A Cry For Justice

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

“Redemptive Divorce” by Mark Gaither — another bad book for domestic abuse

Redemptive Divorce by Mark Gaither is marketed on Amazon with this blurb:

A graceful, biblical way to reclaim sanity for the home and dignity for the suffering spouse in a dysfunctional or dangerous marriage.

Thousands of conscientious believers wanting to honor the sacred vows they took before God suffer in dysfunctional, even dangerous marriages. Each and every day they must choose between the lesser of two evils: divorce without sound biblical support or a life of perpetual, unrelenting misery. Somewhere between the secular disregard for the commands of Christ and the sacred unwillingness to deal with real problems of people, there is a way.

The redemptive divorce process is designed to honor the sacredness of the union while offering practical relief for the suffering partner and tough love for the offending spouse. In some cases, it might even be the catalyst for the restoration and rebuilding of the marriage. Practical, provocative, and utterly unique, Redemptive Divorce includes a helpful guide with worksheets for implementation.

Mark Gaither happens to be Charles (Chuck) Swindoll’s son-in-law, and Swindoll wrote the foreword for the book. Writing here about his own divorce and remarriage, Mark said he implemented the ‘redemptive divorce’ method when his first wife left him for another man, but in the end he had to accept that the marriage was over.

When I read Redemptive Divorce soon after it came out in 2008, it worried me because I knew that in cases of abuse it wasn’t safe to apply the method which Gaither was teaching. So I emailed Mark Gaither to express my concerns. He replied graciously, saying that he agreed with my concerns and he wished he’d been more aware of that before publishing his book.

The first half of Redemptive Divorce explains the theory and biblical principles of disciplinary divorce. That section could be useful for anyone, including victims of domestic abuse. The second half of the book explains the methodology — how to apply the principles when a marriage is on the rocks by utilizing the American divorce system in a way which invites a sinning spouse to repentance and genuine reconciliation, while recognizing that if the sinner refuses to repent, the divorcing spouse will not be guilty for proceeding with the divorce.

I’ll give him credit that in the final chapter of the book he says, “Redemptive divorce is not a remedy for domestic violence.” But mentioning that in the final chapter isn’t good enough, particularly since many of his readers would be victims of abuse given Amazon’s blurb which says the book is for “the suffering spouse in a dysfunctional or dangerous marriage.”

Gaither should not have allowed the wording of that blurb. And he should have stated at the beginning of the book that “redemptive divorce is not a remedy for domestic violence and abuse.” Furthermore, he ought to have a very prominent warning on his website so that readers will know not to apply his methodology in cases of spousal abuse. He has no such warning, either on his homepage or on his page about Redemptive Divorce.

If the proactive spouse using redemptive divorce methodology were a victim of abuse, the method would further endanger her if she had not yet escaped from living with the abuser and managed to firmly barricade herself against post-separation abuse. And as we know, it is very hard to leave an abuser, let alone securely barricade oneself against all post-separation abuse, especially where there are children of the marriage. Any access the abuser has to the victim and any communications she makes to him are going to be re-shaped into bullets by him and fired back at her. Mark gave no guidance on how to adapt his method in abuse scenarios so as to optimize the victim’s safety. And when I wrote to him in 2008 with my feedback, he agreed with me.

Gaither told me that he recognizes that his methodology is okay for victims of adultery or simple desertion but is not suitable for abuse.

So I have to ask now, all these years later — Was Mark lying when he told me in 2008 that he agreed with my concerns? Or does he agree with me but simply not care enough about protecting the abused to put a warning on his site? I think he has shown rank neglect for the safety of abuse victims.

The redemptive divorce method focuses on giving clear notice to the offending spouse that their behavior is sundering the marriage. The method is designed to encourage the offending spouse to repent and it implicitly leaves open the door to reconciliation for quite some time. This leads me to another concern about the book, which one of our readers raised with me.

As we know, abusers typically make a superficial show of repentance. The tough proactive stance Gaither suggests could be used by an abuser to further harm a victim in the divorce process. An abuser could take the role of the proactive spouse using the Redemptive Divorce method and portray himself as the righteous Christian who is inviting his wife to repent and reconcile. Most churches would side with the abuser because they love the word ‘redemption’ and they’re too naive to detect the difference between fake repentance and genuine reformation. Abracadabra! —the abuser can use Gaither’s book as another weapon in his arsenal to manipulate bystanders into blaming the victim for not repenting and for not being willing to reconcile the marriage.

