Are you weary, are you heavyhearted?
Tell it to Jesus,
Tell it to Jesus;
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a friend that’s well known;
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone. [Jeremiah Rankin, mid- 1800’s]
There certainly is a category of sinner who is heavy-hearted and grieving. It is this very type of person the Lord addresses in such passages as:
John 7:37 ESV On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
Matthew 11:28 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Such people thirst and are burdened because of their sin and because the Lord has brought them under conviction of that sin in order to drive them to Christ. This is the function of the Law as it thunders condemnation to the guilty.
But it is a great error to deal with those who are outside of Christ as if they are the poor, wounded victims of sin when in fact they do not thirst or grieve over it at all. You can lead a horse to water….and you can try and try to lead a wicked person to the living waters of Christ’s salvation….but good luck getting them to drink because they are not thirsty.
Many professing Christians, churches and allegedly biblical counselors regard wicked, evil, abusive people as victims. Victims of sin. And I see this attitude in hymns like the one quoted above. Many 19th century hymns are just empty sentimentality and very, very bad theology. This hymn, “Tell it to Jesus,” is an example. It is sung and presented most typically to apply to all people dead in their sin. It is seen as a plea to “the poor, wounded, victim of sin” to carry their burdens and griefs to Jesus and He will surely pardon them. The idea is that if we just express enough love, empathy, and tears in such an invitation, the wicked will be moved to come to Jesus in faith and be saved.
It is a very bad idea.
In most criminal codes in our country you will find what are called the “mental states of culpability.” I think if I remember correctly, that in Oregon there are four such mental states. Intentionally, Knowingly, Recklessly, and with Criminal Negligence. I might have those mixed up in order, but the idea is that if a person commits a crime intentionally, he is more culpable (ie, responsible, guilty) than someone who commits the very same act recklessly. This is why, for instance, there are different levels of homicide. The killing of a human being is homicide. But if homicide is committed with a mental state of negligence, it is a lesser crime than that carried out intentionally. A murder “in cold blood” for instance is different than a homicide committed by a drunk driver (resulting then in charges like manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide). Where there is no culpability at all, the verdict is “justifiable homicide” (as in cases of self-defense).
I hope all of us here know by now that domestic abusers do what they do intentionally. They know what they are doing and they use evil tactics with intent. And yet they would have us believe that they are not culpable at all. That what they do to victims is either justified (she deserved it and made me do it) or that they themselves are victims of sin – perhaps even of the sin of someone else like a parent, etc. Abusers, sociopaths, psychopaths – all of them work very hard at demanding empathy from us. They themselves are really the root source of all this thinking that they are poor victims of sin. And we, like suckers, are suckered into it so often.
The domestic abuser, especially the “christian” kind, is not thirsty. He is not grieving. He is not a victim of sin. And you will NEVER find scripture treating him as such. Think about it. Does the Bible ever “sing” a touching hymn like “Tell it to Jesus” to the evil, unrepentant, deceitful person? Does the Lord ever just focus on the poor, lost plight of the wicked, speaking only of their weariness, of their anxiety, and their misery, without mentioning that THEY are culpable, that THEY are the cause of their misery, that THEY even refuse to admit to their miserable condition? No. Never. Never, never.
What you do find in God’s Word is like this:
Isaiah 1:4-5 ESV Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. (5) Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
Isaiah 1:18-20 ESV “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (19) If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; (20) but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
See it? Yet in contrast congregations each Sunday often sing hymns that like the censoring social media giants of today, cut out words like “offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly…if you refuse and rebel you shall be eaten by the sword.” Because, you see, in the churches of our day that kind of talk is politically incorrect and any abuse victim who confronts the evil of her abuser with pointed vocabulary that reveals the abuser is in fact culpable, is being “unloving, unforgiving, unkind, unmerciful, and a host of other “un” things.
Therefore this entire, far too common business of dealing with the wicked as if they are victims of sin is in itself evil.