Why A Short Sentence for Offenders Cannot Be “Enough”

Just a bit ago I sat down on the sofa with some lunch. When I finished eating I was looking at the stack of books at my feet and thinking about what I need to do to prepare for a seminar I’m leading next week.

The next thing I knew I was reliving something my ex used to do to me on a regular basis. Bang! Just like that, the abuse of yesterday was back in my “today” as fresh as a new experience. Fortunately, I’ve been walking this path long enough to know how to deal with it fairly handily and it was a passing blight.

But blight it was, indeed, on an otherwise peaceful day. I’m quite sure he hasn’t had a blight on his day today as a result of how he treated me, since he sees no wrong in it. In fact, no higher authority on this earth has found fault with him for it, though one day his Maker will do so, I know.

Do you think that experience is weird? If you do, that is because you have never been a victim. For victims, that experience was standard fare. Of course! That was nothing! PTSD flashbacks are way worse than that! Which I also know because I’ve had those as well.

The Law of Sowing and Reaping brings consequences that are in balance with causative actions. Supposedly, this is what justice should look like. The Law of Sowing and Reaping was established by God at the dawn of time. It pre-exists the Law of Moses and was not superceded by the Law of Grace. It is a law of nature and of God. It is universal and timeless.

When the church and the law give offenders an easy pass on the consequences of their deeds, they tell God His Law of Sowing and Reaping is no longer valid. Our way is better than His. We know better than God. Back again to the sin of idolatry.

It is too bad that the church and the law cannot so easily erase the consequences of the causative actions left behind in the lives of victims. Those victims will experience those causative actions “fresh as today” again and again and again for the rest of their lives. Do you have the faintest idea what a remarkable insult it is for the church and the law to say an offender should have a minimal sentence?

Do you have any idea what a further insult it is for the church to then suggest to victims that it loves them?

What love is this? Certainly not love as Christ modeled it. He paid the ultimate penalty to provide grace, but then we cheapen it by neglecting to understand that grace does not bypass the Law of Sowing and Reaping.

Causative actions which cause permanent results should carry permanent consequences. Is there forgiveness? Certainly. But forgiveness does not erase the law of sowing and reaping – for either the victim or the offender. It merely releases the victim from bitterness and distance in their relationship with God.

Should the church go beyond the law of the land in adding consequences to the offender? Only within the context of the Word. If the Word would bar someone from being a pastor, then this should be honored. Blameless means blameless means blameless – not blameless for the last 3 months or in this county or in this denomination! If the Word allows for a Mt. 18/I Cor. 5 accountability and then excommunication – then we should see some churches stepping up to the plate to excommunicate some adulterers and abusers.

God’s standards of righteousness are not ours to bend to suit our own interpretation. Doing so carries consequences its own. The natural consequences of violating God’s standard of righteousness is that the violated no longer trust the church and leave. How can we be surprised when this occurs? How can we continue in denial of this reality?

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14 Responses

  1. I think the standards are more ‘benefit of the doubt’ it seems. They say they stand with God’s word, and yet you almost see their brand of political correctness. No common sense needed type of thing.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,469928,00.html

    Fox ran this story on accountbility, and I have to be honest it was confusing. I had more questions than answers. Do you apply accountability to someone who leaves your church? Do they apply this to everyone? If so, it sounds like the woman had been there for years – SHE is the only sinner they found that wouldn’t repent?

    I’ve heard of churches asking pregant teen girls to stand up in front of the church to reveal her sin. It wasn’t the same as the story above – where that women stayed with the boyfriend. It was the fact she was preggers. I never quite understood that, and I have to wonder where the boy was?

    I do agree they take with them the sowing and reaping away.

    ”’Do you have any idea what a further insult it is for the church to then suggest to victims that it loves them?”’

    I think I know what you are getting at, but they will tell you love the sinner -hate the sin type of thing. Love your enemy, etc.

    • I’ve seen that story in the news. And I do have some questions about the spirit in which it is being handled. It doesn’t appear to be handled in love, but in judgment. Also, once the woman involved severed her membership with the church the process was complete – because the end of the process is to put the person out of fellowship. She did that herself. The lack of discretion suggested in bringing such an issue before a body that would include her children suggests some questionable motives.

      The thing with pregnant teenage girls is also very common. And I’ve also wondered a couple things. First, where are the boys. But even more —

      In the same session, let’s get every adult in that room up on that stage who has had sex outside of marriage. Then let’s talk. At the very least, let’s get every adult in that room up on that stage who has had sex outside of marriage and has never publically confessed to the same on stage in front of an entire church audience. Until that happens, this “discipline” does not take place.

      The church has redefined love to suit its own purposes. Jesus amply proved that during His own walk with example after example after example of the way He interacted with wounded people.

