A Cry For Justice

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

“If he repents seven times in one day, you must forgive him.” – Does this mean forgiveness is unconditional?

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Luke 17:1-4

Recently a lady wrote to me and asked if I could explain to her what the Lord meant by His words here in Luke 17, particularly in verses 3-4.

Last Sunday we took a long look at the error — the very serious error — of latching on to a passage of Scripture and turning it into a hard, fast, no-exceptions, merciless rule that applies to every situation. And we saw some very real and current situations in which this kind of error twists Scripture so that even when evil is known to be among us, a code of silence is still enforced to protect it.

The passage before us here in vss 3-4 is an example of a Scripture that is very commonly used (by people who distort it) to enable evil and oppress the innocent. So let’s spend some time this morning carefully looking at what the Lord meant.

Woe to Those Who Harm the Little Ones

I decided to also include verses 1-2 in our consideration this morning. This passage has very real and pertinent application for our day. Listen to it again —

Luke 17:1-4 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! (2) It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

I included these verses this morning because they are an excellent example of the things we have been learning in the Sunday School teaching time regarding the sovereignty of God. These verses also help us to properly understand the often misused verses 3-4 about forgiveness.

God allows and in fact even decreed that temptations to sin would come to us in this fallen world. And yet His decree does not remove guilt from the one through whom the temptation comes.

Listen to the same thing in a bit more detail from Matthew’s Gospel –

Matthew 18:1-10 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Now notice some things very, very carefully. First, this:

Anyone seeking to be ‘greatest’ in the church is necessarily given to abusing little children and that abuse interferes with those children’s ability to follow Christ.

See it? It is true. It is one way or the other. To seek to be “greatest” necessarily means walking over others to get to the top. This also tells us that the “greatness-seeker” is always propelled and motivated by his or her lust for power. ALL forms of oppressing the little children and the weak and the sheep in Christ’s flock are always means to this evil end — seeking to be top dog in “God’s” kingdom.

Greatness-seekers using Christ’s name for their evil necessarily “tempt” the little ones. They lead people away from Christ and urge—or subtly coerce—them to worship a man instead. Then after the poor lambs are led astray and oppressed and cast aside, the ones  who’ve been led astray often turn away from following Christ. After all (they think) “If this is Christianity, then who needs it?”

Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

Think carefully on this. EVERY person in the church who claims to be a Christian and who is seeking a name for himself IS causing the little ones to stumble. We could give example after example that is in the news today. RC Sproul Jr., is in the news once again (link). Here is a man, the son of a well-known Christian leader, a pastor, a theologian, an author, a college professor, who over and over again has exalted himself. He has been openly caught spiritually abusing his flock, for which he was defrocked as a pastor in a denomination. He has been caught going to the Ashley Madison adultery site. I know specifically of a situation in which he and his fellow greatness-seekers cornered a poor lady and grilled her for hours to force her back into a very evil abusive situation.

And now he hits the news having been arrested for felony drunk driving (operating a vehicle with alcohol concentration equivalent to .15 or more—that’s a very high reading!) and endangering a child. Ligonier in their announcement of his resignation continues to cover for him of course and in fact is just trying to do PR damage control for their own selves so as not to lose face or money.

Now, I ask you, what does the Lord Jesus say about such a man who has been TEACHING in a Christian college? TEACHING and mentoring young people all the while seeking greatness for himself? What does Jesus say? I can tell you:

What awaits you on the day of judgment is going to make you wish you could have tied a heavy rock around your neck and jumped in the ocean if it could be a way to escape My wrath.

Imagine if such a man never repents unto saving faith. On the day of judgement he will hear God saying to him something like this: “The punishment I am dealing out to you is so immense that it would have be better for you if your life had ended prematurely, e.g, by your being drowned, before you wilfully and defiantly entrenched yourself in all those abominable sins which are now on your record. The sentence I’m giving you for eternity is fitting for the heinousness of your sins. (see Barbara’s post Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous? )

We could go on and on with many other examples — such as the case of Tom Chantry which we discussed here.

CHRISTIANS MUST CEASE PERMITTING GREATNESS-SEEKERS TO BE EXALTED. WE MUST CEASE TO ALLOW THEM TO OBTAIN POSITION IN THE CHURCH. They are causing the little ones to stumble.

Listen to part of a very good article I found last week:

Do you know anyone whose faith has been turned upside down into cynicism because of hypocrisy or abuse within a church or a family?

I do. I’ve lost count of those I know personally, and I have read about far more who have walked away from the Christian faith or at least wandered to the outer fringe of fellowship.

I have been researching abuse and authority issues in families, churches, and religious movements for over seven years. In the process, I realized that an organization of churches (of which I was a longtime member) had some really grievous problems that were adversely affecting my family and many others. Toward the end of our time there, I felt like I was shriveling up spiritually. And mine was a mild case!

