The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Timothy 5:24)
There is a young lady, 19 years old, a Christian, raised in a conservative church, wants to serve the Lord…and she is engaged to be married. She has great plans for a Godly, Christian home. Her fiance, well, she met him in church. Everyone thinks the world of him and so does she. No doubt the Lord is really going to use this fellow for His Kingdom. Maybe as a pastor or a missionary even. Even the pastor thinks so.
But none of this dream life is going to happen. Why? Because this young lady is about to marry a sociopath, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Oh, we could try, but no one would believe our warnings, including the bride to be. If we were members of the same church as her, we might well find ourselves under heavy fire for daring to say such horrid things about this young man.
I wish this scenario were fiction, but it isn’t. It happens over and over again to young ladies who just knew that the best place to find a husband was in church.
More than once abuse survivors have written to me and said something like this: “My Christian upbringing in both my parents’ home and in my church home totally set me up as a target for an abuser. I was taught to be quiet and submissive, especially when I got married. I was taught that God hates divorce. I was taught that forgiveness always means reconciliation of relationships. I was taught that by my behavior and attitude I could change and “fix” my future husband when he sinned. And though I heard a lot about sin, I was taught that pretty much everyone who attended our church and said they believe in Jesus was to be considered a real Christian, no questions asked. These things and more set me up and put me on the abuser’s radar.”
The fault is not with the Bible. It isn’t with Christ. It is with our failure to be wise as Christ calls us to be.
I can see it playing itself out. There is this young lady. She is going to marry this guy who she thinks is the cat’s meow. And she is pumped. The attention he has shown her is…exhilarating. Takes her breath away. She looks down at her finger and there it is, the ring! Camelot, here we come. Oh, there have been a couple of times when she was rather taken aback at how stone cold his eyes were when she annoyed him, or that time he got soooo angry with her. But she dismisses these red-flag abuser warning signs as “human frailties” we all wrestle with. She will be able to help him overcome. She’s sure of it.
But what is going to happen? And it is going to happen. She is going to marry this guy. There is nothing anyone can do now to stop it. She is going to marry him and possibly even as soon as the honeymoon, she is going to find a stranger staring back at her. Who is this man? Now he has her. The mask comes off. *God hates divorce* — there is no getting out of this! Not for ten years, not for twenty years, not for thirty years. Most typically it will take decades of abuse before she begins to reach some clarity about what has truly been happening to her. It isn’t her fault. I am not blaming her by any means. We’ve all been duped by these serpents.
But how we wish she would just listen to us now, before it is too late.
Churches, Christians, pastors, elders!! We must STOP closing our eyes to evil among us in our churches! We must be done with this foolish naivete about wickedness. We must learn about sociopaths and psychopaths and narcissists and abusers and we must become expert — wise as serpents the Bible calls it — in discerning the tactics of these vermin. They are oppressing the sheep that the Lord has charged us with protecting. And even worse, if that sheep ever calls out to us for help, she most typically doesn’t receive any. [NOTE: I actually wrote this challenge some years ago when I was still somewhat hopeful that churches and pastors would listen. I left it as written, but now I speak to abuse victims because I konw they will hear me].
What if? What if this young lady, about to give herself to an emissary of the devil… what if she had been raised in a church that regularly taught her and everyone else about evil? What if she had been told about the traits and typical tactics of the abuser? What if she had been warned to be on watch for “Mr. Charming”? What if the pre-marriage counseling in her church included assigned reading about abuse, and what if in that counseling the pastor talked about abuse and how an abuse victim has every right before God to divorce her abuser?