But I’ll say again, as we say so often on this blog: the abused spouse does not need to repent for ‘her part in the marriage breakdown’ because she did not cause the marriage breakdown. (As with anything we write on this blog, reverse the genders if you need to.)

Mark Gaither also makes the classic error of sin-levelling and mutualizing the blame for marriage breakdown.

In Redemptive Divorce, when discussing a case of marital separation due to the husband’s drug addiction and adultery and (by the wife’s report) where husband has “now broken his habit for good and given his life to Christ,” Mark recommends they remain separated for a while to give the wife time to heal in safety, and give time for the husband to address whatever personal issues led to his sin, and “the couple can allow trust to rebuild slowly and responsibly.” But Mark also says, “She must also discover and own her contribution to the breakdown of the marriage.” (p89) That, as we know, is unjustly mutualizing the blame for the marriage breakdown.

And in another place [link] he writes:

Obviously, every troubled marriage has two sides, even when the fault weighs heavier on one side than the other. 

Perhaps he has projected his own experience onto every other divorcee. In this post written August 17 2010 for Covenant Eyes, he describes and reflects on the breakdown of his first marriage:

… in marriage, there is no such thing as an “innocent” victim. No one is perfect. We all sin. We all fail. We all do things—small and great—that do harm to our relationships. Sooner or later, if we are to recover from the devastation of marital betrayal, we must turn our eyes away from the sins of our partner and take a painful look at our own.

Essentially, I had to admit that, from the beginning, I chose a woman incapable of normal intimacy because I didn’t want genuine intimacy myself. That way I could tell myself I wanted intimacy without actually having to endure the risks that necessarily come with it.. …

Among my many faults and flaws, I discovered a man unwilling to be wrong. Consequently, I didn’t make it easy for anyone—including my spouse—to be honest about their grievances and disappointments in me. I made it easier for her to bury her pain rather than express it openly and honestly with me. Resentments, like poison, cannot remain inside or they’ll kill the soul. While her sinful choices were her responsibility, I didn’t provide a healthy outlet for her frustrations. My reluctance to hear and accept responsibility for my faults made obedience more difficult for my non-confrontational partner. I didn’t make her sin, but I did make sin an easier choice.

Mark Gaither used an abused woman’s story to elicit donations to his ‘ministry’

Mark wrote in August 9, 2009 that he and his second wife Charissa were setting up Redemptive Heart Ministries Inc., and were applying for tax exempt status. In that post they shared a letter which a woman, Charlene, had written to them in which she said:

I left my marriage of 20 years to a pastor/shepherd husband who verbally, emotionally, mentally, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually abused me and our 5 children throughout our marriage. I reached my breaking point late last year and left. I homeschooled for 15 years so did not work outside home for past 20 years, and therefore have almost no means to support myself, much less pay for legal help.

…. Where does a wife in my situation go when the church, extended family, friends, etc. won’t believe her story and will not offer help because the pastor/shepherd is such a wolf in sheep’s clothing—charming, warm, outwardly loving, does all the right things outside the home, but inside the home, a monster. This is spiritual warfare at a level most people can’t even imagine.

On top of all we’ve been through, it is especially unfair to be relegated to the welfare system to support myself and my children. The majority of churches I’ve emailed for help say that I have to be a tithing member [in order to receive help]. I don’t have a car to get to job interviews, counseling appointments, etc. Where can I go for help? Is there such an organization or ministry that has tangible resources for families like mine?

I feel isolated and rejected, and I need help.

I have little doubt that Charlene’s story was true. And it seems to me that Mark used Charlene’s story to try to get donations for his fledgling Redemptive Heart Ministries Inc.

Then — whatdya know — two days later, on August 11, Mark published another post [link] reporting that

Once Charlene decided to break away from her abusive husband, she began a healing process under the guidance of her divorce recovery group. 

This study at a local church became a catalyst for deeper healing, which helped me [Charlene] to humble myself and go to my husband and apologize for how I had participated in the destruction of our marriage. Something broke inside of both of us through this process. I had been rejected since birth. He had been abandoned by an absentee father at an early age. Amazing that we had these issues staring us in the face for so many years after conversion. We needed healing. I took a strong stand for myself—a cry for help—that became God’s intervention  . . . for both of us. We are different people as a result of this journey of healing.”

