Don’t Listen to People who want to ride the fence

This is a grass roots movement — bottom up. The higher up levels in ministries and denominations will never listen unless there is a ground swell from lowly Christians. I dont see us dialoguing with the power brokers because they would only be trying to trick us into believing that they really do care about justice. Historically that is always how it goes down.

Here is a quote from Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther. There is a lesson here for us about people who claim to be our friends but want to ride the fence so they don’t suffer any loss. They say things like: “Surely it is fine to point out error and to criticize certain things, but you must not go too far. If you will just not cross ‘the line’ then we can all work together and you won’t alienate people from you and….” on it goes.

Anyway, here is what Bainton wrote:

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How Did David Treat Goliath? (Shouldn’t He Have Been More Loving?)

Goliath was an abuser. A really nasty one. Listen to him:

1 Samuel 17:8-10  He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”  And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”

Forty days this business went on with the giant mocking the Israelites and thus, mocking their God. Then, one day this kid shows up for the showdown and Goliath intensifies his mocking:

1 Samuel 17:40-44 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

Goliath was an abuser. He was a giant and he knew it. Pity his wife if he had one. Goliath hated God (although at least he was forthright about that and didn’t pretend to be a worshiper of the Lord as so many abusers do today). Goliath ridiculed his victims. Power and control and self-glory were what he was all about.

So, how should David have dealt with Goliath? I suggest to you that many Christians today think they know better than David. They tell abuse victims that when the abuser roars, victims should be meek and submissive. Win the giant over with love, they say. After all, you were a sinner too and God showed you mercy. You show Goliath mercy. Take him some sandwiches. David should have dropped to his knees and prayed and let God handle things. There’s the thing, you see.

Continue reading “How Did David Treat Goliath? (Shouldn’t He Have Been More Loving?)”

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”

The Holy Spirit Calls us to Expose Evil — People Tell us to be Quiet About it

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

All through my life I have seen evil and injustice. Like most of you, I have seen it personally in the workplace and in the church. And every time I have seen it, I have been told to be quiet about it. Not by the Lord, but by people. When you are told often enough that you are exaggerating, that you are too judgmental, that you need to just overlook things, you start to believe it. You think that you must be “a problem.”

Here is the thesis of this article that I want to state and support:

The Holy Spirit inhabits and leads every Christian. Because He is the holy Spirit, He reacts against un-holiness. When the Christian is in the presence of evil, the Spirit in him tells him “something is wrong here. This is not right. This is sin. Here is what God’s Word says about this.” 

And then what happens? When the Christian, led by the Spirit, speaks out against this wrong and exposes it, pressure from the enemy comes against him to be quiet about it. To minimize it. To feel a sense of guilt for even thinking badly about someone else. And this opposition to the Spirit, this quenching of the Lord in us, is particularly effective when it comes from the mouth of someone who claims to be a fellow believer —

“Now, Jeff, that is just how Mrs. Smith is. She is really a very good woman and fine Christian. So just be patient with her tantrums and steer a wide path around her and try to get along. We try not to talk much around here about her foibles. After all, she is such a fine pianist and choir director.”

Mrs. Smith has been the pianist and choir director in that church for 40 years! And for 40 years Mrs. Smith has thrown those wicked tantrums whenever she doesn’t get her way. This is sin. It is evil. Mrs. Smith is an agent of the enemy, but the “godly folk” there in the church make it clear that you must not speak of her sin or talk about the Bible saying we are to deal with sin in the church.

In the very first church that I was a pastor in, I knew by the third day that something was very, very wrong. I wasn’t wise enough to know exactly what it was, but I knew. I felt it. I met with the church board consisting of some six or seven people and I simply did not see Christ in them. Oh, perhaps one or two were believers, but not the rest (time would prove that assessment to be accurate). And there were other issues evident that plainly contradicted God’s Word regarding life in His church.

We were sent to this church by a home missions board that we were with. I phoned our regional director and gave him my assessment of the situation. In just a few hours I received a phone call from the head of the missions agency and he was irate! He told me that “of course the people in that church are unsaved. Don’t try to change anything. Just be patient with them, get to know them, and they will get saved.” In others words, “Jeff, just shut up about these things you see that you say are contrary to the Lord’s truth. You are just going to cause trouble.”

Well, I was in that church for eight years. I assumed the missions director knew what he was talking about. I didn’t want to be a trouble maker. So I preached Scripture and taught the people and. . . what happened? Trouble. Attacks. Constant division and fighting. Rank immorality. A terrible testimony to the community. And why was that? Because the Holy Spirit had been trying to tell me from the very start that this “church” was no church at all because there were but maybe one or two genuinely converted people in it.  That is to say, my first conviction that I needed to announce something like this to a congregation of the wicked was right, and that missions director was dead wrong —

When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:12-17)

You see, these were not mere unbelieving pagans. No, these were church members who claimed to be Christians! That “church” needed to be reduced to a small handful and genuine believers, and then begin a real ministry.