      One of the things I had to learn in dealing with my abuser was that true love does not enable another to continue in sin. Short-circuiting the consequences of sin enables sin to continue because it accomplishes the reverse of what God intended the consequences to accomplish. The Word specifically says when a leader is proven to be guilty of an accusation it is to be made known to the church so that everyone will learn by it. If we short-circuit the consequences, on the other hand, what everyone learns is that “I can do that and at the most all I will get is a slap on the wrist. Probably, I won’t ever get caught. If someone thinks I’ve done something I’ll be able to talk my way out of it.”

      And victims learn that the powerful are believed instead of victims. They learn that the powerful are loved more than the victims – that’s what the actions say. Actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter how many words the church throws at it – actions speak the truth. And if the church turns its back on the victims when they walk away – the victims are affirmed in this belief.

      And for this, this blog was built.

      — Danni

  2. What is that church trying to prove? The lady went to a church mentor assuming that what they spoke about was private and confidential. We had a preacher a time ago that told us ‘my mind is like a graveyard, once you tell me I bury it.’ So, a young lady that was attending felt confident enough to go to him with some problems she was having. What happened next service was he disclosed everything that the young lady told him but thankfully did not disclose her name. Needless to say, she left our church and has written it off.

    Counseling should have stayed private. The church may have been able to effect this woman in marrying the man she was living with and said she loved………..but now that possibility of influence is over. She’s running just as fast as she can in the other direction (away from the church.) The plan to publicly humiliate her is not the steps that Jesus would have taken (remember the woman at the well.)

  3. i think the church is trying to prove they do stand on the word of God. should the church handle this in any other way than the word given by God? i read where the woman is worried about her children, son 20 and daughter 18, well what would they think about the church if it turned its back and said nothing. i left a church just like that, wouldn’t confront sin, just push it aside and hope it goes away. so the woman left the church, the discipline still has to be carried out as an example that the church does mean what it says. if it was abuse would you still say ‘well shes gone now and its not our problem? same thing happened in the church i left. and the woman at the well that Jesus spoke with in private would be the first step in restoring her. please read the scriptures quoted in the letter sent to that woman. from what is seen, all the proper steps are being taken. its not easy to stand up and follow Gods word, but it must be done!

    • It looks like that at first glance, but it seems to me there are holes in it. And I could be wrong, but that’s what it seems like. And I also have to say – one reason I didn’t pick this up as a featured issue is because largely what we have is the woman’s perspective, as told by the media. Remember what the Bible says about the first one to tell their story? The church speaks some in here, too, and what is here is all I have to go on – which could be skewed and I don’t know whether or how much. But, first and foremost, what I see in the church is judgment first – not a motivation of love.

      First, if a church member goes to counseling, there must first be an appropriate season of counseling during which rebellion can be determined. Apparently this woman tried to leave her lover, but we aren’t given any indication what they did to help her identify or learn to overcome the sources of bondage that kept her in that relationship. Did they just tell her to leave the relationship or else? That won’t work!

      Then if Mt. 18 is going to be implemented she first must be confronted privately by one person and told the Mt. 18 process is being started and what the process entails. This way she knows what will happen at each step and exactly why from the Bible. No surprises. No confidences revealed here. Truth first. LOVE FIRST.

      From what the story indicates, this church violated her confidence and, in essence assaulted her, by initiating the Mt. 18 process and leaping to the second step without her knowledge that the Mt. 18 process even existed, much less had been initiated with her.

      And leaping to the end, if she terminates her membership at the church, the Mt. 18 process is finished because the end result is putting the person out of fellowship. The one conclusion could, and very likely ought to, be a closed, members-only meeting indicating that this person has chosen to remove her membership to avoid being removed from membership for Mt. 18 process.

      However, to hold an open, public meeting, with her children present – which could only have the effect of humiliating them – is inappropriate. This is an issue for members. Conceivable it could be argued that the children could be included as voting adults in the body – and I will concede that. I think that might be something that some consideration should be given to, but I can see argument for both ways.

      A final-step meeting, however, should be a closed, members-only meeting at any rate. The point isn’t to “prove to the world and Christianity that we can be ‘tough on sin.'” The goal really is reconciliation of the offender. I have gotten the feeling that this church is more focused on proving the point, since most churches won’t do it, but somehow the person involved got lost in the shuffle.

      And, of course, it doesn’t help that the news media got hold of it because this entire concept is going to look pretty darn mean and ugly to people who don’t understand it.