Charlene and her husband are now in the process of reconciling and restoring their marriage. Not merely “getting back together,” but building again on a whole new foundation. They have long way to go and a lot of work to do. Rebuilding trust is a difficult, sometimes perilous journey, and they are not assured of success. Regardless, their separation gave them an opportunity to turn hopelessness into a bright, hopeful future.

And — you guessed it — at the end of that article Mark asked for $ donations again. Mark clearly didn’t have any idea about how men like Charlene’s husband do not change. How they are reprobate. How they can masquerade brokenness and emotional repentance like Oscar-winning actors while their hearts remain as hard as flint and as wily as foxes. Mark used Charlene’s story to leverage his ‘ministry’. He was so clueless about the dynamics of abuse that he took her belief in her husband’s repentance at face value. I feel for all the women like Charlene who have been buoyed up with false hopes by people like Mark Gaither.

According to Mark Gaither, doing ‘what is right’ means not divorcing the unrepentant porn-using spouse.

In Mark Gaither’s article Living with an Unrepentant, Porn-Abusing Husband: Advice to Weary Wives of Addicts (Feb 2010) he responds to the letter from a woman whose husband had promised to give up porn but had not followed through with his promise. The woman had asked Gaither whether she should stay in the marriage or leave. Gaither says:

It’s not an easy question to answer. I address the issue from a theological standpoint in the article, “Is Pornography Scriptural Grounds for Divorce?[dead link]—concluding that divorce is not the biblically sound response. So, my short answer to her question is, “stay in the marriage.” However, if you are a woman stuck in this situation, I do not recommend remaining passive. While the Bible does not counsel divorce, the marriage is far from okay. Viewing pornography is not the same as adultery—at least not technically. Regardless, women suffer the same humiliation and endure the same feelings of betrayal. (See also, “Is Porn the Same as Adultery?”) Consequently, you cannot simply pretend the marriage is intact, despite what your husband claims or what well-meaning advisers tell you.

While it’s not your place to change your husband or try to rouse his dead conscience, you can continue to allow the consequences of your husband’s sin to fall upon him. However, this can be a delicate matter and it must be handled with wisdom. Otherwise, you can cause more harm than good. Your husband ultimately answers to God, so you cannot—and must not—become his Holy Spirit. Nor can you become a means of behavior modification. “Tough love” does not try to control or coerce another person; it merely rejects sin and declares how we will respond to future wrongdoing. Instead, you must shift your focus away from any hope of his changing and decide how you are going to coexist under the same roof while he persists in his sin.

Needless to say, we have put Redemptive Divorce on our Hall of Blind Guides.

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Calling for research participants: What is the impact on church members when the pastor is the perpetrator of domestic abuse?

Would you like to participate in a research study related to domestic abuse and the impact on church members when the pastor is the perpetrator? ACFJ is assisting the researcher by publishing her invitation as a guest post. Now, over to her: 

My name is Judy and I am a doctoral student at California Southern University examining how church members are affected when they learn that their pastor is a perpetrator of domestic violence.  This research focuses on the personal experiences of the church member after learning about the abuse and violence perpetrated by their pastor.

The United States Department of Justice on Violence Against Women (2016) defines domestic abuse/violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.  It can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.  Domestic violence and intimate partner violence are terms that are often used interchangeably.  These terms include any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

The aim of the study is to expand the line of research related to domestic violence and the impact on church members when the pastor is the perpetrator.   It is hoped that the results of this study encourage further research, along with the development of programs and resources that address any specific needs of church members affected by this discovery of abuse.

If you are interested in participating in this study, have experienced learning that your pastor abused his/her spouse, belong to the age group 21-80 years of age, and able to communicate in English; please respond by contacting me directly at judykelly12@sbcglobal.net.

Please provide your contact information, time zone, and the best time to reach you to discuss your potential participation in this study.  Your participation in this study is voluntary and will remain confidential.

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I Have Really Bad Dreams – Is This Normal for Abuse Victims?

We were recently asked this very important question and thought it would be an excellent subject for a blog post and discussion. After all, I suspect that this is a pretty common experience after the trauma of abuse. Dreams. Nightmares. Am I going crazy? That sort of thing.

Sometimes I have really bad dreams. Last night I had one that I was raped. Is this normal for abuse victims? What I noticed about the dream was that it was multiple men.

