Abuse in the Church? Be Ye Warmed and Filled!

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James 2:14-17

Let me ask you, how appropriate is it when church leaders tell abuse victims to stay in their homes, pray, submit, have faith, and trust God to defend them – or not, if He so wills? How godly is it when church and denominational leaders sweep clergy abuse under the carpet or fail to protect those under their leadership from known predators?

I have written elsewhere on this site about the fact that I had multiple pastors, over multiple consultations with them about the abuse happening in my home, over the course of many years, who told me to stay and “suffer for righteousness sake.” They told me to my face, that while I may need to leave my husband for safety, they would not publicly stand for me and my children. Even when they didn’t say it directly, their actions definitely said the same thing.

It occurred to me last night that in effect, what all these pastors and the various counselors we saw were saying was, “Be warmed and filled.”

One of the hallmarks of genuine believers is that they provide for the needy and widows, and stand up for the afflicted. (I Tim. 5:10, James 1:27 – fatherless would certainly include having a father who not only failed to be father, protector and provider but puts his family in danger). According to James 2:1, when the church, or church leadership, fail to actively come to the aid of the abused in the church they are literally revealing they do NOT have “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is not something that is negotiable in God’s church. The church’s failure to actively stand for the afflicted within their own doors says more than any membership roles, fancy programming, denominational applause, or any of the other human measure of “Christian” success.

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:16-22

The Word says we will be known by our fruit. The fruit of the church’s awareness of and response to the abuse occurring under its own roof is reeking like a week-old dumpster baking in the sun.

The Word also says those who fail to bear fruit in keeping with righteousness will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Those are God’s words, not mine. And let me ask, how can anyone who has the Spirit at work in them, deliberately turn a blind eye to the plain Word of God? I believe it is impossible — which says a lot for those places where the church has rotten fruit giving aromatic testimony to unpleasant realities hiding in its dark corners.

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God’s Justice, Part III: Healing after Injustice

This man has violated our trust. I have to wonder, does God like that? If He is so just, why did He sit by and let this happen? I am hurt, my child is hurt, other families are hurt. And he gets a few years in prison for all this pain he has caused, which will never end for all of us whom he
has hurt. How do we go on from here? Where is God’s justice?

We’ve looked at the questions about God’s justice and your hurt. But how do you actually walk in God’s healing for you and your life? I mentioned in the section about your hurt that God uses the pain of our circumstances to alert us that there is a problem and to train us how to walk in the truth.

Hebrews 12:12-13 says since this is the case —

… lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

This is what this section is about — lifting up your hands and making straight paths for your feet so that you can be healed. This is the balm and bandages, and even some physical therapy, for your brokenness.

I. Establish a daily habit of spending time with God and make this an absolute priority.

This is not a “to do” to add to your life! This is about developing a real relationship, not just about checking off your Bible reading and prayer time each day. You can talk to God just as simply as you would to your dearest friend standing in your kitchen. You can say exactly what you think and feel — He’s not going to be shocked! Look at the example of David. David laid it all out there — even his ugliest emotions. And God recorded it in His Word for all of time.

Simply start by asking the Holy Spirit to teach you. Ask Him to do that every day. He WILL. And remember that God is a gentle healer. He will lead you in tiny baby steps, day by day.

The Psalms are a great place to start. In a month’s time you can read through the Psalms. On day one, you can read chapters 1, 31, 61, 91, 121. On day two, you can read chapters 2, 32, 62, 92, 122. See the pattern? Start with the date, then add increments of 30. That will take you through the book of Psalms in 30 days.

Now, the truth is that can be a lot of reading. So I recommend that you just read until the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart. Write down what He points out to you in a journal. Over time, you will start to see that He is speaking directly to you, with love and healing.

II. Clear the decks with God.

In our hurt, Satan deceives us into making sinful choices. James 5:16 indicates that there is a direct and specific correlation between our confession of sin and God’s healing in our lives. Here again, we need to understand what repentance and confession really is. It’s is not a chest-beating, sack-cloth and ashes, back-lashing session of guilt and groveling! Repentance is simply agreeing with and turning to the truth and turning away from the sin. Confession is simply stating that fact. We seek God’s forgiveness, not with shame and humiliation, but as a child simply running into daddy’s arms for reconciliation. We repent, confess, ask forgiveness — and it is done.

