If You Haven’t Read David Instone-Brewer’s book, You Really Should

Here are some powerful and refreshing words from David Instone-Brewer’s book on marriage and divorce in the church. This will make you want to get your hands on the book for sure. And by the way – ANY pastor or counselor or Christian who fancies that they are competent to counsel on this subject but who is still ignorant of what Instone-Brewer presents and proves here – is not competent to counsel at all. [The boldface highlighting is mine]-

We will see in later chapters that what defines a broken marriage is broken vows: the vows that marriage partners make to each other in God’s presence. We will find in chapter three that the Old Testament describes God’s relationship with Israel like a marriage that ended in divorce because cause of Israel’s adulteries. So God is a divorcee-and he hates it as much as any victim of divorce. A victim?

Yes, God is a victim of divorce, even though he actually carried it out; in the same way, many victims today are actually the ones who initiate proceedings to bring the marriage to an official end. They call in the lawyers to stop the mockery and pain of constant adultery or the anguish of abuse. But as we will see, the Bible does not regard the victim as the sinner. It is the person who is guilty of causing the marriage to break up whom Jesus addresses when he says, “Those whom God has joined, no one should separate.”

In other words, his warning is not to the person who finally tidies up the legal mess after the marriage has broken down but to those who would violate their marriage vows and, in so doing, cause the marriage to break up. Jesus says that divorce should never happen because when two people marry they are joined by God, who is a witness to the marriage vows and is there to bless the marriage. These vows should never be broken-especially especially since they are made before God. But of course people do break them, just as they break God’s other commands. Jesus never says that these vows are impossible to break-as if God ignores the reality of sin-but but he teaches that if a partner breaks the vows and is then repentant, we should forgive that person.

If the vows are continuously broken, without repentance, then the marriage will be left in shreds. Therefore although the breakup of a marriage is always due to sin, it is not the divorce vorce itself that is the sin; the sin is the breaking of the vows, which causes the divorce. In later chapters we will look at the biblical marriage vows closely We will learn that the Bible allows only the victim to initiate a divorce-that is, it allows them to decide when enough is enough and, if their partner remains unrepentant, to decide that the marriage is over.

Jesus’ main complaint was that the Jews had abandoned this principle. They allowed a man to divorce his wife even when she hadn’t broken her vows-that is, when he had no grounds for divorce. Paul similarly condemned a Greco-Roman groundless divorce. Later on in the book we will look at the Old Testament’s teaching on divorce and remarriage-which allowed divorce on the grounds of neglect or abuse-and discover that Jesus and Paul both affirmed this teaching.

David Instone-Brewer. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (p. 18-19). Kindle Edition.

(We have added Instone-Brewer’s book to the Resources tab on the top menu bar.  There  – and here – is an Amazon affiliate link if you are interested in purchasing the book.)

Want to Get Clarity? Read David Instone-Brewer’s Book

Only the Lord really knows the heart; as Jesus said, evil comes from within and loves the dark. We cannot leave it up to a minister or a church leadership team to decide when a marriage ends; it is up to the individual victim, in prayer before the Lord. Only they and the Lord know what their life is really like. Only they know if their partner has expressed repentance, and only they will have to live with the consequences of the decision.

David Instone-Brewer. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (p. 105). Kindle Edition.

No one is competent to interpret Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels on marriage and divorce until they have carefully read and assimilated what Instone-Brewer has discovered in his study of rabbinics. His book is very, very freeing to abuse victims and, like the quote above, serves to silence all the amateur juries in the churches that are adding to the victim’s suffering.

(We have added Instone-Brewer’s book to the Resources tab on the top menu bar.  There  – and here – is an Amazon afffiliate link if you are interested in purchasing the book.)

 

When the Abuser is One of Your Children – Mothers, take Care

Pro 29:15  The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

I need to open this post with a very clear explanation of what scenario I am going to be discussing, lest I be misunderstood and the things I am proposing be misapplied. Almost all of my articles address situations in which an adult, usually the husband, is the abuser.

This post is different. This post is not about homes in which one parent is a domestic abuser. It is not to be applied in such cases. Nope. Don’t do it. 