      — Danni

  4. Danni wrote: “The Law of Sowing and Reaping was established by God at the dawn of time. It pre-exists the Law of Moses and was not superseded by the Law of Grace. It is a law of nature and of God. It is universal and timeless.”
    I have to comment on this, Danni.
    What is meant by “at the dawn of time” ? Linear time, as far as I can comprehend, began when God spoke the word that brought into being the first elements of Creation (the time-space continuum): “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Prior to this, (which is a non-sensical expression in a sense) there was only eternity, not linear time: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
    If you mean that the law of sowing and reaping began when linear time began, I can agree with you.

    I have difficulty with an attempt to set Mosaic Law, Grace, and the law (o principle) of sowing and reaping in stark opposition with each other. When we study these laws and principles we see complex interactions, interrelationship, similarity and well as difference, contiguity as well as contrast… there is both continuity and discontinuity between OT and NT, Mosaic Law and grace.
    Also, grace (and its corollary, God’s forgiveness) sometimes overrides the principle of sowing and reaping.

    I also prefer not to use the term ‘law of nature’ in biblical discussions. It is not a biblical term but a term from secular science. If there is such a thing as a ‘law of nature’ it only exists because God created and maintains it. Any so called ‘law of nature’ is not superior to or outside God. It is subservient to Him.

    However, leaving that theological fine tuning aside, I agree that Scripture clearly instructs the church to apply discipline to professing Christians who exhibit certain behaviors. The church is not called upon to be an agent of discipline in EVERY matter of sowing and reaping, but it should be an agent of excommunicative discipline for particular sins which are committed by its so-called followers (1 Cor. 5:11). It should also exercise discipline of a lesser degrees of severity for various other sins committed by its followers (there are many references for this, see chapter 2 of my book). When the church neglects to do this, it is disobedient. Where this happens, we should not be surprised to see the principle of sowing and reaping come into play in, for example, victims of abuse leaving the church.

    • 😉 By “dawn of time” I mean when time started – at creation. I didn’t define that since most people don’t think outside that box about the whole “space/time/eternity continuum” thing. I smiled when I started to read the very first words you wrote because I saw what was coming, knowing the way your mind works. I love that! (And the space/time/eternity understanding does change the reality of quite a few theological questions, as you know.)

      I see the laws of nature and the laws of God as being interestingly interconnected. God established both, but science has “discovered” and labeled the laws of nature and called them its own. I have a personal theory, which remains a definite theory, not even remotely a doctrine, that the laws of nature correlate to the laws of God. This may be at least partly why God says in Rom 1:19,20 that His attributes are plainly visible in nature so that even the Gentiles are without excuse. I don’t know what all those correlations may be. But the law of sowing and reaping is clearly spelled out in the Word, so that law is fairly obvious.

      By the use of the term “law of nature” — it is only a law of nature as it has been made by God and established as order by Him. It is a “law” in that it is a system of order. It always works this way. And it always works this way because that is the way God made it to work. It is not a biblical term in the same way that “trinity” is not a biblical term. But we know that there are laws of nature and it is faster to use that term than to write out a lengthy definition in order to avoid using a term coined by scientists who “discovered and quantified” them.

      I also totally agree that the law of sowing and reaping is not superior to or outside of God. It is subservient to Him, having been created by and for Him.

      Grace and forgiveness certainly override the law of sowing and reaping of eternal death as a result of sin! So I guess I can hardly say that the law of sowing and reaping are never overridden by grace and forgiveness. And mercy sometimes intervenes.

      However, I think we agree that the church has decided far too often to overstep its boundaries by extended grace and forgiveness way past God’s intended purpose, and use these theological concepts as an excuse to bypass the law of sowing and reaping altogether. It doesn’t work in nature, it doesn’t work anywhere else, and it is not supposed to work in the church, even under the guise of “grace and forgiveness.” We do not have the right to opt out of God’s discipline program (discipline = training in righteousness) by letting people out of the naturally- or justly-occurring consequences of their choices and actions.

      — Danni

  5. Danni,

    The fact that we only have a one-sided perspective does make it more difficult because we don’t have all the facts. Did the church consider this woman a trouble maker? Was the final straw for the church her admittance of living with a man out of wedlock? We don’t really know if until the information in that private consultation was leaked that any of the church leaders even knew (who) she was. Maybe, there were other couples living together and the leaders decided to make a scapegoat out of her, we can only speculate.

    As I said in my previous post, we had a incident similar to this happen in our church and the lady involved has left religion altogether.

    The church should be a soul filling station, emergency room, etc. It seems that this woman attended this church for a while and had confidence enough to take her problems in her personal life to them and ask for help, and instead her confidence and trust were betrayed. I still am reminded of the woman at the well. WWJD? The disciples were amazed that he talked with (literal greek) A woman. The disciples would have passed her by but Jesus did not. Jesus dealt in compassion with this woman and not condemnation. Yes she had had five husbands (but we don’t know if they died or divorced her, people just automatically assume is was because she was immoral or because she was indecent. But that is just speculation because the Bible does not say.) Instead of humiliating her he offered eternal life. (And I think it is appropriate to use this example as it closest to the situation (she is living with a man but not married) that we are talking about.