The first thing for you to confess to God is your sin in hiding from Him and abandoning relationship with Him in an attempt to protect yourself. Again, remember, this is not a shameful or humiliating thing. It is a positive, not a negative. Your sin is a fact and you want to restore the lost relationship. This is how to do it. God is just waiting for you to take the first step.

Another thing to remember is that this repentance/confession/forgiveness cycle is one that will be a daily thing for the rest of your life as you walk in relationship with God. God’s work in our lives, from the time we accept Christ until the moment we are perfected in heaven, is to expose our areas of unbelief and conform us into the image of Christ. That always necessitates repentance, confession and forgiveness as the Holy Spirit reveals to us these areas of our lives.

III. Forgive your abuser with an open hand and heart.

This is a hard one but absolutely critical.

Matthew 6:15
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

That’s pretty clear-cut! God goes into this principle in more depth in Matthew 18:21-35.

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin
against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until
seventy times seven.

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

The truth is that God has forgiven us far more than we will ever be required to forgive another. If that doesn’t seem to be real to you, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth of it. The magnitude of what God has forgiven us for is truly staggering.

There are several basic things to remember about forgiveness. First, forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. We can choose to forgive, regardless of whether we feel like forgiving someone. Forgiveness is simply making the choice not to hold that person responsible to ever make it right with you or to acknowledge the truth of what they have done wrong. Once we have made that choice, Satan will probably still challenge it in our emotions. When that happens we need to go back to the fact — I forgave it and I refuse to take that offense back on my shoulders.

Second, forgiveness may need to be extended repeatedly. Especially in an un-reconciled relationship, the other party won’t necessarily stop offending! But learning how to forgive enables you to forgive immediately and not hold onto those offenses, causing you further damage.

Third, forgiveness does not require, nor is it dependent on, reconciliation. You can forgive regardless of whether the other person ever changes. And just because you do forgive, does not mean that God requires you to put yourself in a position that invites that other party to hurt you again. God cares about your protection, too. As you go along in your relationship with God, He will teach you how you can build in limits in your relationship with a person who persists in hurting you.

Finally, lack of forgiveness ALWAYS carries a huge price tag. Unforgiveness always results in bitterness. And bitterness has serious physical and spiritual consequences. Bitterness will stand as an insurmountable wall between you and God, denying you access to His grace for your everyday life (Hebrews 12:15). It is just not worth clinging to!

IV. Release your abuser into God’s hands.

This goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. You have to let go of your abuser. As long as you emotionally hold your abuser “captive” for hurting you (unforgiveness), you are hindering God from working freely in his life. For one thing, while you are holding him captive even your prayers are ineffective — because they are manipulative at their heart. You are trying to “get at” your abuser through God. You have to let him go and let God deal with him in His way and in His time — with no conditions!

Healing is available, but we need to cooperate with God’s process and give Him permission to take whatever time is needed to gently restore us. It may seem impossible today, but if you are willing to walk it out one day at a time, months from now you will be able to look back and see how God has been faithful.

God’s Justice, Part II: When Injustice Leaves Me Hurting

This man has violated our trust. I have to wonder, does God like that? If He is so just, why did He sit by and let this happen? I am hurt, my child is hurt, other families are hurt. And he gets a few years in prison for all this pain he has caused, which will never end for all of us whom he has hurt. How do we go on from here? Where is God’s justice?

In the first part of your answer, we looked at the truth of God’s justice. But, where does that leave you? Knowing the truth about God’s justice and patience does nothing to alleviate your very real pain. The answer for you is found in the truth of Who God is.

THIS NEXT STATEMENT IS CRITICAL!

The reason that your circumstances have caused you to even ask these questions is because, at the heart of the matter, you feel abandoned and betrayed by God.

There is no shame in acknowledging the truth of this. God knows it’s true! He’s not going to be shocked or dismayed or hurt by it! He’s not going to punish you for it, either. The biggest first step toward your healing is for you to realize this is true.

