Tag Archives: abuse

Love and the Cross

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Galatians 2:20–21.

A friend recently asked me about the cross. The way he had always thought about it was like this: “God finds me so loathsome that the only way he could accept me was by torturing and killing his son.”

My heart hurt for him.

Another friend could not understand how the cross, that ugly instrument of death and unspeakable agony, could demonstrate the love of God.

I can understand that.

It is especially difficult for survivors of childhood sexual assault or other forms of abuse. The abuser convinces his victims that they are worthless, ugly, stupid, and bad. And then they head off to church and hear a fire and brimstone sermon.

“God agrees with the verdict of your abuser” they hear. “He also thinks you are worthless, ugly, bad and worthy only of abuse and degradation. But he degraded and abused Christ instead.”

This is a twisted presentation of an otherwise correct doctrine known as “substitutionary atonement”. It is true that Christ died in our place. But it is NOT true that God finds us loathsome and hateful. These two thoughts are not contrary, but complementary. It has to do with Christ as the head, we as the body; union with Christ before the foundation of the world; and the justice and mercy of God. I probably won’t be able to get to all of that in one blog.

It is no wonder that so many people have a hard time seeing the love of God in the crucifixion of Christ! Today, my prayer for you, dear reader, is for you to know the depth of the love of Jesus. No matter how great and broad and deep his love, it will never be great and broad and deep enough. We will spend all of eternity learning about his love and never exhaust it.

John Calvin famously said that a shepherd must have two voices. One for gathering sheep and another for driving away wolves. One of the big problems of modern preaching is that the wolves are comforted and the sheep are driven away.

The voice to gather sheep is a voice of welcome, of invitation, of patience and peace, shining the love of God. You can’t throw rocks and garbage at the sheep, screaming obscenities at them (I’m looking at YOU, Driscoll), and expect them to come.

The voice to drive away wolves is a voice of rebuke, sharpness, condemnation – in the hopes that they will see themselves as God sees them and flee to the cross for mercy. A wolf is one who views the sheep as his prey. You will know them by their fruits. They have the right words to say in public, but they are abusive to their families, demand recognition and deference, destroy the wounded soul with words, are constant overbearing busybodies, and live according to the lusts of the flesh.

There is one voice to use for the confident and entitled. Another to use for the weak and trembling soul.

In other words, when you threaten the weak, the outcast, the poor, the afflicted, with words of terror, you wound the weak conscience and drive the hurting heart from the love of Christ.

So with that being said, I would like to look at some of what the bible teaches about the cross of Christ.

First, it is never used as a devise to increase toxic guilt and manipulate shame-driven behavior. “Jesus suffered all of this for you! Shouldn’t you repay him by being a better person?” If guilt and shame were capable of rescuing us from ourselves, Christ would not have needed to die in the first place. It is shame and guilt that drive us away from God in the first place. It is new life that draws us back into fellowship. New life does not come by shame and guilt, but by the putting to death of the old man in Adam, and making alive the new man in Christ. Crucifixion, and resurrection – as Paul writes in Galatians 2, quoted above. Jesus did not give himself for us that we might live by the law; but so that we might live by faith in Him.

“If righteousness could come by the law, then Christ died in vain.”

When the preacher tries to increase your guilt and shame, using the cross as a tool to try to manipulate you into better behavior, then he is missing the point of the cross. Toxic guilt never works the righteousness of God.

There is a place for redemptive guilt. Redemptive guilt is the honest appraisal of the soul, the cleansing light that shines in our dark places and brings us out of hiding. We all have those places in our hearts that we try to keep carefully hidden. We think we have those dark holes under control, until they burst out on us, driving us to sleepless nights and even fear of exposure and punishment. Redemptive guilt is the work of the Holy Spirit, like a skilled surgeon, exposing the cancer so that we might be healed by the blood of Christ. It is the voice of Nathan, pointing the finger and saying, “You are the man!” so that David can finally quit hiding and be forgiven and healed. Redemptive guilt bursts forth into the words of Psalm 51.

The first thing that we must do is prayerfully consider the distinction between toxic guilt and redemptive guilt. Toxic guilt is the voice of Satan, driving you into hiding, heaping on your soul things that don’t belong to you. Toxic guilt pounds into your head at night, telling you that you are worthless; that if you were a better person, he wouldn’t have hurt you; hat if you dressed differently or had a different body, or didn’t show your arms, then he wouldn’t have hurt you. Toxic guilt drives you into hiding, crushing you under heavy burdens and leaving you hopeless, dejected, walled off, silent… My parents rejected me because I’m bad. My mom hurts me because I’m not the right sort of person. It is the voice of the accuser, and it is not designed to drive you to Christ. It is designed to crush your soul in despair. Satan is a liar and a murderer. Toxic guilt works effectively for both.