Since then, I’ve read books and blogs about various kinds of abuse, I’ve conversed with countless people who have been afflicted, and I’ve thought back on some of my own troubling experiences.

What have I seen?

  • Legalism in its many forms
  • Controlling and even cult-like behavior
  • Arrogance, greed, and a lust for power
  • Leaders who failed to take appropriate precautions to protect vulnerable people in their care, then failed to properly handle abusive situations after they happened
  • Leaders who actively covered up evidence to protect abusers rather than victims
  • Leaders who were the actual perpetrators of child molestation, adult sexual abuse, violence in the home, embezzlement, and every other manner of aberrant behavior.

Frankly, I am angry at these failures. If you haven’t given much thought to this issue, please don’t look away. Pause and let it sink in…. So I am angry at the hypocrisy and abuse. But I am also angry at the aftermath. As I have listened (or read) when abuse survivors have shared their stories, I find that so many are hurting beyond belief. And sometimes it really is beyond belief, because so many of them have either walked away from faith or are at least questioning everything they once held dear. Their faith has been turned upside down. (excerpt from When Abuse Leads to Cynicism)

THIS is precisely what Jesus is talking about. We MUST stop permitting these ladder-climbing, fame-seeking people to creep in among us and we must STOP praising and worshiping them! Else we participate in their evil.

Now, let’s move on to verses 3-4. Listen to them again and then we will do some more serious thinking —

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.

As we have already noted, this passage has been and continues to be regularly perverted by people seeking to use it for evil ends. I can assure you for instance that there will be plenty of voices insisting that we all “forgive” poor RC Junior because Jesus commands us to do so.

Really?

But wait a minute. Hold on. We just got through looking at verses 1-2 and…unless I am mistaken…I don’t really see any “forgiveness” there. In fact, I believe we read something about a big rock and jumping into the ocean and drowning and facing the wrath of God, right?

So if that be the case, then Jesus here is necessarily NOT teaching some “unconditional no-matter-what” forgiveness of the wicked. Do you see the danger of just ripping verses out of context and applying them the way the Pharisees did?

GOD HIMSELF DOES NOT UNCONDITIONALLY AND UNIVERSALLY FORGIVE THE WICKED!

Pay Attention to Yourselves!

This is a hugely important command, and it is a command! Pay attention to yourselves. That does not merely mean to watch out for sin on our own part, but it means that we must look out for sin creeping into our midst in the church, in this case specifically in the form of “seekers of greatness.”

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. Galatians 6:12-13

By the way, do you know what “boasting in your flesh” means? I will give you an example. In an Independent Fundamental Baptist publication I used to see years ago, you would frequently see one of their big name preachers (Jack Hyles being one. If you want to read a classic example of a wicked seeker of greatness just Google him) in a picture posing by some young boy who had a crew cut, was holding a KJV bible, was dressed in slacks and a shirt and tie. Why? Because they were boasting that “here is one of our converts. Just look at him. He has short hair and is dressed just the way a Christian boy should dress. And he has memorized 50 verses from the KJV.”

That is the flesh, you see. They were boasting in the outward appearance of someone. And there was all kinds of promotion and advancement in their organization FOR THEM if they did a good job of it with enough children.

Pay attention to yourselves! IF YOUR BROTHER SINS, REBUKE HIM. Understand? The reason so many evil greatness-seekers continue to be exalted in churches and Christian organizations is because Christians are not obeying the Lord’s direct command. We are sitting idly by, letting these types get hold of more and more power and influence, causing the little ones to stumble and sin, when Jesus says that we are to REBUKE this when we see it.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying,
“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

What was our Lord’s response to the disciples? He rebuked them! He warned them! He did not applaud them or encourage them in any efforts to be “great” in the kingdom. And he went on to warn them very severely of the consequences of seeking personal greatness and thereby leading the little ones away from Him.

Is the church, is the typical Christian of our day, are the pastors and elders of our churches obeying the Lord Jesus’ command to pay attention to themselves and rebuke anyone who gets onto the greatness-seeking track?

IF WE WILL NOT OBEY THIS COMMAND WE ARE GOING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE EVIL MAN’S ABUSE OF CHILDREN AND OTHERS IN THE CHURCH!!

This is exactly what happened in the association our church was a member of (ARBCA) and which has led to all the recent grievous sins and turmoil in that organization. Men seeking greatness and power and control, parading as eminent scholars and saints, were permitted to keep exalting themselves and being exalted and what happened? Others were walked on … and the police have now indicted a pastor for assaulting and molesting children.  Any of the power-brokers there who have been confronted have refused to repent. They respond with counter-accusations and gnashing of teeth.

Are we to forgive them? Is that what Jesus says here? No! What He says is —

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,

IF!  If he repents when rebuked. Is that not God’s pattern for His forgiveness? Repent and believe. Repent.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-20

People who claim to be Christians very consistently pervert Jesus’ words and demand that EVERYONE must be forgiven no matter what.

