Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

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The Comforter

Joh 14:16-18 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (17) even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (18) “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

The Holy Spirit, particularly in the Gospel of John, is called the paraclete, variously translated as the comforter, the Helper, and probably some other similar terms as well. Christ and the Spirit, as well as the Father, are one. So much so that Jesus can say of the coming of the Spirit, “I will come to you.”

Every real Christian is indwelt by the Comforter. And He is very active in us. Paul could say, for example:

Rom 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

and again-

Rom 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

It is by the Spirit that the Father communicates to us that we are indeed His children. The Spirit is the Spirit of adoption and He is the One who assures us that we really are Christ’s people.

But what I would like us to think about here is this matter of the Spirit being the Comforter. Here is Paul once again:

2Co 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (4) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (5) For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Oppressed people are afflicted people. In fact, it is not going too far to say that every real Christian is oppressed in this fallen world. We share, as Paul says, in the sufferings of Christ and those sufferings are not rare. They are abundant.

However, the more these sufferings increase, the more the Comforter comforts. I don’t know exactly how He does this, but He does. It is a mystery, but it is real. I suppose one way this comfort comes to us is through the Spirit leading other believers to join us in our suffering. To come to us and help us just as faithful believers came to Paul when he was in prison. But I am sure there is also an inner, mystical aspect to this communication of comfort to us as well.

The Spirit’s comforting has a goal even beyond comforting us. He causes us to experience this comfort so that we can exercise it toward other believers who are suffering. That is why, for example, we all are comforted by those believers who have experienced the same kinds of sufferings that we experience. If you want to find someone who is a comfort to you, for instance, when you are being sorely abused by a wicked person, you will find that someone in the ranks of those who have also been abused. They suffered, they were comforted, and they can pass that comfort on to you.

Knowing these things helps us endure and persevere in this fallen world. Christ has not left us alone as abandoned orphans. When we are born again, He comes to us and He comes in the Person of the Spirit. He is right there with us in our suffering. So ask Him. Ask Him to pour out that comfort on you. As Peter puts it – Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. And Paul again:

Php 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We Have a Choice: Follow Christ or Become Cruella Deville

I don’t know how many of you have watched the new Disney movie, Cruella. We have seen it twice now and it really provoked my thinking.

Cruella was treated very wickedly as a child. Her name was Estella. There is a pivotal scene in the movie where Estella decides to embrace who she concludes she really is – Cruella. Thus the origin of one of the most evil characters in the Disney collection who sets out to exact her revenge.

When we have been on the receiving end of abuse, when we come to underestand this evil – its mentality and tactics and goals – we have a choice to make. We can follow Christ and walk with Him wherever He goes, experiencing all that He receives at the hands of a world that hates Him – and thereby walk into freedom. Or, we can choose to become Cruella and spend the rest of our life seeking vengeance and retribution, lashing out at anyone who misunderstands us, triggers us, or in some way causes the videos in our minds to replay. This latter path is the path to continued bondage and misery. It is the path to becoming a practitioner of the very evils our abuser utilized against us.

The Bible is what I like to describe as “condensed soup.” Its words are packed with wisdom and insight that we must, by the Spirit in us, “unpack” like a zip file so that the truths in even one verse can open up before us. Such a verse is this:

Rom 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (20) To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Estella was overcome by evil when she determined to be Cruella. Don’t go down that path yourself. Hunger and thirst for justice, yes. Appeal to Caesar as far as the law of this world allows. Take steps to get free of an abuser. But never permit yourself to be overcome by evil, so that you become an evildoer yourself.

Moving Beyond Victimhood

Rom 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (33) Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In our many discussions of and articles about abuse, we use common titles for the abuser’s target – victim being the most common. Sometimes survivor is preferred. These are good and useful labels to describe our experience of being treated wickedly by evil people.

But in this article I want to propose to you that it is a damaging error to embrace these terms to describe who we are. Because if we do that, we are going to mis-identify who we really are in Christ. And that mistake leads to all kinds of trouble.

The Apostle Paul was abused. Big time. Listen to him here:

2Co 11:24-27 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; (26) on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; (27) in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Think about this. Talk about being traumatized! And yet Paul did not characterize himself as a victim, or a survivor of abuse. He knew who he was in the essence of his being – a child of God, a saint, a citizen of heaven, a person deeply loved by the Lord. You see it in the Romans 8 quote above. Notice how often he mentions the love of Christ.

The Bible does not leave us in perpetual victimhood. It does not deny the reality of evil – quite the opposite. But we must understand that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. We do not have to be enslaved to the trauma effected upon us by the evil one. And I believe that this is a great error pushed upon us by quite a lot of counseling. It leaves us stuck in victimhood. That is not God’s will for us. He wants us as His children to know who we are in Christ and to live in the freedom these truths bring. Understand? Trauma is real. PTSD is real. Fear is real. I have no doubt that Paul experienced some or all of these things. But in the end, he knew who he was and he refused to be identified as a victim. He was a conqueror. He had been set free by Christ and he knew it.

I think that one of the keys to moving from victim into the joy and freedom Christ intends for us, is to come to know the love of Christ. Check this out:

Eph 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, (15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (16) that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

To know the love of Christ. To be filled with the fullness of God. These are gifts shown to us by the Spirit. Rooted and grounded in love.

I believe that one of the traps that keeps people in perpetual victimhood is an inability to accept love. Evil has sold them so many lies that when truth comes along, they don’t accept it. When love comes, they do not receive it. So one of the crucial things that we need is for the Lord to lift off the blinders that wicked people have put on us, and enable us to see the love of Christ for us. Otherwise what is going to happen is that when real love does come to us, we won’t have it. We will be stuck. Bogged down in confusion about who we really are. And make no mistake, evil people just love to tell you who you are! These are of course lies from the pit designed to enslave.

Here is some good news then. Without denying the reality of the painful effects of abuse – they are very real – let me say this: you can be free of these things. You do not need to live the rest of your life as victim. But the key to this freedom is not man-made. It is not “I am going to stand up for myself. I am not going to put up with this anymore. I am going to work out and practice with weapons and nobody better ever mess with me again!” All of that is just a disguise for perpetual victimhood. And even worse, it can become a path to us becoming quite abusive ourselves. No, freedom lies in Christ. It is to be found in knowing the unknowableness of His love for us. If you are a Christian (and you must be born again!) then the Spirit of Christ is in you. He wants to show you who you are. He is trying to teach you about this freedom that is yours if you will just receive it. He is trying to reveal to you the depths of God’s love for you. He is trying to show you that, well, you are not a victim. You are a conqueror and this victory comes through Him who loved us so.

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