Redemptive guilt is the conviction of the law designed to call you out of hiding. That time you stole from your employer, drank too much and drove home anyway, cursed your neighbor’s child for walking on your grass, used your words to wither and scald the souls of your loved ones. That time you hurt a coworker thinking you were being funny. The damage you did with that one-night stand when you were younger; the flirting with the coworker that definitely went too far.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of these things, so that we are not overcome with despair, so that shame doesn’t continue to destroy us, so that we can finally understand freedom and peace. We stand under the cool, refreshing water, flowing from the rock, and close our eyes while that water washes away the filth of the soul. But it is not the guilt that cleanses our soul. It is only the blood of Christ. That is, he took all of that shame and guilt and pain upon himself. Like a head suffers when a body is wounded and cancerous. He is, after all, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. He joined himself to us and to our dying flesh and took all of the tears and shame and pain and death and sorrow upon himself, because he loves us, and he put it to death. Redemptive guilt drives us to repentance and restitution to those we have harmed.

Toxic guilt is not of God. You are not worthless, you are an image-bearer of God. You are not loathsome in his sight, you are like a wandering sheep, waiting to be gathered by the arms of the shepherd.

Redemptive guilt does indeed belong to you. There are real sins that you have committed, because you are human and a child of Adam. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. God does not teach you about the nature of sin so that you can take part in some kind of self-flagellation exercise. There is no redemption there. God’s desire for you is for you simply to confess your sins and be free from them.

Jesus has already born those sins on the cross. He was crucified so that you might know for certain that he took upon himself the curse that was on you. That curse of shame and death that you bear in your deepest part is taken away completely and fully, so that you might be reconciled to God – because the death of the cross was cursed by God. The curse no longer belongs to you. You have been crucified with Christ in order that you might live by faith, not by law.

Shame and hiding no longer belong to you. Jesus took them away, having nailed them to his cross. You have your voice back, your humanity back, your will back. That is the new man, alive in Christ, a life lived in faith, a life fully human and fully alive.

Jesus went to the cross so that you might know for certain that you are NOT loathsome in the eyes of God, but a beloved child. The cross of Christ creates for us a safe space to come into the innermost circle of the dwelling-place of God, the Holiest Place of all.

Hebrews 10:19–22 (NKJV)
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

And, to clarify another misunderstanding, Jesus and the Father are never at odds. There is only one true eternal God. Jesus is God. The Father is God. The Spirit is God. The Father sent the Son because he loves you. The Son gave himself for you because he loves you. That love in the divine nature is not divided. It is correct to say that God gave his Son. It is also correct to say that the Son gave himself.

But we also need to talk more about the justice of God. But this will take another blog.

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Filed under Christology, cross

Why didn’t she speak up?

What a remarkable, wonderful gift the gift of speech is! We were created wo commune with God and with each other with words. Think of it!!

God created us to bear his image, and that image is first seen when the first human named the animals. He used words and connected them to ideas and filled them with content. And thus he was able to receive the revelation of God.

Adam named the lamb, and when God became flesh and entered the world, he told mankind that he was the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Words. With words we pray. With words we speak the truth. With words we encourage. With words we say, “I love you” and “your hair is beautiful” and “I love the shape of you and how you fit with me and the way that your neck smells like I belong.”

But sin is now in the world, and that which was meant for beauty and truth was twisted into ugliness and lies and silence. Satan was a liar from the beginning.

Satan does not want the image of God reflected in words. He twists the words to make them ugly and hateful, and he silences the cries of the oppressed. For the darkness reigns when the dark places remain dark. It is for the advantage of the evil one that secrets remain secret and crimes remain hidden behind non-disclosure agreements.

When you read through the Psalms, you see godly men and women crying out, lifting up their voices to the Almighty One, whose Voice called them into existence.

They speak of praise and joy, pain and sorrow, laughter and anger, oppression and helplessness, despair and elation. And all of it is expressed in words.

He hurt me. He plowed my back. He is telling lies. He oppressed and afflicted me.

Because when the light is on, salvation is near. When the light is hidden under a bushel, bondage still reigns.

God would have us turn the lights on, and he calls us to use words.

But the church, which is to be the place where the light is on, is using her voice to silence the oppressed, the plowed-under, those who are crushed under unspeakable sorrow. Instead of using the voice to bring light into darkness, the voice is silenced by guilt and shame.

When one is buried by decades of silence and the heart has grown numb and buried by walls, the soul sinks into despair. But then, where the gloom has buried hope, a light finally arises and the curtains are pulled back.

And the helpless one finally finds her voice. She is finally able to speak of the atrocities done to her and bring them out into the light and look for healing.

And then those who are appointed as overseers of the soul speak.

“Did you follow Matthew 18?”

“Did you have two or three witnesses?”

“What were you wearing?”

“Where were you when this happened”

“Why didn’t you tell people earlier?”

“Why did you call the police?”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“What did you do to cause this?”

And here is the mistake that the oppressed make. They think that if they do everything right, say it just right, dot all of the eyes and cross all of the ts, then the shepherds will HAVE to listen. After all, they are the guardians of truth.

