A Cry For Justice

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

Do I need to forgive my abuser? — a podcast from Church Protect

Abuse survivors always wonder whether they need to forgive their abuser. Do they have to forgive? When should they forgive? Does forgiveness require anything from the abuser? Churches often force victims into forgiving their abuser and some even make it a condition of fellowship. But is this biblical? And what do those same churches require of the abuser? Typically far more is expected (demanded) of the survivor than of the abuser.

Do I need to forgive my abuser? is a podcast from Church Protect which is a consulting ministry that offers the combined expertise and experiences of Jimmy Hinton and Jon Uhler.

Church Protect began as a result of Jimmy Hinton finding out that his father, a former minster, is a pedophile. God allowed Jimmy’s path to intersect with Jon Uhler’s and a partnership was born. Jon has over 20 years of counseling experience working as a clinical therapist: he has worked extensively with survivors of child sex abuse, and has over 10 years of experience working with sex offenders who are in prison. 

From the Facebook page of Church Protect:

Jimmy is a full time minister and Jon has theological training as well, making them a great team to help churches combat abuse. As both listen to countless stories of brokenness, humiliation, and shattered innocence, they agree that it is a sin to sit on the sidelines while millions of children are being sexually abused and trafficked each year.

Over 90% of pedophiles identify themselves as religious. This is a huge deal for churches because religious people tend to go to church. In the words of a pedophile, “Churches are the easiest places to offend.” Pedophilia is at epidemic proportions in the church and, sadly, there are few resources for church leaders to combat this plague. With 42 million survivors of child sex abuse in the United States, it is nearly impossible to find a church that doesn’t have victims of abuse. Sadly, most abuse remains undetected. Worse yet, most alleged cases are not reported by church leaders to the authorities and the majority of allegations are dismissed by leaders who don’t know how to detect abuse.

Church Protect is a consulting ministry that offers the combined expertise and experiences of Jon and Jimmy. No longer do church leaders have to guess how to handle difficult situations involving young children who are sexualized in their churches. It’s time we take a stand against abuse and shout, “ENOUGH!”

Listen to Jimmy and Jon discuss what God has to say about forgiveness: Do I need to forgive my abuser?   

In the podcast  they focus on serial pedophilia — how it manifests in churches, and how churches respond to it —  but we think that the same principles apply to the vast majority of spousal abuse.

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Jimmy Hinton is the pastor of Somerset Church Of Christ, Pennsylvania

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While we agree with the work Church Protect is doing to equip and support churches to prevent and report sexual abuse, we want to caution readers that Church Protect also supports and recommends material by James Dobson, John MacArthur, Focus on the Family,  and Family Life Today.  We are ACFJ do not recommend teachings and materials from these men and/or organizations as they are harmful to victims of domestic abuse.  For more information regarding our concerns see these posts:

Focus on the Family & John MacArthur spout “God hates divorce.” And do they accept correction? 
A ‘Gauntlet Down’ Challenge to james Dobson, Focus on the Family, and other Christian Ministries of Fame
Where does Focus on the Family stand on abuse and divorce?
This is Where John MacArthur’s ‘no divorce for abuse’ Leads People Like Don
John MacArthur’s Instruction to Abuse Victims – Aaaaargh!!!
More on Abuse from John MacArthur – Double Aaaargh!

 

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28 Comments

  1. CeeKay

    Heads up: I think your first paragraph needs a correction where it states, “Churches often force abusers into forgiving their abuser…”

    • CeeKay,

      Good spot! I have fixed it.

  2. emmellkaycee

    I will never ever understand how “churches” justify their willing ignorance of teaching the necessary spiritual element of discerning evil. This character necessity is a definitive sign of spiritual maturity (Hebrews). Their continual claim of ignorance is crapola, as far as I am concerned, and is simply another convenient lie they tell themselves and attempt to convince others of. Leading their congregations into becoming fully mature dsciples in the Spirit is their JOB! And it is the congregants’ job to become fully adapted to spiritual MEAT eating. Enough with the continual decades of milk sucking and pablum gumming. DO YOUR JOB!

  3. M&M

    I think you meant “force survivors” in the 5th sentence.

