Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Tag: parent

Let's Talk about FEAR – a Red Flag in Relationships

1Jn 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

None of us have been perfectly perfected in regard to love. As we grow in Christ, He shows us the ramifications of His love more and more with the result that fear diminishes more and more. While there will always be the positive, healthy, and right “fear of the Lord” by which we honor and obey Him, the kind of fear John is speaking of is not a positive trait. It is a fear that results from punishment in a relationship. We used to fear God in this sense because, before we came to Christ, we were under righteous condemnation by Him. We were guilty. The Law showed us our guilt and was a means of driving us to embrace Christ.

But now that we are in Christ – if you have been born again by faith alone in Christ alone – then this is your status:

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The more we come to understand this, the more this fear which results from punishment will dissolve.

Now, what I want to talk to you about today is this business of fear in our relationships with people. Fear that is the kind of fear that results from punishment. A child, for instance, should have this kind of fear in the sense of knowing that if he disobeys his mother or father, he is going to be punished. At the same time, that parent-child relationship must be characterized by love, and the child must know this as well.

But in respect to our relationship now, now that we are adults (or even let’s say in our teen years), fear that is the result of punishment is something that evil people use to hold us in bondage. In this respect, fear is a huge red flag that a relationship is toxic. You often hear domestic abuse victims talk about having to “walk on eggshells” lest their abuser punish them with one of his evil tactics. This is just another way of describing the fear that dominates in such a relationship.

Lately I have been particularly interested in how a matriarchal abuser uses fear of punishment to enslave her family members. Of course most domestic abusers are men, but as I said, of late this business of the mother working an evil domination over her family has been in the forefront.

Whenever one of our relationships with someone is characterized by fear, something is terribly wrong. And I mean the fear that is the fear of punishment.

This thing is sooooo wicked. It creeps up on us. Very often it is present in families and the children grow up in that kind of fear-drenched environment, becoming what many people call “adult children” who keep right on fearing punishment from, for instance, their mother. It is this fear that is the vise holding us to that poisonous relationship. Fear that if we don’t do what we are told, fear that if we do not think what we told to think, fear that if we in anyway step out of the authorized path – we will be punished. Scowls, that “tone” in mother’s voice, a tirade of anger, the silent treatment, playing the victim role – on and on and on this evil arsenal goes. AND IT IS ALL DESIGNED TO ENSLAVE US BY FEAR.

I want to tell you loud and clear – any relationship in our lives that is characterized by fear of punishment is a relationship that the Lord wants us to be free from.

Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The thought of freedom from this tyrrany – from, for instance, a mother’s tyranny – can at first be fearful in itself. Think of the Israelites on that great day when the Lord led them out of slavery in Egypt. I bet many of them were afraid. What will Pharaoh do? And sure enough when they stopped at the Red Sea, here he came! Even across the Red Sea there were many times when they grumbled and said things like “let’s go back to Egypt where we had leeks and garlic to eat.” The enemy of our souls does not give us up easily. When you resolve to be free you can expect that Pharaoh is going to come chasing after you. But then, the Lord parts the Sea and shows us that path to freedom.

Love casts out this fear of punishment:

Rom 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Did you know that you can live in this freedom from fear-of-punishment relationships? It’s true. You can live free from a narcissist, enslaving, terrorizing mother or other such person – and you will thrive. The enemy wants you to think that you cannot. That a life without that toxin is just impossible. Slavery to it is all you have known – how will you go on? Well, the answer is – Christ! When you are cast out, He will be there to greet you and once you see Him, I mean REALLY see Him and experience the love He has for you, you will never ever want to go back to Egypt.

Let the enemy roar. Let mother weep and wail and rage. We are going to follow Christ and we are not going to permit the wicked to drive us back into slavery. Never.

Exodus: Getting Free of "the Family"

Mat 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Families are meant for our good. Husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother – and extended family as well – grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so on. A home is a family, parents and their children – who love and care for one another. But there comes a time in our lives when we are to “leave father and mother” and cleave to a husband or wife and begin still another family.

I want to talk to you here about this matter of leaving and how, in a sinful and fallen world, the enemy and his servants often twist that which God intended for our good into an enslaving “Egypt” that the Lord set Israel free from.

On several occasions over the years, I have, as I have written about before, experienced both patriarchal and matriarchal kingdoms which demand to possess power and control over family members. A father, for example, demanding that his wife and children serve him – forever. Or a mother who twists love for children into an ownership which refuses to let them leave and be the person the Lord would have them be. And woe to anyone who encourages the target of this thing to leave.

I have probably shared with you before a striking example of this I experienced, but here it is again. A young man, still living at home, asked if he could meet with me and talk about his future. What he should do with his life. What career he should choose. I gladly met with him and in the course of our conversation I threw some ideas out for him to think about. One of those suggestions was that he look into joining the coast guard. He had shown interest in first responder type careers and we live in a place where the coast guard is one of those very vital agencies. He responded positively and thank me for the idea.

A few days later I learned that his father had thrown an angry fit when the son mentioned the coast guard idea. In fact, he was so angry that he set out to do damage to me and the ministry here. He went to other church members and told them it was terrible that I dared to suggest such a thing to his son. Why do you think he was so enraged? I can tell you. He was a father who demanded a lifetime of power and control. His children, no matter their age, were his property with the mission of serving him, and he would punish any step toward freedom they might evidence.

In another case, a parent exploded in anger over the Scripture verses quoted above. Though a professing Christian, she “owned” her children and they were never to leave “the family.” She pressured them and guilted and shamed them if they showed any sign of independence. Of course, her actions merely served to drive them away, but nevertheless the children still had to struggle with the sense of bondage that was instilled in them by her.

These scenarios are certain signs of familial abuse. God, in His design for our lives, has told us:

Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Unless children, as they grow up, are allowed to “spread their wings” over time and eventually leave father and mother in order to pursue their own life and goals and relationships, God’s design is not being followed and no good will come of it. A parent who demands perpetual power and control over their sons and daughters, that power and control even extending to the next generation – the grandchildren and even great grandchildren – may disguise this lust as “love,” but it is anything but love. It is a selfish demand for self-glory at terrible expense to those enslaved by it.

These abusive family systems are often encouraged and enabled by “christian” individuals and entities. The family is promoted in such a way that it becomes an idol. The father, in a patriarchal system, is to be served by all and the dynamic is very similar in a matriarchal kingdom. Such families are promoted and put forward to us as models for us to emulate, being supposedly God’s design and will. But that is a lie.

I know many survivors of these abusive families who have been freed from this tyrrany. They all relate how it took a very long time for them to clearly see what an abusive father or mother was doing to them. In most cases the end result is a no-contact “relationship.” Once they drew firm boundaries, they became familial black sheep cast out of the flock. But they will tell you something else – the freedom is absolutely worth it.