Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

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A Fresh Look at Evil and an Open Call to all who Teach on Marriage – Ephesians 6

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Most Christians think that they understand the Apostle Paul’s words here in these familiar verses from his letter to the Ephesians. The Christian armor. The devil, and so on. I am writing this post for two reasons, 1) to demonstrate that in fact most Christians, pastors, teachers, authors, and counselors in fact have a very, very minimal or even non-existent notion of what Paul is speaking of here, and 2) to encourage us all to take a fresh and deeper look at the nature of our enemy.

Let’s begin with the second point first.

Recently I watched a superhero movie — Dr. Strange. I liked it. Oh of course the worldview and theology in it was total fantasy, as it was meant to be. But there were some thought-provoking lines in it. One was when Dr. Stephen Strange went to Katmandu (you always find ultimate truth in some Buddhist monastery type place, right?) in search of a way to heal his injured hands. He connected with “the ancient one” – a bald lady named “the ancient one” – and she introduced him to regions beyond. He was told to “forget everything he knew.”

Now, of course this kind of mind-emptying eastern mystical stuff is completely foreign and even opposed to the truth of God’s Word. We don’t empty our minds to know Christ, but He does give us a new one. And in some ways you might say that a Christian has to “forget everything he knew” in order to know Christ. You see this for example in 1 Corinthians where the wisdom of God is contrasted with the wisdom of man.

Most Christians think that they know about evil. They might even be able to quote from Ephesians 6 word for word. But what I am trying to emphasize here is that we simply do not understand our enemy or his tactics until we get firmly hold on what Paul is saying here. We think we know. But we do not.

Think about it.

Paul says pointedly, for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers/authorities/cosmic powers over this present darkness/spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Flesh and blood we know. Touch it, feel it, see it, smell it. It’s people. But non-flesh and blood, ah, that is a different story. Let me put this question to you pointedly and I hope that it serves to greatly humble all of us, especially if you are someone who has been preaching or teaching or writing books about marriage. The question is this:

Really, just how much do you know about rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places? How much? Be honest. If you are a “teacher of Israel” as Jesus admonished Nicodemus, and you do not know much at all about such things, how can you venture to teach others?

Let me ask you still another question:

What if, just what if, there is a realm of darkness in this creation, operating its destruction, lying, deceiving, enslaving, that you really know hardly anything about? What if what you have been taught about evil is woefully lacking? What if you are wrong, in other words, about the enemy of our souls? And yet you are presuming to teach the church.

Now, I can hear many saying at this point, “I know quite a lot about evil and our enemy. I have my Bible. I know what it says.” Do you? Do you really? Do you truly know (to repeat) rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil? I am not speaking of knowing a list of facts. I am asking you if you have a true, working, experiential knowledge taught to you by the Spirit of God through the Word of God and through hard experience in this warfare. Let me answer for you. You do not. Unless you have personally been “touched” by these spiritual forces of evil right down where you live, you simply are ignorant of its nature and its tactics.

Humble admission of this ignorance is the starting point for growing wise in these matters. Arrogant insistence that you know is only a guarantee that you will remain ignorant and continue to be an ally of the enemy.
Do not grow defensive as these things are put to you. Those of you who have been preaching to others or writing books on marriage will make your greatest mistake if, when you are critiqued and your errors are pointed out, you react by circling your wagons and refusing to listen to the people who do know this evil. We at Unholy Charade see this ALL the time. I don’t know if we have ever had a well-known author or pastor humble themselves, acknowledge their need to learn, and ask for help. Rather it has been circle the wagons and fire back. The problem is, they end up firing back at the victims of evil, not at the evil itself.

Here is one more line I took from the Dr. Strange movie that really is particularly good. Dr. Strange was a well-known and famous surgeon, but he was very arrogant. The Ancient One (remember, don’t take your theology from the movies!) told him that there was one fundamental truth that he absolutely had to learn. Here it is:

It’s not about you!

And yet typically when we try to point out the errors  of the preachers, notable teachers and authors, when we try to steer them to solid facts about the nature and tactics of evil, they react as if it is all about them. “How dare you criticize my book. Don’t you know how many copies have sold? I just don’t understand how you can be so mean to me.”  It’s all about them, you see.  But it isn’t all about them. It is all about God’s truth in Christ, about exposing the evil of this present darkness, and about setting the captives free.

The Lord has taught myself and all the host of our readers some hard, hard lessons that most of the time took decades for us to finally get. [And I still fall prey to the enemy at times. I haven’t fully learned yet]. We have all been touched (some more, some less) by this devilish evil we call abuse. It came into our lives intimately, personally, in the form of evil people whose lust for power and control knew no bounds. Sometimes that evil stood in a pulpit, sat on a church board, served as a missionary, headed up a para-church ministry, shared the same bed in a “Christian” marriage, or some other “angel of light” disguise. But it all came down the road of our life. “Something Wicked this Way Comes” as the Disney movie title puts it. It came our way. Lying, deceiving, confusing, destroying. Until the Lord in His grace by His Spirit began to lift that confusing fog and we were enabled to see it for what it really is.