I am no psychologist and certainly then no expert on this subject. But we all have experienced this enough to realize that bad dreams generally concern the things we fear the most. Right? In the conservative churches I was raised in, dreams are often dismissed. Now, I certainly don’t listen to someone who says they had a dream and God spoke to them (like the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day), but dreams happen in our minds. In our mental center. And surely traumatized people are going to have their fears crop up in the night. Even more minor fears:

  • You realize you forgot your pants as you stand up in front of the class to give a speech
  • You are late for class and you can’t remember the combination for your locker lock
  • …..you can add to the list here

One time when my wife and I were still in our early 20’s, we went hunting with her parents and slept in their camper. They were in the bed above the truck cab (you know, the bed with the ceiling only about two feet above you) and we were sleeping in the bed formed from the dining table. All of a sudden in the middle of the night Verla sat straight up and let out this horrendous blood curdling scream. Loud!  And you hear this “whump, whump” which was her parent’s heads bouncing off the ceiling as they shot straight up in bed.  I don’t remember what Verla’s nightmare was, but she had one that’s for sure.

So it is our fears, and our shame that seems to fuel these dreams. Abuse is a fear and shame factory, so it isn’t at all surprising that victims experience bad dreams. The solution? Getting out of the abuse, coming to understand abuse and its lies, and doing all the other things that go along with healing from trauma.

In your comments here, I suspect that you can all help one another out by sharing your experiences with fear-filled dreams. You don’t have to give all the details if you don’t want, but it is very validating for everyone to hear that no, they aren’t crazy. They aren’t the only ones to have these dreams.

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A Trap You Do Not Want to Get Caught in – Pitying the Abuser

If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. (Deuteronomy 13:6-8)

In our years now of dealing with abuse victims, we have seen that as long as the abuser’s victim continues to pity him, that victim remains trapped in the abuser’s tentacles. By “pity,” I do not mean that it is wrong to be sad for anyone who is unrepentant and on their way to hell. As Christians we, like Christ, are grieved when the rich young ruler for instance turns away from Christ and clings to his wealth. God desires all men to be saved, and so do we.

But I have seen more than one case of an abuse victim remaining caught up in the abuser’s plays for self-pity, and as long as they do they just do not seem to get free. They are held captive by these kinds of thoughts, all the product of the deceiving, evil tactics of their abuser:

  • I could have done more to save our marriage. I was too _______. I was not ________ enough.
  • If I stuck it out longer, he could have gotten saved.
  • What if he is right and I am the one who is the abuser?
  • He looks so sad and he sounds so sincere. I am being too harsh with him.

And I am sure most all of you could add more bullets to that list.

I suppose that in our minds we create a person who never really existed. We look at the abuser and think we know how he thinks. We look back at the times he was so charming and we convince ourselves that this is the person he really is, if we could only reach him. But as I discussed recently with a 30-year plus victim of abuse by a “Christian” man, whenever you have two personas, whenever you see a Jekyll and Hyde, you can be assured that the REAL person is Mr. Hyde. The bad guy, you see. Because wolves put on sheep’s clothing. Sheep do not disguise themselves as wolves. Evil parades as good, but good never tries to play the role of evil. If we embrace the “sheep” disguise as the real person our abuser really must be, then we are embracing a person who does not exist. It is fiction, and it is dangerous fiction that sets us up as sitting ducks for the next blast.

There are evil people in this world. Lots of them. Many parade as fine, holy Christians. But the Lord tells us that when such a person’s disguise is uncovered, we are not to pity them. Not even if the evil character is your brother, or your child, or your spouse. You shall not spare them. You shall not conceal (cover for, enable) them. You shall not pity them. To do so is to disobey the Lord. It is to choose to remain in bondage to evil. And ultimately it is to eventually become the ally of evil.

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Further Reading

Christians Need to Get “Pity” Right and Stop Pitying the Wicked While Refusing Pity to the Innocent.

Do not Pity the Wicked:  Abusers Use Pity as a Snare

Nor Shall Your Eye Pity Him

How can I leave when I’m the only one who is giving a gospel witness to him?

Rebekah: The Guardian and Protector of Israel – by Anne Vyn

I’ve grown up in the church all my life and have always heard Rebekah talked about in a negative light. Teachers and leaders have called her manipulative, deceptive, and lacking in submission to God and to her husband. Tradition has not been kind to Rebekah and I believe she is one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood women of the Bible.

I hereby dedicate this post to my hero and to my mentor, Rebekah. This is my tribute to how I believe the biblical story intended her to be seen, not as a symbol of perfection but as a woman who, like King David, panted after the heart of God. She was a woman who longed to live before an Audience of One and who actually served one of the most significant roles in protecting the nation of Israel (Jacob) in its very formative stages.

