“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

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”

Sin Destroys Relationships — And Sometimes the Destruction is Total

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did…(Joshua 7:19-20)

As many of you know, a major event in my own awakening to the nature and mentality of abuse involved the sexual abuse of a child. This grievous situation was dropped in the lap of our church through the sin of the perpetrator. I could write pages about it, including about how the Lord used that one event to lead us into the ministry of Unholy Charade. At the same time, He was moving in the lives of others – also through having abuse touch their lives – and eventually led all of us together. That is the happy stuff.  I could also write about the grief and damage done to the victim and to our church.

But what I wanted to write about today is a hard, true, fact that each of us needs to learn. I had to learn it, many of you have learned it, and others of you are still in process of learning it. That lesson is this: Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is beyond repair. When it is, we need to stop trying to rebuild it. Abuse damages and destroys a marriage, and usually that destruction is total. Let me show you how I learned this lesson in the case in our church I mentioned above.

When myself and our elders were trying to sort out what justice and love and mercy and wisdom would look like in this scenario, we came to a conclusion.  It took some time because none of us had experienced something like this before. Our church was small and close – what looked like a family. And then this test came. When we concluded that there was no way we could provide a safe, healing church environment for the victim and at the same time permit the perpetrator to continue to attend our church, I remember telling the congregation that sin destroys relationships. Even when there is real repentance and real forgiveness, some sins are so grievous that the destroyed relationship simply cannot be put back together again – nor should it be.

Now, the response from a couple of people went something like this – “but we are all sinners. And we have all been forgiven by Christ. How can you say that sin destroys relationships when grace and mercy and love are able to overcome any sin? We don’t believe what you are saying. We think everyone should forgive one another and love one another and the relationship will be restored and everything can be like it was.”

That kind of talk is unbiblical, false, exceedingly selfish, and very damaging to the victim and everyone else. The fact is that some sins are so grievous, so destructive, and so harmful that any relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is fully and finally over. That destruction is the perpetrator’s doing. Abuse not only harms a marriage, unrepented of (which is the normal case) it destroys the marriage irrevocably.

Abuse, as we define it on this blog, especially the kind perpetrated by a pseudo-Christian, fully and finally reduces the husband-wife relationship to ashes, never to be rebuilt. (In many cases the relationship was a mere facade from the very beginning!)

I am afraid that many professing Christians are radically ignorant of this hard fact. Namely, that certain sins are so evil that to begin to beat the drums of “forgiveness and reconciliation” is sheer madness. I am afraid that there are Christians, for example, who would actually propose that the Lord would have a madman who had walked into a church service and slaughtered a host of people, welcomed into that church with a great big hugfest carried out to the tune of “Only a Sinner, Saved by Grace.”

But the Lord Jesus Christ calls this foolishness, not love. He calls us – no, He commands us – to put the wicked one out from our midst. He shows us in case after case in His Word that there are indeed limits to His mercy. Did you hear that? God’s mercy and grace are not infinite. That is why there is a hell. He tells us that there are lines which, if crossed, there is no returning to Him. Esau (see Hebrews 6) is a prime example. And the infamous Achan of Jericho fame is another example.

Did you read the verses above? Listen to them again-

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did…(Joshua 7:19-20)

How does that sound to you? It sounds like a script worked up to introduce a happy ending, right? “Truly I have sinned against the Lord…this is what I did….”.  Yay! Achan repented! Everything is ok, right? Nope –

And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. (Joshua 7:24-26)

Achan, you recall, had by his sin caused the death of over 30 of his fellows. Achan had crossed the line.

Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is total so that rebuilding of the relationship is impossible and even wrong. Remember that the next time you sense the tempter at your door. And let us all remember this when working with the victims of grievous evil, and when we must deal out real justice to their oppressors.

Because with some sins, the sinner gets no second chance at the relationship. Molest a child and your relationship with that child and the child’s family is over, no matter how close you were. Abuse your wife and, well, do not tell us that you deserve another shot at the marriage. Betray the trust of an entire church congregation over whom the Lord placed you as shepherd – understand that such betrayal may well totally and fully and irrevocably destroy your relationship with those people.

