Just How Deceitful can an Abuser be? – When Bad Fruit Looks Good

1Co 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Jesus said that we can know evil people “by their fruit.” That is to say, we watch the kind of fruit that their lives produce, that is visible – their words, their actions – the visible things you see. And it is what we can see that tells us what we cannot see – the true condition of their heart. Bad fruit = bad tree. Good fruit = good tree.

But sometimes discerning these things isn’t all that easy. No doubt many victims of abuse struggle with this. So let’s do some serious thinking about this.

Continue reading “Just How Deceitful can an Abuser be? – When Bad Fruit Looks Good”

A Common Claim – “Only God can Judge”

1Co 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

I was reading a commentary on Matthew this morning and came across the following statement by the author:

God is the one truly competent Judge, for he alone knows all things. Every human judgment is based on imperfect knowledge. We make every decision on insufficient evidence. Not so with God. He knows all that is, was, and shall be. [Matthew: Reformed Expository Commentary, Daniel Doriani]

Now, this statement is true, in part at least. God is indeed the only truly competent judge. He is the only one who knows all things. This cannot be said of any human. If perfection in judgment is the subject of discussion, yes – it is only to be found in God.

However…

Continue reading “A Common Claim – “Only God can Judge””

Is Your Abuser a “Child of God”?

John 8:39-44 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, (40) but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. (41) You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father–even God.”

(42) Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. (43) Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (44) You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Quite often we hear from Christians, pastors, authors, and counselors something like, “you must love your abuser because he is a child of God like all human beings. God loves all His children, and so must we.”

Totally bogus. I will prove it to you.

Look at the passage quoted above. Does that sound like the Pharisees are children of God? Nope. Who is their father according to Jesus? The devil. They even share the devil’s spiritual DNA.  “If God were your father…”.  But he isn’t. The devil is.

This business of all human beings being children of God is simply the same old theological liberalism that infected the church long ago and which was opposed by faithful saints like J. Gresham Machen.

Think a bit further on this. If God loves the wicked because they are his children, then necessarily his love for them is motivated by something in them. That is to say, in some way, God finds them “loveable.” But is that what the Bible says about man outside of Christ? No way. Did God elect us to salvation because of some merit he saw in us? No way. If he did, then grace is no longer grace.

So don’t ever fall for the line “we must love everyone because everyone is a child of God.” The fact is that the wicked, such as the domestic abuser hiding behind a facade of “saintliness,” is an object of God’s own hatred. And thus the Psalmist can say in perfect holiness:

Psalm 26:5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.

Psalm 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? (22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

 

 

A Common and Surprising Ally of Abusers – Christians Who Grew up in Church

2 Co 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. (14) And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

I have known many people who grew up in a Christian family, attending a Christian church. And not only attending that church, but attending it diligently. Sunday School, morning worship, Sunday evening worship, Wednesday evening prayer meeting, mid-week children’s ministry, vacation Bible school, summer camp…the whole package. In other words, the church was their life. Their friends were in the church. They may even have eventually married someone they met in their church, after going to the Bible college that most young people from church chose.

It all sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? And I bet some of you can identify with this description – or at least you once did. But let me tell you something that I think most likely most of you already know –

Your church world was a fantasyland. At least your idea of your church was a fantasyland.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I love Christ’s church. I am not one of these ticked off ex-Christian, ex-Church people who had something bad happen to them and so they reject Christ and His Church in their entirety. Nope. I have been a pastor of Christ’s church for going on 36 years now. But the church I love is Christ’s true church – not the counterfeit.

So when I say that your “church” was in all probability a fantasyland, or at least that what you think it was is a fantasy, I am talking about the visible local church that you lived so much of your life in, and what it really was in comparison to what you thought it was. And if anyone reading this post is still in such a church, leading that same kind of church life, then what I am saying to you is that most likely your view of what your church is, is a fantasy. Let me talk, in fact, to you.