But here is why it is a mistake. If they believe you, their whole world must collapse. The reality of the brutality that you have experienced doesn’t fit their worldview, and therefore it cannot be real. In their worldview, those kinds of crimes happen to other people, outsiders, gentiles, not in our own camp.

If they believe you, then they have choices to make, investigations, confrontation, and cutting out a cancer. And it is far easier to ignore the cancer, pretend that it isn’t there, and go on with life than it is to do what has to be done with cancer. It is easier in the short term to silence the one who warns of cancer than to deal with the cancer.

So they don’t want to hear, and it won’t matter how it is said, they will find some reason not to believe you. They will twist words, they will pull out their verses, they will hire a PR firm, they will issue statements, they will do everything they can think of…

Except believe you.

And this is actually encouraging for the psalmist of every age, crying out for justice.

Listen closely: It isn’t you. It isn’t because you did something wrong, or said it wrong, or didn’t say it at the right time, or didn’t follow the right procedure or whatever other excuse the gatekeepers throw at you.

That isn’t it.

It is because they are of their father the devil and the works of their father they will do. He was a liar and a murderer from the beginning and the truth was not in him.

Speak anyway. Because when you speak, you shine a little light into the darkness.

But even more than that – you show yourself to be a child of the light.

Arise, shine, and Christ will give you light.

And the darkness hates the light. It always has because it loves the darkness. It is easier to hide in the darkness that to be exposed by the light.

Speak anyway. You will find that there are those who walk in the light who hear you. Who understand. Who see you.

Jesus sees you. He knows. He wants you to speak to him. He calls you to come down from the tree. Come out of hiding.

“Who touched me?” he says.

If that was you, tell him everything. He knows already, but he created you with a voice. Don’t let the Evil One silence that voice, because that voice is beautiful in your Father’s ears.

He hears you. He keeps your tears in his bottle, and every one of them will be avenged.

So speak. Write your own psalm. Speak your truth.

You won’t ever do it correct enough or have enough witnesses for the children of the devil to listen. They aren’t going to listen, not even if you sent an angel from heaven to thunder in their ears.

Speak anyway, because you are a child of light.

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Filed under Abuse, Hope, Image of God, Words

An Abusive Man’s Toolbox

It is in the best interest of an abusive man to use religious coercion to hold onto access to his victims.

Godly sounding “christianese” sometimes serves that purpose very well.

One phrase that sticks in my craw is this one:

“God designed marriage to make you holy, not happy.”

I can’t explain how this one became so popular, except by the first sentence above. But it is wrong.

God instituted marriage before the fall, when Adam and Eve both walked in God’s presence in the temple of Eden.

Adam was already holy when God presented him with Eve. Even was given to Adam as a fitting helper, and Adam exclaimed with joy, “At last! Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” And God saw it and said, “Behold, it is very good.”

Man’s lack of holiness came AFTER the fall, when he was driven from Eden, away from God’s presence. That holiness is only restored in the Second Adam.

By union with him, we are made what we are not. We are holy, because we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. He has consecrated himself so that he might consecrate us and present us to God, a bride without blemish and without spot. If you belong to Christ, you ARE holy, and you will be MADE holy – whether you are married or single, widowed or divorced, male or female.

But the design of marriage is the same as it has always been. For the happiness and joy of the two entering into marriage.

So that brings me to compassion. We are called to enter into the suffering and pain of others, especially of the body of Christ. When one member hurts, all members hurt. We are called to hurt and suffer together as well as rejoice together. But that is costly.

It takes time to enter into someone’s pain. It may cause you to re-evaluate everything that you thought was solid. It may cause sleepless nights, wrestling in prayer. It may cause you to weep, which is always uncomfortable.

But it may also cause you to have to step out of your comfortable worldview, where “we are all nice Christians here” and into a worldview where wolves terrorize sheep and the sheep are often left scattered and alone and vulnerable.

And that is never a comfortable zone for anyone to be in.

So when a sister or brother tentatively reaches out about pain in marriage, about the abuse she is suffering at the hands of her husband, about the horrible things that human beings can do to each other, it is far safer and more comfortable for the hearer to bounce it back, put up a “I-am-so-not-interested” wall and say,

“Marriage is designed to make you holy, not happy.”

Then make some mmm, mmmm, mmmm sounds. Grasp her hands and make a sad face, and send her on her way.

That way you don’t have to disrupt your own life with uncomfortable truths.

But it is wrong.

As members of Christ, we are to be as he is. We enter into suffering as he does. We walk with the wounded as he does. We pay the cost to sit with the vulnerable and suffering, because Christ paid the ultimate cost and we are honored to take up his cross with him. He paid the cost so that we might be delivered from the hard bondage of sin and misery and the kingdom of the devil.

And it should be our greatest desire to lead others to the paths of liberty. What a great joy when a sheep escapes from the mouth of a wolf!

So listen to the uncomfortable stories. Tear down the wall that you think is keeping you safe and learn to walk with the wounded. Bear the reproach of Christ, and the insults.

It is tremendously costly. Ask anyone who has made a habit of it, and they’ll tell you.