 

Here are 8 observations about Rebekah that have captured my heart:

Observation #1: Where God imparts knowledge, he also imparts responsibility

The word of the Lord comes to the very pregnant Rebekah: ”Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

Important point to notice here: It’s Rebekah who hears from the Lord, not Isaac. The biblical pattern reveals that whoever hears the word of the Lord is directly responsible to the knowledge He gives. Rebekah can’t delegate responsibility or simply ignore this information. The living God had chosen to speak to her and, like Jesus’ mother Mary, Rebekah hid these words in her heart and waited. The narrative doesn’t tell us whether Rebekah actually told Isaac what God told her…perhaps she did…perhaps she didn’t. But the story does reveal Isaac as being a father who favoured Esau. Esau, the older son, who willfully chose pagan wives, the son who was a sexually immoral and profane man ,”who sold his inheritance for a single meal”. (Heb. 12:16)

Observation #2: God has a long-standing-tradition of turning TRADITION upside down

In Matthew 15:9 , Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for “teaching as doctrine the traditions/commandments of men.” Rebekah clearly didn’t have an infatuation with “Tradition.” Primogeniture (the tradition which ensured special rights to her firstborn) did not prevent her from approving of God’s choice to give the inheritance blessing to her second-born son. For whatever reason, Isaac, the father of the twins, was intent on holding fast to tradition. He favoured his oldest son and set his heart on blessing his firstborn. But he was wrong and needs to be seen as going against what God had decreed!! Genesis 25- 27 reveals Isaac’s ongoing resistance thereby setting the stage for the necessity of Rebekah’s intervention.

Observation #3: The Providence of God is working on behalf of Jacob and Rebekah

It’s important to notice the subtle little clues that point to how God is providentially assisting Rebekah. Just like in the story of Esther, the author of the Genesis narrative strategically drops implicit clues which reveal how God is at work behind the scenes. A huge “providential” moment occurs in Genesis 27:5 when the narrative mentions “Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to Esau” about going out to kill some game. She hears the final instructions in Isaac’s plan as he determines to give the blessing to Esau. If Rebekah had not overheard Isaac’s words, this story would have unfolded quite differently so it’s important that we attribute this moment of “knowledge” as coming from God himself. It confirmed to her that Isaac was still refusing to see Jacob as the son of God’s choosing. If she had been prone to giving Isaac “the benefit of the doubt”, this knowledge was a game changer and it immediately mobilized her into action.

Observation #4: Isaac the manipulator and Rebekah the facilitator

It’s important for the reader to recognize how it was actually Isaac who was trying to manipulate God’s blessing onto his favourite son. Even if Isaac was not aware of what God had spoken to Rebekah, he would have known about Esau’s wicked behaviour which would have been obvious to the whole community. Isaac’s favouritism had completely blinded him (in more ways than one) from seeing the truth. By the time we reach Genesis 27, Rebekah’s role of waiting, listening, and observing had come to its awaited end. Now it was time for her faith to take an active role of facilitating and overseeing the purposes of God by ensuring that the rightful recipient, of God’s choosing, received God’s blessing.

Observation #5: Biblical women of courage and valour were not afraid to take risks and get their hands dirty

As we follow Rebekah through Genesis 27: 5-13, as she dresses Jacob with the hairy skin of 2 young goats, it’s helpful to interpret her actions through the lenses of other OT stories like Abigail, Jael, Deborah, and Rahab. These are all unconventional women who did extraordinary things for God and his people. All of these women had undivided hearts. They knew what it meant to serve only ONE Master and to look beyond the faces of husbands, family, and society in order to listen to the voice of their King.

Observation #6: The name “Jacob” does not mean “deceiver”

It’s important to qualify the meaning of Jacob’s name, which means to “supplant, undermine, the heel.” Tradition has often dictated to us that Jacob’s name means “deceiver”, thereby implying what he and his mother did was wrong. However, once we can rightfully define his name beyond the label of “deceiver”, we are free to see the actual meaning: how God “supplanted” Esau with Jacob, how God “undermined” Isaac’s intent with Rebekah’s plan, and how the “heel” of Israel (Jacob) would crush the serpent’s head(Gene. 3:15).