The Holy Spirit leads us to expose evil. People, especially false Christians, pressure us to hide it, excuse it, and cover it up.

And that brings us right back round to why abusers are able to operate and hide in most churches. Evil is not called evil. Those who call evil out are labeled as trouble makers. Just like most of you have been called trouble makers, unloving, unforgiving, and judgmental because you dared say that your abuser is a wicked person parading as a Christian. It has taken me decades, but the Lord has finally gotten it through my head. I will not be quiet when the Spirit of Christ shows me evil in His church. I will make trouble for that evil. I will not minimize the circumstances and excuse it with some blow off statement like, “well, you know we are all brothers in Christ here and we just must love and forgive and be patient.” No! Where in God’s Word does the Lord instruct us to keep quiet about Satan in our midst? Nowhere. That’s where.

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:12-13)

America Celebrates Divorce from an Abuser on the 4th of July – Independence Day!

Here is the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. It is a divorce decree. It is the recognition of a breach of covenant. We celebrate this divorce in the United States every July 4th. The purpose of this post is to simply put forth this question: If it was right and good for the American Colonies to divorce the King of England for his many and repeated abuses, if most all Americans including pastors and church members celebrate this Independence Day as a glorious win for freedom, how is it that these same pastors and church members insist that an abuse victim in a marriage has no right to divorce their abuser?

There is the question as all Americans wave flags and watch the fireworks and celebrate freedom from tyranny. How is it that so many professing Christians will deny the same freedom to a fellow believer who is suffering a present and evil tyranny right in their midst? It is quite common for churches to wave the flag and celebrate on this day, yet at the very same time they oppress the oppressed by demanding they remain in bondage to a wicked abuser.  The common double standard.

*****

The Unanimous Declaration of the
Thirteen United States of America
In Congress, July 4, 1776

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

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 the Police: Churches Are Not Above the Civil Authorities

Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, (4) for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (5) Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (6) For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. (7) Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

When I was a police officer I often had to go testify in court.  Portland, Oregon was a large enough city that you would see new assistant District Attorneys begin their careers in traffic court, prosecuting speeding offenses then moving up to DWI cases and so on.  They had to learn some basics in presenting their case, and one of the things they had to establish at the very start was something called venue.  Venue has to do with the jurisdiction of the court.  A court in Oregon, for example, cannot try a speeding offense if it occurred in the state of Washington.  And if the court were in Portland, then the offense had to have occurred in Multnomah County, and so on.  So the prosecutor would have to establish that, for instance, SE 139th and Division Street was in “the county of Multnomah, State of Oregon.”  If he forgot to do that, the case could be dismissed.  Venue, you see.

Here in the 13th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul is teaching us about venue. He says that God has appointed the civil authorities to carry out a particular function.  The police, the prosecutor’s office, and the courts all “bear the sword” for the purpose of dealing with wrongdoers.  The civil authorities are to be a “terror” to evil people for the benefit of us all.  Therefore, we are all to be in subjection to them.

Christians and pastors and churches forget this, and in part (perhaps in large part) this is why abuse, both domestic and sexual, is being covered up in our churches.  The thing is in the news now with well known evangelicals being sued for this very thing.  It is contended that rather than report cases of sexual abuse and spousal abuse (criminal actions) to the civil authorities for prosecution, church leaders hushed it up and handled it “in house.”  Or we should say, “mis-handled” it.  Grievous wrongs were done to victims.

Churches do not have venue in regard to criminal offenses!  We believe in the separation of church and state, just as Romans 13 teaches.  The church has its venue (spiritual and religious) and the state has its venue (earthly and legal).  Criminal offenses cannot be tried in the church!  That has been attempted in church history and the outcome has never been good.  The church does not rule over the king, nor does the king rule over the church.  They each have their assigned areas of venue.  If the king errs spiritually, it is the duty and right of the church to correct him.  And if the church errs in criminal or civil matters, it is the duty and right of the king to correct the church.

In our churches, we can easily make the state out to be the enemy.  We home-school rather than subject our children to the schools of the state.  We protest that our taxes are used to fund abortions (rightly so).  But in all of this, if we are not careful (and we have not been careful), we can go wrong in our thinking and imagine that we are above the state in all matters.  And so, when it is discovered that a child has been abused in our church, we can easily err by seeing the civil authorities as the enemy and imagining that we have a God-given venue to handle the case entirely ourselves.  We do not.  For the most part we are not competent nor equipped to handle such cases, and we violate the law (and thus oppose God as Paul says) when we refuse to report abuse to the police.  We do further damage to victims and we shame the name of Christ, as is happening in the news right now, when the whole sorry mess comes out perhaps years later.  “Church and pastors covered up sexual abuse and protected the perpetrator.”

That is a headline you never want to see as a result of something your church did, or did not do.