But when you do so, you will have the honor of being more and more like Christ, reflecting his comfort, righteousness and beauty to a wounded and hurting world.

“Be ye holy”, he says. “For I am holy.”

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Filed under Abuse, Marriage

Where abuse thrives

For many years, I worked in the Food and Beverage industry. It has a way of creeping into your pores and into your vocabulary.

I’ve seen restaurants shut their doors because of foodborne illness. Little pathogens and toxins sometimes attach themselves to food and cause illness or even death. Very few restaurants can survive an outbreak.

I don’t know of any restauranteurs that will confess a love of germs. If asked, they will proclaim strongly how much effort and energy they put into the destruction of germs and how clean their establishments are. But the proof is seen in the washing of the hands, the monitoring of food temperatures, the cleanliness of the corners and the walk-in refrigerators, the labelling – in the routines.

Whether a restaurant is truly safe is not dependent upon whether they SAY they are opposed to foodborne illness; but in the environment they keep. Some environments give themselves wholly to the growth of germs and toxins. In order to be safe, good restauranteurs learn how to create an environment that is hostile to germs. It is that simple.

For 20 years, I taught restaurant employees how to create a hostile work environment. Not hostile towards health and goodness and nutrition and peace; but hostile to pathogens and illness and toxins.

Some got it. A few never did. It takes effort and intentionality, and not everyone is willing. They will eventually cause an outbreak.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I don’t know of any pastors who will just say that they enjoy having pedophiles, revilers, and abusers destroy their ministry. Every one that I know will say, with varying degrees of skill, that they are opposed in the strongest way possible to those who would hurt a child, or revile their spouses.

But that really isn’t the question. The question is this – are they creating an environment where abuse thrives? A quick glance at the news will show us that there is something in the teaching of modern evangelicalism that causes abuse and revilers to thrive.

But in order for sheep to be safe in church, the environment must be “hostile” towards the wolves.

This is why I write what I do. It is for the same reason that I taught young restauranteurs how to protect against food-borne illness. We who have the power to do so must do whatever we can to protect life, to protect health. We must be people of life carrying the savor of life.

And that, very often, means the savor of death – to pathogens and to children of Belial.

In restaurants, the savor of life often smells like sanitizer.

In churches, the savor of life smells like the gospel – that in Christ, God is with us.

And if God is with us, children are safe. The weak are safe. The outcast are safe. And those who hurt and destroy are cast away, for none shall hurt or destroy “in all my holy mountain.”

When we are loyal to our brand first, and our people second, we allow wolves to thrive.

When we refuse to learn about the tactics of abusers, we allow them to thrive.

When we arrogantly assume that we know the Bible, so we know all there is to know about abuse, we allow abuse to thrive.

When we refuse to believe the victims unless they meet a burden of proof so enormous that no evidence actually qualifies….

When we force non-disclosure agreements…

When we teach that women’s bodies are created to serve men…

When we teach that all women are to submit to all men…

When we teach “sanctified testosterone” instead of meekness…

When we teach that “all boys experiment with young girls. It’s no big deal…”

When we normalize pornography…

When we call lust “every man’s battle…”

When we refuse to cooperate with the law when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing…

And I’m sure that we could all come up with more.

Please think about it like this. If you are a restaurant owner, and you believe that foodborne illness only happens to the others, that it can’t ever happen to you – and you take no precautions whatsoever to teach your people how to protect against it – then you will eventually close, after causing a lot of sickness and perhaps death. It takes vigilance to protect against germs.

So also, if you believe that abuse only happens to others, to the other denominations, the other people, the liberals, those who aren’t as clever as we are, God will eventually remove your candlestick. But I pray that you won’t continue to cause death and destruction to those who have come to you for rest.

It takes vigilance to protect the sheep. Sometimes you have to take up your cross to do it.

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Filed under Abuse

If she is telling the truth…

Another one.

A rich, powerful, mover and shaker.

A young girl. Lots of them, it turns out.

Each one of them is an image-bearer of God, used to satiate the lusts of another rich wolf.

Not only does she have to bear the scars of unspeakable trauma, she now has to hear the attacks and slanders on her name.

(Have you heard the one about the 9 year old girl that was “overly sexualized” and “seduced” her rapist? Yeah. That was what he said. And they believed him.)

The powerful man – whether minister, representative, president, judge, father, husband – MUST be innocent. If powerful men are this wicked, what hope do any of us have? She, therefore, must be lying.

Why are we so quick to condemn the innocent and acquit the guilty? Why is our gut reaction always, “She’s lying”

“Why didn’t she tell someone?”

Why did she wait?

What was she wearing?

What was she drinking?

Because if she is telling the truth, we live in a different world than the one we want to live in.

If she is telling the truth, then God was right when he said, “Their mouth is an open sepulcher, there is none righteous. No, not one…” and that is hard to swallow.

If she is telling the truth, then the world is ugly and dangerous. But we want it to be safe, at least for people like us.

If she is telling the truth, then “weep and howl, you rich men, for the miseries that shall come upon you” and the judgment of God is terrifying.