The common teaching of the contemporary church is that “forgiveness and grace are required to be extended to everyone no matter what. The only “condition” to be forgiven is that you have sinned.”  Whenever it suits them, they overlook the command to rebuke the offender, and they brush off the requirement that the offender repent.  To require what Jesus requires —repentance — is seen to be legalistic, narrow, and judgmental. And they attempt to disparage, intimidate and de-voice the believers who are wanting the offender (e.g. the greatness-seeker) to be rebuked and disciplined and held accountable.  In such a system, everyone is forgiven and everyone is (supposedly) headed for the pearly gates.

Just listen for it. Already you will have a lot of banter by the “grace-on-steroids” crowd that it is wrong for us to even put posts online about RC Jr’s sin. Just listen to the poor man — he says he is sorry. Jesus requires us to forgive him. Really? Pastor Sam Powell points us to the Heidelberg Catechism on this:

As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it:

Can they, then, not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, unrepentant life? By no means, for, as Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Thus, God does not forgive the unrepentant and neither are we required to do so. Only where there is genuine repentance. GENUINE repentance, not the pseudo repentance that abusers, greatness-seekers and other hypocrites practice with the sleight of hand of masterly magicians.

Recently Verla and I were watching an episode of Doc Martin in which a wicked, conniving, scheming mother showed up uninvited. Her adult daughter caved a bit and let her mother watch her baby and it turns out the grandmother gave the baby some alcohol to quiet his crying! The child’s mother told her mother to get out and not come back, but the wicked woman immediately put on the manipulative fake repentance, victim act. Tears — the whole thing. The episode ends with the daughter caving again, accepting her mother’s “repentance,” and letting her stay. I hope a future episode will show that the woman has not changed at all.

ONLY when there is real repentance, and yes, when that repentance is real then the mercy and forgiveness of God is available. The Lord does not tell us “Ok, I will forgive you this time but remember, three strikes and you are out for good!” And that is a very good thing because none of us would make it. The gospel is based on God’s grace, not on our ability to only sin 3 or 7 times. But repentance IS required. That repentance is not a work, it is not some false gospel to require it.

And therefore we see that here in Luke 17, Jesus is in no way teaching that we are required to forgive unconditionally everyone who sins, even those who refuse to truly repent. To do so is to be guilty of rejecting Paul’s shocked rejection of the distortion that the gospel teaches us to sin so that grace might abound —

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2

***

This post is based on a sermon Jeff Crippen is giving today. You may be able to listen to the sermon live — click here and scroll to the heading Live Webcast of the Weekly Worship Service for instructions.

But if the service is not webcast live, you can listen to the sermon tomorrow when it will be uploaded to sermon-audio here. On sermon-audio it will be titled Is Forgiveness Unconditional.

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Related posts:

The F word (forgiveness)

What is Forgiveness?

https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2012/06/07/how-many-times-should-abuse-be-tolerated-the-question-revisited/

What Does Forgiveness Require?

https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2012/01/31/christians-are-very-confused-about-forgiveness-by-jeff-crippen/

34 Comments

  1. Fool me once

    I really believe that truly repentant people do not ever ask or expect to be reinstated, because they understand the damage that they have done and want to stay far, far away from the temptation to fall back into the same sin.

    • Marjorie

      I totally agree with you on this thought. If they knew the damage they’ve done, they most certainly would not want to possibly cause such pain again.

      • I changed your screen name to Marjorie as it looked like you’d given you real name.
        Hi — and welcome to the blog 🙂

        We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

        If you want us to change your screen name to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂

  2. abigail

    I wished I lived in Oregon.

  3. LH

    Excellent post! Thank you for this thoughtful response.

    I had that thrown at me when I was leaving my abuser, and when I tried to point out there was no repentance on his part they wouldn’t listen because he would cry and say “sorry”. (As in “sorry, but you did -x- that caused me to to do what you say I did.”) The pastor had actually preached a good sermon on real repentance once, but utterly refused to apply it in counseling.

  4. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  5. Stronger Now

    I heard a pastor preach that forgiveness means treating the other person as if they never did what they did. No, it does not.

    And I have heard far too many people preach/teach that forgiveness does not require repentance. So in their world, we are to forgive someone who does not even acknowledge the fact that they harmed us. They don’t acknowledge that we have suffered harm, period, and they claim that we are completely unjustified in our response to the perceived harm that they pretend never happened.

    And according to the false teachers, we are to forgive and reinstate these evil people, and trust them as if they never harmed us.

    It’s a sad, sick, evil thing that supposed ministers of the Gospel are doing. They are actively working for the devil.

  6. On thing we didn’t go into in this post, but I’ve written about it in other threads (see here) is that the word ‘forgiveness’ has three different connotations.

