A Cry For Justice

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

A Sure Sign of a Bully or Abuser: the Gnashing of Teeth

Now when they heard these things they were enraged,
and they ground their teeth at him. (Acts 7:54)

Recently I was reminded still once more of how the wicked react when their evil is exposed and they are called to account. The fangs come out. The bullying begins. They are like vicious, wild animals snapping at their prey. In this account here in Acts 7, Stephen has just confronted the Jews with their sins:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered. (Acts 7:51-52)

It sets them off like a pack of wolves and of course as we know, they murdered Stephen right there.

My recent experience with this sort was in regard to pastors who were rightly confronted with wickedness and spiritual abuse. They added to the oppression of victims and now it has come out. The response? Fangs. Gnashing of teeth. Direct assault against those exposing them. Vilification and reviling, demeaning and accusing. Of course they do all this in the name of “righteousness,” but they are anything but righteous. “Who are YOU to tell ME?” “How DARE you speak to me this way.” “You don’t know anything and I do.” “YOU are the guilty one here for slandering and gossiping.” See it? Fangs. Gnashing. It is characteristic of the wicked who are enraged when they are exposed. No hint of anything resembling repentance.

When a person, especially someone who claims to be “righteous” and who is in some kind of position of authority, responds in this characteristic manner, you can be sure you are dealing with at best a bully and perhaps even a sociopathic abuser. I am not certain, for that matter, if there is really a difference between the bully and the abuser.

If you look at Scripture and search under “gnashing of teeth” here are some things you come up with:

He has torn me in his wrath and hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me; my adversary sharpens his eyes against me. (Job 16:9)

But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth. (Psa 35:15-16)

All your enemies rail against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry: “We have swallowed her! Ah, this is the day we longed for; now we have it; we see it!” (Lam 2:16)

Pretty cool, huh? By that I mean, it is soooo revealing of what a person really is because this reaction is so consistent in the wicked. How many times have we seen pastors and writers and leaders of “notoriety” respond in just this way when their sin is put before them? They ooze hatred. They threaten. They demean and accuse. Oh, and often they throw in some words of “piety” as a cover.

Do they literally grind and gnash their teeth? Apparently in some cases yes they do. Their jaw is clenched. They set their teeth together and scowl hatred. They rail and rage through tightly clenched teeth. And they do this most intensely WHEN THEY KNOW they are busted. The truth is out. It is a murderous thing.

Incidentally then, we must rightly interpret this gnashing of teeth business in Scripture. Haven’t we often thought that when the Bible says the wicked will be gnashing their teeth when the Lord consigns them to hell that this teeth-gnashing business is an expression of their anguish and pain? I think that is wrong and misses the point. Gnashing of teeth in the Bible is an expression of hatred, of intense disdain, of “I want to kill you” mentality. With that in mind, consider these verses —

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 8:11-12)

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 13:41-42)

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mat 22:11-13)

See it? Don’t feel sorry for these characters. Even as they go down to hell, they want to murder Christ! They are beasts, actually, and thus it is appropriate that they are led by a beast —

And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. (Rev 19:19-20)

I say again then, one of the consistent marks of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is that when cornered, when confronted with the light of truth, the wool comes off and the wolf comes out. By that I mean that the “pious and godly” church leaders, the noted Christian conference speaker, the saintliest saint in the local church who is in truth a wicked person, will, when pressed with exposure, gnash their teeth. The bullying language and posturing will begin. When that happens, you can be sure that you are dealing with a child of the beast, not with a child of King Jesus.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pet 2:22-23)

***

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18 Comments

  1. joepote01

    Oh, wow! I never saw “weeping and gnashing of teeth” this way before. This makes perfect sense!

    The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is not sorrow and repentance…rather it is indignation and hatred!

    Yes, I’ve seen it over and over when an abuser is confronted…that’s the classic MO for an abuser caught in the act…indignation and hatred.

    It makes perfect sense that when the wicked have their sins exposed by Christ and are forced to face the consequences of their wickedness they will respond with indignation and hatred.