This teaching was not our doing. It was the Lord’s work in us. We wrote books. We started this blog. We interact with abuse survivors and victims and sometimes with abusers. And you know the remarkable thing that we saw right at the start and which we still see virtually every single day? We see victims thanking us, telling us things like “you saved my life,” or “your books tell the very story of my life of abuse.”  NEVER have we had an abuse victims tell us that what we have written and taught harmed them, enabled their abuser, and held them in bondage longer. Never. Why? Because the Lord taught us personally through hard, hard years of abuser attacks what the nature of this evil and our enemy is. We have shared in the same evil our fellow-survivors have.

In contrast (and we say this humbly, not arrogantly nor vengefully), when we critique a book on marriage, for example, and our readers comment on our critique and tell their stories about how that book or other ministry hurt and harmed and endangered them, it is VITAL that the authors listen to them. Vital! Here are the people taught by the Lord in the fire, people intimately acquainted with evil, telling the authors or pastors or Christian counselors — “no, you don’t know. You don’t understand. Listen to me and I can tell you how your teachings are enabling evil because you do not truly know it” — and what is happening most every time? The “authorities” refuse to listen. They are dismissive toward them. They act with an air of superiority. And if the victims persist in trying to speak out, the “teachers” become angry. Some even start playing the victim. “Oh, I just cannot understand why all of this negativity is being directed at me.”

And so here is still another call to such “teachers of the church.” Admit that your real knowledge of evil is very, very limited. Confess that yes, when you wrote your book or taught your seminar or preached your sermon series, you had absolutely no inkling about this thing called abuse. You did not even conceive of such an evil person existing, let alone in the church. And most of you still don’t. And many of the “most” don’t want to know.

How can anyone possibly write a Christian marriage book, or really any Christian book at all, while remaining ignorant of the nature and tactics of evil? Consider one more time at least the titles Paul gives these “principalities and powers” in Ephesians 6 and confess to the Lord that there are very likely many truths about this evil that are entirely outside your realm of experience. Listen. Listen to the voices of the victims who are very ready and willing to help open your eyes, if you will simply step down from your high horse and listen.

Straining a Gnat to Swallow a Camel – Marriage "Laws" in Most Churches

We all know that the Lord instructs Christians to marry Christians –

1Co 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

I do not know any real Christian who does not care if they marry a Christian or non-Christian. Of course, we want a believing husband or wife.

But…

I want to point out some inconsistencies in most churches which should be glaring and obvious, but no one seems willing to admit it. Here it is:

  • Pastors and church leaders will typically insist that a Christian who is married to an abusive spouse remain married to their oppressor.
  • At the same time, these same pastors and church leaders will insist that a Christian only marry another Christian.

What, we may rightfully ask, is wrong with this picture? It is so convoluted that it is difficult to sort out. Let me begin perhaps with this:

There is widespread unbiblical teaching in local churches about who a Christian is. That is to say, people are being pronounced “Christian” who the bible very clearly teaches are not regenerate at all. Typically, all that is required is for a person to profess to be a Christian, to claim to “believe in Jesus,” and boom! He’s a brother in Christ and it is wrong to ever question his claim.

Consequently, even though a husband might habitually abuse his wife for decades, he is still going to be regarded as a Christian. After all, you know, “we are all sinners.” And further, because of this faulty gospel of “just believe and that’s all that matters,” churches will forbid marriage to anyone who hasn’t “said the words and accepted Jesus” while they will authorize a marriage to someone who “says the words and has accepted Jesus” even if that person’s life shows no real fruit of regeneration. Do you see how twisted all of this is?

I have had several Christian women who have survived horrible abuse over many years ask me if it is ever permissible before God for them to marry a non-Christian man. The case is usually that a man who does not profess to be a Christian has come along in the course of their life and is very respectful, kind, courteous, humble – everything the “Christian” they were previously married to wasn’t. What are they to do? In many cases like this the abuse survivor has nothing. She was robbed economically. Deserted. Shunned. And now here is a man who is generous and kind.

Now, for purposes of our discussion here, let me just say that I know and most all of you know that wicked people can parade as Mr. Wonderful. That great caution needs to be exercised in these situations lest the abuse survivor get duped right into still another abuser’s evil. But the cases I am speaking of are ones in which the non-Christian man has, over quite a long time, continued to show himself as genuine. Moral. Responsible. Kind. And what I want us to think about is this – If there are no real Christian men showing kindness and care for a woman who has been sorely abused, if in fact the “Christians” in her life have cast her out for divorcing her abuser, and now here is a man who is genuinely kind toward her, is it in fact a hard and fast unbreakable Law of God that she can never marry such a man?

Do you see my point? Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel. They made the law of tithing so universally binding that it ruled out mercy toward their needy parents. And Jesus also said this:

Mat 12:1-7 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. (2) But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (3) He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: (4) how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (5) Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? (6) I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (7) And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Mercy, not sacrifice. MERCY. God’s Word is to be applied faithfully, but to do so requires showing mercy. His Law was not given to enslave, but for man’s benefit. And it is my conclusion that most local churches and pastors today are showing themselves to be Pharisees who apply God’s Word in such a way that mercy is thrown out the window.

Abusers see their Spouse and children as Property Owned

“You need to fight for her. She is yours”
Those words might sound at first like a noble statement of a wonderful husband.
They aren’t.

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