Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

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Our Suffering is Not Redemptive – We do not Redeem Others

One of our good friends, knowledgeable about evil and the wickedness of abuse, wrote the following excellent essay. It deals with this common business of people telling us that we need to endure suffering in order to save our oppressor. The scripture she examines is 2 Corinthians 5:21. Many thanks to her for her work:

So why do people have this mentality that when we forgive like Christ, we should just absorb the consequences and let the guilty person go free without any repercussions for their sin? As if that’s what Jesus did on the cross? No, that’s a superficial and distorted view of the cross.

What took place is much deeper than that.

“God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21

First, only perfect justice can make forgiveness possible. God cannot and does not forgive at the expense of justice. It’s an abomination to Him to justify the wicked or to condemn the innocent. (Prove 17:15, Rom 3:23-26) God is a just God. Forgiveness is just.

Second, note, that while Jesus as an atonement for sin was indeed the sinless sacrificial lamb of God who propitiated God’s wrath, AT THE SAME TIME, He didn’t exactly die as an “innocent” person. He BECAME SIN. God MADE HIM, the sinless one who knew no sin, to become something He wasn’t. Jesus died as The Offender, except that it wasn’t His own offense.

What happened on the cross was something extremely unique that only God can do and can never be replicated. It was in Christ at the Cross that sin and innocence, wrath and love, justice and mercy were meshed together. Once and for all. None of us are able to repeat that, nor are we ever called to try.

There was an incredible and miraculous and supernatural and unspeakable exchange at the cross. My sin for His righteousness. Not only did Jesus die as an “offender” but I also live because I’m now considered righteous. I don’t go to hell because I’m no longer the offender. He TOOK my sin. My offense and guilt and sin has been placed on Another Person. Sin was imputed to Christ. Guilt was attributed to Christ. THAT is why God poured out His wrath on Him. God was punishing the “offender” and letting the “innocent” go free. It was not an “innocent” person who bore God’s wrath, but because guilt was imputed to Christ, God was punishing the “guilty”; because God is JUST.

There was an exchange between sinner and God that cannot be replicated between sinner and sinner. What Jesus did on the cross was UNIQUE and impossible in human relationships, humanly beyond comprehension and it’s something only God-made-flesh can do.

So what does the cross teach us about dealing with offenses? For one thing, justice must be done. Nobody is getting away with anything. Tolerating another person’s (unrepentant) sin is an abomination to God. (By the way, God “tolerates” only those He has set apart for destruction. He temporarily tolerates some people but will in the end give them justice in hell. You don’t want God to tolerate you). When God gives grace, God works REPENTANCE in the heart of the sinner and brings him in a right relationship with God. When God makes peace (forgives, pardons) with a sinner, He makes him a new creation with a new repentant heart that loves God back.

Then, it also teaches us that the onus for making things right is on the offender.

We as Christians are not called to be mini sacrifices for people. We are not little walking atonements for those who sin against us.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for me so that I can then “die” for others’ sins against me. If someone sins against me I’m not called then to make an “exchange” between me and him, of his sin for my righteousness, his guilt for my innocence, my bearing of the consequences for his freedom. That would be quite absurd actually, and to apply the Cross that way in human relationships we would turn Christ’s sacrifice into something vulgar.

But the fact that Christ was willing to do that for us on our behalf, that is part of why the Cross of Christ is so EXTRAORDINARY, so other-worldly. In human relationships the offender and the innocent person must be kept separate and in human relationships the innocent person does not and should not take on the sin or guilt or the consequences of the offender.

So if someone sins against me, then Jesus dying on the cross does not mean that now I need to just suck it up and take it and let the other person go.

I am not an extension of the cross, and I don’t “get to” absorb someone else’s shame, guilt, loss, and punishment on the offender’s behalf. The offender takes the loss. The offender takes the punishment and consequences. But one thing the offender cannot ever do is take my pain away. That’s where forgiveness comes in.

The cross shows that it is in fact the offender who must make amends, take full responsibility for his guilt and sin, make restitution when needed, take on the cost of the damage he’s done. He is not to be let go free with impunity precisely because Jesus wasn’t “let go” when sin was placed on Him. I’m afraid too many times we get that backwards.

The guilty must be punished, the offender must repent, justice must be done, before forgiveness is extended.

If the wrath of God came down crashing on the Son  of God to make forgiveness possible, how much more should we not insist that the offender repent at his own cost when seeking forgiveness? Forgiveness is not free, and it is not unjust.

Abusers are not Your Average Sinner

1Ti 1:12-13 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, (13) though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

 

Often we come across the question of how we can say that abusers never change. And as was pointed out recently, that Jesus saved people like Zacchaeus the tax-collector and of course, Saul of Tarsus – the Apostle Paul. Aren’t these cases of abusers coming to repentance and being saved?

No.

The kind of sinner, the brand of evil that we address here under the name “abuser,” is quite different. All sinners are not the same. The large majority of abusers do, what? They parade under a disguise of the most wonderful, charismatic, kind, holy, saintly….just keep piling on the adjectives….person you would ever know.

Mat_6:5  “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Mat_6:16  “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Mat 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

Understand? Think about it carefully. This is one of the typical qualities of the abuser. Hypocrite. Disguise. Mask. That is why so many of them are church members and claim to be fine Christians.

The Apostle Paul was never such a person. Did he abuse, before his conversion, Christians? Yes. But why? Because he genuinely believed that he was serving God in doing so. As he says, he acted “ignorantly in unbelief.” The Lord showed him mercy.

And here then is the difference. Paul was a sinner. He was a legalist, but he was not a hypocrite. He was what he was and did not pretend anything else. He was wrong. He was a sinner. He was persecuting Christ. But he was the real thing, even though that real thing was sinning.

One kind of person that Jesus did NOT eat with was the Pharisees and scribes – those hypocrites he pronounced divine woes upon. These are the real abusers. No conscience. No repentance. Lusting for power and control. Using and oppressing. Paul was never one of those. And you can bet that Nicodemus was not one either.

And it is those kind who do not change. Those are the abusers. They operate in knowing unbelief. And for them, God has no mercy.

Other Related Posts:
Saul of Tarsus was not an Abuser – Let Me Show You Why

Why is Forgiveness Even Possible?

Mark 2:4-11  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

In our ongoing discussion of forgiveness, we am challenging much of the contemporary thinking among Christians regarding this important subject.  I trust that all of you realize (and I think that you do) that when I maintain that because God does not forgive His enemies  (they must bow and humbly repent of sin and confess Christ as Lord and Savior, thus laying down arms against God), I do not mean that we are to remain hateful and vengeful toward those who sin against us and who, in fact, are our enemies. We are not to seek personal vengeance, but to leave that to God. But what I mean is that in all of this, we do not declare that they are no longer our enemy, when in fact, they are. They continue the warfare. And I address this because so many victims of abuse are being told that forgiveness means that they must no longer regard their abuser as their enemy, which is simply a denial of reality.

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