    Thanks for sharing this Jeff!

  2. Misti

    Same as Joe, I hadn’t considered proud indignation and hatred as what’s being referred to in the weeping and gnashing of teeth. That has some significant implications on the Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell, and actually fits better with what I’ve been reading on the Jewish beliefs about the afterlife.

    On a practical application of the “indignant response to confrontation == red flag”, folks used to such wolves’ reactions can be taught to respond that way, themselves; taught it’s normal and healthy and natural. But even if a sheep has the knee-jerk, what they say and how they say it will differ from a wolf, and there will be actual improvement over time and ultimately responsibility taken for their words and actions even if there’s a knee-jerk reaction to the contrary from the start. (That does not mean you must expose yourself to vitriol while someone’s working out of a really bad/toxic headspace, either.)

    We also can’t save people from themselves, and even if we’re convinced that someone’s toxic due to being taught to be that way due to any intent to be cruel, that doesn’t change their culpability for their actual actions (which includes words), and it’s entirely appropriate to respond to them as wolves. They’re responsible to change their behavior, and until they do dealing with them as if they’re sheep just sets up both sides for harm.

    Thanks for the thought. 🙂

  3. Herjourney

    The gnashing of teeth will be most profound when God sends you to do his work. If your being payed by your employer to do tasks that are not looked upon as biblical. Taking a stand and going to the proper authorities to turn their abuse in might just get you pushed off the work schedule. God is looking for obedience not a conformest.Your comfort will be in the assurance that God is with you. Not against you. If you have an issue of what other people think of your walk with Christ? You will not be used by Him.

    • Anonymous

      Herjourney, Thank you for your comment. This last part, “If you have an issue of what other people think of your walk with Christ? You will not be used by Him.”

      For me this has not been the case. Because my abuse training as a child is do deeply entrenched in my thought processes, and because my disposition is such that I am highly aware of others emotions and feelings, I will probably have to deal with this on some level for the rest of my life….counter-acting the people-pleasing I was conditioned to do with biblical truth and having years walking with God, knowing that He takes care of me.

      I’ve commented on this website before about how God has worked in my life and teaching me how to stand up for myself by holding mock debates with myself and pretending I’m addressing my abusers. I do this still, waging verbal warfare with myself, at home or in the car, so that I can get my anger out and practice things to say in response if the occasion arises again.

      I went back to college when I was in my early forties. I was poor, had one pair of shoes and one pair of pants and if I forgot to bring food (my classes were quite far away) I had no money to buy anything. (My husband had plunged us deeply into debt.) I was just waking up to the truth of evil and psychopathy and I was deeply ashamed of myself. (At this point I didn’t yet know that I had chronic PTSD nor did I know that my insecurities and people pleasing was due to severe, unrelenting abuse.)

      When I would start a new class, if the instructor informed us that class participation was graded, I would immediately drop the class. I was so painfully shy that I would sit in the back of the room praying that no one would notice the old woman trying desperately to learn so that eventually she could get a decent paying job and not burden others.

      God of course kept putting me in situations where I had to publicly stand up for myself and others, and this was so hard for me because I was so aware of how others perceived me. (Again, due to the conditioning I’d received.) Over and over He made me get out of my comfort zone, but there is still that hesitancy on my part to cower in fear, due to abuse.

      I doubt that I will ever be COMPLETELY free from this, but God knows my heart and He knows my battle with this (caring what others think of me) so he works with me and he holds me tightly when I struggle and He continues to provide “opportunities” for me to practice my new skills. He reminds me that I CAN trust in Him and that he will still use me….he honors all my efforts.

      • Herjourney

        Anonymous
        I for one am proud that you are courageous to comment on this subject matter.
        Please know I still deal with what people think at times. Understanding that you are made in the image of God.. and He cares for you is a great comfort. He will give you courage through your trials.
        Keep reading God’s word.
        And know that God hears your prayers.

