Is it wrong for us to focus so very much on teaching the church about domestic abuse? Shouldn’t we, rather, be teaching the truth that will set souls free from sin and death? Or are they somehow connected? Here’s what I believe:
The church has become man-centered idol-factories and it’s ourselves and our desires of which we are making idols. The teaching in most churches is about what God can do for man rather than about man’s obligations to God. The activities (biblically unsanctioned) are set up to serve families, provide a fun atmosphere and to bring excitement to our “worship experience”. It is far more likely that, on any given Sunday, the sermon will be on topics such as making one’s sex life better rather than on such things as the attributes of our Holy Lord.
Where is the message of repentance? Where is the doctrine of the new life that is found in Christ? Where is the focus on turning away from sin? Hating sin, even? Where? By failing to teach repentance, by failing to teach the necessity of growth in holiness, godliness and righteousness the church has in fact sanctioned unrighteousness, ungodliness and unholiness. If the church has embraced such things, she has then failed to act as the sanctified bride of Christ. By failing to be such, she has created a place where sinners are welcomed with open arms. There are few demands on those who wish to join the church nowadays; that is, we don’t demand to see any growth in the ways of God. Moreover, most members don’t even understand what these mysterious ways of God are; mysterious only because Pastors fail to teach the Word of God at church and, at home, we fail to study God’s Word. Worse still is that few care.
Because few Christians can identify or explain true ways of holiness, because they fail to have even rudimentary knowledge of God’s demands on His people, many of the sinners that come into our churches masquerade as godly men; that is, they pretend that they’ve had a conversion experience. Probably some of them, also failing to understand that there is Truth and they don’t know it, really think they have. Others know they haven’t but still pretend they have in an effort to wear a mask of godliness in order to hide their wolfishness. Who is going to check up on them? In times such as these where it is considered judgmental and harsh to “judge a tree by its fruit”, the answer is quite simply, “No one”. Because this atmosphere reigns in today’s churches, it is difficult to tell the wolves from the sheep. They each can say the right words, each seem to be doing the right things. Lack of spiritual discernment makes it practically impossible to find any difference between them–not because it isn’t there but because we fail to look and because most of us couldn’t identify it anyway.
Many of these wolves in sheep’s clothing are abusers.
Abuse of all forms is on the rise and, sadly, our churches are a safe place for them to hide. The truth that sets men free is rarely taught from the pulpit these days. Because it isn’t taught, it can’t be applied; therefore, abusers can easily slip under the radar. When they do, often we don’t want to know about it. To accept that our congregations are hiding places for evil men is to acknowledge that there is something seriously wrong in our midst. We don’t want to believe that so, rather than rooting out abusers, rather than teaching the hard truths that would make many of them flee, rather than repenting of our failures and seeking to help those who have been hurt by the abusers we invited in, we choose to ignore it all. We choose, instead, to punish their victims by calling them liars. This is far easier than accepting that our spiritual focus has been wrong for a long, long time now.
When the focus in our churches is once again on teaching the entire unadulterated truth of God’s Word, abusers won’t stay around because they won’t be comfortable. Until that day, we are going to have to deal with the results of what we’ve done. Until that day, there will be abusers in our churches. And there will be victims of those abusers among us. Dear ones, mostly women and children (though there are definitely some men among the abused) broken and bruised by their abusers, who need our compassion, our help to heal. But, without repentance being taught, without a clear understand of what forgiveness demands and what it doesn’t demand, many in the church, in a misguided effort to serve God, will keep on heaping abuse on those already wounded. That’s what so-called Christians have been doing. And that’s why those Christians among us who write about domestic abuse are doing what we do. Wrongs must be righted and it starts here, with us.