    I learned this from Steve Tracy’s book Mending the Soul, which we highly recommend. That book spends a whole chapter untangling the three different meanings of forgiveness.

    “Forgiveness” has three meanings or domains, and we need to be very careful what meaning or domain we are referring to when we use that word.

    1. The first meaning is judicial forgiveness: the wiping clean of sin. This is solely the providence of God; none of us can forgive sin in that sense.

    2. The second meaning is psychological forgiveness: the vow and firm decision to not pay back the offender for the harm he or she did to us. It is the firm determination to leave vengeance to God — after all, God is going to be far better at delivering vengeance on the evildoers than we could ever be!

    This second kind does not mean we will cease to feel any hurt or anger. We may continue feeling those emotions and processing them as part of our recovery, but we will not act on those feelings by taking vengeance on the perpetrator.

    3. The third meaning is relational forgiveness. This is only wise or safe to do if the abuser actually and truly repents and shows the fruit of repentance. And depending on how long and how egregiously the perpetrator was abusing us, we might want to evaluate that fruit for a longer or shorter time — this is only wisdom and self-care 🙂.

    • Dr George Simon’s recent post has some bearing on the second and third domains of forgiveness.

      Our Civility Reflects Our Character

    • Abby

      Hi Barbara, number 1 and number 3 make perfect sense in my mind. It’s number 2 that has been distorted. My question is, “Why is this called psychological forgiveness? Why is it called forgiveness at all?” It needs so much explaining, all of it being true, I believe, after all we must always guard our own behavior. What if we called it ACCEPTANCE? Wouldn’t forgiveness become much clearer for us to understand?

      You wrote, —after all, God is going to be far better at delivering vengeance on the evildoers than we could ever be!—

      Is that really what we want? For God to take vengeance on our abusers? I don’t. I know that I have a different perspective than many who are here at this blog, because it is my children who are my abusers and I still love them with all my heart and I want the best for them, especially in their next life. So, by me, waiting for repentance in this life (number 3), they have a much better chance to not face Gods punishment and possibly get to heaven in the next.

      I’m old enough to remember that forgiveness has not always been taught in this way. Waiting for repentance, holding others to account was totally accepted and how I was taught as a child. I think it is one of satan’s greatest accomplishments, that so many Christians believe that we must forgive evildoers even when they haven’t repented.

      • Hi Abby, thanks for your comment 🙂

        My explanation of what Mending the Soul says about the three kinds of forgiveness is based only on my memory. I lent my copy of that book years ago and never got it back. If another reader has a copy of it, please could you check the chapter on Forgiveness and let me know if i’ve conveyed Steve Tracy’s idea incorrectly. I’m more than happy to be corrected!

        And even if Steve Tracy did call the second kind ‘psychological’ forgiveness that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best word. So I’m happy to discuss better words for conveying it.

        You wrote, —after all, God is going to be far better at delivering vengeance on the evildoers than we could ever be!—

        Is that really what we want? For God to take vengeance on our abusers? I don’t. I know that I have a different perspective than many who are here at this blog, because it is my children who are my abusers and I still love them with all my heart and I want the best for them, especially in their next life.

        Oh boy, I understand that! And I’m sorry that my wording didn’t take into account someone in your situation, so please forgive me if my wording hurt or jarred you. When one’s abusers are one’s children, it must be extremely hard — so many conflicting feelings. I know a woman who was raped by her adult son. He had an acquired brain injury, but even so.

        Thank you for pointing out that my words didn’t take all the range of abusive scenarios into account.

        And bless you 🙂

      • Abby

        Oh Barbara, no apology is necessary, I simply wanted to have the discussion. We, [the abused,] are all stuck in number 2 (psychological forgiveness.) My point is that none of us can completely forgive our abusers until their heart changes, until they are sorry for what they have done. Then we will be able to trust them and continue a relationship. If they don’t get to that point, they will abuse again, and again………..and more and more forgiveness is required. We, [the abused,] understand this. I don’t believe that we will be judged by God for not forgiving our abuser.

        So how did it get so confusing to understand forgiveness? If they repent, forgive them. Easy! If they don’t, then forgiveness is not required. There, I said it out loud, forgiveness is not required {ooooh, bad Christian.} I will add that we must never seek revenge and always be responsible for our own behavior, because that would put our souls in danger. That is easy to understand, also.

      • So how did it get so confusing to understand forgiveness? This post dealt with the passage in Luke which sayd IF they repent, forgive them.
        There are other passages which suggest that we can (/ ought to) forgive those who sin against us even though they have not yet repented. Jesus on the cross saying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) And when Stephen was being stoned he said, ““Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60). And the one in Lord’s prayer, mentioned up-thread.

        So it’s those kinds of passages which make it somewhat harder to understand forgiveness. We need to always weigh all scripture together to understand the overall counsel of God.