But if she is lying, we can go back to the conferences. If she is lying, we can vote for the guy again. He’s so good for our side. We can go on like we always do.

If she is lying, we can shake our heads sorrowfully and go back to the football game.

If she is lying, then our people are still OK and as long as we stay away from those others, we can be safe and happy and blissfully unaware of her hurt and pain and trauma. Our boat stays secure.

As long as she plays the part right. Submit. Keep quiet. Don’t rock the boat. And everything stays the same.

But God sees it. He warns us. It is very, very easy to believe the rich and powerful and influential. We want our heroes sparkling clean, so it is easy to believe that she is lying.

When one is without power, there is no gain in believing her. And if you do believe her, your world will turn upside down.

People will ask, “What happened to you?”

What happened was that I believed her. And my world turned upside down.

I believed her, and I was right. He did it. And the world is upside down. The only hope is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We need a resurrection, because death and destruction and hatred and ugliness is very, very real.

God sees it all. And he warns us about believing those from whom we can gain, and dismissing those who cannot profit us.

22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.

23 “If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry;

24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

(Exod. 22:22-24)

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Filed under Abuse, Grief

What God has cleansed…

(Acts 10:13-15)  A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”
But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”
Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”

The book of Acts describes how the gospel was spread. First at Jerusalem, then to Judah. From there it went to the Samaritans and then to the whole world, ending with Paul in Rome.

Preaching the gospel to the Gentiles would have been a tremendous shock to anyone born and raised a Jew. They had no dealings with Gentiles and everything that a Gentile touched would have been considered unclean and unholy.

But the time had now come for the gospel of Christ to go to the Gentiles. God had promised Abraham that in his seed (Jesus) all the families of the earth would be blessed. So now the time had come. The blessing of Abraham was about to be poured out on the unclean gentile world.

But this meant that Peter needed to be prepared. Without a special revelation from God, he NEVER would have entered a Gentile house. Even AFTER he had that special revelation, he still struggled with it, sometimes failing, as we read about in the book of Galatians.

As Peter is resting on the rooftop, he sees a vision of every sort of animal in a large sheet being lowered from heaven.

A voice says, “Rise and eat!”

Peter is aghast. “Eat an unclean animal?? I’ve never eaten an unclean animal!”

And God said, “What I have cleansed, don’t consider it common.”

The application of the vision was first of all to foods. The Old distinction of common and holy, clean and unclean, in foods was now done away with. Christ had come. The shadows and types would fade away.

But there was a more immediate application. Peter was about to be asked to enter the house of a Gentile. God is telling Peter that the Gentile is clean, because God had cleansed him. He could enter the house in peace. For when God cleanses someone, they are truly clean.

The cleansing of the Old Covenant, through the sprinkling of blood and the sprinkling of water pointed to Christ. When he was crucified, blood and water poured out of his side. And when he ascended into heaven, he poured out the Holy Spirit on his church, fulfilling those ancient signs of sprinkling.

By faith, we are united to Christ and therefore we are clean, because he has cleansed us. This is what the “Holy” in “Holy Spirit” means. He is the Spirit of Holiness, and what He cleanses is clean.

This is the gospel. We are clean in Christ. We are no longer unholy.

Pause for a moment and think about that.

First, apply it to yourself. How many times to you feel unclean, unholy, unworthy of love, unworthy of companionship? How often do you lie awake while your conscience accuses you day and night?

These voices do not come from God, but from the Accuser! God’s voice speaks in the scripture – “What I have cleansed, don’t you call it common!” Obey that voice. When the voice in your head is accusing, accusing, accusing, repeat it. What God has cleansed, don’t call unholy!

But now look outward. How often do abusive men or women rail on God’s image bearers? “You are worthless. You are nothing. You are filthy. No one would touch you.”

How many have to live with these accusations continually thrown at them? Thinly veiled or outright contempt is so, so common in so many households. It isn’t of God.

And this abuse and reviling isn’t limited to those in one’s own home.

Civil discourse has declined so much, especially online, that there are those in the church who will divide and destroy one another over nothing. You can’t even disagree with someone anymore. They have to be destroyed. Those with “righteous crusades” are the worst. The revile, accuse, destroy with pixels of ink and then justify themselves as if they are simply “speaking the truth in love.”

But when you are calling that which is cleansed by Christ “unholy” or “unclean”, you are not speaking the truth. You are speaking lies, murdering with the tongue those for whom Christ died.

God knows the difference. He sees the hate and the venom disguised as “love” and he is not mocked.

“What I have cleansed, don’t you dare call it unclean!”

We are clean because of the blood and spirit of Christ alone. We are not clean because of our political views, our race, our sex, our theological acumen, our ability to tell people what is wrong with them, or our outward acts of piety. We are clean ONLY because of Christ’s blood shed for us and his Spirit poured out upon us.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John. 13:35)

How can we love one another when we don’t recognize them as being clean? How can we recognize them as clean apart from Christ?