The reason I know this is true about you is because I have walked there, too. I’m not writing this out of judgment or because I read it in a book somewhere or heard it preached. I’m sharing this with you from experience. And the very first thing it was freeing to discover was that God wasn’t judging me, or rejecting me, or punishing me, or abandoning me. In fact, He cannot do any of those things because they are against His nature as a God of love, justice, patience, etc.!

There is a distance between you and God right now, but it isn’t one of God’s making. The distance between you and God is the distance of your own arms as you hold yourself away in fear of being hurt worse. And God isn’t judging you even for that! He’s patiently waiting with His arms open to show you the truth of just how tangibly and how vastly He loves you.

One thing that’s helpful to understand is what your pain really means. When we experience emotional pain, the very best thing we can do for ourselves is to run to God and ask Him to be the Great Physician for our hurting heart, open ourselves to whatever He wants to change and trust Him to bring healing.

So, how can you gain healing from this hurt? Well, the Word says that the truth will set you free. Of course, the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for us is what sets us free from eternal judgment. But this principle of Scripture extends further than just our eternal state. The key to freedom in any area is learning and walking in God’s truth about that area.

Since this is true, let’s look at the truth about how God’s heart toward you. The Word says that God IS love. Because this is a fundamental part of His character, He cannot act in any other way toward you.

Psalm 139:1-18
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Luke 11:10 – 13
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

For the sake of space, these are just three of many references in Scripture about the reality of God’s love. It’s easy to make the mistake of looking at these passages as distant and theoretical, but they are not. God’s love is just as literal and tangible as a mother’s love for her newborn baby. That’s truly the way God loves you. What sane mother can deliberately hurt her newborn baby? No more can God maliciously or thoughtless hurt you.

One thing that can stand in the way of our understanding of this is a misunderstanding of God’s discipline, too. We might say, “But, the Word also says God chastens his children and it is grievous.” (Hebrews12:5-11) However, even God’s chastening isn’t mean or vengeful. In fact, the pain of the circumstances is His discipline — not done “to” us, simply a natural byproduct of the situation. Discipline does not mean punishment! Discipline is simply training. It is that process through which we learn to be more careful not to touch the hot pan because we have experienced being burned.

Another critical characteristic of God that applies to your situation is the fact that God is a Redeemer. Not only does He redeem our eternal souls He redeems our lives, our circumstances, etc. This is a basic part of His character, not one separate function limited only to salvation.

Genesis 50:20
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

The truth is that God has a redemptive plan for your circumstances. This is shown time and again in God’s Word. You are not the exception! You are dear to Him and He has a beautiful plan for you (Ecclesiastes 3:11a). He will work your circumstances together for good (Romans 8:28 ) if you love Him and seek His way of accomplishing it.
The Word is a treasure chest of examples of how God does this very thing. When we read the stories of the people in the Word we tend to see the end of the story first, so to speak, and forget that real people experienced these things over a period of time. These real people had real feelings about their experiences — they didn’t know what the end of the story was going to be. Consider these:

Job — he lost everything – his children, his wealth and his health. During all the time he sat in mourning he didn’t know that God was going to doubly bless him in the end. He only knew what had already happened. It looked like God had turned on him and deliberately hurt him.

Joseph — he was hurt and rejected by his family, separated from the father he loved, forced into a demeaning, painful life of slavery. When he did his best, he was again unjustly betrayed and sent to prison. And remember this wasn’t a prison like we know. This was a dark, stinking hole with no amenities. When he still did his best, he was forgotten. During all these years of the worst trials the only “hope” he had was a couple of childish dreams.

Esther — as an innocent Jewish virgin, she was forced into the harem of a pagan king. How could she reconcile such debasement? We don’t think of that perspective, but this was not an honor for Esther. Yet the Word says that this was God’s plan for her life for a very specific, and honorable, reason (Esther 4:14).

Abigail — was given to a violent man to be his wife (I Sam. 15:3). We only see a tiny piece of her story recorded in Scripture and we don’t realize that she lived with this violent and angry man for some time before the events that were actually recorded in the Word. What was it like for her for all that time? Ultimately, she was forced to defy her husband to save the lives of others. What do you think she felt when she went back to Nabal and confessed to him what she had done? She didn’t know that God was about to strike her husband dead. She bore the brunt of his anger again, perhaps she was beaten (and not for the first time) — it’s very likely.

