throw something extra in the offering plate for someone in need, but when we are in a situation where we are going to personally sacrifice our time and energy without receiving some great honor or benefit, I think more often than not we pass by on the other side.

    And, again in good Evangelical fashion, instead of helping “messy” people, we decide that God really wants us to heap on his judgment against those messy people, because God can only work in someone’s heart who has reached the bottom. So, if they’re not at the bottom yet, we’re doing God a favor by shaming them and telling them God is trying to teach them a lesson.

  3. Free

    Thank you. Yes. I see countless of goats and only 2 sheep outside of the many sheep here. The goats either pretend to care briefly and never follow thru or they attack you and ignore you immediately. Either way it’s an attack. Either way it’s evil. NOTHING is hidden from The fierce Lord Jesus who is coming back for justice.

  4. Irene

    The typical response of the church is to stay in the marriage and try harder to be more submissive and pray. Right?

  5. MaxGrace

    This is so powerful. I wonder why I’d been so blind for so long. Things are coming together in the Word of God for me, through your blog and sermons, and my own bible reading and study. It’s like this glorious truth has come shining through a dark cloud. God is good and His mercy endures forever. Its been there all the time, and somehow hidden within traditions of men. . It’s such a wake up call to the Church. Traditions of men put men bring bondage, and legalism. I Thank God for your call to this ministry.

  6. nt12many

    I have a new friend who has a very large family and just turned her husband into the police after discovering he was molesting the children. Her pastor has never visited…the youth pastor has come over once BUT the Mormons have come 13 times in the past 7 weeks with bunkbeds, food and all sorts of practical help. She is upfront and says she will not become a Mormon but why refuse help? She’s desperate!

    • Free

      Yes unbelievers in my area care more now than the stupid fake church I was in. The help I got from the fake church was condemnation, gossip, and destroying my name.

      13 times. Seriously. They don’t even known the real Jesus yet they know how to take care of a neighbor in need.

    • For Too Long

      Nt12many, this is a grievously sad situation, made even worse by the “church.” I think of the children and what they must think about Christians; in their darkest hour, they’ve been abandoned. I pray that they don’t stumble in their faith because of this, as one of my children has after I was excommunicated from our church.

  7. braveandstandingstrong

    Thank you for this post. I have one friend who has stood by me from the large evangelical church I left almost a year ago. I mentioned to her the synopsis of this post and this was her take on it.

    “The ‘c’hurch people are not moved to compassion because they are moved to judgment.

    They believe they are right to judge you because you left. You must be in the wrong.
    It is a lot easier to judge you because you aren’t there and your husband plays the victim role so well.”

    My children are with me and everyone feels sorry for him because they don’t see them with him at church. This is a very large church and only a handful of people have inquired about our not being there. The church was our life previously. We lived in a small town and really did not do anything but go to church and church related activities (I was so depressed, I didn’t have the energy to do anything more).

    Everyone at my x church continues to treat him as their brother in Christ. Greeting him with handshakes and smiles.

    I now feel sorry for all of them as they cannot see the truth ACFJ and God have revealed to me.

    I have not seen people from my x church really and it has helped in my recovery to not be defending myself constantly. I do not know how I will handle the attack when it comes. They feel so right to judge me.

    I am filled with joy for being set free!
    I do think it took a full 6 months after separating from my husband for me not to revel in the fact that I was laughing! I am happy and incredibly alive. God dug me out of a pit of darkness and death and brought me to life and light.

    Thank you for your ministry. You encourage me so much on this lonely road.

  8. I’ve been trying not to dwell on this, because… Well, I know a lot of folks who have been trained to respond as goats and have been taught that’s how they’re supposed to respond. So their perception/understanding is warped. So who’s to blame?

    Thinking about the nice ones—the fact that there are nice ones, trapped in what they believe is normal and healthy—makes me want to cry, because if they realized what they were doing, because for some of them, it’s not their fault. And I fear for them, because it’s only a matter of time until one of the goats realizes they’re an actual sheep and targets them, and with perception so warped…how will they realize what’s going on?