  6. the woman at the well was offered eternal life if she drank the water Jesus offered, not if she continued in her life of sin. this church knew about the ‘immorality’ thru her mentor, not thru any confidential counseling, or are my eyes missing something? the mentor according to the story did approach her privately and tell her she was wrong. isnt that what a mentor is supposed to do? personally i stopped being a mentor in a celebrate recovery setting because when told what God’s way was no one wanted to abide by it, as is the case here! the church is right to continue the process and do exactly as God’s word tells us.once it is brought to the attention of the leadership of the church they must act upon it in love, but according to God’s way. think about this situation, the woman and her boyfriend apparently went to the news, Not the Church! and i would bet it was his idea to go that route! read the fox news headline, everytime i do it gets almost like a jay leno headline…Florida Woman Says Former Church Plans to Make Her Sins Public …so to stop them she goes to fox news? something isnt right and it isnt that church

    • It doesn’t matter what label was used – mentor or counselor – anything should have been treated as confidential, not spread to a group without the woman’s knowledge. That is gossip. The problem wasn’t in following a Mt. 18 process but in violating a confidence. Before a confidence can go outside of being a confidence, in this setting, the mentor should have informed the woman about the need for the Biblical process of Mt. 18 and what that would entail, precisely. Then there is no more question.

      At the same time, as I said before and as you said, all we see is one perspective, which may or may not be reliable. The Word gives us room for caution about receiving a story based on hearing one side – the first side sounds good until you hear the other side, too.

      That headline is exactly the way someone would see Mt. 18 who didn’t understand it!

      — Danni

      • Another point about confidentiality:

        Churches need to take a page from professionals in the counseling field. This is for everyone’s protection. Clients have explained to them, and then sign, paperwork acknowledging the parameters of the counseling program and what is expected of both parties. Included in this is a statement of what the boundaries of confidentiality include.

        In a church setting this could reasonably include an understanding of the Mt. 18 process.

        This would also protect churches from just this sort of attack.

        — Danni

  7. I think sometimes leaders get on some kind of power trip. It must be a rush to tell people how to live, how to dress and how to conduct thier lives, and then watch and wait as people try to conform. Most leaders will prefer conformity over unity any day. They/leaders misunderstand, whatever authority they think belongs to them, really belongs to Christ. I”m sure that alot of people wish they had a special soap box to stand on every sunday and tell people what they thought was wrong with you, the world and everybody else. But, only a small majority are sanctioned for such an honor.

    I’ve been in church all my life and i have seen spiritual abuse time and time again. I have seen leaders use thier positions for an occasion to the flesh. If the account we read is totally accurate the chance that this church will help this woman by taking this disciplinary route is null and void. They might gain more religious respect from the legalists in thier community, but they will most surely lose that soul for Christ.

  8. The Law of Sowing and Reaping brings consequences that are in balance with causative actions. Supposedly, this is what justice should look like. The Law of Sowing and Reaping was established by God at the dawn of time. It pre-exists the Law of Moses and was not superceded by the Law of Grace. It is a law of nature and of God. It is universal and timeless.

    When the church and the law give offenders an easy pass on the consequences of their deeds, they tell God His Law of Sowing and Reaping is no longer valid. Our way is better than His. We know better than God. Back again to the sin of idolatry.

    Lately, I cringe when I hear “God poured out HIS wrath and punished Jesus for my sins. God punished the innocent for the guilty”. This is called Penal Substitutionary Atonement and I see a connection with the apathy about abuse. If people believe GOD PUNISHED the innocent for the guilty, and they tolerate it, are they not just reflecting the image of their “god”?

    “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Gal 6:7

    I’ve heard people say that this ONLY applies to those outside the church. I disagree. Christians are NOT saved from the wrath of God against sin:

    -our bodies die (a universally experienced consequence of sin)
    -If a Christian sins, they will suffer the consequences for it: Eph 5:6, Col 3:5-7, Gal 6:7-8, Romans 13:4

    We ARE SAVED from ourselves, from our own flesh. God does NOT judge us based on our “sins”. Christians are still sinners Look at David of the OT, renowned “man after God’s own heart” He was a horrible sinner…. and he paid the consequences, suffered the wrath for his sin YET, he was a man after God’s own heart.

    Our SIN is not the obstacle between us and God.
    Our independent choice to stay OUT of intimate relationship with Him, our refusal to crucify the flesh (Gal 5:24) and submit to having the image of God renewed in us. (Col 3:10) That is the problem.

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