Saul of Tarsus was not an Abuser – Let me show you why

Act 9:13-15  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.  (14)  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”  (15)  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Quite often when I tell people that abusers never change, they will ask about the case of Saul, later the Apostle Paul. After all, he was assaulting the early church and then the Lord appeared to him and converted him wonderfully. Should that not give us hope that even the worst domestic abuser could one day be born again?

My answer is, no. Let me show you why.

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The Wicked Often Hide Behind a Mask of Theological Acumen – Watch Out for Them

Mat 23:23-24  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  (24)  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

I have seen a very common pattern of how the wicked disguise themselves as fine saints, eminent examples of holiness, shepherds who we must go to in order to be fed, etc. It is so common in fact that I can issue this warning:

When a professing Christian, a supposed pastor, a church leader or theologian type writes lengthy articles filled with detail, evidences an academic air focusing on debate to prove their own theological point, beware. The devil himself is quite a theologian. He is quite capable, as are his servants, of writing intricate and convincing theological tomes that will receive praise and recognition from those who admire a form of godliness without the power.

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We Must Use the Discernment the Lord Has Given Us

Joh 13:34-35  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  (35)  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1Jn 2:10-11  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  (11)  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

As I look back over many years of Christian ministry now, I am seeing with more clarity one way in which I was frequently duped by the enemy and his servants. As I have grown wiser in this regard, I am accused of being “too judgmental” and of “over-reacting.” Nope. I’m not.

Let me explain by illustration.

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Who is a Christian – Psalm 15 Answers the Question

Most of you have had to struggle with the question, “is my abuser a Christian?”  Why? Because he (and sometimes she) claims to be. Because the abuser so often parades as the finest saintly holy one in the entire church, and most of the people believe it. Just as the abuser’s father can appear as an angel of light, so can his servants.

Local churches and pastors often and even typically insist that the abuser is indeed a child of God, not of the devil. We all sin, you know. So they allow him to remain in the pew, and sometimes even in the pulpit!

But what does the Bible say? Who is a Christian and who is not a Christian? While Scripture clearly answers these questions over and over, we are just going to look at one such text in this article. Here it is. Read carefully:

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She Came to her Own, But They did not Receive Her

Joh 1:11-12  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  (12)  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

I want to show you the fundamental reason victims of abuse are routinely and regularly rejected by their pastors and churches when they expose the abuse and ask for help. It actually is no mystery.

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Local Churches Have Become Primary Lairs for Abusers

Jude 1:4  For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Oh, and by the way, did I mention he is active in church?”

Those words came from a friend recently who was helping an abuse victim understand what has been happening to her. After filling me in on some of the evils this man had been doing, he ended his note with the brief sentence above….he is active in church.”

I do not think that we need to hold back any longer. We are fully justified in just coming right out with it:

Local churches have become arenas of choice for domestic abusers, narcissists, and sociopaths.  

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God’s Law is Spiritual, but Churches are Limiting it to Outward Actions

Rom 7:14  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

You have all heard it over and over again, right? But he never physically abused her. Therefore what the abuser has done and continues to do is not a crime. It is not really even a sin in the thinking of most Christians. Just a small thing. As long as he doesn’t hit her. That’s the thing you see.

A friend recently sent me a link to a great article by Evan Stark entitled “Re-presenting Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty.”  Stark is an associate professor of public administration, director of the master’s in public health program at Rutgers Universtiy-Newark and author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. What Stark is demonstrating  is that most domestic abuse is non-physical and can most correctly be termed “coercive control.” Furthermore, he says that this coercive control (its presence and extent) is a far more accurate predictor of physical and fatal violence than other more traditionally tracked factors. And he proposes that our statutes and laws need to be reframed so as to make these non-physical coercive control tactics criminal. In other words, we need to be pro-active and take action against these less visible yet very damaging abuse tactics. [NOTE: Unfortunately Stark’s philosophy is that we can hold abusers to a level of accountability so they will fear to abuse and might even cease being abusers. He does not like the idea that abusers should be put out of the church, but we should strive to keep them present in the church so that we can hold them accountable when they abuse. Wrong. Unbiblical. Scripture is plain that we are to put evil out from among us].

In a sense, what Stark is saying is that we need to enforce the spirit of the law, not just the overt and outward act. And is that not exactly what the Apostle Paul is saying in the above Scripture – the Law is spiritual. Paul came to realize, in considering the 10th commandment, “you shall not covet,” that God’s Law requires heart/soul obedience, not just outward conformity. This is when he knew he was condemned and guilty whereas before, he was just sure that he was righteous by his law-keeping.

So then, we are led to ask, how is it that churches are limiting domestic abuse to outward, visible, tangible acts of physical abuse? Well, he never hit you did he? That is as if to say, it is only a sin if he physically abuses you. As long as he never lays hands on you, you have no grounds to complain.

Really? Is that how God views sin? Did not Christ say that murder and adultery are most often committed in the heart though there be no outward act? That the Pharisees were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones? But all this is apparently being ignored by pastors and churches who chant the mantra, “but he never actually physically abused you.”