    I’ve known multiple people who, when getting thusly bullied in such an environment, in their bewilderment went to other bullies in search of support. And I can’t tell them about the gossip and character assassination I witnessed when their backs were turned—they won’t believe me, and their training means they’ll believe my report is necessarily gossip.

    So I pray for them, pray that their situation has improved in the time I’ve been away, and pray God gifts them with the eyes to realize what’s going on.

    And once someone’s been victimized, it makes them targets—they’ll usually be easier prey for someone else. 😥

    It makes me sad, it makes me angry, and it makes me frustrated. I want to do something to help, but I’m too sick, myself, and have too much physical recovery to do. So I pray on my own, and I run my mouth when given opportunity.

    It’s not just women getting bullied by their husbands. It’s children by their parents. Men by their elders (and sometimes their spouses—though I’ve observed that those marriages don’t seem to last unless there’s something wrong with both spouses, even if one of them is mainly codependent; that’s anecdotal evidence, though). In some situations, it’s the underlings being bullied by those they respect. (Sometimes authority figures being bullied by underlings, but it’s my experience and observation that bully underlings seek targets who are already being bullied by others. There’s too much risk to the underling, otherwise.)

    • Free

      I hate bullies. They are abusers. And I am VERY cautious when men tell me how awful their wives are or were upon meeting them. I don’t tell people I don’t know about how awful the abuser is in casual conversation. Red flag. And I am more cautious to not write off a woman who is labelled “mouthy”, rude or too talkative etc. She may be resisting abuse. This is very possible!

      I can hear and see red flags everywhere now. People do actually let the evil abuse seep out. I know the truth now so know I know what is wrong and evil. And I hate anything that’s even close to sounding like it. Truth mixed with lies is no truth at all.

  9. MarkQ

    I keep toying with the idea of quitting my job and doing a lot of research. I believe that the church has come full circle (if it ever was ruled by grace, not law). We deride the Pharisees, and yet we’ve built a system of theology that makes us twice as much the children of Hell.

    I think there were two main issues that Jesus railed against. One was legalism and the other was spiritual abuse. Yet, Jesus’s mode of argumentation has become a stumbling block for the church. Jesus was saying, you can’t get to heaven through obeying the law, and he pointed that out by fleshing out the legal principles. We [Eds: we are guessing Mark is referring to the widespread view in the church not to the readers of this blog in particular] say we have never committed adultery, yet it isn’t just the physical act, but also heart adultery that we’re condemned for. Jesus’s point wasn’t that we should become MORE legalistic, but that we should recognize that the law points us to our need of love and grace.

    But, we [the church in general] in our legalistic desires turn it back on itself.

    [The thinking goes like this:] If we’re good Christians, then we will want to obey Christ, which means we need to obey the law, which means that we can go around acting like Pharisees condemning each other unlovingly and ungraciously for sins. The ones who are more skilled at the unloving and ungracious condemnation are the ones who are spiritually superior, and we put them in positions of authority.

    That then leads to this pervasive spiritual abuse. Instead of creating a safe space for the Holy Spirit to work in someone’s heart, we instead rely on fear, manipulation, judgment and condemnation to bring about change. Our spiritual examples are the ones who are the best at doing that – the most feared, the most manipulative, the most judgmental and condemning.

    The other aspect of this abusive system is that we see the need for love and grace written throughout the Bible. But, instead of showing love and grace to those who most need it, the “least of these” who are the lowest in our society and the most likely to become victims of abuse, we show love and grace to the wolves.

    • Hi Mark
      I put some editorial clarifications into your comment, to protect our readers from possibly feeling triggered by your words. Please check what I’ve done and email me and twbtc if you think I have misrepresented what you were saying.

      Using pronouns such as ‘we’ or ‘you’ can be tricky, when the referent of the pronoun could be unclear or ambiguous. Most readers of this blog are victims of abuse and have suffered lots of verbal abuse from their abusers in the form of (1) false accusations like “You are an idiot!” and (2) defining the victim’s reality: telling her what she thinks, how she feels, what she believes. So we want to avoid any possibility of language being heard that way on this blog, as it could trigger some of our readers.

