A Cry For Justice

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

“Oh, Now Let’s be Patient With Him — That’s Just who he is”

Someone who listened to one of my sermons in the Wise as Serpents series (you can find the series here) emailed me the following:

My friend told me about a church she had attended where the music minister was verbally abusive. Members would “pat the hand” of the abused and apologetically say, “Don’t be hurt by what he said. He’s a blunt, very direct speaking person. That’s just who he is.

This comment started my memory banks of personal experience churning. And thus, this post.

Over these three decades as a pastor, I have heard that same line many times — “It’s just who he/she is. Let’s love him/her anyway.” These kind of people pull out the “forgiving, gracious, patient” Bible verses to support their advice. For example, when I was the new pastor at a church, the choir director was an extremely abusive person. Power, control, manipulation — that was that name of the game. The simplest suggestion would send her into a fit of anger. Uh, hello? This person is LEADING the church in the worship of God!! Do you see a problem here? Nope. Let’s love her anyway.

One of the “pillars” of the church was related to her and one Sunday after the service (she had blown a cork in front of the sanctuary just before the service in front of many people) walked up to me and said, “Now, Jeff, we all know that [insert the woman’s name here] is a very bitter, angry person. But we choose to love her anyway. Let her do as she wants and there won’t be any problems. It’s just who she is.”

And I saw it in our first church too. Same scenario — church pianist was a lady who prided herself in her stubbornness, boasting that she was the “German general.” She taught a women’s “Bible” study each week in her home and announced regularly that it was HER ministry and that no one in the church had anything to say about it (though a good portion of the women in her study were also members of the church). “It’s just who she is, you know. But we choose to love her anyway.”

And of course I could give many other stories where men were the abusive culprits that “we resolve to just love as they are.”

Well, this is all absolutely bogus, totally opposed the the Word of God, flat out enablement of evil, and a denial of who a true Christian really is (and is not). Try these verses on for starters:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:5-9)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14)

See it? God’s Word says (in contradiction to what these people were saying) that who a person IS is revealed by what that person DOES. If a person is in fact characterized by outbursts of anger, by reviling speech toward others, by selfishness or jealousy, then that person is still living according to the flesh, their mind is hostile to God, they do not submit to God’s law, nor are they able to do so even in their minds! Simply put, they are not, in no way, a Christian. A Christian is a radically changed person whose very mindset has been absolutely altered by the regenerating work of the Spirit of Christ. The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.

So what was the real problem of the two “worship leaders” I described above and so many others like them I have found in every church I have pastored? What was the true diagnosis. They were not saved. They were still children of wrath, dead in sin, energized by the flesh, without hope and without God in the world. Do you think that a harsh diagnosis? For myself, I find such clarity to be refreshing as it blows away all the fog of confusion such people sow among Christ’s people. There it is! Mr. or Mrs choir director. You aren’t saved! Who you ARE is revealed clearly by your actions. You must repent. You must step down from leading worship. You cannot worship the God you do not know, let alone lead others in doing so.

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1John 2:4-6)

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1John 2:9-11)

And on and on we could go, quoting more scriptures just like these.

What is wrong with the abuser? He is a child of the devil. For all of his “God-talk” and apparent “piety” he is unsaved, unregenerate, hostile to God, an enemy of Christ’s truth, and that is why he does what he does. And with this clarity in mind, what do you think now of the person who says “Oh yes, I know. He lashes out like that frequently. That’s just the way he is. But he is a brother in the Lord and we need to love him anyway”? I hope that your answer is “BALONEY! THAT IS A LIE! AND THAT IS CERTAINLY NOT LOVE!”

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (John 8:43-45)

Apparently Jesus our Lord didn’t buy it either. “Yep, that IS just the way she is. And if she doesn’t repent and come to genuine faith and be saved, she is going to end in hell.”

***

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19 Comments

  1. beckij

    So much truth! Thank you!

  2. God Fearing Mom

    I have a mother in law who has been abusive towards me over the years and slanders people. She thinks she’s a Christian. If I told her she wasn’t she would verbally abuse me as she’s done in the past. So we have her living in our house until she/we can afford to move her out with her other son.
    I just stay away from her as much as possible. I recently went to the hospital five days after bearing my sixth child because of fear and anxiety from her behavior. I had shortness of breath. My husband told her not to talk to me at all and if she continues she’ll have to move out but right now there is nowhere for her to go so she’s compliant.