But in Christ we are clean and holy, and this changes everything. It changes how we view ourselves and how we view others that God has placed in our lives.

The spirit of accusation against one another is not of God, but of the evil one.

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Filed under Abuse, Love, Union with Christ

Look at the culture

I worked in the Food and Beverage industry for many  years, so that background has become a part of me.

Suppose a family becomes ill with a foodborne illness. Some of you might remember the e-coli epidemic that spread for a while. When people started dying, the authorities tried to find out why. The honorable restaurant owners looked at their own training and procedures to try to determine what it was that was making the conditions favorable to the growth of this deadly bacteria.

It wasn’t the conditions themselves that caused illness and death. It was the e-coli. But there was something about certain restaurants that caused deadly bacteria to thrive. Are the temperatures too warm or not hot enough? Are there appropriate hand-washing techniques in place? Is the staff thoroughly trained on  food safety issues.

The goal of any successful food and beverage establishment is to create conditions that are hostile to the growth of deadly bacteria.

Many years ago, I noticed trends in conservative churches. There were way, way too many instances of abuse of women, degradation of women, despising of women and even criminal activity against women and deadly or potentially deadly assaults.

This trend was accompanied by a trend of child sexual assault by men in authority – pastors, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers. I know that, for the reasons mentioned further down, many will at this point say, “You are exaggerating! You are attacking Christ’s body!!” So suffice it for now for me to mention Anna Salter’s landmark work on Predators where she thoroughly documents everything that I just said.

One thing that Salter mentions is that predators against children find churches to be the easiest targets. As soon as they get out of prison, they lay out their plans to find a church with children, groom the leadership, and do as they please.

They make the plans. They carry them out. And the results are well documented.

So after seeing these disturbing trends, and being a pastor charged with the care of the sheep that God has placed in my care, I asked myself a very important question. “What is it in our churches that makes the conditions so favorable to predators, abusers, revilers, adulterers, and tyrants?”

At that point, I began to examine the interpretations of scripture that make the hunting grounds so favorable to wolves. And asked, “Is this really what scripture says?”

Does scripture really say that a woman must endure abuse “for a season” until she can get her elders involved?

Does it say that she must get the permission of the elders before she can get a divorce?

Does the scripture say that the steps of Matthew 18 must be followed before a parent is allowed to report a crime against her child to the authorities?

Does the scripture teach that a woman is at least partially to blame for her rape, no matter the circumstances, for “putting herself in that situation”?

Does 1 Corinthians 6 really say that it is sinful to report criminal activity to the police?

Does the scripture actually say that a man has the absolute right to command his wife to any degrading, insufferable thing that crosses his fancy and she must obey (as long as it isn’t ‘sinful’)? Does submission mean that she must scrub the kitchen on her hands and knees wearing only her underwear, using only her toothbrush, if that is what catches the man’s fancy at the moment (I have actually heard this used).

And I started to see that the e-coli of tyranny and abuse is actually finding the perfect environment to flourish in our churches – especially those trained in nouthetic counseling. We should, instead, do everything in our power to make the culture of the church as inhospitable to abusers and predators as we possible can.

The resistance to that idea is immediate, brutal, unrelenting and harsh. I have found that the unrelenting persecution against those who seek to purify the culture of the church is far, far greater than anything I have experienced from “the world”. People despise change, and the really, really despise losing their power over other people.

It is nothing new. There were many attempts to reform the morals of the church in the middle ages, but those few who dared to question the system that allowed immorality to flourish met with a quick, fiery, painful end.

It wasn’t until the Reformation that the problem was revealed. Immorality was not an anomaly to the Roman system. It was bred throughout every part of it. It was woven into the fabric of the system itself, until there was no hope for it at all. Money, power, control and the status quo are the perfect environment for all manner of evil to flourish.

While I was thinking about this, I watched a white police officer dispassionately kneel on the neck of a black man. He did not lose his temper. He was not frightened for his life. He knew that he was being filmed. And he knew that he was killing the man slowly and painfully, in public, and he didn’t care.

And I ask myself, “What is it about the culture of our systems of power that cause this kind of wickedness to flourish?”

“Well, we don’t know the whole story…” as if something can make a slow, public execution morally acceptable.

“It was one wicked man, not the system…” and yet it happens so frequently that he did not feel the need to hide his actions, cover his actions or make excuses. He wasn’t afraid or timid. He coolly, calmly, and without any emotion whatsoever slowly executed a black man because he knew he could and get away with it.

I hope he doesn’t, and I hope that there will be earthly justice done for George Floyd.

But even more than that, I hope that those in law enforcement and in churches and in positions of authority throughout the country ask themselves, “Why did he think that this was acceptable behavior?”

Was it a secret to his locker room buddies that he had within himself the ability to do such a thing?

Or did they hear his racist rants, and say nothing. How many other violent incidents were covered up, buried, exonerated, or just ‘put in his file”.

If we are going to put the power of life and death in the hands of a few men and women, should we not all hold them to the highest standards?