    • M&M,
      Yes, that is what we meant. I have fixed it. Thanks.

  4. Angie

    Thanks for this. It breaks my heart when I see people say “forgive and forget and be friends again.” That is what an abusive pastor told me at LCF and it not only broke my heart, it broke my soul. And now I have PTST because of what happened there.

  5. Clockwork Angel

    Great podcast! I wish they had covered more about the forgiving seven times if the offender repents seven times. Does that mean if a molester rapes a child and “repents”, and then rapes the child again, in a cycle of seven times in the same day, that the child has to forgive him? The fact that the offense occurs seven times in a single day (with “I’m sorry” sprinkled in between each offense) in this verse plainly indicates the offender isn’t sorry at all. Surely Jesus didn’t mean to convey this? What does this verse even mean? It’s always driven me crazy.

      • Clockwork Angel

        Not really. I mean, it’s helpful, but it doesn’t really address the “seven times in a day” aspect of the verse. If someone sins seven times in a day and “repents” seven times, the repentance isn’t really repentance. Is this just some Hebrew idiom? What does that even mean?

      • Jeff Crippen

        The only idiom would be that the seven times and 70 times seven speaks of “without limit.” But Jesus is speaking of TRUE repentance here. How do we know? Because he is talking about a “brother” and says that the brother repents. Where there is true repentance, we are to forgive. You have a good point in observing that a person who just keeps doing the same thing over and over is not truly repenting, but this passage does not say that he commits the same sin repeatedly. It is I think exaggeration for effect. Many other Scriptures tell us to have nothing to do with a person who claims to be a Christian but who walks in sin (see 1 Cor 5 for instance).

  6. Stronger Now

    Excellent, excellent podcast! I listened to it twice, and I wish every pastor could hear and understand what they are doing to victims!!

  7. Daffodil

    Wonderful clarity! Now I know I’m not being ungodly to ask God for His righteous justice and redemptive judgment in what I’m dealing with from a narcissist.

  8. Seeking Freedom

    What about when your abusive husband takes your forgiveness as permission to continue being abusive?

    • Stronger Now

      This proves he is not repentant. End of forgiveness.

      • I second what Stronger Now said.

        Here is our FAQ about Repentance.

      • Dear Stronger Now, we have a safety concern about you to do with your gravatar. Could you please email twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

        Thanks 🙂

      • Seeking Freedom

        Thank you. I needed that clarity. I have been separated from my abusive husband for several years now. He was emotionally, verbally, and financially abusive (destroyed my credit rating while controlling all finances). And he withheld medical care, but in sneaky ways that are hard to prove. He has made no real effort to stop being abusive. He is colder and colder every time I speak to him. I know he hates me, and yet he seems to want to stay married. Why?

      • Why does the abuser want to stay married? Usually it’s because the abuser figures that by staying married, even if married-but-separated, he has a bit more power of his victim and a bit more leverage in recruiting and maintaining allies.

        He can tell his allies and the bystanders that he has been so *righteous* in resisting divorce. If his victim initiates divorce he can portray himself as the righteous party and depict his victim as the party who rebelled against God’s law by taking out a divorce. This of course is just spin. But the abuser knows that most Christians think “God hates divorce” so they are predisposed to believe his spin, his slanderous accuations against his victim.

        Also, by remaining technically married even though separated, he may have ongoing ability to control and abuse his victim financially. If a property settlement has not taken place, he has the ability to misuse and squander their common property and even perhaps to cause more suffering to her from their joint debts and borrowings.

        And if she dies, he can claim that as her spouse he has a right to inherit her estate.

        So I generally encourage victims of abuse who have separated and have no intention of ever going back to their abuser, to get divorced to tie up all those loose ends. But I know that the laws in different places can make this more or less difficult and dangerous. I’m not a lawyer and I always urge victims to get good legal advice that pertains to their own state or country.

  9. Moving Forward

    Just this morning I was reading the story about the unrighteous servant. He owed a debt so huge he could never pay it, and was forgiven of that debt. Then he turned on a fellow servant and had him thrown in jail for a very small debt. In response, the king handed over his unrighteous servant to the tormentors til the huge debt was paid in full (Matthew 18:23-34).