      • Anonymous

        “So how did it get so confusing to understand forgiveness? If they repent, forgive them. Easy! If they don’t, then forgiveness is not required. There, I said it out loud, forgiveness is not required {ooooh, bad Christian.}”

        Abby, this is so well-said! Not only is forgiveness not required–it’s not allowed. If we forgave the devil–would we bring honor to God? Did God forgive Satan? Was Judas Iscariot forgiven? Korah, Balaam, Cain? If God had forgiven them without their first repenting, it would have been a lie, and God can’t lie. And we, as His children, are not supposed to overstep our bounds and do what even HE wouldn’t do. This would be dipping our toe in the “blasphemy” end of the pool, and I have no desire to do that.

        And the “bad Christian” remark just shows how so many of us have been made to feel like we are “bad” when we are actually doing God’s will…

      • standsfortruth

        This subject reminds me of a phone conversation that I had with a person I once thought was a friend from church after I was excomunicated.
        She called me “feigning to be concerned” about my wellfare, but as the conversation progressed, she started drilling me about not holding any bad thoughts, bitterness or ought against the pastor of the church and that I needed to pray for forgiveness if I had any.
        I told her that the pastor of the church is continuing to feel no remorse about what he did to me, so what is there to forgive?
        As a matter of fact this pastor is still perpetrating this kind of behavior against innocent women who find themselves locked and tormented in similar type relationships.
        He is still abusing women in his church with his twisted theology..

        He is the one that needs to repent, NOT I.
        She kept trying to make the conversation about me and my need for forgiveness,- but I stood my ground regarding this pastors unrepentant sin.

  7. Anonymous

    Through one of my daughters I have been blessed to be able to witness many truths about how this evil destroys lives and separates us from Jesus.

    This daughter has always been affable and enjoys doing and trying new things with her family. When the family was attending counseling due to our psychopathic son’s evil behavior (before he was officially diagnosed as a p) each member had to say something nice about the others. Many of the children stated that this daughter enjoyed doing most anything and that she we also enjoyable to be around. This IS an apt description of her demeanor.

    But God put us (my daughter and myself) through the spiritual wringer of life and it’s been over a decade since those long ago “counseling” sessions (it was mostly “blame the mom” time and only after I refused to attend these meetings would they then look at my son, and then they saw what he was) and because I have seen what’s happened to this easy-going, good-natured daughter–God has been able to show me what’s taken place in MY life as well.

    We still live with my husband (her father) who we now know is a psychopath. Even knowing this truth and having each other to share with still doesn’t stop the evil of what he is from affecting us. My husband MUST attack at some point in any conversation and most subjects he brings up are things that he’s bragging about himself or a set up to make us look stupid, worthless or a disappointment. My daughter has been forced to nip these many altercations in the bud by being shrill and absolutely refusing to allow him ANY leeway. The constant effort and energy she must expend in order to keep her boundaries firmly in place is exhausting to say the least and because she is an adult now with an adult job and adult responsibilities, she has to deal with other abusers with whom she must ALSO set her boundaries. The many years of constant assault that she’s had to endure and fight against have changed this sweet-hearted little one into a sometimes angry person who is as sad as she is mad. And God has shown me that this is exactly what’s been done to me in a lifetime with a psychopathic father and then husband. I too was easy-going and enjoyed doing things, but by the time I was maybe 7 years old I had already been conditioned to cater to evil and to blame and hate myself.

    Thank you Jeff again for bringing out so much truth from God’s word and allowing GOD’S TRUTH to be revealed.

  8. MarkQ

    Thank you! I have heard this lie a lot. I’m struggling with this a bit in my own life – one version of it that I’m not sure about. I’ve heard that forgiveness is for our sakes, not for the other person, and that we can forgive without repentance because “we need to let it go.” This is from a non-abusive church. I still remember many wrongs from the past. They affect my relationships, and some are even things that I’ve explored with the other person – test accusations. With many of these offenses, the other person just doesn’t think they’re a big deal, doesn’t see the issue, thinks I’m petty for keeping a “record of wrongs”.

    • Hi Mark
      I think it will help if you read the comment I posted on this thread about how ‘forgiveness’ has three different connotations.

    • forgiveness is for our sakes, not for the other person, and that we can forgive without repentance because “we need to let it go.”

      First of all, the cliche “forgiveness is for our sakes, not for the other person” is not in the Bible. It’s a saying that some Christians — probably influenced by secular pop-psychology — have bandied around so much that many Christians think it must be biblical. I think they have inferred it from Matthew 6:12-15

      …forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
      And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

      For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

      The inference is that I must forgive the one who sinned against me otherwise God will not forgive me for my sins. And that is true — but it’s only true in relation to the second domain of forgiveness: the psychological domain, the requirement that I leave it to God to take vengeance on that sinner. I do not seek to exact vengeance myself, I do not nurse thoughts of vengeance in my heart, I bring my heart into a state where I’m completely ready to joyfully meet and greet that person in heaven if they DO come to true repentance before they die. That state of heart IS good for me. It assists me in moving on with my life without festering black thoughts of vengeance in my heart against that person.

