2Co 11:20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.
One of the worst abusers I have ever known, a man who caused all kinds of grief with many attempts to portray himself as the finest saint we ever met and yet worked tirelessly and by nature to enslave those around him, was heard to say more than once, “you didn’t listen to me! All these bad things have happened because you wouldn’t listen to me!”
This of course is a common trait of this kind of wicked person – he or she demands to be obeyed. We all need to step back and take a long look at what is going on whenever we find ourselves constantly wondering, “What will Joe say about this?” “What would Jesus say?” gets replaced with Joe. It sneaks up on us and usually we aren’t aware of just how much of this is going on.
Years ago in our church a very wicked sin was committed and how to handle it was not an easy matter. Ultimately we chose a course which I still know was the right one and what the Lord would have us do. Not everyone was happy (“everyone” never is), and there were various kinds of fallout. Some months later in a meeting, this man in his arrogance and anger because he had not been obeyed, said “If you had done what I told you, none of this would have happened. But you wouldn’t listen to me.” He was right in a sense. If we had listened to his demands, none of the positive outcome of obeying the Lord would have happened!
The level of wicked arrogance in these kind is incredible as you think it over. Here was a man who would gladly look at a pastor, elders, godly grey-hared church members, and tell them all, “Listen to me! You should have listened to me!” Let that soak in. What level of evil does such a thing require? It is designed to revile. The abuser is a reviler. He villifies, ie, makes his target the villain. The Lord says plainly that revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God and we are not to even eat with such a person, let alone permit them to be among us in the church.
1Co 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
I am sure that every domestic abuse victim has heard this rhetoric a bajillion times. “Listen to me! You should have done what I told you! Now this is all your fault!”
I have also seen this same type of arrogance revelaing itself often in people who contact me and say they are looking for a church to attend. Sometimes of course those questions are genuine and come from real Christians who are frustrated by not being able to find a group of true Christians to fellowship with. But my red flags start going up when someone right off presents themselves as a real authority on theology, a follower of….(you fill in the famous preacher names), and evidence a lot of Bible “verbage” (christianese as I call it). There are more warning signs too but in the end I just realize that they leave me with an uneasy feeling.
So I test them.
I tell them, for instance, that one of our church’s important missions is to help domestic abuse victims and expose abusers. I advise them to read one of my books to understand more about us. If one of their favorites is the kind whose teaching oppresses abuse victims (ie, “no divorce for abuse”) I point out that person’s error. I tell them that our church requires that someone be with us for about a year before we would consider them becoming a voting member, and that we require a background check for people who attend regularly here in order to protect children and others.
Guess what happens?
In every case of a person of this kind, I know that the inevitable scathing email response will be forthcoming. It always is. How dare we require a background check – Jesus would never require such a thing! (Hmmm, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God, for many false spirits have gone out…). How dare we be so divisive as to be critical of a preacher who simply holds a different point of view than us on divorce for abuse. And in all of this verbage, they ooze accusation and guilting, exalting themselves. “You need to listen to me!”
One of the most common pieces of wisdom that the Lord gives us and which we have suffered very much for many years because we were not wise in this way, is that we are not to quickly trust people just because they claim to be a Christian. In my early years of being a pastor, I was foolish in this regard many times. We wanted to see the church grow. We wanted people to come and to hear and to be saved. So we too readily believed, accepted, invited, and ….suffered the consequences of evil coming in among us.
Many pastors and church members and “church experts” would call us too rigid, too hard, and unloving for these safeguards we have in place. But I can tell you this – failing to exercise these wise cautions in the past resulted in years of trouble, division, and evil creeping in among us. If those “church experts” and others would be honest, they would admit that their system in fact produces counterfeits and trouble. But they aren’t honest and I don’t look for them to be.
I know that probably the majority of people who learn about our practice and realize that no, we aren’t going to listen to them (ha! a demand that we listen to them when we don’t even know them!!), are going to be done with us.
And I consider that a win. We wouldn’t listen to them. We listened to the Lord.
1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.