In every life, God had a redemptive plan that these people could not see as they walked in painful places, often for years. God has a redemptive plan for your life, and for your child, as well. The only condition on that redemptive plan is that you seek Him and His way. If you hold Him at arms’ length and hide from Him in your hurt you cannot and will not know His healing.

So, how can you seek Him and His way and walk in His healing? I’m going to address this question in a third section — How to appropriate God’s healing.

Energy Drinks & Excessive Behavior?

OK, this may seem like it’s completely off-topic for this blog. But when I read the article I saw the definite potential for energy drinks to be linked to aggressive behavior. I’ve also watched my sons discover that energy drinks tend to make them aggressive or emotionally unstable. I’ve also heard people at school talking about mixing energy drinks with alcohol. This is apparently a hot new thing.

All of this adds up to the potential for energy drinks to be a predicator for domestic abuse. No, I’m not trying to say energy drinks are evil. But I think this is information that is useful and worth noting.

This article is courtesy of the International Herald Tribune.

~~~

By Tara Parker-Pope

Health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teenagers and young adults: the energy drink.

Super-caffeinated energy drinks, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp, have surged in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12- to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States.

The trend has been the source of growing concern among health researchers and school officials. Around the country, the drinks have been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits.

In Colorado Springs, several high school students last year became ill after drinking Spike Shooter, a high caffeine drink, prompting the principal to ban the beverages. In March, four middle school students in Broward County, Florida, went to the emergency room with heart palpitations and sweating after drinking the energy beverage Redline. In Tigard, Oregon, teachers this month sent parents e-mail alerting them that students who brought energy drinks to school were “literally drunk on a caffeine buzz or falling off a caffeine crash.”

New research suggests the drinks are associated with a health issue far more worrisome than the jittery effects of caffeine — risk taking.

In March, The Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior. The study’s author, Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, says it suggests that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with “toxic jock” behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.

The finding doesn’t mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. “It appears the kids who are heavily into drinking energy drinks are more likely to be the ones who are inclined toward taking risks,” Miller said.

The American Beverage Association says its members don’t market energy drinks to teenagers. “The intended audience is adults,” said Craig Stevens, a spokesman. He says the marketing is meant for “people who can actually afford the two or three bucks to buy the products.”

The drinks include a variety of ingredients in different combinations: plant-based stimulants like guarana, herbs like ginkgo and ginseng, sugar, amino acids including taurine as well as vitamins. But the main active ingredient is caffeine.

Caffeine content varies. A 12-ounce serving of Amp contains 107 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 34 to 38 milligrams for the same amount of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Monster has 120 milligrams and Red Bull has 116. Higher on the spectrum, Spike Shooter contains 428 milligrams of caffeine in 12 ounces, and Wired X344 contains 258.

Stevens points out that “mainstream” energy drinks often have less caffeine than a cup of coffee. At Starbucks, the caffeine content varies depending on the drink, from 75 milligrams in a 12-ounce cappuccino or latte to as much as 250 milligrams in a 12-ounce brewed coffee.

One concern about the drinks is that because they are served cold, they may be consumed in larger amounts and more quickly than hot coffee drinks, which are sipped. Another worry is the increasing popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The addition of caffeine can make alcohol users feel less drunk, but motor coordination and visual reaction time are just as impaired as when they drink alcohol by itself, according to an April 2006 study in the medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

“You’re every bit as drunk, you’re just an awake drunk,” said Mary Claire O’Brien, associate professor in the departments of emergency medicine and public health services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

O’Brien surveyed energy drink and alcohol use among college students at 10 universities in North Carolina. The study, published this month in Academic Emergency Medicine, showed that students who mixed energy drinks with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who consumed alcohol by itself and were far more likely to be injured or require medical treatment while drinking. Energy drink mixers were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of aggressive sexual behavior. The effect remained even after researchers controlled for the amount of alcohol consumed.

Energy drink marketers say they don’t encourage consumers to mix the drinks with alcohol. Michelle Naughton, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, which markets Amp, said, “We expect consumers to enjoy our products responsibly.”

Pastor George Lowe Jailed for Child Molestation

This story is courtesy of fredericksburg.com.

