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?”

“God Can Save Anyone” – A Common Line Used to Keep Abuse Victims in Bondage

Heb 3:18-19 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? (19) So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

You hear this all the time from pastors and professing Christians – God can save anyone. There is no one who cannot be saved.” This is an absolutely false and unbiblical statement that continues to do great harm to many. It enables evildoers. Let’s think this through.

Now, it is true that God desires all to be saved:

1Ti 2:3-4 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I mean, don’t you desire all people to be saved? Of course. It should not surprise us therefore that God desires the same. But all people are not going to be saved. Many are going to hell. So why, if “God can save anyone” does hell even exist?

Continue reading ““God Can Save Anyone” – A Common Line Used to Keep Abuse Victims in Bondage”

Another Important Facet of True Forgiveness

1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Most of you know that subjects like forgiveness, repentance, mercy, reconciliation and so on are regularly twisted and distorted into unbiblical caricatures of the real thing. And then they are used by the wicked to continue to oppress the righteous. So here in this article I need to be very clear that what I am about to say is not about accepting fakes and facades. It is not about demanding that we all must reconcile with the unrepentant or even with the repentant (a very rare creature) whose past evil was of such a nature that there cannot be reconciliation in this life.

No, what I want to talk about here is an aspect of real forgiveness that is extremely freeing. It has to do more with us being forgiven than with forgiving. And, like all truths, it is a subject that the wicked will distort and try to deny us.

Continue reading “Another Important Facet of True Forgiveness”

Praying for God’s Justice

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted.  (13) Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? (14) But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. (15) Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.

(16) The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. (17) O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear (18) to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. Psalm 10:12-18 ESV

Forgiveness.  Reconciliation.  Love.  Mercy.  Justice?  How does that last one fit into our Christian experience?  Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Maybe the prayers of Psalm 10 are Old Testament stuff, not for us today? Maybe the same applies to all of those other Psalm-prayers that we call imprecatory?

Wrong!

Because God has never changed and never will change; His justice, wrath, and judgment against the wicked still stands.  In fact, it is increasing in its intensity as evil men oppress His people.

Let me prove it with a NEW Testament imprecatory prayer –

Continue reading “Praying for God’s Justice”