Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

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Being Abused does not Justify Abusing

Rom 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

1Th 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1Pe 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

I hope that all of you know by now that I fully understand the typical false nonsense laid upon victims of abuse that twists the Bible’s teaching on things like forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, and so on. And I also, like all of you, hunger and thirst for righteousness, for justice, and even for God’s vengeance upon the wicked.

But I want to take the time in this article to be sure that in holding to these biblical and right positions, no one takes what we say here as grounds for doing to others what has been done to them. I am afraid that there are people and books floating around out there that justify such sin. They say things like “hurt people hurt people” and the implication is that somehow we are to give hurt people a pass when they hurt others. Not true. Nope. Having been the target of evil does not give me license to launch evil upon others.

Years ago there was a lady in our church who had gone through a bad marriage – I don’t know the details. But this lady was mean. She was demanding. And when she did not get her way she threw anger fits. She has hated me ever since the day I confronted her about her sin and told her that it had to stop. Her adult son took me aside one Sunday and said “we know my mother is a bitter woman. But we all have decided to love her anyway.” By “loving” her of course he meant “we ignore her nastiness and let her get away with it.” That is not love.

All of us have been abused by wicked people. Most of you who follow this blog have experienced deep, even intense evil and you have suffered greatly. The Lord knows and He will render His perfect justice to your persecutors. But this does not give us the right to be mean, to be seeking personal revenge, to snap at and lash out at anyone who does something we don’t like.

One form of this sinful nastiness is to become a person who hates men (or women) as a result of being wronged. I know such people. They have been abused by a man, so they resolved to hate all men. And they teach others to hate men. Where do you find that kind of thing anywhere in the Bible? You don’t. We are to love one another – love the brethren. That means loving both men and women. What are we doing to our children if we teach them such hatred? Girls, never trust a man. Men are evil.

Well, think that through. The Lord Jesus Christ is a man – the God-Man. While God is Spirit and in that sense without gender, nevertheless the Bible refers to Him as Father, as “He” and as “Him.” Can you see that a person who is taught to hate men is going to have a pretty tough time loving God?

We abused the Lord Jesus Christ. Our sins put Him on the cross. And yet He set His love upon us. Thankfully, He did not choose to hate all human beings.

So let’s examine ourselves carefully in this regard. Perhaps someone reading this has been taught to hate men – or if your abusere was a woman, to hate all women. And maybe you, as a result, have become, well, mean. That is a trap. It does not lead to anywhere good. And it is sin. Ask the Lord to show it to you, grant you repentance, and set you free.

The Lie of Toxic Positivity – A Guest Post

Luk 16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

“It’s all good and you need to get your negative thinking straightened out!” That is the lie of toxic positivity. It is toxic because it is poison to the soul like all lies are. It denies evil rather than being wise to it. It calls evil, “good.” Yes, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, but the TP people twist this truth to guilt and shame and deny.

The following is an excellent essay written on this subject by one of our blog followers and online church members. Many thanks to her for writing and shining more light on this common “just keep on the sunny side of life” business. Here she is:

Recently you were preaching about toxic positivity.  That got me to thinking… 

Why in Luke 16:25 does Jesus say that the poor Lazarus was being comforted by Abraham, while the rich man was in hell?  I mean, if Lazarus was supposed to always “count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” then shouldn’t Lazarus’s life have been one big rollercoaster of joy because of all his trials?  Why would he need to be comforted after all the terrible things he suffered here on Earth?  The “you be joyful right now you loathsome sinner” crowd would say that Lazarus should have been over-the-moon to have been “chosen by the Lord” to suffer all that he did.  And according to them, Jesus should have been calling Lazarus out for his sin of “bitterness,” since he could not transcend his circumstances to reach a higher “joy” plane — either by using positive thinking, “keeping an eternal perspective,”  practicing some sort of christian-y Zen, or aggressively ignoring everything that was happening to him and forcing a smile.  


Like I was told by my “c”hristian counselors — while being stalked by my ex, my church putting me under church discipline and shunning, being thrown under the bus by my own lawyer, medical providers taking me to court to sue me for medical bills “himself” had not been paying for years, losing my home and everything I ever owned, “himself” confiscating our joint checking and savings accounts (even though I paid into them), “himself” refusing to pay child support, me having to move back in and live with my abusive parents, being harassed and shamed by my abusive brothers, losing my job, losing all my friends, and my daughter’s genetic, chronic illness suddenly making the full force of its brutal self known in her body — I was counseled to focus on their “train analogy” to help me find joy.  You see, the engine is your thoughts, the coal car is your actions, and the caboose is your feelings.  If you’re in a bad state, just think happy thoughts.  Change… your mind. Change your mind, change your life!  Repeat/(chant) pieces of verses from the list they gave me.  You know those memes… “if you’re feeling this, then read that piece of verse,” those things that go around on Facebook.  Happy, holy thoughts will get the engine turned around and get it heading in the right direction. And it will start to pull everything else onto the “right” track.


