The Apostle Paul identifies very clearly the fundamental reason for idolatry:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:18-25)
God has revealed Himself to His creation so clearly that all human beings are without excuse when it comes to their failure to honor Him as God/Creator and give Him thanks. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, such people set themselves on a foolhardy course of foolishness characterized by the lie that the creature is God. Fallen man would sooner worship a snake than bow before God. Thus we see God justly handing these idolaters over to the depths of their evil and sin.
Now, what has all of this got to do with abuse? Certainly abuse is one result of life in a society that largely rejects God. But it is this matter of “by their unrighteousness suppressing the truth” that has jumped out at me this evening.
In our ministry to the victims of abuse, we see — everyday — people who profess to be Christians suppressing the truth. They hold it down. Like any truth, the truth about the nature and existence of abuse keeps trying to jump right out in front of our eyes, but for some reason most people suppress it. Shove it back down as if they were playing one of those carnival pop-up games. There it is again! Whack, knock it back down out of sight.
Let me suggest a theory of mine. I suggest that there is far more culpability (guilt) among people who don’t “get it” about abuse than we might realize. Yes, a certain degree of naivete can explain things, but only for a time. All of us had to go through a wakeup process until finally the lights went on. But at some point the Spirit of Truth in the Christian is going to put the truth about abusers, their thinking, their tactics, etc. square in front of that person’s eyes. And if the response is more suppression of that truth, well then, Romans 1 says there is a serious, serious problem. Because this kind of suppression is characteristic of people who are practicing unrighteousness.
People who simply and knowingly refuse to submit themselves to truth that God has revealed. The thing really comes right up to at least the edge of idolatry because such people exchange the truth of God for a lie. That lie eventually is given some kind of form (marriage, for example) and becomes a false god.
Truth, you see, even as it is revealed by God Himself, is not welcome among idol worshipers. Which once again brings us back round to the question that so often nags at us — just how many people today who claim to be Christians, aren’t? Or how many have permitted idol worship to creep into their minds and hearts with its deceiving, blinding effects. I must confess myself – I believe I was more culpable in the days of my ignorance about abuse that I may want to have admitted to myself. We can probably all own up to that. But what, I ask again, what of people who have the truth about this evil put squarely before them time and time again, but they just keep on pushing it down out of sight?
Waiting for justice
Thank you so much for your teaching on abusers and how the church gets it wrong. I am the mother of an abuse victim, and I’ve been greatly helped by your words. Our abuser began to show his true self when my daughter got pregnant. (now that I understand the pattern, there were warning signs before) Our church (I was a member all my life) handled it badly from the very beginning and it went downhill from there. I have tried to excuse them by thinking they (like I) just didn’t understand abuser’s tactics, but isn’t it their duty to find out and not just apply the steps that were learned in counseling class? It is more than two years since we left and now the organist and choir director contact me periodically to ask me to return to sing in the choir for a funeral. I just don’t want to be in the same room with that pastor. My heart was broken to leave my church family and I don’t think I would be in very good voice anyway. Am I hard-hearted for staying away?
Waiting – the only hard hearts are in that church. You are doing the right thing. It is the Holy Spirit in us who is leading us to refuse to remain in the midst of evil. I am very sorry that this has all happened to you and your daughter and family. I can identify with being part of a local church for years and then having to leave because of wickedness that the leaders and members refuse to confront as the Lord has commanded us. But eventually such a church becomes a non-church because Christ himself departs. You see the typical pattern of no shame in those people as they contact you without repentance, acting as if nothing at all is wrong. I have been invited several times to go back to a church I planted many years ago but which after a few years was taken over by a few very wicked people and I had to leave. I have always refused those invitations and have told the people clearly why – one evil man is still in power and leadership there. So that has been sad, but there is no way, as you say, I could be in the same room with wickedness.
I’m so grateful to God, Jeff, that one day your heart and your understanding were opened to receive the truth about evil tactics, and that now you are ministering to us struggling with abusers & al. It seems harder for men to come to this realization. When I consider the various ministers and elders, or other male leaders, I contacted when in trouble or whom I knew, I cannot find one that is clear on abuse or marriage/divorce.
It takes humility, repentance and courage to stand for God’s truth and to advocate for victims. The church leaders are more concerned about their paychecks, their reputation and the number of their flock, and so, victims are censured, accused and sacrificed on their altar. They aren’t jealous for the honor of God and for justice to be rendered to the true victims.
No doubt that the Lord is sifting the church now, getting rid of the chaff and retaining the good grains, those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness and those who uphold it in righteousness. And abuse is one way among others God is using to do just that.
Thank you pastor Crippen for saying such people are COWARDS and become allies with the enemy. This is so true. Do you think some time that you can write a post on how a person who sits on the fence slowly gets pulled over to be a allie of the abuser instead of a supporter of the victim in truth and righteousness? And I think some of these people do not even realize what they are doing, and the huge spiritual ramifications it means for them! It is if they almost seem to go “Blind”, yet I don’t think they do it in malice as the abuser behaves. I am seeing this for the past year and it is soooo hard to digest.