      And it enables me to pray for that person’s repentance and salvation without feeling that I must reconcile with them relationally while they are yet unrepentant.

      It also enables me to seek justice in the church court system and the secular court system, should I deem that appropriate. And if I am part of a prosecution of that sinner because the secular authorities deem it right to indict him for crimes, then I can cooperate in that prosecution with integrity, knowing that I am still leaving the ultimate outcome in God’s hands. And if God ordains that the one accused of crimes be convicted and sentenced, then that is part of the vengeance God has chosen to deliver.

      Some flakey Christians say we should never participate in a prosecution of a criminal, because the bible says ‘don’t take a brother to court’. But that’s just a wooden and blinkered interpretation which looks at only one verse. When the secular authorities deem it right to charge someone with a crime, we as Christians are right to cooperate with that prosecution because Romans 13 says the secular state rightfully has power to punish criminals in order to restrain evil and protect the innocent.

      • MarkQ

        I think this somewhat of the context that my new church has, but I feel like they take forgiveness and healing as one step rather than two. That is that forgiveness and healing are more like one step. Somehow once we forgive and let it go that we are immediately healed. There may also be a difference between what is preached and how people interpret it.

      • Lea

        Mark, the non-christian version of forgiveness I heard was ‘release’, in that you are able to let go of something (without reconciling or forgetting) and sort of move on with your life. I think this version of forgiveness and healing are tied to together, in that when you have properly healed it is much easier to release something? If that makes any sense.

    • Anonymous

      MarkQ, Some articles from this website that have helped me nail this concept down (and to the cross) were this one https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/03/10/forgiveness-requires-justice/
      and
      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/09/16/living-with-trauma-memories-video-presentation-by-diane-langberg/

      Sometimes (most of the time it seems) the abuser (the one people tell us we MUST forgive) has TRAUMATIZED us–the victims–and when this is the case, the post about Diane Langberg helps explain that there’s a process that victims need to go through in order to truly heal that needs to include the following:

      Now there’s another phase of recovery and it also has three things in it. . . The second phase of recovery which has three things is more focused on the future. When you’re talking, tears, and time you’re looking at the past. Yes, you’re looking back at the trauma and saying what is was and how it hurt you. The second phase of recovery is looking (to the future) which you cannot do until you’ve (looked at the past). So (survivors) need to go through the talking, tears, and time and then (they) will shift and start thinking about tomorrow or next year or whenever. That’s the second phase of recovery.

      Diane concludes her presentation introducing the three components of phase two of recovery: a caring relationship, purpose or work, and faith, and explaining how these three things help to reconnect people back to life.

      And from Jeff’s post:

      For God to remain just (righteous), and still justify sinners, justice had to be answered. That answer was given on the cross where Christ paid the full price for our sins. God’s justice will not be compromised. The demands of His holy Law had to be met. God did not simply say, “aw shucks, let’s just forget about it.” Nope. Impossible. God will be God.

      Justice. Jesus’s death on the cross JUSTIFIED us and it’s kinda the entire point of His death, so for people to tell us that WE (humans who are Christians) have the authority to “justify” abusers when they (the abusers) don’t meet the criteria the bible requires, puts US in the position to either deny Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, or to put ourselves in place of God…and pretend that this is within our power. (This is the definition of an Anti-Christ.)

      MarkQ, I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to be vulnerable by sharing your testimony. I know that many men have been trained-up to hide their hearts and to act tough, yet all the men who were “greats” in the bible constantly revealed their hearts, minds, souls and sins and it’s THESE men who are my greatest source of comfort. (David, Moses, Isaiah, Luke, Paul…….need I go on?) Thank you for “lamenting” out loud so we can all learn together.

      • MarkQ

        Thanks for your response. I think there is a lot of wisdom, but there are other prooftexts that get used that seem to say more. Here is one I struggle with:

        Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

        This _seems_ to be saying that justice is not required for forgiveness (and even using the hated explanation that “everyone is a sinner” as justification). I find 1 Cor to be one of the most difficult books to understand because it has a bunch of practical application passages that seem out of sync with the greater truths. And, thus, it’s not surprising that Corinthians becomes the starting point for a bunch of really really bad advice for dealing with church issues. …

      • Hi MarkQ, I am giving a lot of thought to that text you quoted (1 Cor 6:1-11). I hope to publish a post soon about how 1 chapters 5 and 6 of 1 Corinthians relate to each other and how maybe the chapter division has caused us to overlook the elements that strongly connect them. One thing which I’ve found helpful in trying to understand 1 Cor 6:1-8 is Bruce Winter’s book After Paul Left Corinth. It details the socio-historical situation in the city of Corinth to which Paul was writing. He describes how in Corinth (and other large cities of the Roman Empire that were strongly Roman-influenced) it was very common for a man to take another man to court for allegedly ‘impugning his reputation or character’. The court case was fought our by the parties using their skills of oratory. Oratory was a high-status skill amongst pagans in the Empire — good orators could attract lots of paying students who wanted to learn the art of oratory because it would help them get promotion and status within the Empire. And one way an orator could get a reputation as highly skilled in the art of oratory, was by showing off his skills in a court case.