Then, make yourself do happy actions.  Make yourself sing praise songs (but not in the choir anymore because they kicked me out of choir and all ministry).  Read good Christian books (but only from their “selected authors and publishers” reading list).  Cook or bake (but don’t indulge the flesh or self-medicate with food).  Exercise (but don’t do it from the sins of pride or vanity).  Take extra good care of my kids (but do not inform them about abusers’ tactics, do not discuss their fear, rage, and anger for what “himself” had done to them and what pastors and church kids were still doing to them, do not read to them what I was learning from *secular* [*whispered tones*] Lundy Bancroft or have them listen to *angry* Jeff Crippen sermons on becoming wise to evil — because, even though they were heavily abused too, it was all just me “dumping my baggage” on my 17, 15. and 13 year old kiddos, poisoning them against the father who they “secretly loved [they didn’t — they were afraid he would carry through on his threats to kill them and collect their life insurance to pay off his credit card debts], and who they secretly wanted to see often [they were terrified of even seeing his vehicle across a parking lot], but I made them too afraid to say their secret desires out loud.”)  


But, if I think (their prescribed) happy thoughts, do (their prescribed) happy actions, then eventually my feelings would be dragged around into the opposite direction, get aligned to the “correct” position, and my happy train would get on the right track, and I would be joyous all the time.  Pain and suffering, even that of my kids, would no longer affect me!  My problems would melt away in the light of my eternal perspective….  Blush toxic positivity *squee….!!!!*   


All that to say, Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus is being comforted in Paradise for all the trauma he went through.  And Jesus holds this formerly miserable man up as an example of righteousness in His parable — someone resting blissfully now and eternally.  Jesus did not use him as an example of failed faith or failed joy.  To quote the kids nowadays, Jesus “ain’t even mad” that Lazarus needed comforting and was being held in the arms of his father-in-faith, Abraham.  So if Jesus makes a man who needs comfort after trauma, out to be the protagonist — the hero, if you will — in His parable, then why does the “toxic positivity” squad think that they know better than the Lord they say they serve?

"If You Only Understood…" Using History as an Excuse for Sin

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:20-32)

I have written other posts in which I dealt with typical excuses the abuser makes for his or her evil actions. Here I want to talk about the same subject, but with broader application for all of us.
I have met numbers of professing Christians who characteristically exercise “bad tempers.” They are known for flying off the handle in anger, lashing out at others, most any time that they are told something they don’t want to hear. Or if they are denied something that they want. Most churches have such people in membership. “Oh yes, Jane. She is a touchy one alright. Don’t get on her wrong side. But we just love her anyway.” That kind of thing you see.
And many times such people’s sin (and that is what it is, sin) is excused because they have some history of mistreatment by others. “Yes, he is a real dragon quite often but then he had a really rough and abusive childhood.” Or, “we must be patient with her. She is very selfish but if you knew her background you would understand.” This kind of thing is very, very common. We are told that sin is to be excused because of the sinning person’s past.
Now, certainly trauma and abuse affect a person. Fear easily morphs into anger. There really are such things as emotional “triggers” that can set off various reactions (usually beginning with fear) in a person and these things are definitely understandable. You beat and abuse an animal over time and you shouldn’t be surprised if it snarls and snaps at you. Nevertheless, when I sin against someone by lashing out at them or hating them in my mind or being in some other way unkind to them, I am responsible for my sin. The Lord calls me to repent of it. I cannot use my past to justify and excuse my sin. I CAN perhaps use my past to help me UNDERSTAND why I launch out into sin in certain scenarios, but not for the purpose of excusing myself, but for the purpose of helping me see why a particular temptation comes my way in the first place so I can be better prepared to stand against it next time.
Trauma and abuse at the hands of the wicked is actually meant by the Lord to cause us to be MORE understanding and kind to people. For instance –

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:33-34)

You even see a very similar dynamic in Jesus’ suffering (without sin by Him of course) –

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:18)

See? The Israelites were abused big time by Pharaoh. But that suffering is to lead them to have more compassion on others in a like situation, not to excuse them for being hateful toward others.
Using our background of troubles as an excuse for sinning against others is a real trap and pitfall. It is a place we just really do not want to go, and those who do can spend years and years in that snare. It prevents us from even recognizing love when it is dumped in our lap. It prevents us from loving others.
This is why good, truthful therapy is so helpful. For the Christian, much of that therapy can come from God’s Word shining a light on what is really going on in our minds. We can benefit greatly from getting help from people who have been down that traumatic, abusive road themselves. Not so we can justify our sin, but (I say again) so that we can better see ourselves, understand what is going on in us, and realize finally that we do not have to keep getting set off like a keg of gunpowder each time some person or situation lights a fuse.
No, this does not mean that we naively and foolishly trust/unconditionally forgive/reconcile with people who are our enemies. If you have read this blog for much time at all you know that we would never teach that nonsense. An enemy remains an enemy as long as their wicked maliciousness is pointed at us. But what we are saying is that we must not fall into the trap of justifying our own sin [or anyone’s] just because of what happened to us before. Sin is sin and it is never excusable. It is “forgiveable” when we confess it to the Lord and ask Him to deliver us from temptation.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Mat 6:9-13)

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