Contrary to what tradition has taught us, nowhere is Jacob, or Rebekah, ever rebuked for doing what needed to be done. In fact, the very opposite is true (as will be seen in observation #7.) The only accusatory definition of “deceiver” that seems to gets quoted and retweeted as “truth” are the words of a very angry and disappointed Isaac when he realizes that his dream of blessing Esau has come to naught: ”Trembling violently”, Isaac spits out these words with bitterness and defeat: “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” And notice that Isaac calls it “your” blessing….another reminder that after all is said and done, Isaac still doesn’t get it!

Observation #7: Rebekah’s greatest honour is given by the apostle Paul as he affirms her actions and claims her words as his own

It’s not until we read the New Testament version of Rebekah’s story that we can see how God’s plan has unfolded. Paul will help us connect the dots in order to see the dominant role Rebekah has played in accomplishing God’s purposes for Israel. Paul bathes her story with redemptive insights as the mystery is unveiled before our very eyes.

But before we jump to what Paul says about Rebekah, let’s look at what Rebekah says to Jacob when they are just about to execute the plan of securing the blessing from Isaac. Jacob asks his mother, (in 27:12), “What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself”.

But Rebekah responds by saying: ”My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say…”

Now listen to what Paul says in Romans 9:1-13, the passage directly connected to Genesis 27:13:

“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.…”

Notice how Paul and Rebekah are both willing to take “the curse” for Israel. Do you see the connection? Paul is talking about Rebekah’s Jacob here!! It’s HER son, and Jacob’s people, who will inherit the blessings “of Israel”. Jacob’s name would be changed to”Israel” and it would be from his lineage that the Saviour was born. Can you begin to understand why Rebekah was SO intentional in making sure the blessing went to Israel, and not to Esau?

When Paul takes on Rebekah’s language, wishing that he could be cursed so that Israel might be blessed, he is intentionally reaching back into Rebekah’s story. Here is a summary of what I believe his declaration would have sounded like to the New Covenant Community:

“I would have done exactly what Rebekah did. She knew what needed to be done and she did it!!! Courageously!! Sacrificially!! Lovingly!! If I had been in her shoes, knowing what she knew, I would have done anything to make sure that Jacob received God’s blessing. I, too, would have risked being cursed. She had the same love for Israel that I have. She had the same love that Jesus had when he took the curse for sinners upon the Cross. This was her finest moment! Rebekah was willing to be cursed so that her son would walk in God’s blessing. There is no greater love than this!!!”

And then Paul wraps up his accolades for Rebekah in verse 10 when he endearingly calls the twins “Rebekah’s children”. If Paul had wanted to rebuke her for her actions, or reprimand her for insubordination, this would have been the place to do it. But not so. Instead Paul sings her praises with every mention of Israel upon his lips.

Observation #8: Rebekah’s strong desire to see Jacob/Israel walk in God’s blessing

Returning to Genesis 27, there is one more significant detail in the narrative that demonstrates Rebekah’s protective oversight for the son whom God had chosen. Once again, as God’s “providence” would have it, Rebekah hears (from an unmentioned source) of Esau’s plans to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac dies. Rebekah shifts quickly into protective mode as she notifies Jacob that he is danger and must prepare to leave home.

Not only is Rebekah aware of Jacob’s physical danger but she is also aware of the spiritual dangers he will face if he remains. She takes her concerns to Isaac in 27: 46: “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

This was not an offhand comment made by a depressed and grumbling wife. Rather, these words reflect a holy hatred for the same behaviours that God hated. Her words reflect a zealous heart that yearned for Jacob to marry “in the Lord”, that he might choose a wife with a godly heritage so that the blessings and promises of God would NOT be hindered by disobedience and ungodliness.

In conclusion:

As I reflect upon the amazing courage and spiritual leadership displayed by Rebekah throughout this story, I am convinced the church needs to read this story with new eyes. Our voices need to join with the apostle Paul in affirming Rebekah, not condemning her. Traditional interpretations must never have the final say!

Like Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, and Bonhoeffer, Rebekah has brought surprising clarity to what it means to live courageously, obediently, and radically as a woman who loves the Lord. She is a patient revolutionist who continues to inspire me to live for the glory of God alone.

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We are grateful to CBE for giving us permission to republish this post.
Find it at CBE here: Rebekah: The Guardian and Protector of Israel

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Where are all the Abuser-Enabling Pastors Coming From?

