The Deeds of the Flesh ‘Fleshed Out’
Sermon 8 from the series: The Psychology and Methods of Sin
A 21 sermon series on domestic violence and abuse
First given on September 12, 2010
Sermon Text: Galatians 5:16-21
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21 ESV
Just as the flesh lusts after the wicked works of the flesh – so that by its very nature, the flesh gratifies itself by wickedness, so the Spirit of Christ in the believer lusts – only this is a holy lust for Christ and obedience to Him. The Spirit of Christ is gratified, satisfied, by the things Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit “itches” for holiness – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness – and is “scratched” by the production and performance of these things.
Have you ever given serious consideration to these two lists – the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit? Consider the “bad fruit” –
Indulgence of the Body – Sins Against One’s Own Body
Fits of Anger
This is one chief reason for the façade he builds and the mask he wears – to hide the filth that is inside of him. You certainly see this illustrated in the religious hypocrites Jesus so strongly rebuked –
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (26) You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (27) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. (28) So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 ESV
Just for review however, let’s first remind ourselves of the definition of an abusive person –
An abuser is a man who chronically makes his wife/girlfriend feel mistreated or devalued. He may employ psychological, verbal, physical, or sexual means, but all have similar effects on the victim. He will exhibit elements [on a scale of intensity] of denial, minimization, and distortion, and even justification about his actions. The abuser has an abusive mentality that makes it difficult for him to even imagine being in a respectful and equal relationship with a woman. [Bancroft]
Commonly, an abuser will not listen to the woman’s [ie, his victim’s] perspective at all. He feels completely justified and becomes retaliatory if she stands up for herself. [Bancroft]One of the prevalent features of life with an angry or controlling person is that he frequently tells you what you should think and tries to get you to doubt or devalue your own perceptions and beliefs. [Bancroft]Since nobody’s perfect, how do I know the difference between a bad day when he’s just being a jerk and a pattern that adds up to something more serious? It is true that almost everyone does yell at one point or another in a relationship…or act selfish or insensitive. These behaviors are hurtful and worthy of criticism, but they aren’t all abuse, and they don’t have the same psychological effects that abuse does. At the same time, all of these behaviors are abusive when they are part of a pattern of abuse. The term abuse is about power; it means that a person is taking advantage of a power imbalance to exploit or control someone else. Thus, the defining point of abuse is when the abuser starts to exercise power over the victim in a way that causes harm to her and creates a privileged status for him. [Bancroft]
- He retaliates against you for complaining about his behavior
- He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment are your own problem
- He gives apologies that sound insincere or angry, and he demands that you accept them
- He blames you for the impact of his behavior
- It’s never the right time, or the right way, to bring things up
- He undermines your progress in life
- He denies what he did
- He justifies his hurtful or frightening acts or says that you ‘made him do it’
- He touches you in anger or puts you in fear in other ways
- He coerces you into having sex or sexually assaults youHis controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behavior is a pattern
- You show signs of being abused (fear of him, being distanced from family and friends, level of energy is declining, you can’t do anything right, you feel like you have been mentally ‘messed with’)
1. Strife/Dissensions/Divisions –
Why would a person want to produce strife? Why would someone crave to turn the people, for example, in his family against one another? And how does he go about doing it?
THERE ARE HUGE LESSONS FOR THE CHURCH TO LEARN FROM ALL OF THIS! A DIVISIVE, ABUSIVE, POWER-SEEKING PERSON WILL USE THE VERY SAME METHODS IN THE CHURCH.
A home where a woman is abused is a small-scale model of much larger oppressive systems that work in remarkably similar ways. Many of the excuses an abusive man uses for verbally tearing his partner to shreds are the same ones that a power mad boss uses for humiliating his or her employees. The abusive man’ s ability to convince himself that his domination of you is for your own good is paralleled by the dictator who says, ‘People in this country are too primitive for democracy.’ The divide and conquer strategies used by abusers are reminiscent of a corporate head who tries to break the labor union by giving certain groups of workers favored treatment. The making of an abuser is thus not necessarily restricted to the specific values his society teaches him about men’ s relationships with women.