~~~

BY KEITH EPPS

A Stafford County minister went to jail yesterday after admitting that he molested a teenage boy more than 20 years ago.

The Rev. George O. Lowe, 71, pleaded guilty in Stafford Circuit Court to two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. Seven other charges were dropped.

His bond was revoked and Lowe is expected to remain in jail at least until he is sentenced in August.

Lowe was the pastor at Mount Hope Baptist Church in Stafford for 43 years until he was removed after being indicted earlier this year.

According to prosecutor Eric Olsen, the molestation took place in 1984 and 1985 at the church. The boy, whose family attended Lowe’s church, was supposed to be getting counseling from Lowe.

Olsen said Lowe repeatedly touched the boy’s private parts and performed oral sex on him. The victim said the abuse occurred at least 20 times.

Olsen said the victim reported the incidents to his family and to a deacon in the church several years later, and a meeting with Lowe was arranged.

Lowe quoted Scripture during that meeting regarding Christians not taking other Christians to court, Olsen said.

The victim later went to Sheriff’s Office, Olsen said, but Lowe denied the allegations and police determined there was not enough evidence to bring charges.

The case was closed, but was reopened last year by Detective Don Lenhart.

Lenhart got the victim to wear a wire and talk to Lowe about what had occurred years before.

During the taped conversation, Lowe said he was sorry about what had happened and that God had already punished him.

Olsen said Lenhart took the tape to Lowe, who confessed.

The victim yesterday said that he was happy that Lowe is finally being held accountable for his actions.

The man said he’s had a lot of problems in life, including drug and alcohol abuse, a suicide attempt, a failed marriage and prison. He believes Lowe’s actions were a contributing factor.

“For more than 20 years I’ve been waiting to get this over with,” the man said. “He betrayed my family’s trust in the worst possible way, and now the blame can be put where it belongs.”

Lowe will be facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced. He will be eligible for parole because the crimes occurred before Virginia’s no-parole system took effect.

God’s Justice, Part I: Where is God in Injustice?

This man has violated our trust. I have to wonder, does God like that? If He is so just, why did He sit by and let this happen? I am hurt, my child is hurt, other families are hurt. And he gets a few years in prison for all this pain he has caused, which will never end for all of us whom he has hurt. How do we go on from here? Where is God’s justice?

This quote is an amalgamation of words I have heard from many victims’ families. The same basic words, the same hurt, the same questions are being spoken again and again. But this is the answer I made to one woman who asked me similar questions about her experience of domestic violence, with minor editing where specifics were included in the original.

What I see here is actually two questions and I’d like to address each of them separately. The first question is about God’s justice. The second is how to reconcile the hurt you’re experiencing. After addressing each of these questions, I will include a third section that specifically answers how to appropriate God’s healing.

First, is the question about God’s justice. This is a very real, justifiable and honest question. The betrayal and hurt are real. The injustice is undeniable. And where does God fit into this type of situation? It seems so obviously something that He could not approve of and would certainly not want for one of His children. So, why did He let it happen? Why has He done nothing to “fix” it? Why does the injustice continue with the minimization of your pain by the church? What appears to be real here doesn’t match up with what we’ve been told is true about God. So what is the truth?

There are several factors that shed light on the truth of this situation. The first thing I want to make completely clear, however, is that the hurt is real and God doesn’t for one minute discount it, deny it or turn a cold shoulder toward you in it. He has very specific answers for you and He truly cares — in a real and tangible way, not a dim, distant, theoretical way. The Word says God IS love. He cannot act in any other way toward you because love describes, fundamentally, WHO He is. It is literally impossible for Him to act toward you in an unloving way. What will hopefully become clear is why your circumstances don’t seem to bear that out and how you can walk in the truth of God’s love — experiencing the reality of His love for you even in this circumstance. This question will be addressed in more depth in the second and third sections.