        I will pray for you. 💜

  4. Amy

    My ex used to literally gnash his teeth and when I read the title of your post this morning it brought back that image of him clenching his jaw and gnashing his teeth. LOL

    Again, this post is so spot on and yet it’s amazing how many in the church just look past someone who is acting this way. When my ex walked out in ’09, the church we attended at the time put the burden on me to forgive and forget and reconcile, and this after the pastor even shared one time with me how my then-husband had gotten in his face at a men’s prayer breakfast and told the pastor how he (my ex) did not have an anger problem. Really?? Crazy how people like my ex get away with stuff like this which so clearly indicates they are not Christians and merely abusers and bullies.

  5. shepherdguardian

    Thank you, Pastor Jeff.
    Well stated.

    To put what you’ve said another way, this is pretty typical narcissist/sociopath/abuser(reviler) behavior.

    If this is what many come to expect as “normal” from leaders in the visible church, I can only imagine how these poor souls might think about how God will treat those He has chosen for regeneration or what a marriage and family might look like.

  6. notlongnow

    I continue to be thankful to God for the writings this blog puts out. We need to be ever reminded of these truths.

    I agree it is amazing how the Lord exposes the wicked and their characteristics in His word, and how after a time, you see the predictable consistency in all the wicked’s behaviour, especially as this post points out, when they are confronted with the truth. They can’t handle the light and hate it, thus get so angry at their cloak being ripped off, and their personal little kingdoms being threatened.

    This reminds me of a video I was watching last night actually. It was a misconduct hearing of a wicked female Family Court Judge, who threw 3 children into Juvenile Detention because they refused a relationship with their father. They said he was abusive and the oldest one said he had seen him hit his mother. The Judge was so enraged she could not control them and force them into the relationship with him, that in her final attempt at forcing them to do so, sent them to prison until they (she hoped), broke and would engage with their father. All 3 children were ordered to be completely separated from each other in the detention centre, and the mother was barred all contact with her children. Only the father and anyone associated with him was allowed to visit, and in total irony, it turned out that the father didn’t even stay in the US during their incarceration as he lived in Israel. It is such a horrible story of the Family Court system abusing their power, and further abusing mothers and children who are trying to escape domestic violence. Anyway, my original point is, during the Misconduct hearing of the evil judge that did this, you can visibly see her contempt and rage at being called to account for her wicked actions. It was like she had the attitude ‘how dare any one question her highness’. If anyone is interested it is on Youtube called ‘Judge Lisa Gorcyca Misconduct Hearing’. Lots of triggers in it so please be warned. (Please edit this out if not ok to mention the Judge.)

    So all that to say, yes wicked abusers are like beasts who in the intense rage of the moment at being challenged and exposed, behave in predictable ways: gnashing of teeth, rage, ganging up on you, wild beasts surrounding you nipping at your heels, and yes it is so true we do not need to feel sorry for them, as their hearts are so dark, they will literally even after being eternally judged by God, still not repent and have a humble heart, but spit out rage and venom towards Him for their just judgment received. At the very core of their hearts, they are haters of the true Jesus Christ (but lovers of the false.)

  7. KayE

    My ex father in law is a church elder, trusted and respected in church circles and with a reputation for being an especially nice person. After the ex had left us, his parents continued to occasionally visit to see the grandchildren. During one of these visits my ex mother in law happened to ask, “What went wrong? I don’t understand.” She seemed sincere, so very cautiously I explained about how their son hadn’t liked it when I stood up to being controlled. At first the ex father in law sat there calmly and quietly. But then his wife started to show signs of really, really wanting to understand. In an instant he became angry, towering with hatred and rage. He radiated evil.
    His wife became silent and they left.

  8. LauraGrace

    Exactly! My poor children are dealing with this more than I am right now. I got to divorce him, but they don’t get that privilege. When they catch him in a lie he lashes out and accuses them of “disrespecting” him, of being “unappreciative” and “inappropriate,” and of lying themselves. He frequently calls them liars, but it is he who lies to them constantly. It is so unjust that this man gets away with mentally bullying his children with absolute carte blanche from the church and from society (mainly family court).