    My stbx thinks his debt is forgiven, but takes joy in railing on me for all the wrongs he perceives I have done him. Some day, though, the King of kings will hold him accountable for his debt/sins/abuse against all of us, and his refusal to forgive, and hand him over to the tormentors for eternity. It is sad, but he has chosen this path, and I am glad to be getting some distance from him. My children and I pray that some day they, too, will be free of him forever. I wonder, whatever happened to the “forgive and forget” policy he insisted on from me during our marriage?

  10. M&M

    I’m glad they mentioned a difference between a teenage victim that is re-enacting abuse and a hardened adult, because I’ve heard that teenage victims can react to abuse in ways that look like sociopathy but are actually a lot more treatable than true sociopaths if they are treated for trauma. Now I still think they need to learn to think about how their actions affect others, but I don’t want to mis-label their propensity to change.

  11. Rachael

    I was sexually abused my my grandfather when I was 9. My whole life people in my family and church kept telling me to forgive him. They never said that they were sorry I had been abused and that they wished he was in prison. Or that God is a God of justice who will pour out his wrath upon the wicked who hurt the innocent. I just was supposed to forgive and that would stop my pain. It was my realization that God himself will one day give me justice that helped heal me.

    • Thanks Rachael. I honour your bravery in speaking out about the abuse you have suffered from your grandfather and from those who oppressed you with false teaching about forgiveness.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry to hear that, Racheal. I wonder how it is so much of ‘Christianity’ got so shipwrecked apart from what the Bible truly says and instead we have this weird ‘peace, love’ hippie horse-poo, where sin is no biggie and what is really most important is that we all come together and play nice and whatever else. God promises us that He will be our Avenger, that vengeance is His.

  12. Stuck in the cycle

    I am looking forward to listening to this podcast, but I have a question that is off-topic:

    Barbara, Jeff or anyone who subscribes to the Westminster standards:
    How would you argue the person in abusive the marriage has the ability and right to determine when desertion has taken place? I am asking as the h was soundly rebuked when HE wanted a divorce. He was told he couldn’t decide. It was decided – that the elders and then the Classis and on up – must determine whether this was justified. (And he was told he would not win. There was a glancing reference to my possibly having stronger grounds but everything has since been reconciliation etc)

    Westminster Confession chapter 24:

    “Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.”

    • Jeff Crippen

      We disagree with that paragraph in the Westminster Confession. It exceeds the authority Christ has given the church. See this article for instance.

      • Stuck in the cycle

        Jeff, thank you for the response. Should I move my questions to that post then?

        Sorry for the many typos in my original question!
        “He was told he COULDN’T decide”
        “elders and then the CLASSIS” [like Pres session]

    • And in addition to the article Jeff Crippen just referenced, here are three more:

      1. Abuse and Divorce: A Disagreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith by Jeff Crippen

      2. David Instone-Brewer, The Westminster Confession, and Judging Divorce by Jeff S.

      3. Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) Position Paper

      The section of this paper titled Applying Paul’s Instruction About Desertion Today (Section II, paragraph E, subsection 4) addresses the PCA’s position on divorce, remarriage, and desertion by abuse.

      This Position Paper is not binding on PCA churches. It is not followed in some (many?) PCA churches and it appears that some PCA pastors have not even heard of it.

      We are concerned that the Position Paper mutualizes all marriage problems. On p. 245, when advising elders who are dealing with a marriage in which divorce is on the cards, it says:

      The the elders must carefully approach the question of delving beneath the precipitating cause of the divorce to the underlying issues. The elders cannot allow themselves to be used by one spouse seeking the condemnation of the other’s sin, while refusing to acknowledge, in most cases, some responsibility for the crisis.

      Also, many or most PCA churches subscribe to the Danvers Statement of CBMW, which, for all its nice sounding rhetoric, can easily (in our observation) become bedfellows with a hard patriarchal attitude towards women.

  13. healinginhim

    Thank you for supplying the link to this podcast. Praying it will help in the healing process of so many who have been victimized.

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