The question of God’s justice is one that people stumble over often, and in this case must be answered before being able to find help for the second question. The Word says that God is just. Either He IS just or the Word isn’t true. And if the Word isn’t true, then it’s all a lie. Since I believe the Word is true, we are left with the question — why does injustice continue?

First of all, God has put limits in place within which He has chosen to operate. When God created the world, He created man unique. God gave man the unique attribute of a free will. Now, there is a beautiful reason for this. Man is the only created being (with the limited exception of the angels) who has the ability to choose to love and relate to God. Every other created thing simply does exactly what it was created to do — which honors God as Creator. But there’s something far more special about man in that we have the choice to relate to God. That honors Him far more. How much greater glory is given to God by a created being who voluntarily chooses to love, serve and worship Him?

With that blessing of a free will, however, comes a huge risk. And God knew, before He ever created mankind, what we would do with that ability. Since we have the ability to choose to love God we also have the ability to reject Him. And when mankind chose to sin in the Garden of Eden, we chose to put ourselves under the authority of Satan. The sin in the garden wasn’t just about eating a piece of fruit. It was about choosing to believe and obey God or choosing to obey our own will, making ourselves our god (see Genesis 3:5). In doing this, we unknowingly placed ourselves under the authority of Satan (John. 8:44). For this period of time, until God ultimately defeats and binds Satan for eternity, the earth is under Satan’s dominion. Because these are the parameters we selected with our sin choice, God has limited Himself to them — actually in deference to our free will.

Now, it might seem unfair that Adam and Eve could make such a choice and lock the rest of us into it. The truth, however, is that we all make our own sin choices, too. And our sin choice is the same as theirs — I will be my own god. And my sin is no different than their’s in its consequences. I can’t blame it all on Adam and Eve. If I have ever once made a sin choice of my own, I have merely affirmed the decision they made.

Because God has limited Himself to the consequences of mankind’s sin choice, He allows Satan a free hand on the earth. He does intervene, and, in spite of Satan’s attempts to the contrary, God has a bigger plan at work that He will and does accomplish. But the injustices of this life are merely the natural consequences of mankind’s choice to sin. At the same time that God will not force you to love and obey Him, He will not force a pastor, clergy member or violent spouse to do so either — even if that means that you are hurt by your another’s sin.

This is a hard truth. At the same time, it can be liberating to understand it. When I finally understood this, it made a huge difference in my dealing with the injustices I experienced in abuse. For one thing, I realized that God wasn’t doing all this to me. This was quite simply the results of someone else making a sin choice. That doesn’t make it easier. But it puts responsibility where it belongs.

I also realized that God did not abandon me in this place. This wasn’t “His will” for my life — which would mean that He was a cruel and harsh God to me. It also helped me to better understand and pray for my abusers. The problem wasn’t that God wasn’t answering my prayers. The problem was that these other individuals were walking in bondage to sin and God would not force them to change. God would attempt to draw them to Him, in answer to my prayers, but God would not force them to turn to Him.

Another factor in dealing with this situation is remembering that God cannot be anything other than Who He is. In this particular case, the attribute in question is whether God is truly just. The Word says that God is just. But justice is not merely an ideal He upholds. God is just — this is a fundamental description of who He is. He cannot act in any other manner.
However, one attribute of God cannot be isolated from all the others. God is just. He is also long-suffering and patient. God is love. God is the Redeemer. These are just a few of the absolute characteristics of God, but these are the ones in particular I wanted to note in this situation.

God is love. His love for your abuser is no less than His love for you. Because He desires that “all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9) He is long-suffering and patient. He doesn’t extend this patience toward your abuser to hurt you or in neglect of you. He does it because He loves your abuser. In fact, as you are praying for your abuser, this is what you are praying for. God is answering your prayers in His patience.

But what about God’s justice? Let’s look at some Scripture.

John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.

John 5:27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

Here we see that the Father has given over the function of judgment to Jesus. This is an important thing to note before seeing this next fact.