      I hope you understand. We appreciate your engagement with this blog. 🙂

      As to giving up your day job, well, that’s a big step. But if you think you could manage financially, then it might be worth considering. The field of victim-advocacy and theological whistleblowing can become stronger the more quality advocates and lobbyists and writers it has. At the same time, there is no point in reinventing the wheel if it’s already been invented. So maybe before you give up your day job, you might want to spend a bit more time becoming familiar with the advocacy and whistleblowing work and websites that are already in existence, and see if you then think you can contribute something to that which will fill a need or niche that needs to be filled in what is already out there.

      • MarkQ

        “We” for me is the reality I once lived in, and what I presume is the prevailing belief among conservative Evangelicals. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m somehow above reproach in all this, but it makes sense that readers might think I’m trying to blame or question motives. That’s not my intent.

      • thanks Mark

  10. Anonymous

    I was reading Matthew 25 and remembering when our family went to Disney World before we moved overseas.

    The kids were young and we had visited the parts of the park that we knew they would enjoy without being too worn out, but we wanted to do the parade. In order to have a spot right on the curb, we got there two hours early, so that when they did the dances with the audience, the kids could partake. (We knew they’d be too worn out after this so we planned to leave immediately afterwards–which we did.) We ended up waiting for over two hours, saving our seats, entertaining the kids etc. Once the parade started there were throngs of people and many where shoving and jabbing, and as nicely as we could, we resisted letting these people have our spots. The kids got to do the dancing with the princesses and had a ball! But what I remember is one mother who got there RIGHT when the parade started and shoved her way to the front. She was very rude and it was obvious that she thought it was her RIGHT to be in front. She actually told me that I should make room for others–but she only meant HER, and I turned and told her she should have gotten here two hours ago like we did and we could’ve all chit-chatted and gotten to know each other during that time. There were several other moms and dads with their kids that had also waited for hours but she singled ME out. I’m SO GLAD looking back that I had the courage to 1) stand my ground 2) tell her she was selfish. It did NOTHING to change her as she was a self-centered person, but I don’t have another memory where I let an evil person walk all over me.

    Matthew 25:1-4, 7-9 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them. But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps…….Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves. When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us! ’ But he replied, ‘•I assure you: I do not know you! ’

    Many churches, by forcing true Christians to “give their oil” to others who aren’t Christians (but CLAIM to be) in the form of giving up their lives in order to keep the marriage and family afloat and catering to evil people they are married to, (not realizing when they married them that some people were 100% evil) are harming those who belong to Jesus. Those of us who gave our lives to Jesus, planned ahead — and it is the responsibility of the other humans to do the same. This parable and the next one about the servant who hid his talent and lost everything tell the same tale — that those who plan ahead are NOT responsible for those who are selfish and don’t. Notice that Jesus does NOT include those who are WISE AND PLAN AHEAD in the guilt or punishment of the wicked ones. Yet churches try to force the good servants into this position—which shows that they are not following the biblical example written here.

    Open your eyes people and search the scriptures! We are NOT all the same and we are NOT responsible for those who have shown themselves to be evil. Jesus honored those who chose Him and He expects us to help His TRUE servants and to weed out those who have shown themselves to be foolish, selfish and wicked servants!

    • healinginhim

      Anonymous – This was so well written. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jeff Crippen

      That is good stuff, anonymous. Excellent application of Scripture. I will have to use your comment in my sermon tomorrow as an illustration – giving you full credit of course (well, as much as can be give to Anonymous:):).

  11. Anonymous

    Thank you Healinginhim and Jeff….anything I post on ACFJ I pray is used in a way to glorify God and to be a blessing to His true children, so feel free to share it. (The credit goes to God though.) God gave me these experiences and shows me the wisdom they represent but without a place to put them–I feel like it’s wasted–so AGAIN, thank you Jeff for keeping this website here as a place to share what God has shown us…THANK YOU!

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