  9. Anonymous

    My wicked ex abuser would fly in to a rage, gnash his teeth and spew hatred at me, calling me filthy names while at the same time veins would be bulging from his face, as he would break into a sweat and tear off his shirt. First time I witnessed it I did not even know what to do; I froze in disbelief. He would shout in my face, “You are going to burn in hell for coming after one of God’s little ones.”

  10. Tess

    “Over and over He made me get out of my comfort zone”……..Dear Anonymous we are soul mates!

    Such conditioning can be overcome, if not totally, then far enough to allow us to function well enough to have a good and productive life against all the odds…….Yes, our Father is indeed a miracle working God!!

    Anonymous, God will recycle your pain and you will have so much to give to others who hurt .

    I, also, was conditioned to be timid and fearful…….Needing sedatives on and off since the age of 14..(I am now in my eightieth decade).

    In my twenties I was hospitalised for six months with anxiety and depression, needing multiple treatments of Electro Convulsive Therapy before I was deemed capable of returning to society…….Things seemed hopeless.

    However, God had other plans for me!!!

    I qualified as a teacher, have had several beautiful children, married for about three decades, even though now divorced, I am still close to my ex husband and have been able to cope with the aftermath of various kinds of abuse (which needs inner strength and resilience!).

    Remember, dear Anonymous, that God is “close to the broken hearted and draws close to anyone crushed in spirit” as we have been.

    Take heart and believe with all your heart that God is not disappointed in people like you and me…..NO…….We are precious to Him….In our weakness He will use us to help others……You will be mightily used!!!

    In spite of this weakened conditioning, we will be used….Our scars are beautiful to God…..And other hurting people will be drawn to us.

    I will pray for you. and wish you well in your walk towards total healing and restoration.

    ” You are so precious….Yes you are”.
    ( Listen to the songs of Godfrey Birtill (UK) , whose words are powerfully healing……. Assuring us of God’s unfailing love in our weakness and lack of confidence……..We are still the apple of His eye, valued and totally accepted.

    Tess x

    • Hi Tess, I airbrushed a few details in your comment.

      “Over and over He made me get out of my comfort zone”

      Evan Stark talks about that in his book Coercive Control — how the abusive man searches out and destroys the woman’s safety zones, the little places in her life where she has a tiny bit of self esteem or joy or pleasure or self-confidence.. her personhood. Evan Stark calls it Search and Destroy Missions — just like the military search and destroy the enemy’s strongholds and sources of supply.

  11. Barely Reformed

    There’s nothing like being screamed at (full volume), cussed out, and called names simultaneously to intimidate a person into silence and fear. Walking on eggshells can be bearable as a temporary measure while planning the escape and then executing it. And then….FREEDOM!!!

    • Anonymous

      Well said, Barely Reformed!

  12. Anonymous

    These evil ‘men’, cowards that they are will stop at nothing to make and keep us fearful and timid; and for a while, my abuser was successful. It is only when I got to the point where I did not care if I died, and prayed I would, that I lost ALL fear of him. Even when he would sit around the house cleaning his guns, glaring at me, refusing to engage in conversation when I spoke to him, I would go about my business around the house (I was never permitted to leave the house without him) with NO fear! Seeing my ‘no fear’ would throw him in to a rage. What was he going to do? Shoot me? No, these cowards can’t afford to get caught – they wear the white gloves – fear by intimidation is their MO and when they no longer can intimidate, they become completely UNDONE! That’s when his vicious covert plan of attack against me went in to high gear – I started to make my escape plan.

  13. Zechariah

    Thanks for writing this Jeff. I had not seen the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth before” and it makes much more sense. It also displays more magnificently both the mercy and justice of God. Eternal punishment is not something I would wish upon anyone and God himself has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He will forgive abundantly those who come to him in repentance and faith because he is love and he is merciful. But if someone can abuse another human being, gnash their teeth and show hatred in the face of Jesus Christ they have sealed their own fate.

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