Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. Acts 20:28-31 ESV
I think that Christians are faced with the worst kind of abuser — the “Christian” abuser. The person who claims to be a Christian but who is nothing but a facade and who, in reality, is a power and control motivated, entitlement-thinking wolf in wool. And it is important for us to realize this. Not only are we often the most naive people when it comes to “getting it” about abuse, but we in the Christian church often have to face the most evil abusers.
Why do I suggest this?
Well, just consider what is required for a person to be an abuser and then in addition, play out his abuse in the charade of a Christian character. Surely we must see that this kind of act requires a much harder heart and lack of conscience than doing the same thing “out there” in the world. Notice that the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul both called wicked, abusive people within the visible church “wolves.” Does the Bible call any enemies of Christ who are outside the visible church by this same title? Maybe I have missed such a Scripture passage, but I can’t think of one. A wolf who dons a sheep’s disguise and sneaks in among the flock is a far greater danger and of a greater savagery than one that makes no pretense to be anything but what he is, a wolf.
So what does this mean for Christians? It means that of all people on this planet, we are the ones who need to be and who should be the real experts on the nature, mentality, and tactics of evil. We should know these things better than anyone else. Because we are the ones who are going to have to face the greatest threat and the most cunning representatives of the enemy. Right now, it does not seem to be so. What we see over and over again is the most ill-prepared soldiers facing the most crafty agents of evil. The result is that we are duped, victims suffer even more because of our ineptitude, and the enemy must be really enjoying himself watching all of it.
The fact that an abuser who is a professing Christian is the worst kind of abuser also has implications for victims and for those who would help those victims. A woman, for example, whose husband is of this sort is actually facing an even more intensified degree of abuse. Why? Because, let me say it once more, being wicked and at the same time choosing to masquerade as a Christian requires a greater degree of evil. The raging abuser whose violence is plain to see may look far worse than the nice, respectable, saintly fellow we know at church and yet who is a demon at home. But think it through. Which one of the two is actually called a “wolf” by Christ?
The Word of God very often points to evil people who sneak in among the church as particular dangers. For example:
Jude 1:12-13 ESV These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Where in God’s Word do we find that level of intense condemnation for someone who is outside the visible church, making no claim of Christ at all? It does seem that Scripture agrees with us then when we suggest that as Christians, we can expect to face the most evil kind of abuser.
And that fact alone should be enough to make us all sit up and take notice that maybe, just maybe, these victims who come to us for help just might be telling us the truth.