Here, I am compelled to write about another very common abuse model. I wish it were just a model, but it is in fact reality. I want to talk to you about cases in which a child is the abuser. And by child, I mean a son or daughter of any age. And in particular, I need to warn you about the all too common response to this abuser which is a terrible trap so many parents fall into. And I must say, because this is my own experience and observation, that the mother of such a child is especially susceptible to this trap.

You all know that adult domestic abusers are very deceptive and work energetically to gain allies for themselves. Those allies, you also know, are very often other family members or friends or pastors or church members. In this case, the child abuser works to gain a family parent, usually the mother, as an ally even though SHE is often the target as well!

Children, teenagers, adult offspring of mom and dad can be and are very frequently, abusers.  No doubt some of you have experienced this. It can happen in a family where neither parent is an abuser. Children have different personalities. Born into this world as sinners, like all of us, some sons or daughters have especially strong fortresses of sin and are narcissists or sociopaths in seed form. The gospel and regeneration by Christ are of course the only real and ultimate remedy for such a sinful heart.

As such a child grows, this evil can blossom into full blown abuser personality. Think of it. Where did your domestic abuser learn his trade? Maybe from an abuser parent but certainly not always or even most commonly. The abuser largely just is. The lust for power and control is his essence and being. It doesn’t really matter how he got to be what he is. The fact is, he is, and must be dealt with for what he is.

But back to the child abuser. Such a child increasingly controls the home if the parents are not wise. In fact, parents can feed that narcissism by giving undue praise and failing to discipline him. Coupled with whatever genetics are in play or what is in his sinful heart, feeding arrogance and pride along with excusing sin and covering up for his evil is a formula for disaster.

As such a child grows, he or she becomes “wiser” and more cunning. He learns he can control and exercise power in the family. He can abuse his siblings and he can manipulate his parents, usually in particular one parent. He can turn family members against one another and they can find themselves battling each other while the child abuser watches in glee. Mom and dad often end up in conflict with one another in such cases and their marriage is even threatened.

How does this happen? Well, I suppose many psychologists would suggest a particularly nasty mechanism called co-dependency. I am no psychologist and no expert on these things in theory, but I can tell you that I have seen this thing first hand many times and it is an ugly thing. Mothers, take care. Why? Because, again in my experience, mothers are especially susceptible to this trap. Yes, I have seen a couple of cases wherein the father is the one caught up in it, but the high percentage of cases I have observed concern the mother.

REMEMBER: I am not talking about a setting in which the father is an abuser. I am not addressing that subject in this article. I am speaking of a relatively normal family in which the child is the abuser, be he or she 5 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old, 45 years old, or whatever.

Here is a condensed version of what happens. The child is given undue, unwarranted, excessive praise. Ongoing. Habitual. Praise that really isn’t deserved. Praise that has no basis in reality. And then, when the child sins, his sin is excused. He is enabled. Rewarded. The sin is covered up. He is not disciplined properly. And here comes the punch line from my experience: It is usually the mother who falls into this trap. Motherhood gone wrong. Have you seen it? Do you know what I am talking about?

My grandmother was a perfect example of this. Her youngest son was an evil, wicked child and then youth and then young man. Frankly I am surprised he didn’t murder her what with the intense rages he would launch against her. And her response? Excuses for him. Boasting to others about him. Lending a blind eye to his evil. And dad just stayed out of the picture lest he incur his wife’s wrath for trying to discipline the boy. This was supposedly a Christian home!! Sunday school and church every Sunday, prayer meeting every Wednesday, well-worn King James Bibles in hand.

My grandmother wasn’t happy unless the boy was happy. Her mission – to keep him happy. Covering for him. Giving him what he wanted even if it was something they really couldn’t afford. It was this sick, twisted thing parading as love that wasn’t love at all. It was two people feeding off one another with one in particular in charge. Many if not all of the same tactics of abuse that domestic abusers use were in operation in that scene. And mother was the chief enabler and ally of the abuse even though she was most often the target of it!