John 12:47-48 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

Notice when this Scripture says that God’s judgment will be enacted. Yes, God is a God of justice. But during this time on earth, God, through His Son Jesus, is extending mercy to mankind. God judgment, the exercise of His justice, will take place at the end of time. As long as your abuser remains alive, God’s patience will be extended toward him. That doesn’t mean that his choices will have no negative consequences — because sooner or later they will. What he sows he will reap. But those consequences probably will not make you feel better. Your abuser may never acknowledge what he has done to hurt you. But the truth is that his sinful choices are between him and God, first and foremost.

So, where does that leave you? Knowing the truth about God’s justice and patience does nothing to alleviate your very real pain. I will address this question separately in the second section — When God’s justice leaves me hurting.

Friends of Derek Gillett Speak Out

This e-mail was sent to me privately and I asked the writer if I could share it. She so clearly verbalizes the devastation that follows in the wake of a pastor and friend being exposed as an abuser.

One of the things this writer has expressed is something I’ve been wondering how to point out. Not for one minute do I want to minimize the pain being experienced by Derek’s victims. Those girls will have scars that last a lifetime.

At the same time, it is a very real fact that everyone who trusted Derek – whether as a family member, friend or church member – has been his victim. He abused everyone. He abused their trust, their friendship, their love. He abused his position of authority. He abused the Word of God by speaking “God’s Word” from the same mouth that spoke lies simultaneously. He abused the church by adding another “proof” to the ever-growing pile of apparent evidences that Christianity is an empty religious led by two-faced power mongers who use their authority as a platform for selfish gratification.

Everyone directly affected by this experience is hurting. Something like this makes you question everything. And one of the hinderances to working through it to find God’s redemptive plan — the good that God wants to bring out of the ashes of man’s ungodly destruction — is minimizing the reality of this very real pain.

No one wants to equate the pain of family and friends to what the girls have experienced and will continue to experience. But we cannot make the mistake of believing since our pain is “not as bad” it is therefore irrelevant.

Everyone involved has been abused. No, it’s not the same as being molested. But it is abuse. Until we can come to accept that fact, we will fail to appreciate just how significant this problem in the church is. We will also short-circuit our own healing.

Below is a copy of the e-mail I received.

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…Several comments are being made here on your blog as well as on “Hicktown Press” about [Derek Gillett’s friends] not apologizing to the girls for our support of Derek. I believe you wrote something to the effect of how if this accusation turned out to be true how devastating it will be to those who were church members and/or supporters. We are feeling as if we are victims also. I’m not saying that we could be hurting as much as the girls, but the pain is here just the same.

Not being an abused person, I cannot begin to imagine what or how the girls that Derek abused are feeling. I do know, however, how we are all feeling in our community who has stood behind a family who could only share a portion of the situation and therefore we were all left to draw our own conclusions. Everyone has felt an enormous heart-rending downward spiral effect. We have felt anger and remorse at believing Derek was innocent…

Our community, as well as the Georgia community, who believed in and trusted this man is hurting, crying and searching for answers as to how could we be so blind. Each of us feel betrayed and many cannot even begin to put into words how we feel. Know that everyone I know who has commented on your blog believing in Derek, is feeling pretty much the same as I do. Healing has to begin for all of us. I pray daily for our communities healing and restoration.

As a mother, I have prayed for Derek’s mother with a mother’s heart, hearing what her son admitted to doing to his step-daughters. [There was] so much hurt that day in the court room that she had to be taken to the hospital. My heart hurts even more for Theresa, Derek’s wife, who has to now become the sole bread winner for her family, deal with her daughters who have been victimized, her sons whose daddy is now in jail and her own feelings of betrayal by Derek and guilt of not seeing what was going on in her own home (not that she should feel guilty, but I’m sure she has to be feeling that).

Our prayers have changed and are now filled with compassion for these girls. We prayed for them throughout this whole time; however, our prayers were biased just the same. Many of us have asked for God’s forgiveness in the way we had been praying.

The “Hicktown Press” blog called us cult followers, [but] we do not consider ourselves as such. My whole life I have trusted people so completely and have been disappointed many time because of this type of trust. However, I know God would have us believe the best in others and I know that He loves Derek still.

I just feel that many cannot express their feelings individually and maybe that is why I am sending this e-mail for you to put into your words our expressions of hurt, betrayal and compassion…