All of this produces a surprising ally to evil – you. The church kid. The church youth group member. The young adults group leader. The person, in short, who loves their church, who lives their church, who pours out their life’s energy in their church. Many of the enemy’s allies come from these very ranks. Let me explain.

The Bible never, ever portrays the Christian life and the local church in terms of a fantasyland. It never tells us that our enemy is only “out there.” In fact, what Scripture (like the one quoted above) does tell us is that creeps creep in among us in the church (see Jude on this). Wolves in sheep’s clothing, in other words, do not do their wickedness “out there.” If they did, they wouldn’t need the woolly disguise. No, they do it in the church. Among us. Do you think that your church was or is immune? I think not.

But, reinforced by false teaching in the church, the fantasyland mentality so often gets rooted in our minds. The pastor is what he appears to be. The elders and deacons are surely holy men. Mrs. Jones the choir director, Jim the youth leader, and other “pillars” in your church – surely they are the apples of the Lord’s eye.

Is that image of the visible church what we see in the Bible? Of course not –

3 Jn 1:9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (10) So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

If you cut out all the parts of the Bible that were written to deal with evil inside the local church, how much would you have left? Not much. Even Jesus’ battles with the Pharisees come under this heading because the Pharisees were the leaders in “the church” of that day.

Somehow, because of sinful willful blindness, foolishness, simplistic naivete, or selfishness, people who grew up in church, who never (at least knowingly) were the direct target-victim of a wicked counterfeit, whose very life was their church, simply cannot and will not process the suggestion that their idea of their church is a false one. They cannot or will not entertain the notion that Mrs. Anderson’s husband the deacon is not who he disguises himself as at church. They cannot or will not even consider that the pastor is an adulterer or that Mrs. Simpson lusts for power and control and is willing to use the most devious and cruel schemes to get it.

Now remember, I am not saying that Christ’s true church is like this. We call that true church the “invisible” church because we cannot actually see it. The invisible church consists of ALL genuine believers from all time, both in heaven and on earth. This church is the real body of Christ and to the extent that a local church here on earth consists of genuine believers, to that extent it is a true church. While we still would not want to embrace a perfectionistic fantasyland view of such a church, we can be blessed in such a church because evil is simply not at home there. It generally moves on. “They went out from us because they were not of us” as the Apostle John puts it.

But what I am saying is that many (if not most nowadays) local churches are nowhere near the fantastical idea that the person I am addressing in this post thinks it is. Not only are they not places where evil does not dwell, they are in fact incubators of evil where, behind the scenes and unmolested, these sons of the devil that Paul tells us appear to be sons of righteousness, operate.

Now, over the years, if our life-long fantasyland thinking church member would be honest, there have been some clear indicators that all was not as it appeared to be in their church Disneyworld. The rate of pastoral turnover for instance. “Why did the pastor leave?” “Well, I’m not sure but apparently the Lord called him to a new ministry.” “Ok, I just won’t think about that anymore.”

Or there was that time that Mrs. Gray took the kids and moved out, leaving Mr. Gray so sadly grieving in the church pews. She was not faithful to her marriage vows, you know. Poor Mr. Gray. Yes, you had heard those occasional rumors that Mr. Gray battled a “drinking problem,” but then, none of us are perfect, are we?”

And then there was that unpleasantness of the terrible church split ten years ago. You weren’t ever sure what it really was about, but the associate pastor took a group of families out and started a new church across town. In the end, everyone said we are all Christians and we need to look past, and love one another.

Then there was that time when Mr. and Mrs. Snyder suddenly were gone. They had been such wonderful leaders in the outreach ministry, but now – it’s just terrible – Mr. Snyder is in jail. Surely he was falsely accused. There was some talk about the charges but you never wanted to hear the details. Someone said that Mr. Snyder had drowned their infant in the bathtub! No, it can’t be. Surely if anything like that happened it was an accident. Mrs. Snyder has taken the rest of the children and moved away to no one knows where. [This example is based on a true event by the way that I myself experienced in a local church when I was only in my early 20’s].