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1)

It is a fact. Hundreds and hundreds if not thousands and thousands of our readers here at ACFJ will attest to it. Pastors and church leaders in local churches are (with some refreshing exceptions) dealing out IN-justice to the oppressed and enabling, protecting, and covering for the wicked who are doing the oppressing. Oh there are still many professing Christians who will say that such a charge is way harsh and exaggerated, but all we would have to do is point to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of testimonies you all have given on this blog to support the charge.

Now, my question that is on my mind this evening is this – Where are these shepherds coming from? Where is the factory that is cranking out these “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” of Christ’s pasture?

Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:11)

But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 23:14)

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.'” For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (Jeremiah 23:16-18)

Where are they coming from? Well, some are simply self-appointed. You have probably known a person who just up and decided God had spoken to them and so off they went to start up a “church” and pass on their visions and dreams to the gullible. Some of them garner a pretty big following.

But more often what we are seeing in the reports of unjust false shepherds is that they were trained and taught in a seminary or Bible college or perhaps “discipled” in a large church. And the question remains then, how is it that such places are cranking out pastors who teach falsely, who protect the wicked, and who oppress the oppressed? I mean, you can go to these seminaries and colleges and on paper the thing looks pretty good. Holds to the Westminster Confession or some other statement of faith that looks to be solid. And yet…

Let me propose to you what I think is going on. I have two theological degrees. One from a graduate school and one from a seminary, so I have gone through the system and I think that gives me some accurate insight into the matter.

What do you learn in seminary? Greek, Hebrew, Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Bible study Methods, Counseling, Homiletics (preaching), Management skills and so on. But what is more important is what a ministerial student does NOT learn in seminary. Namely, they never or at best very very rarely hear about the real nature and mentality and tactics of evil. That is to say, there really is no one who formally and thoroughly addresses how wickedness actively and consistently creeps into the local church, seeking to destroy. Why not? Because that takes years and years of experience with the thing and real godly wisdom, and our academic structures are not looking for that sort of thing. They want academics. Professors with advanced degrees from Oxford or some other notable academic hall of learning. Furthermore, there is often a climate of willful blindness to evil – a kind of, “let’s not talk about un-pleasantries or we might discourage the students.”

The closest field of learning that could address evil and its manifestations would be the school of counseling. But we all pretty much know (having learned the hard way) that the evangelical church’s record in counseling as a means of protecting the victims of abuse is, well, pretty pathetic.

All the years I was in seminary, not one single professor ever stood up in class and said something like this – “People, close your books, open your ears, and listen like you have never listened before. I am going to tell you specifically how the enemy of our souls is going to come at you in the local church. If you fail to hear and heed what I am about to tell you, I assure you that you are going to go down! You will become an ally of the wicked.”  Nope, never happened. Not once. And I am convinced that it doesn’t happen in all of these other pastor factories either.

The result? People are graduated, given a Master of Divinity degree, told they now have the finest education a pastor could have, and off they go. They just know that they can handle anything. They just know all the answers about marriage, about divorce, about marriage problems, about parents and kids and….they even believe they can easily know who is a Christian, and if the devil ever were to show up in their church, they would be able to spot him in a second. They are already well on the road to becoming a Pharisee, pronouncing the traditions of men to be the Word of God.

Denominations also reinforce these very same things. A culture is developed in which the “company line” (often unspoken) is fueled and it doesn’t take people long to realize that they better not step outside those traditions, or else. “I really think divorce is permitted for abuse, but don’t tell anyone I said that.”

We at ACFJ have tried. I even tried with the seminary I graduated from myself! I did really well there and even won the biblical languages award and was selected to preach at the final seminary chapel before graduation. So one would think that when I contacted the counseling department after our first book was published, someone would snap it up and begin to use it as a standard tool there. Guess what happened? Nothing. Nada. I received no response at all. And we have yet to make any inroads into a seminary or Bible college.

That is where I think most of these pastors who oppress the oppressed and justify the wicked are coming from. And churches continue to use faulty benchmarks to evaluate candidates to fill their pulpit.

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD. “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household. (Jeremiah 23:30-34)

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Related posts:

Whenever seminary deals with marriage counseling, it is always with the focus of saving the marriage  (comment by Ps Sam Powell on this blog)

Traditions of Men Have Largely Consumed the Evangelical Church and are Causing Widespread Suffering

The Most Common Reason Churches Enable Abusers and Oppress Victims

Live by the Leading of the Spirit. Old Wineskins Cannot Accept New Wine.

The Church is in Great Need of Another Reformation – But of a Different Kind