    • Jeff Crippen

      That’s a very hard situation to be in. Actually however, she does indeed have somewhere to go. Out! The rest is her problem to deal with.

    • Song of Joy

      God Fearing Mom,
      Pastor Jeff has wise words. Your abusive MIL can leave…she is an adult and her living arrangements are her own responsibility. You don’t mention how old she is, or what her health is, however even if she were elderly and disabled, she could live in a nursing home commensurate with her ability to pay (in US, I believe that Medicaid can cover an indigent person). If she is neither of these things, she should be able to take care of herself. Too bad for her if it isn’t as cushy a situation as she believes she is entitled to (you & your husband taking care of her).

      From personal experience with my paternal extended family, it is a bizarre thing I have witnessed that abusive people are extremely adept moochers and able to solicit huge amounts of unjustified pity for their “problems”. They easily manipulate others and make relatives feel responsible for providing all kinds of support, freebies, loans, gifts, time and effort to make the abuser’s life responsibility-free. I witnessed hard-working, loving family members as they catered to the abusers their whole lifetime. It’s baffling and I can’t figure it out why everyone falls for it, but it happens. I hope you get your MIL out of your home soon.

      • God Fearing Mom

        Song of Joy,

        Thank you. She’s in her mid 60s and goes to dialysis a few times per week for her kidneys, has a pacemaker, and she’s legally blind so she burns her food sometimes. We do have a degree of responsibility and don’t really know how and when to put her in a convalescent home and I’m pretty sure she can’t afford it. She does pay us rent. We are only dealing with it because she’s behaving. We have to figure something out for her soon because she forgets to behave every once in awhile and it’s quite unbearable. I once had to go to my mother’s with all the kids until she moved out. It took a month. I don’t want to have to do that again. Perhaps I will enquire about convalescent care sooner than later.

      • healinginhim

        God Fearing Mom — praying for you. I have witnessed your situation so many times. Even when placed in a convalescent home she may attempt to make you look badly. Praying that God reveals the perfect remedy for you as you must be exhausted. Praying that even in an alternate care setting that staff will see through the abusive family dynamics. ((hugs))

  3. Over the years I would speak to my siblings about our abusive mother and the strategy of putting up a united front to try to get her to stop her verbal and emotional abuse. But despite her manipulations and malicious gossip directed at her own children, children-in-law, and grandchildren I was told that we just had to put up with her because “that’s just the way she is” or “many women her age are like that” (I wondered what her excuse was when she was younger and did the same things). I never found that to be a valid strategy or excuse and, of course, she never altered or decreased her abuses because she had no motivation to do so. Eventually I came to the realization that the pain would never stop unless I removed myself from any contact with her. It wasn’t an easy or quick decision but it was, eventually, the only one left to me. My siblings continue to tolerate her behavior, a course of action that helps no one, least of all our mother. Those who excuse the behavior of the abusers in their midst may sincerely believe that they are being kind or Christ-like but nothing could be further from the truth. Allowing someone to continue in their sin without warning them of the consequences is the true cruelty. I pray that my mother will come to a knowledge of the truth, repent, and be saved before it’s too late. And I pray also that our churches will expose the abusers in their midst and, if they refuse to repent and change their conduct, put them out of the congregations where they are doing so much damage to Gods children.

    • beckij

      I had a difficult situation like that with my own mother. My older brother advised me not to put up with her behavior, but rather to enforce boundaries. It tool a bit of research to learn what healthy boundaries would look like and how to enforce them, but once I did, her behavior with me changed for the better. Turns out she WAS capable of better behavior! Who knew? When the bad behaviors and manipulativeness no longer work, she adapted.

      Ultimately, there were behaviors I just put up with, so that every encounter was not so much of a battle, but healthy boundaries made it possible for me to have a decent relationship with her until she died.

      • Suzanne

        I’m happy for you, both that you and your brother were able to agree to set boundaries with your mother and that she responded positively. Perhaps my mother would change her ways if all of her children worked together. But that hasn’t happened and probably won’t. She has spent decades manipulating and triangulating us to get to the place where she is always considered to be the innocent victim and anyone who defies her or complains about her abuses is the devil.

