Mat 23:24-25 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (25) “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.
With some frequency I have sincere people contact me with the same question. Their motive in asking is good and they truly want to get justice for abuse victims and expose their abusers – especially the ones hiding behind a Christian disguise. Here is the question they bring:
Is there a written procedure or protocol somewhere that I can take to my church leaders so it can be implemented and domestic abuse will be handled properly in our church?
Another form of this question goes something like this:
Is there some type of conference that can be put on in our church to educate the pastors and members about domestic abuse?
These questions come often enough that I thought it would be good to write in this post what I tell those who ask them. So, here we go.
Written procedures, classes and conferences on abuse, will do absolutely no good unless something else happens first. All that will result is the construction of an outward structure that makes everyone think all is now well when in fact nothing has really changed. What must change first is, frankly, a rare occurence. Here it is:
The pastors and elders and members of the church must be broken and humbled by the truth of God’s Word which speaks to the oppression of abuse victims and to the evil of their abusers. They must be broken and humbled, and they must genuinely repent of their enabling of abuse and abusers and of their oppression of the oppressed. They must acknowledge before God and before one another that in their arrogance they have behaved as if they knew all there is to know when in fact they have been ignorant of this wickedness, its mentality, and its tactics. In addition, they must confess that they have taught the traditions of men as if they were the Word of God – oppressive traditions that insist on sacrifice but are devoid of mercy.
In other words, a powerful, convicting, genuine work of the Holy Spirit must occur in the hearts and minds of the people in the local church so that their sin rises up before them, they are broken in conviction, and they plead with God to forgive them and show them His truth.
If these things do not happen, and they very rarely do, then you can work your fingers to the bone setting up policies and procedures and protocols and conferences, but nothing will change. The thing will remain a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones.
Right now we are seeing some large denominations racing to get on the band wagon of dealing with domestic and sexual abuse in their midst. They have been caught. They have been called out. And it is bad PR for them, so away they go trying to convince us all that they are going to change now. Here come the notable speakers, The “experts,” who are going to tell everyone what they must do. Some of the things they say will not doubt be true, but truth falling on unrepentant, blind and deaf hearts will have no lasting effect. Everyone will go home remarking “my, what good people we are,” and in a short time the same oppression of abuse victims will resume.
We saw one such case recently in the news. Your standard mega church pastor insisted that he and his fellow leaders had followed the procedures and formulas to the letter. There, just like Pilate, they pronounce their hands clean of the matter. But they aren’t clean. God looks upon the heart, and their hearts are unchanged. They really don’t care at all for the victim. They just want their image and their behemoth machine to keep on keeping on.
God’s Word, the Bible, has all the answers needed when it comes to what we in the church are to do when a wicked man who is a “so-called brother” is among us (see 1 Cor 5). And it has all the answers regarding how we are to care for the oppressed. It tells us what diabolic tactics we can expect the devil and his servants to utilize. It tells us, frankly, who is a Christian and who is not a Christian.
But to hear all this, we must have ears. To see God’s truth, we must have eyes. And to love God’s truth, we must be born again so that we have hearts with His Law written upon them rather than evil, unbelieving stone hearts. We must, in other words, be born again. And I submit to you that what you are going to find if you strive to bring God’s Word to bear upon this issue of evil hiding within local churches is that most professing Christians are simply not born again.
Recently I preached a 7-part sermon series titled “You Must be Born Again.” This central, crucial, heart of the gospel – being born again – is being widely denied today in many many churches and so-called “christian” ministries.
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”