That is only ONE of many, many examples which I have personally seen in my life, in my 14 years as a police officer, and especially in my three decades as a pastor. I cannot keep silent about this. It is real and it is very, very common.

This evil construct goes on and on and on and on. It continued in my grandmother’s life until the day she died. And in a sense, it still goes on today as its evil consequences continue. This thing destroys families. It causes the righteous children in the family to suffer greatly at the hands of the abuser sibling and that suffering is increased esponentially when the enabling parent focuses the majority of her/his parenting attention on the abuser child. Isn’t that the common scenario in abuse cases? The righteous are ignored and persecuted while the wicked receive most all the attention and empath!! And I won’t even get into what this thing does to a marriage!

And it doesn’t end! It goes on and on and on down through the years. The enabling parent continues to enable, to cover, to excuse, usually all in the name of “love” or of “Christ” but if you read up on co-dependency you will find that there is nothing noble about it at all. It is actually very, very selfish. It is about two people selfishly feeding off one another with one being the primary user/abuser and the other the one whose life is being sucked out of them.

And now I am going to say something that I don’t say very often because usually I am trying to help victims of an abuser spouse. But it this case, here is wisdom:

Eph 5:22-25  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  (23)  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  (24)  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  (25)  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Now don’t go ballistic on me. Do you understand? When I see a mother locked into a twisted relationship with an abuser child, and if in such cases the husband is a godly man who sees what is going on, the very best counsel that can be given is “mom, you are in trouble here. You are enabling this child. The child’s abuse is destroying your marriage and your relationship with your other children. He is destroying YOU. You are not the one to handle this child. You need to let your husband deal with him/her.”

And husbands, in such cases, YOU need to handle this. You can’t sit back and watch and be cowardly like my grandfather did. You have to love your wife and that means you need to do what is right in handling this child abuser. Just how you handle it will depend of course on the age of the child. A narcissist in formation at say 5 years old will need the truth spoken and the discipline required for his age. Whereas the child abuser who is 35 years old will require something entirely diffent – usually a no contact policy.

Mom and dad, do you love one another? Do you love your children? Then these things must be addressed if they are present in your home and marriage. Because they won’t get better. They won’t get better. They won’t just get better.

Heb 12:6-7  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  (7)  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

 

 

 

 

“You Need to Forgive Him/Her” – Really?

Mat 5:6-12  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  (7)  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  (8)  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  (9)  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  (10)  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (11)  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  (12)  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here, the Lord Jesus gives us a description of those who are blessed. Those who are truly His people and who have great reward in heaven. They are peacemakers and they are merciful. But they also hunger and thirst for righteousness. When they strive for peace and when they show mercy, their actions do not contradict their desire for what is right. In fact, they are courageous in their stance for righteousness. So much so that they are persecuted by the wicked.

Now, with that background, what do you think of someone who comes up to you and says:

You need to forgive Joe or Sally or….whoever

I have heard this line many times, and no doubt so have most all of you. And I want to tell you – every single time I have heard it from someone, that person has turned out to be either an exceedingly naive person ignorant of the real truths of Scripture, or an out and out wicked reviler parading as a Christian. Every time. Without fail.

Continue reading ““You Need to Forgive Him/Her” – Really?”

Be Like Jesus? – Well, Ok then

John 2:23-25  Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.  (24)  But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  (25)  and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Very often we are told by people who claim they are wise and who insist we do what they say, that we should stop being so judgmental of others. That we need to believe the best about people – especially about those who profess to be Christians. We are told to never question a person’s claim to know Christ.

This is all wrong. We are to disregard this nonsense. Why? Because we are to be like Jesus, and as we see in the Scripture above, Jesus was quite judgmental.

Think about it. “Many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” Wow! How wonderful. Preachers today would be announcing first thing Monday morning that masses of people got saved and baptized at their church on Sunday.

But not Jesus.