We close with one more account of two people who crossed that line, and there was no going back –

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)

The Lord is Merciful and Gracious: but He Does Not Forgive His Enemies

In this article, I would like to demonstrate the following principle to you from Scripture and then help you apply it to this matter of “forgiving the abuser.” Every victim of abuse, especially Christians, know what it is like to be pushed and prodded with “as a Christian, you are required by God to forgive your abuser.”  Too often this pressure includes the demand that the victim reconcile with the abuser, and it leads to being deceived by the typical false repentance abusers love to claim for themselves.  Here is the principle:

God does not forgive His enemies. He never has, and He never will. As His children in Christ, we are to reflect His character and attributes. Therefore, this has profound implications for how we deal with our enemies, who are also the enemies of the Lord.

Continue reading “The Lord is Merciful and Gracious: but He Does Not Forgive His Enemies”

Forgiveness Requires Justice: Else Why the Cross?

I have a problem in keeping up with my reading. I open a good book, start in with good intentions of covering a lot of ground, and then smack! I get stopped in my tracks by some really, really good piece of insightful wisdom – a blog post enters my brain, and I have to stop everything, go in to my study, and write the post. That’s what just happened, so here we go.

Forgiveness is much easier when there is justice. In fact, we might even be justified in saying that forgiveness requires justice. Here is the paragraph that sprung this gem on me. It is by Herman Bavinck and it comes from volume four of his Reformed Dogmatics:

Forgiveness is not natural….Pagans pictured the gods as human, endowing them with such passions as jealously, spite, and vengeance, and therefore could not grasp the sublime idea of a free and gracious forgiveness….This pagan notion witnesses to a greater seriousness and sense of truth than the shallow idea that forgiving is natural for God, just as sinning is normal for humans. People who know themselves somewhat also know how terribly difficult true and complete forgiveness is, and how it can only be granted after a serious struggle with oneself.  Certainly an assortment of sinful attributes such as envy, hatred, and vindictiveness, which cannot be part of God’s character, play a large role here. But there are also countless cases in which forgiveness is simply impossible and impermissible. When our honor and good name, our office and our dignity, have been publicly assaulted, no one is prepared to forgive without public redress, merely on the basis of a private apology and confession of wrongdoing. And when actionable crimes have been committed, the civil government is called, not to forgive but to punish, since as God’s servant it has to uphold justice and does not bear the sword in vain (Romans 13).

Opposition to the expiatory sacrifice of Christ [i.e., people who say that the Cross of Christ is a horrid thing that only a wicked god would require], usually supported by an appeal to the parable of the prodigal son [i.e., the father “simply” forgave him with no punishment], accordingly arises from a total denial of the value of justice as well as of the very idea of forgiveness, for forgiveness in the true sense of the word precisely presupposes justice and stands or falls with it.

Let’s repeat that. Forgiveness in the true sense of the word precisely presupposes justice and stands or falls with it. This is why Paul marvels at the wisdom of God shown in Christ:

Rom 3:25-26 whom [Christ] God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

For God to remain just (righteous), and still justify sinners, justice had to be answered. That answer was given on the cross where Christ paid the full price for our sins. God’s justice will not be compromised. The demands of His holy Law had to be met. God did not simply say, “aw shucks, let’s just forget about it.” Nope. Impossible. God will be God.

Now, let’s bring this truth home and apply it. You have all of these churches and Christians and church leaders laying the forgiveness thing on abuse victims. They must forgive their abuser. After all, Christ has forgiven them, so who are they to refuse to forgive? And yet a person who has been subjected to the terrors of abuse is a person who has suffered great harm and wrong. Such a person needs justice to heal. Make no mistake, a desire that justice be done and applied is NOT a sinful desire to exact personal vengeance. No. It is the Spirit within us hungering and thirsting for righteousness. And it is the Spirit of God in us that is also making us balk at simply saying, “well, ok, shoot, let’s just let bygones be bygones.” There, my child, don’t you feel better now?  No!

So here is the deal. If churches would diligently and rightly mete out justice to the abuser, guess what would happen? Forgiveness would be possible. Forgiveness would suddenly become much easier, particularly since you just might see, along with the exercise of that justice, some cases of real repentance by the abuser taking place. (We aren’t talking about reconciliation here. Just forgiveness).

Why are Christians insisting that abuse victims must forgive without justice? Why? Could it be that they have a very low and skewed view of the work of Christ on the cross?

Yes.

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?

Continue reading “Abuse and Anger: Is it a Sin to Be Angry Toward Our Abuser?”