        Btw, I removed the last part of your comment because we really don’t want to get into things like head coverings on this blog.

      • Anonymous

        MarkQ, this is from Barnes’s notes on the bible for 1 Corinthians 6:7 http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_corinthians/6-7.htm (The capitalized words were done by me for emphasis.)

        “That is, in the sense under discussion, or before PAGAN magistrates. This was the point under discussion, and the interpretation should be limited to this. Whatever may be the propriety or impropriety of going to law before Christian magistrates, yet the point which the apostle refers to was that of going to law before pagans. THE PASSAGE, THEREFORE, SHOULD NOT BE INTERPRETED AS REFERRING TO ALL LITIGATION, but only of that which was the subject of discussion. The apostle says that that was wholly wrong; that they ought by no means to go with their causes against their fellow Christians before pagan magistrates…

        It may be asked then whether law suits are never proper; or whether courts of justice are never to be resorted to by Christians to secure their rights? To this question we may reply, that the discussion of Paul relates only to Christians, when both parties are Christians, and that it is designed to prohibit such an appeal to courts by them. If ever lawful for Christians to depart from this rule, or for Christians to appear before a civil tribunal, it is conceived that it can be only in circumstances like the following:

        (1) Where two or more Christians may have a difference, and where they know not what is right, and what the law is in a case. In such instances there may be a reference to a civil court to determine it – to have what is called “an amicable suit,” to ascertain from the proper authority what the law is, and what is justice in the case.

        (2) when there are causes of difference between Christians and the people of the world. As the people of the world do not acknowledge the propriety of submitting the matter to the church, it may be proper for a Christian to carry the matter before a civil tribunal. Evidently, there is no other way, in such cases, of settling a cause; and this mode may be resorted to not with a spirit of revenge, but with a spirit of love and kindness. Courts are instituted for the settlement of the rights of citizens, and people by becoming Christians do not alienate their rights as citizens. Even these cases, however, might commonly be adjusted by a reference to impartial people. better than by the slow, and expensive, and tedious, and often irritating process of carrying a cause through the courts.

        (3) Where a Christian is injured in his person, character, or property, he has a right to seek redress. Courts, are instituted for the protection and defense of the innocent and the peaceable against the fraudulent, the wicked, and the violent. And a Christian owes it to his country, to his family, and to himself, that the man who has injured him should receive the proper punishment. The peace and welfare of the community demand it. If a man murders my wife or child, I owe it to the laws and to my country, to justice and to God, to endeavor to have the law enforced. So if a man robs my property, or injures my character, I may owe it to others as well as to myself that the law in such a case should be executed, and the rights of others also be secured. But in all these cases, a Christian should engage in such prosecutions not with a desire of revenge, not with the love of litigation, BUT WITH THE LOVE OF JUSTICE, AND OF GOD, and with a mild, tender, candid and forgiving temper, with a real desire that the opponent may be benefited, and that all his rights also should be secured; compare the notes on Romans 13. ”

        So Paul was talking about two of the brethren (those who belong to Jesus) going before PAGAN courts. And note that it’s only concerning that aspect of it and NOT that Christians shouldn’t seek justice, because as Barnes points out, it is our DUTY AS CONSCIENTIOUS Christian to seek justice. Thanks for making me dig deeper into God’s word — always time well-spent!

      • Thanks Anonymous!

      • Anonymous

        …and I’d like to add this: that if a person who is in the church has acted in unrighteousness such as in Jeff’s church where a man had molested a child (I think that’s what it was), they should no longer fall under this rule–the rule that they should be judged by the church rather than secular courts–because such a person is most likely not a Christian. And even if they are, the Christian church actually shows righteousness when it turns one of these lawbreakers in.

        Aren’t we–the Christian church–supposed to be SUPER BIG TIME PROPONENTS OF THE LAWS THAT ARE IN PLACE? Unless they are ungodly like during the Holocaust? So I don’t really understand where the disconnect comes into play — how so many churches cover up so much abuse. Think about it, if we–all the Christian churches–were KNOWN for turning in criminals who broke the law such as child molesting or theft etc. and this was so common place that it was a well established fact, wouldn’t that be a DETERRENT for abusers? Knowing they couldn’t hide out in the churches?

