Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

More Thoughts on Forgiveness (Part 5)

Our friend’s excellent essay continues on this important subject:

Note what God does not do when He forgives. God does not forgive us from a distance, or privately —we’d all go to hell if He did. I know this is absurd, but He does not forgive so He can heal or so He can avoid “feelings” of revenge or resentment or bitterness because the essence of forgiveness has nothing to do with feelings. It is important to note in the verses I mentioned that when forgiveness occurs, God’s attitude and relationship toward us does change, i.e. ‘retains His anger’ and has compassion on us.

But we also change in our attitude and relationship to God as well. We’re no longer at enmity with God. It’s not like God forgives us while allowing us to go on in our sin. God does not forgive us while we remain His enemies and continues to distance Himself from us. God is the one producing this change, but the relationship does in fact change drastically following forgiveness. This informs us a lot about what forgiveness should look like when we forgive, since we must forgive like Christ. There will be change in the relationship and this change occurs because of repentance on the part of the one who did the sinning. But it goes both ways.

We need to also reflect Christ in His ‘UNforgiveness’ when we don’t forgive others. We actually have authority to withhold forgiveness when it’s wrong to extend it (John 20:23). So if you have a person in your life you can’t forgive, if you’re a genuine Christian, there might be a good reason why.

We need to also look at how forgiveness —and each of its components —plays out in human to human relationships in the Bible. This will teach us what particular aspects of God’s forgiveness don’t play out exactly the same in human relationships. One classic story is with Joseph and his brothers, who betrayed him horribly and sold him into slavery out of pure envy and hatred.

People are always in awe of how forgiving Joseph is of his brothers. But they don’t emphasize the fact that it was probably about 20 years later that he did this, if you add up all the years he was gone. He had time to process what happened, and to heal, and to be able to look back on the events and see a purpose in them. No doubt such a betrayal must have been extremely traumatic for him, and would not have been able to forgive right away. I think that should be very understandable with any of us who experience betrayal at the hands of wicked family or church members or anyone we should have been able to trust.


More Thoughts on Forgiveness: Part 4


How the Wicked Alienate People from the Righteous


  1. Lynn

    As Christians, we are called to model forgiveness as Christ forgave and instructed us to forgive. Not understanding what that means opens the door to abuse. While we are to model forgiveness, we must also remember that we are not God. We don’t have the power to bring about the miracle of repentance in the person causing the harm. Only God can bring about genuine repentance.

    If He doesn’t do so, any attempt at forgiveness and reconciliation will only result in more abuse for the victim. Victims of abuse are not the ones responsible for extending forgiveness to their abusers without evidence of genuine repentance. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to manipulate you. Remember crocodile tears, saying sorry without evidence of repentance is nothing more than manipulation. Repentance is a change in behavior, not lip service.

    We are to forgive those who genuinely repent because that’s what God does.

    If genuine repentance is demonstrated over a sustained period of time – the deeper the abuse, the longer the amount of time needed to prove genuine repentance – and the offender asks for forgiveness, then extend it. That doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the offender. Some wounds require a permanent separation even if genuine repentance is displayed.

    For example, if by God’s grace, my mom decided to genuinely repent of her nearly 4 decades of narcissistic abuse and could prove it to me, then I would be willing to forgive her. I would not however be willing to have a relationship with her. She broke that chance with the deep, chronic abuse that she inflicted on me for decades and the consistent manipulation she operated in order to get her own way. I refuse to give her any opportunity, forgiven or not, that will allow her to be in a position that would tempt her to fall back into old patterns.

    I also agree with the author’s assessment that part of why Joseph’s ability to forgive his brothers was due to the amount of time that had past and how God had worked in his life. If their reunion had happened only a few years after he’d been sold into slavery and he wasn’t in such a position of authority where he knew that no matter what, his brothers could not hurt him again like they did when they sold him to Egypt, then I doubt their reunion would have been quite so moving. Also, note that Joseph didn’t go after his brothers and seek to reconcile with them. They came to him because they were in great need.

    Joseph had the chance to heal, had been restored, got married, had children, and was raised by God into the position of 2nd in command of all of Egypt. I won’t say that forgiveness was easy for Joseph because it wasn’t. He wanted to make sure that his brothers weren’t the same men that treated him so horribly in his childhood before extending forgiveness to them. He also knew that there were still multiple years of great famine coming on the earth and the only way his family would survive was through the provision and position that God had given him for such a time.

    The other comment I want to make is that Joseph is also a type of Christ for us to be reminded of. Because his brothers demonstrated genuine repentance, the family was restored and healed. It wasn’t the same as before though. Joseph still was separated from them because of his position of power and in governing the country.

    A victim’s only responsibility is to get the help and support they need to work through the damage done by the abuser until evidence of genuine repentance is demonstrated. If it’s never demonstrated, then it’s not the victim’s responsibility to forgive. God doesn’t do that. He holds sinners accountable for their sins and will give them their just punishment in due time.

    Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
    You keep track of all my sorrows.
        You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
        You have recorded each one in your book.

    There are others like those of us on Unholy Charade who see you, feel you, and know exactly what it’s like to walk that lonely road to freedom, and it is worth the work. It is worth the pain and loss. It’s worth everything because, in the end, you get your freedom restored, your confidence in Christ strengthened, your eyes are opened to the truth of the Gospel, and you grow in wisdom having been forced to move from spiritual infancy into maturity.

    • Road to freedom

      You have, again, provided immense insight and wisdom to such a difficult topic, thank you. This combined with the points in Pastor Crippen’s post are very rare, and so very meaningful to anyone who has been so cruelly betrayed and abused by the very ones they loved.

      Forgiveness is a complex word……. and never once did the Lord intend it to be used in such a twisted way as we see so much of in the church.

      As for the one who was abused….. You are correct, it is a lonely road to freedom – and yet it is hands down the hardest, best thing you could ever do! Years in now, after having almost my entire life gutted by the abuser/s I THANK GOD for that hellish road that actually became a blessing – it ended up being the unexpected road to freedom. Yes the very road that was soaked with my tears is the road that led to freedom – beyond all expectations.

      I say go the road – actually RUN to that road once you see it! The hollow ache of the loneliness is temporary, it will be awful, but it will pass! And I say run to the road not just from an eternal perspective, but also for your quality of life while here on earth. As you said, it’s is absolutely worth the work – restored freedom is just that – freedom!!

      Forgiveness is not meant to be as twisted as it has become in the abuser community, that’s when it moves us away from Christ. Restored freedom is not like that, it is traveling with and towards Christ, it is freedom in Christ.

  2. Grace

    There are some very profound and helpful truths here. Also, it should be noted that Joseph was able to give his brothers several tests to see if their attitude and behaviors had indeed changed. Only after they passed those tests did he forgive them.

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