I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (10) So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 3 John 1: 9-10
My two books, A Cry for Justice and Unholy Charade, were written because the evangelical, Bible-believing church has a problem – a big problem. Diotrephes is hiding in our pews. Or rather, he is hiding in plain view. He (or she) is the person who wears a mask of eminent saintliness, having convinced most everyone in the church of his godliness, but whose real motive is a craving to be first. Diotrephes likes to put himself first. He sees himself as entitled to power and control and regards himself as fully justified in using whatever tactics are necessary to ensure that he lords this power over the people of Christ. Perhaps you have known him?
Diotrephes, and people like him, are abusers. Some abuse the flock of Christ – all certainly deceive the sheep – while others exercise their diabolical tactics in their marriage and home. They are perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse, and their target of choice is their wife and children. If you want to learn about sin – how it thinks, what methods it uses – study this subject of domestic violence and abuse. You will probably find that you won’t have to go far to find it. There are few local churches that are untouched by it, though even fewer who realize what is happening.
Christ has a particular care for the helpless and defenseless – the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the land. Today, such people are often among us as victims of abuse. Most frequently they are women and their abuser is their husband. Don’t limit your thinking about abuse to physical assaults only. Abuse is a mentality – a worldview. The abuser is a person whose conscience is largely dysfunctional, or even inoperative. He sees himself as superior – as the center of the universe. He is, in his thinking, entitled to have power over and to control his wife and his children. His arsenal of weapons to effect and maintain this control is quite large. The abusive person does not think like normal people do. One of our biggest mistakes in dealing with this sin is to assume that he does think like us, and this becomes one of his biggest weapons to deceive us.
Who are the victims in your world – in your church? Don’t be too quick to dismiss the possibility that they are there. It is not a possibility, but a probability! The statistics are that one in four women are victims of domestic violence. And there are some male victims as well – they have an even greater shame that keeps them from asking for help. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of my first book that may serve to introduce you further to what I am speaking of here. In future posts, I will work to educate you to the thinking and tactics of the abuser, helping you to recognize him and to render justice and aid to his victims who are among us. Please understand that we have a problem. The evangelical church has not been doing well in coming to the aid of these victims. In fact, we have been discounting them and harming them instead.
Pastor Andrews was continuing with his sermon series on marriage. And the congregation was listening, mostly with smiles and knowing, nodding of heads as the Pastor struck upon some of the common difficulties in the home. It was quite a pleasant atmosphere; Pastor Andrews was so good at giving light and humorous illustrations. “You know, Sunday mornings can be really difficult for families, can’t they? All the rushing about to get ready and get to church on time. How many of you had some conflicts this morning at home or in the car on your way to church?” Husbands and wives looked at one another, smiled and chuckled. It was all so foolish – but funny too. Yes, they were just human beings with all of their glitches. The Lord knows all about it.
But in this congregation of some 150 people, there were two women who didn’t seem to be sharing in the joviality. Oh, there were some strained smiles from them at this point or that but for Rose Jansen and Elizabeth Bettson these words hit a little too close to home. Both were distraught and distracted. Rose avoided looking at her husband and fiddled with the pages in her Bible. Elizabeth rolled up the corner of her jacket, unrolled it, then rolled it again as she stared straight ahead. Unlike them, their husbands “got it”. Laughing and nodding their heads, they seemed to appreciate the Pastor’s point. “It really is funny, you know – isn’t it?,” Pastor Andrews continued, “how we argue on Sunday mornings and then put on a happy face and come into the church building all smiles.”
Preparing to wrap up, he smiled at his congregation. “But God understands. Jesus knows we are all fallible and frail. That is why He went to the cross. May He bless each one of you this week. Let’s pray.” Heads were bowed as the prayer was offered. The amens were said, the closing hymn was sung and people stood to leave. On the way out a happy atmosphere prevailed: hands were shaken, the Lord was praised repeatedly and the people headed home to their roasts or to meet friends at the Sizzler.
For Rose and Elizabeth it was different. As they left with their husbands, they did so to return to a world that no one in the church knew about nor could even imagine. They left with husbands whom everyone thought they knew, but didn’t. Welcome to Rose and Elizabeth’s world. It is the world of abuse. It is a foreign land to most of us but one that exists right within the church, often in the pew just next to us.