Pastoral Care Has Its Limits and Must Allow for the Priesthood of the Believer

One of the recurring themes we hear from Christians who are abuse victims/survivors is that when they went to their pastor or church for help, reporting the abuse, they were told that they must remain with their abuser or at most separate from him for a time, always working toward reconciliation.

In all cases like this, we have seen pastors and churches “shepherding” or “caring for” the victim and abuser — as they put it. And behind all of this there has been an attitude or conviction or doctrine of the church and of the pastorate and even of the nature of the individual Christian that essentially says “we will mediate Christ to you.” It is quite Roman Catholic actually. The thing is much like a formal priesthood which behaves as if the individual Christian is led and directed by the church, unable on their own to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd. And yet:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me  (John 10:14)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

Every real Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is led by the Spirit (See Romans 8; Galatians 5:16ff). Every real Christian is thereby enabled to understand Scripture.

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Abuse and Anger: Is it a Sin to Be Angry Toward Our Abuser?

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (27) and give no opportunity to the devil.

We had a discussion once in a Bible study group about whether it is right or not for a Christian to ever be angry when they are sinned against.  That is to say, some people wondered if anger is ever appropriate when we ourselves are the victim.  Being angry when another person was victimized didn’t seem to be troublesome to anyone, but the idea of being angry when we personally are victimized seemed to be sinful in the thinking of some.  Someone said, “well, Jesus was angry when He drove the money changers out of the temple, so anger must not always be sinful.”  Someone else responded, “but we are not Jesus.”

Now, this much I do know.  If we tell abuse victims that it is sinful for them to be angry about what was done or is being done to them, we are going to do them much harm.  In fact many abusers will use this very tactic against their victim: “You call yourself a Christian!  You are just an angry, bitter person!  You are unforgiving.” You know the line I am sure.

So what about it?  It is pretty easy to find Scriptures that show that it is right to be angry when we see evil and injustice.  But what about when we are the victim of that evil and injustice ourselves?

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Abuse and the Wilderness Family Adventure

Colossians 2:20-23 ESV If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

It doesn’t work. The wilderness family adventure is not an answer to our troubles. My first church was in the mountains of Montana, 70 miles from a store of any significance. I loved that place. Spectacular mountains, streams, fishing and hunting like you can’t believe. Firewood and woodstoves. The first snows in November. Saddle up your horse in the yard and ride out into the woods. I loved it and I miss it. We lived there for 8 years.

But the church there was hell. Constant infighting. Mostly unsaved people who got very low marks in “plays well with others.” Abuse? Ha! In those little picturesque cabins in the woods, you wouldn’t want to know what went on in many of them. That church persists to this day. I hope that genuine Christians rule there now. I hope.

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There is a Time to be Done with Your Abuser

Mat 10:12-15 As you enter the house, greet it. (13) And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. (14) And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (15) Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Much of what I write these days is repetition. I have written about these subjects before. But truth needs to be repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Often. It takes hearing something over and over before we finally “see” it.  And so here it is, once more.

Many (probably most) churches today have been teaching unbiblical concepts of the love of Christ. “Unconditional love” seems to be the catch phrase. We are told that we must never give up on anyone. That no matter what they have done, we must love them. And by “love them,” most often what is meant is that we must continue to have a relationship with them, expend energies trying to “fix” them, and so on. This mantra of course leaves the domestic abuse victim sitting forever in abuse.

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The Abuser Provokes His Children to Wrath — Sermon by Ps Jeff Crippen

The Abuser Provokes His Children to Wrath
Sermon 10 from the series:  The Psychology and Methods of Sin
A 21 sermon series on domestic violence and abuse
First given on September 26, 2010
Sermon Text:  Ephesians 6:4

Ephesians 6:4 ESV Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians chapters 5 & 6 contain the Lord’s instructions to us regarding the exercise of His authority and the submission to that authority which is
to characterize the various relationships of our lives –

  • Husbands and wives
  • Fathers and children
  • Masters and slaves (employers and employees in today’s terms)

Before we are finished with this series on the topic of abuse, we will of course need to return to Ephesians 5 and deal with the whole matter of headship and submission in the husband/wife relationship. It cannot be denied that the Bible establishes a doctrine of headship in marriage, but sinful, abusive human beings have often distorted this Scripture in their attempt to justify their evil abusive practices. In particular, we want to underscore what biblical headship in marriage, in parenting, and in other relationships of life, such as in the workplace, IS NOT! 

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