Continue reading “Be Like Jesus? – Well, Ok then”

Fantasies and Fictions that Keep Victims in Abuse (Part 2) – Loving our Enemy

Luk 6:27  “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

We saw an example in last Friday’s post of how “christian” fiction and fantasy does great harm, especially to victims of abuse as it hides in the church. That example, published at Our Daily Bread (odb.org) referenced a fictional book that portrayed a suffering Christian man touching his persecutor and thereby healing the wicked man’s physical ailment. Wow! How incredible!  Yes, it is IN-credible. UN-believable. Because it is fiction. Yet, how often are victims of evil given these kinds of fiction to make them stay in the abuse, supposedly so that they can heal the evil heart of their abuser?

What did Jesus mean? When He tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us?

Continue reading “Fantasies and Fictions that Keep Victims in Abuse (Part 2) – Loving our Enemy”

Fantasies and Fictions that Keep Victims in Abuse

Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional publication, posted the following at odb.org for August 20, 2019. It was entitled Touched by Grace and written by Sheridan Voysey. Here it is:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)

In Leif Enger’s novel Peace Like a River, Jeremiah Land is a single father of three working as a janitor at a local school. He’s also a man of deep, sometimes miraculous, faith. Throughout the book, his faith is often tested.

Jeremiah’s school is run by Chester Holden, a mean-spirited superintendent with a skin condition. Despite Jeremiah’s excellent work ethic—mopping up a sewage spill without complaint, picking up broken bottles the superintendent smashed—Holden wants him gone. One day, in front of all the students, he accuses Jeremiah of drunkenness and fires him. It’s a humiliating scene.

How does Jeremiah respond? He could threaten legal action for unfair dismissal or make accusations of his own. He could slink away, accepting the injustice. Think for a moment what you might do.

“Love your enemies,” Jesus says, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27–28). These challenging words aren’t meant to excuse evil or stop justice from being pursued. Instead, they call us to imitate God (v. 36) by asking a profound question: How can I help my enemy become all God wants him or her to be?

Jeremiah looks at Holden for a moment, then reaches up and touches his face. Holden steps back defensively, then feels his chin and cheeks in wonder. His scarred skin has been healed.

An enemy touched by grace.

Heart-warming. Touching. And total fiction. Let me clue you in – you cannot touch someone and heal them. You cannot touch someone and regenerate their evil heart. This is a false application of Jesus’ words about loving our enemies and doing good to those who persecute us. And yet this is just the kind of thing that professing Christians want to believe, so they choose to do so and then they lay these fictions on victims of abuse, insisting that the Lord requires them to endure and remain in it.

 

We do not interpret the Scriptures properly by writing fantasy stories about them. That stuff may sell like hotcakes and make publishers rich, but it is a rank misuse of God’s Word. And it does harm. Real, serious, harm.

Notice again this statement by Voysey:

These challenging words aren’t meant to excuse evil or stop justice from being pursued. Instead, they call us to imitate God (v. 36) by asking a profound question: How can I help my enemy become all God wants him or her to be?

Yes, let’s imitate God. Does God always deal with His enemies in such a way as to help them become all He wants them to be? Of course not. The implication here by Voysey is that WE can heal them. That WE can change that abuser’s evil heart by “touching them.” Well, we can’t. God can. But He doesn’t. God does not change the heart of an unrepentant, wolf in sheep’s clothing who is hiding in the pews disguised as the finest saint in the church, all the while behind the scenes wickedly abusing his wife or molesting children. In fact, the Lord tells us (see 1 Cor 5) to cast out such a person from His church.

In other cases, as we see in the imprecatory Psalms, the Lord authorizes us to pray for His wrath to come upon the wicked. Particularly upon the wicked who cruelly mistreat God’s people. What, we can ask ourselves, did God want Pharaoh to be? (See Romans 9 – “for this very purpose I raised him up”).  What of the apostate who has tasted the good gift of God (Hebrews 6:4-6) but then returned to his own vomit? The Apostle John (see 1 John 5) tells us there is a sin (and I think he means apostasy) that we are not to pray for.

So, instead of writing some damaging story line that is only fit for a comic book, how do we handle Jesus’ words? –

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)

We will turn to that answer in the next post this coming Monday.

 

 

Continue reading “Fantasies and Fictions that Keep Victims in Abuse”