        Jeff is perpetually repeating that Christian churches shouldn’t be places where abusers feel comfortable continuing in their abuse. One of the biggest problems seems to be identifying what abuse actually is.

  9. prairiegirl

    I hope it is not too late to ask a question here. I had a conversation with my ex and he asked about the chances of reconciliation and whether we could make a plan to work towards that end, even though it has been over two years since we divorced. I told him that we could work any plan, but if his heart was not repentant, then all the other stuff was pointless. After a bit of talk about it, I asked him what he thought repentance meant, Biblically. He said, “Go, and sin no more.” He referred to a couple of times when Jesus forgave people and told them to go and do not sin.

    This sounds really good, but does not line up with I thought were fruits of repentance. He has never seen and acknowledged the damage his sin has caused our family as a whole and each of us individually. Also, after thinking about it, his sin was a secret sexual sin, as well as long-term emotional neglect and control. These have not been addressed in a repentant way. And as far as the sexual sin, since it was done secretly, the only way I would “know” if he “sinned not more” would be based on his own claims of his private habits. I lived as a policeman for a long, long time re: his sexual sins and have no desire to go back to that.

    My emotions are kind of all over the place now, and although I know there is not a true repentant heart, I still feel bad now because he seemed so sincere, and said he was clueless about what else would be required to show repentance.

    Perhaps you could address this, please? Has this reasoning been used by others by their spouses or ex-spouses?

    (Note: I read your blog almost every day and it has been extremely encouraging and enlightening. Thank you!!!!! )

    • Hi Prairiegirl,

      Welcome to the blog! I did change your screen name – using the name (prairiegirl) that you ended your comment with. For your information: when you comment you can continue to use the screen name prairiegirl by putting that name in the box titled “name.” Screen names don’t have to been a person’s real name. In fact, we encourage our readers not to use their real name for the reasons that you expressed in your original comment.

      Also, we like to encourage new commenter’s to read our New User’s Info page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      You ask a good question and I think you are wise to see that while what he says may sound good, it doesn’t line up with scripture. I suspect when Barb wakes up on her side of the world she will address your question in greater detail than I am able to at the moment.

      Again, welcome!! So glad you have found encouragement here!!

    • Hi Prairie Girl, I suggest you look at our Checklist For Repentance. It will confirm what you’ve been thinking — that ‘go and sin no more’ is only part of the fruit of repentance that ought to be evident if an abuser (and/or sexually immoral person) is truly repentant.

      Also, I don’t suggest you show him the Checklist for Repentance. It’s written for victims of domestic abuse, not for the abusers. Abusers quite often say they ‘want a list’ that tells them what they must do to repent, but that’s just one of the tactics of pseudo-repentance. See this post:
      He Wants a List and He’s Checking it Twice: But it Won’t do Any Good!

      And one more post you might find helpful: Don’t Fall for the Abuser’s “Repentance” – Lessons from Zacchaeus

  10. Jane

    Hope it’s ok to post here. Hoping Barbara will see this. What would be your opinion of a Senior Pastor who has been verbally/emotionally abusing his wife for over 10 years who is still holding senior pastor position. His wife separated from him a few months ago, has done “no contact” up into recently(currently only email contact). He has been in counseling since she left(refused to go originally), says he sees his abuse, wants to save the marriage. His “overseer” says he’s changed, it’s repentive, and he(overseer) feels optimistic that marriage can be restored. The husband(senior pastor) is “taking a break from preaching” and has told that church that he’s taking that break to “seek the Lord”.

    • This is an easy question to answer. The pastor is not genuinely repentant and the ‘overseer’ is clueless about how to tell genuine repentance from fake repentance when it comes to abusers.

      The abusive pastor has not come clean and confessed to the whole congregation that he has been abusing his wife. He has used euphemisms to disguise the real truth. This shows his *repentance* is not genuine, it is only a tactic of manipulation. If he were truly repentant he would not be saying “I’m taking a break from preaching to seek the Lord”, he would have publicly confessed that he had abused his wife for ten years and all that time he was biblically unqualified to be a minister and he is stepping down from ministry and is going to set about earning his living in the secular world. He would also be telling everyone in the congregation who he spoke specific lies to about his wife (how he subtly or by innuendo slandered her character and her conduct..) that those things he said were LIES.

      If you haven’t yet looked at it, I think you will find this FAQ page helpful: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/what-if-the-abuser-is-repentant/

      • Jeff Crippen

        Barbara nails it here. Very good. It really still boggles my mind how often we see “pastors” who are abusers, whose wife reports it or leaves him, and yet the guy is still permitted to remain as pastor!!! At minimum – think about it – even if his wife is totally lying (which she isn’t), his marriage is totally messed up and thus he is disqualified from the pastoral office. Who in the world would want to listen to such a man preach? And some of these guys actually go right on giving marriage counseling, can you believe it? I mean…..

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