I love the church of Jesus Christ, and I love my profession. For that reason, I do everything I can to purge out the leaven that causes abusers and predators to flourish.

So please do not think that this is an attack against LEOs. It is a plea. If there are good and honorable men and women in this profession, which I wholeheartedly believe, perhaps now is the time to take a long look at the culture that continually allows this sort of thing to take place.

You will not ever be able to root out all evil. But you could at least make the environment intolerable enough so that it doesn’t flourish and never breaks out again into open murder. The way to stop e-coli is to create a hostile environment to it.

The way to stop predators in the church is to create a hostile environment to them. This is called “Church discipline” and is the mark of the true church.

The way to stop murderers, tyrants and racists in law enforcement is to create a hostile working condition to them.

When murder takes place openly, without fear, without passion, in a calm environment, over a period of 8 minutes, something is desperately wrong.

If you stand up in your own departments and your own agencies and say, “Not here. Not today. Not ever again” perhaps you can make a difference. I’ll stand with you. There is always room for more. In the words of Arlo Guthrie, maybe it could be a movement.

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Filed under Abuse, assault, Race

Things I’ve been told

They tell me that I scold men too much.

They tell me that they feel sorry for my congregation because I lead them astray by teaching women that they are image-bearers of God with dignity and honor.

They tell me that I rob men of their masculinity by teaching them that imitating Christ means to take the lowest place and become the servant of all, including their wives. Christ did, however, give himself for his bride, the church.

They tell me that I cause divorces and wreck marriages by teaching men how to love their wives instead how to rule over them.

They tell me that I am unbalanced, and am soft on the sin of women because I teach that lust comes from the heart of man, not from the outfit of the woman.

They tell me that I am a feminist because I believe that the Bible teaches that every believing woman is also a prophet, priest and king along with every believing man.

They spit the word “egalitarian” at me like a curse because I believe women have a voice, should be treated as co-heirs of eternal life, and have a right to make decisions and use their gifts for the glory of God, just like every believing man.

And they tell me to stop. They command me to be silent. I make people uncomfortable.

And I worry sometimes.

 

And then I hear of judges who tell rape victims not to report their rape because they will ruin a good man’s life.

And then I hear of husbands punching their wives in the same room that they lead “family worship”.

And then I hear of pastors beating and molesting the children under their care. And I hear of other pastors who knew about it and gave them “a good talking to” but didn’t want to ruin their ministries.

And then I hear of youth pastors raping the children under their care, and calling it “an inappropriate relationship”.

And then I hear of women crying out to their church leaders that their husbands watch porn every night and are asked if they are satisfying them in bed.

And then I hear again of women who are beaten over and over again year after year and when they finally divorce they are excommunicated for being bitter.

And then I hear of wives who cover the altar of the Lord with tears and are told to “submit more”, “suffer a little while like Jesus suffered,” “God hates divorce”.

And then these same wives are shot by the husbands they tried to get protection from.

And then I hear of husbands threatening the wives with weapons, fists, words of hatred, vile contempt and the wives are blamed for not submitting enough, making them mad, provoking them, wanting it…

And then I hear that these are not rare occurrences. These are not unusual. These are the hidden corners, the long dark corridors, the valley of the shadow of death that are walked through by so, so many men, women and children.

I know that salvation is not the same as activism. I am not an abuse advocate. I am a minister of the word, a pastor, a preacher of good tidings of great joy. I will not get sucked into the abyss of darkness and pain nor is it my desire to draw you into it.

But as a minister, I do need to shine a light, expose evil, untwist the scripture that is continually twisted to keep the weak in bondage to the strong.

When the church of Jesus Christ becomes an institution of worldly power and money, the powerful always oppress the weak, crushing them underfoot, and they will use whatever means they can to do it.

And I love the church of Jesus Christ far, far too much to keep silent. For this reason, I will not keep silent about the horrors that so many of our brothers and sisters suffer. Nor will I allow the light of Jesus Christ to grow dim or fade, but will continue to lift the banner, proclaim liberty to the captives, and bind the wounds of the broken-hearted as much as I can.

Even though I know it will infuriate a lot of people who like being in power.

There can only, ever be one head of the church, and he will never give that honor to another.

The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
tho’ there be those that hate her
and false sons in her pale,
against the foe or traitor
she ever shall prevail. (Samuel John Stone)

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Filed under Abuse, Gospel

Shattering words and crying to God

This morning, I was meditating on Psalm 42.

9 I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
(Ps. 42:9-10)

These two verses in particular struck me. The first thing is the Psalmists righteous determination to cry out to the Lord.

Those of us who were trained with the books of Jay Adams were taught to always be aware of manipulation and complaining. He warned us that the people we are counseling will often seek to manipulate the conversation with tears and a lot of words.

O how glad I am that God does not treat us that way! How many of you have been told by pastors (or even spouses) to stop crying, quit manipulating, and cease complaining. How many of us were told that our tears were simply trying to change the conversation or that our complaining was unthankful and ungodly!

The woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus robes and was made well. He said, “Who touched me” so that she would talk to him. God delights when we pour out our troubles on him and call upon him in distress.

So much of scripture is filled with God’s delight in the prayers of the saints, and his curse on those who did not call upon him, who refused to seek his aid.

Contrary to the American popular religion, God’s blessing is NOT on the one too proud to seek help. It is not on the one who lifts himself up by the bootstraps, but on the one who has no help, no hope, no strength and knows it.

Take heart! God hears our tears, even when surrounded by mockers and revilers!

The second thing I noticed is that the Psalmist compares the reviling of his enemies to a shattering of his bones. How many times have we heard pastors and elders say, “But it really wasn’t abuse, though. There were no broken bones, no one went to the hospital. He didn’t lay a hand on her.”

We have even been taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Cute – but it isn’t biblical. In fact, the uniform testimony of scripture is that words hurt and destroy far more that any physical violence. We actually heal from physical scars, but scars of ugly words last a lifetime.

Jesus warned that hateful, reviling words cause one to be liable to hell-fire.

And the Psalmist pours out his complaint to God for the reviling and mocking of his enemies. And his prayers are heard.

God sees every sneer, every contemptuous smirk, every wink of the eye. He hears every reviling word, every “Raca” and every “You are so stupid. You are such a fool”.

And when the altar of God is covered with the tears of those with whom you dealt treacherously, God hears and will come in judgment (Malachi 2:13).

So keep speaking, you who are oppressed. Keep weeping, those who have been reviled. And remember that God will wipe away every tear and will come in vengeance. And remember God’s promise.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So as the Psalm ends, we read this, even in the midst of tears:

Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God. (Ps. 42:11)

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Filed under Abuse, Prayer

A plea for sobriety

This has been a hard week for a lot of folks I know…men and women who have been assaulted, bullied, ridiculed, and mocked know that pain – the pain of being outcast, unclean, unwanted. Ben Sasse summed up the dynamics of sexual assault perfectly this week. But there have been so many that have suffered.

This past week, I have heard from many, many of these people.

They told me that when they heard the president mock Dr. Ford, they didn’t see him. They saw their classmates, their peers, their abusers.

They told me that when they saw the pastors laughing and joking, they didn’t hear those pastors. They heard their rapists laughing at them and mocking them.

When their Christian friends ridiculed the accuser, mocking her as a liar unheard and rashly, they didn’t hear their friends. They heard their teachers and parents refusing to believe them all over again. They heard their pastors mocking victims from the pulpit all over again…

One survivor told me that when she heard the crowds laughing and cheering the president on, it sounded like the Romans at the arena. She wondered about compassion, sobriety, respect, at such a serious subject.

I wondered if so many of my Christian friends realize what they lost this week.

In our partisan rush to support all things conservative, we told the whole world, “Don’t come to us with your sexual assault stories. We don’t want to hear them. We don’t care.”

We really did. We supported the mockers. We ridiculed a woman that we never met, never spoke to, never had any first hand knowledge about, before a hearing even took place.

It didn’t matter what the truth was. We didn’t say, “Let this play out. If he did it, then he is unfit.” No. We said immediately that she was lying, that he couldn’t do such a thing. And if he did, he was only 17.

We mocked her for being ugly in High School, for being at the wrong place, for drinking too much…We posted the ugly, hateful memes, we rebuked our friends, and unfriended anyone who differed with us – all to support someone we never met and don’t know at all, before any hearing happened.

And what did we gain?

But we told every survivor in our community not to come to us for help. That we don’t care. We won’t listen.

I hope it was worth it. We traded the witness of the gospel for a seat on the Supreme Court. That seems like a lose/lose to me, no matter what happens from here.

By the way, I have never met Kavanaugh, nor have I met Ford. I am not the one doing the job interview, and no one listens to my opinion at all. So my concern is not at all who is or is not on the Supreme Court. I have nothing to do with that.

But I am held accountable for my love, my witness, and how clearly I present the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am judged by God for the ninth commandment, bearing false witness. I am judged for my words and my actions. Am I so absolutely sure of the truth of this situation that I can ridicule, mock and slander the other party, no matter which side they are on or which political views they subscribe to?

I am posting this because I love the church of Jesus Christ, I love my Lord, and I love the truth of the gospel.

I am posting this because calling your own people to account is not an act of disloyalty, hatred, or blasphemy. It is an act of love.

If you have not partaken in these sins against our brothers and sisters, then scroll past. I’m not speaking to you.

But for the rest, I can’t remain silent anymore. I will not by my silence be a partaker of these sins.

If you wish to unfriend me, there is nothing in scripture that says we must be friends on social media. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ then you also are my brother, whether we are friends on Facebook or not.

I am posting this for all of those – men and women – who have been abused, bullied, mocked, and ridiculed and still bear the marks. There are those who care, who are concerned, who will listen.

21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” (Gen. 42:21 NKJ)

13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted. (Isa. 49:13 NKJ)

5 He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. (Prov. 17:5 NKJ)

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Filed under Abuse, assault, Words