  4. Tess

    Oh dear I am still struggling to get my head around this truth….I believed bad behaviour was “just flesh” , our human nature showing itself…..Like me losing my temper for example…
    It’s a kind of Christian brainwashing, resulting from not being preached the full gospel for over 60 ,years!!! It’s so easy to just pick out the bits about forgiveness and tolerance….But this has caused me so much guilt and anxiety, grief etc etc…..

    There is so much of Jesus’s teaching that I have been ignorant of. I am not blaming my pastors alone as we should all search the scriptures for ourselves shouldn’t we?

  5. healinginhim

    The title of this post is what I’ve been hearing for every single abuser I’ve been up against. It hasn’t mattered whether it was the man I married, adult children, extended family … The children will even make excuses, “Well, that’s just the way Grandma and Grandpa were raised.” Yeah, raised to lie and be deceitful to their daughter-in-laws!
    Thank you for this post – the truth from God’s Word exposes the lies of the enemy.

  6. Remedy

    We are often ‘guilted’ in the message of unity. If someone speaks up, the unity will be disrupted. I always sort of feel, among healthy people, won’t our unity be strengthened by living in the truth and light and enhancing our understanding as we seek true relationship and reconciliation? Who wants to live in an environment of ‘peace, peace….when there is,no peace’….? God is not glorified by that.

  7. standsfortruth

    Havent we all heard this from the enablers.

    “Why Honey, Thats just who He or She is…”

    Beware.
    This is a “Tell” to Gods people of their spiritual condition.

    • broken not shattered

      Standsfortruth you are so right….I love how you use the word “tell”. This is another one – “forgive them because you are also a sinner”. I heard that one too many times.

  8. MarkQ

    So true. I left a former church partially because a husband and wife ruled the church with an iron fist. They wanted to make all the decisions, and were experts at sabotaging other people (who were doing the “wrong” thing) so that they could swoop in and safe the day by doing what they wanted to do in the first place. I know a number of people who left because they saw through it and the leaders wanted everyone to play nice, which meant they got to rule and everyone else suffered. The amount of damage those two have caused is beyond measure.

    Re: the situation with the mother. I believe we are experiencing some of the fallout in this. My parents want to remain independent, but they are really not independent. Instead, they rely on other people who feel pity for them to come in and help. Thus, they are able to claim their continued ability to stay out of a care facility. Our family pretty much split down the middle between the enablers and the boundary builders. I had a foot in both camps, but it seems that the enablers have just spent themselves trying to keep the deception alive.

    That is a similarly hard situation. They have a web of enablers outside the family, and I’m sure the enablers think that we are cruel by letting them wallow in their squalor, but we know that they are not going to get the care and safety they need without people who are paid to take care of them.

    • That situation with your parents sounds really hard. And it sounds like you are doing a really good job of steering the most honourable and godly path through the mess.

    • healinginhim

      I hear you MarkQ … I was labeled uncaring when I walked away from enabling my mother and father-in-law. Meanwhile, the one sister in-law complained about the situation but the man I married would not say anything because I now realize his intent was to quietly wait til they passed on and then be a part of the inheritance.
      Good for you to see through the ‘controlling’ church situation. It’s so difficult to ‘leave’ and then be chastised for not ‘assembling together with the saints.’
      You’ve done well in moving forward and setting boundaries.

      • MarkQ

        Healinginhim, It took years to see through the situation, and it wasn’t until they tried to control my wife that I got angry about it. (My wife said to me, after being hurt… “well, that’s just how she is…”) I was furious. Even then, I didn’t realize how much I was emotionally damaged by them until I left for a better church. It’s been peeling layers of the emotional abuse onion ever since, because this sort of manipulation has been played out over and over in my life.

  9. Liz

    I have a thought. Why is it that, if a person doesn’t comply with their contractual duties at work, the employer is considered to be perfectly justified in reminding, chastising and finally firing the person. But in a marriage, if one partner doesn’t do their part, or actively does things which are harmful, the harmed spouse (as per the employer) is frowned upon for taking disciplinary action?

    I know it’s not a perfect analogy, because a marriage is so much more than a business relationship. Just something I’m mulling over as I consider my own marriage, and how people have treated me and spoken to me as I’ve sought help to deal with my husband’s neglect and emotional abuse.

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