Yes, there had been all these rocks in the road. But your fantasyland stood unmoved in your mind. You put these things out of your thinking, until….

And I will now let our readers finish the story. How do you think it ends? Or perhaps it just continues? What do you think?

 

“Love your Enemies” – What does this Mean?

Can you help me understand these passages in light of how we are to treat the abuser? Jesus seems to teach us two diametrically opposed responses to those who do evil  — one of which is found in these verses.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

I was recently asked this very good question.  Here was my reply.

So, aren’t we supposed to be telling abuse and domestic violence victims that God wants them to stay in the abuse, make themselves available for more abuse, let the abuser keep right on withholding money and resources from them, and wait for God to reward them on that Day? You have the same thing in the parallel passage in Matthew:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)

In light of these commands, do we have this whole abuse thing all turned around when we tell victims to divorce the abuser or to turn them in to the police? No. Not at all. Let me show you why.

Jesus is teaching that His people are to emulate God the Father. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Sons bear the character of their father. If we are sons of God, then we behave as He does, reflecting our spiritual DNA given us in the new birth. So, how does God treat the wicked who are His enemies?

  • He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil
  • He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good
  • He sends rain on the just and on the unjust

See it? Jesus is teaching us about God the Father’s common grace. Common grace is undeserved favor that God shows to all people in common. It is an expression of His mercy and love toward all — a general mercy and love. Not His specific, electing and redeeming love shown to His own in Christ, but His grace poured out on all human beings. Just and unjust. Wicked and righteous. This is the thing Jesus is teaching about in these passages — how we are to reflect our Father’s character through showing all people, including enemies and persecutors, common grace.

How do we do that? Well, first of all we do not seek personal vengeance upon them. Pray for justice, yes. Turn them into the police, yes. Pray that Christ will soon come and mete out His perfect justice upon the wicked. Yes. Pick up a rifle and go snipe them? No! That is personal vengeance and we are to leave it to the Lord. Let Him repay them.

So let’s bring this home to the case of the domestic abuser and his victim. What is Jesus telling us in these verses about such a case? It is this:

  • Realize that they are indeed an enemy and a persecutor. Jesus is not telling us to pretend that this isn’t so. He tells us He is talking about “those who are evil, those who strike us, those who are our enemies.” There is no fiction here that He is promoting. “Well, he’s really a good guy who has just had a rough go of it in life and if you truly get to know him you would see that and love him.” Nope! None of that abuser-enabling stuff here. Jesus calls these people what they are. Our enemies.
  • But in dealing with these enemies, knowing full well that they ARE enemies, we extend the Lord’s common grace to them when the opportunity comes. We don’t zap them immediately — we leave that to the Lord. We don’t let them go hungry or naked — we give to them expecting nothing in return. If we see one of them laying on the road bleeding after a car wreck, we render first aid and call an ambulance. God the Father does these things and so must we. (In fact, the true Christian will WANT to do these things and we have to take care that this Spirit-led love in us is dealt out wisely or we get ourselves into trouble!).

NONE of this instruction precludes us from seeking justice or from escaping the abuse. None of it requires remaining married to the wicked abuser or keeping silent about the abuse. (In fact, God’s common grace sometimes comes in the form of His withholding of good things in order to lead someone to repentance).

So the question to ask in order to answer our quandries about Jesus’ teaching in this regard is, “Well, how does God Himself treat the wicked today?” “How did Jesus respond to His enemies when He was here on this planet?” The Lord, you see, showed them common grace, warned them to repent, announced the coming Day of Judgement to them, and told them they were children of the devil and would perish if they didn’t believe in Him.

But He never requires His people to be bound together with the wicked, to remain married to those who abuse them, or to just “suck it up and take it.” Nope. He doesn’t.  So don’t let anyone claim that He does.