If you look at any oppressive organization or system, from a racist country club up to a military government, you will find most of the same behaviors and justifications by the powerful that abusers use in their homes. The tactics of control, the intimidation of victims who try to protest, the undermining of efforts at independence, the negative distortions about victims in order to cast blame upon them, the careful cultivation of the public image of the oppressors – all are present, along with many other parallels…In short, the abusive mentality is the mentality of oppression. [Bancroft]
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV
2. Jealousy/Rivalry/Envy –
Anything achieved by the victim is seen as a threat by the abuser. The abuser’s worth is derived from a sense of one-upmanship and winning over . If the victim accomplishes something, the abuser views her accomplishment competitively. Dora tells this story –
While Dean was on a business trip and I was home with the children, I repainted the bathroom, which really needed it. When Dean got home I was happy to have finished it in time, as a little surprise. I wanted to tell him right away but waited until after dinner.
Then, when I showed it to him saying, ‘Look! I painted the bathroom. Doesn’ t it look nice!’ Dean became very angry. He yelled at me, ‘You think you do all the work! Well, I work, too!’ I said that I didn’t think that at all. He seemed to stay upset and angry. I couldn’t get him to understand my intentions. I felt disappointment and a lot of pain, and frustration too. How did I give him the impression that I thought I did all the work?” NOTE: Dean never became angry like this if anyone else was around]. [Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship]
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 2 Corinthians 12:20 ESV
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. (15) This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (16) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (17) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:14-17 ESV
But the jealousy of the flesh is evil. It desires to possess for its own self-serving glory. Here is an example –
3. Fits of Anger –
Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. Ephesians 6:9 ESV
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (2) You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. James $:1-2 ESV
Now, this leads us to a very, very important principle, and here it is –
- He just has a short fuse
- She is just impatient
- If I try harder in this area, I won’t set him off
- He gets mean when he drinks – it’ s just the alcohol
- He’ s really a teddy bear underneath
One way that you can prove that anger is not the fundamental cause of abuse is to simply realize that many acts of abuse – even some very terrible ones – are performed “in cold blood.” Perhaps these sessions of abuse are even the most damaging and frightening than the ones where the abuser is enraged. An abusive man can actually carry out his most heinous acts of abuse during “the seeming good times” when everyone is calm.
For example, listen to Bancroft describe the abuser whose style he names “The Water Torturer” –
The Water Torturer’s style proves that anger doesn’t cause abuse. He can assault his partner psychologically without even raising his voice. He tends to stay calm in arguments, using his own evenness as a weapon to push his victim over the edge. He often has a superior or contemptuous grin on his face, smug and self-assured. He uses a repertoire of aggressive conversational tactics at low volume, including sarcasm, derision – such as openly laughing at her – mimicking her voice, and cruel, cutting remarks. Like Mr. Right, he tends to take things she has said and twist them beyond recognition to make her appear absurd, perhaps especially in front of other people. He gets to his partner through a slow but steady stream of low-level emotional assaults, and perhaps occasional shoves or other ‘minor’ acts of violence that don’ t generally cause visible injury but may do great psychological harm. He is relentless in his quiet derision and meanness. The impact on a woman of all these subtle tactics is that either her blood temperature rises to a boil or she feels stupid and inferior , or some combination of the two. In an argument, she may end up yelling in frustration, leaving the room crying, or sinking into silence. The Water Torturer then says, ‘See, you’re the abusive one, not me. You’re the one who’s yelling and refusing to talk things out rationally. I wasn’t even raising my voice. It’ s impossible to reason with you.’ ” [Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?]
“Friends and relatives who have witnessed the couple’s interactions may back him up. They shake their heads and say to each other, ‘I don’t know what goes on with her. She just explodes at him sometimes, and he’s so low-key.’ Their children can develop the impression that ‘Mom blows up over nothing.’ She herself may start to wonder if there is something psychologically wrong with her. If you are involved with a Water Torturer, you may struggle for years trying to figure out what is happening.”
Can you see why we must be very careful of Mr. Nice Guy? The Water Torturer could come into a church as a “servant of righteousness” when in fact he is from the pit.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.(2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have,and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (4) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV