Church Detox Installment 4: Deal Forthrightly with the Hidden Abuse in the Modern Church

Over the years, I’ve become convinced that there is hidden violence and abuse among the men and women who attend our churches. Often we begin to hear about what takes place in counselling rooms, divorce proceedings, and sometimes even murder investigations. After September 11, as I was reading my Bible, what God actually had to say about violence and abuse seemed to leap out at me more. I was also surprised at how little I had heard about the sinfulness of verbal, emotional and physical abuse in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church over the many years I’ve been a part of the church. I also became ashamed of how many sermons I myself had preached that had not mentioned these kinds of sins. Here are the thoughts that came to me on what seem to be the scriptural responsibilities of the church to deal with this often hidden behavior.

  • Set forth the scriptural teaching about violence and abuse in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church, and call for clear repentance. The most powerful prevention of violence and abuse among professing Christians is for hearts to be cleansed of violent and abusive tendencies through the power of Christ.

  • Make it clear that abuse is not restricted to physical violence but also includes verbal and emotional abuse (ridicule and scorn), the denigration aimed to control or crush the intended victim totally.

  • Make the church a safe place for repentant abusers, and an uncomfortable place for the stubbornly unrepentant.

  • Make clear the resources of the church which are available to help repentant abusers.

  • Deal with bullying of others in the programs for children and youth; abusive adults often start out as bullying children and adolescents.

  • Make the danger signs of a potentially or actually abusive person clear, and incorporate them in youth, college and singles teaching and premarital counselling. The church can prevent many potentially or actually abusive relationships by making it clear what constitutes this kind of person and relationship in the earliest stages.

  • Make it clear that a workplace or other family situation can be an abusive situation as well as a marital or dating relationship.

  • Avoid anything that blames the victims or targets of abuse for their situation. Not all are always 100% innocent, but it is true that many, if not most, do absolutely nothing to bring the abuse upon themselves. Rather, they most often are dealing with an angry, hateful and violent person.

  • Avoid giving the expectation that it is the will of God for a person to remain in an abusive situation. God hates violence as well as divorce.

  • Develop a church policy with the board of elders for church discipline of unrepentant abusers and for the restoration of repentant abusers.

  • Develop a denominational policy for church discipline of unrepentant abusers and for the restoration of repentant abusers among pastors and other church leaders. Titus 1:7 makes it clear that violence, quick temper and domineering, aggressive ways of dealing with others are a disqualification for a position which involves elder authority.

Here are the steps that I would set forth for someone as the way to become a Former Bully and Abuser.

  • Understand that you will stand before God and answer for every word and action in your life.
  • Understand that no religious activity, claims of good intentions or temporary shows of nice and charming behavior will ever make up for your destructive behavior or stubborn, violent and unrepentant heart.

  • Understand that the profession of Jesus Christ as Savior carries with it the obligation to follow Christ as Lord in thought, intention and deed.

  • Abandon any obsessions that you can control yourself and others by your own cleverness, cunning, deceit, strength or persistence or any permissions you have given yourself or rights you have claimed for yourself to control others by deceit and violence.

  • Abandon your longstanding grudges, wicked schemes and personal vendettas against those who have avoided, resisted or exposed your attempts at control and personal sabotage, and release others from your unreasonable expectations.

  • Abandon verbal abuse and manipulation, emotional abuse and manipulation, and physical violence as any way to achieve your ambitions and desires.

  • Take personal responsibility for the pain and destruction you have caused to others through your wicked schemes, verbal abuse and manipulation, emotional abuse and manipulation, and physical violence.

  • Demonstrate truthfulness and trustworthiness rather than demanding trust and making false claims of truthfulness and good intentions.

  • Look at yourself with a new and scriptural view of yourself as a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God with no special privileges before God or man.

  • Take up a new way of Christlike humility and servanthood, and place no obstacles in the way of anyone else seeking to follow Christ.

  • Take up a new way of peacemaking rather than instigation.

  • Take up legitimate scriptural goals and ambitions.

  • Seek to fulfill your legitimate scriptural goals and ambitions through personal skill, diligence and effort with prayerful reliance on God.

“He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them shall find forgiveness” (Proverbs 29:13).

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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One thought on “Church Detox Installment 4: Deal Forthrightly with the Hidden Abuse in the Modern Church

  1. […] abusive, the body of Christ needs to be loving, compassionate and supportive as much as possible. Deal Forthrightly with the Hidden Abuse in the Modern Church Care First God Does Not Demand Toughness; He Provides Overcoming and Enduring Grace  […]

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