Church is supposed to be a safe place of support and encouragement in the things of God. We should be able to throw off the facades and lay it all bare without fear of condemnation and judgment from others so that we might approach the Lord for healing and encourage one another.
Before I get into this, I understand that there are good pastors and churches that are growing faith-filled Christians. However, if we are all honest with ourselves, we can see that such are in the minority, and to claim that all is well within today’s Christendom is not true. However, God is in control and it is He who will judge these things, so we should be at peace, remain patient, and trust in the Lord.
How abuse within the church affects our view of God
People seeking Jesus with sincerity already know they are broken because of their sins. They want to find comfort and support. They eagerly listen for guidance that will help them live more meaningful lives as they strive to grow into better people. These are vulnerable people, and vulnerable people are often easily taken advantage of.
There are so many problems that it’s hard to narrow down. In my attempts, I want to tell you a story that reflects what many of the Lord’s flock have to endure in church today. If you understand, whether you are a minister or a congregant that is abusing others, please consider how you might be damaging God’s people.
A little lamb heard God calling, but he did not know where the pasture was. He had heard that church was the pasture where he would find the Good Shepard. This lamb went into a local church, heard a few hymns, then got beaten to a pulp as the pastor cherry-picks the bible and harps over certain outward sins—sins which this lamb struggles with. After this, the limping little lamb hobbles over to a gathering of teeth-bearing wolves who snicker and gossip, thanking God that they do not commit such terrible sins. Others scurry off in a hurry to watch their sporting events or get back to the world. They did their duty for the week by sitting in church.
What is left for the broken sheep of the Lord? Instead of being fed, nurtured, and given support, he was beaten, mocked, glared at, and driven further away from God because he couldn’t live up to the self-righteous standards of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
This starving and bleeding sheep goes out to another pasture, and this time the message seems more positive. Everyone is accepting as the pastor perverts the grace of God, makes light of sin, and encourages prosperity in this world. This hungry sheep might realize that this food is poison and limps away, or it might fall for the trap and before it’s aware becomes snared by “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.”
If the little lamb manages to escape, he might wonder into a congregation that seems to know holy ways of The Good Shepard. They lovingly accept the broken sheep and offer it a little taste of bread to eat. However, they take the little lamb and pile law after law on top if it, regulating the way the sheep eats, dresses, and worships—without leading him to the Good Shepard who will carry that load for him and heal his wounds.
If this broken, beaten, starving, and exhausted lamb manages to escape these things, he might turn aside from traditional church altogether and start looking for something else. If any faith remains at all, there are plenty of “prophets” and “watchmen” out there who are more than willing to step in and make it all better. They have all the answers. They are the real Christians. Catch is, you have to bow to their ways and forsake all others. The lamb is so broken and fearful that he just might fall for it, then he ends up carrying the heaviest loads of all, becomes an accuser of the brethren, and forgets the patience of Jesus Christ.
These are just some of the forms of abuse found among churches today: hateful accusations, hypocrisy, self-righteous indignation, oppressive regulations, slavery to this world, and slavery to a perverted form of righteousness.
How might Jesus react today?
Where is the gospel today? Seriously! Sure, we all “see God through a dark glass,” and the Lord is merciful and understands that we will be wrong about him. Even so, we have the written word of God, Jesus who is The Word, and the Holy Spirit of God that shows us how to live according to the word. Why then, when we have everything we need to be fully-fed and obedient sheep are we more like ravenous wolves and dying, limping lambs that never grow into maturity?
As of now, God is dealing patiently with all churches until the work of this present age of the creation is complete. However, there will come a time of judgment, and not because of the unbelieving world as we might like to say, but because the salt is losing its savor and the lights are going out. Christians are not living the gospel, loving others as they should, and bringing glory to God so that the world can know Him. This is not good. The mercy of the Lord is true. However, there will come a day of his wrath (The Lord’s Day), and it will begin at the houses of God.
However, I do believe that we will again see a pouring out of the Holy Spirit before this happens, and many will repent and turn back to the Lord in truth, ready to make a stand and lay their lives down rather than worship Antichrist. As things stand now, most would not make it. If we cannot walk in the ways of the Lord in a time of prosperity, how will we when tribulation comes? Without divine intervention, we will not—and I believe the scriptures indicate that the lord will “recover the remnant of his people,” so there is hope.
What would Jesus say to victims of abuse within the church?
If you have faith in Jesus, this was given to you from God. True faith will lead to freedom from the things that destroy your life as the grace of the Lord forgives your sins and teaches you how to overcome. There are many churches that have fallen away, and they don’t even know it. They think that because their ministers went to seminary and learned the traditions of men, are educated, and have other “credentials” that men value, they are getting valuable information.
However, God does not work according to what mankind says is valuable. There are ministers out there who will lead the flock, even in these days. These are likely ex addicts, ex criminals, ex abusers, and others who understand what it means to need The Physician. These are humble, loving, and encouraging—not oppressive, self-righteous, proud, and rich in the things of this world. However, many of these will have to learn to divest themselves (by the grace of Jesus) of the traditions they have learned in order to more effectively lead the flock by teaching the full gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you’re having a difficult time finding fellowship, come to Jesus and read your bible. Ask him what the gospel means. Let no one judge you in how you praise the Lord—even how you observe the sabbath day. “one man honors one day above the rest, one man honors every day alike.” Which do you suppose is growing in the faith and honoring God? The one who does his duty by going to church, or the one who seeks to conform the image of Christ—which is often hindered by many churches today?
If you want to go to church, that’s all well and good. However, do not assume that your minister is infallible. Study for yourself and learn to be a living example of the gospel. Seek to your own salvation and do not be discouraged by the corruption found among church and Christians today.
Lastly, God alone is the judge. Tempting as it might be, avoid many of the online ministries today that accuse Christians as being false. These might appear as a God-send, but they are nothing more than prideful, devil-filled people who want to appear as something great or be worshiped themselves.
What would Jesus say to abusers within the church?
Ministers and Christians that pick and choose sins while ignoring others are hypocrites as the Pharisees, and they will face judgment unless they turn to the truth. Ministers that preach worldly prosperity are idolaters that will face judgment unless they repent. Ministers that do a lot of works and appear loving, but lay on a lot of laws and oppression will face judgment unless they repent. Ministers that claim to be prophets and set themselves up as judges are accusers of the brethren, and they will be destroyed.
Read Revelation 2-3. Those are the warnings to the “churches.”
Wrapping Things Up
It is in the nature of man to be abusive and to be victimized once abused. It is a seemingly never-ending cycle that can damage our view of God, our relationship with Christ, and cause us to harm those we love.
As Christians, the greatest commandment and all the laws of the kingdom of God are centered around one thing: love. If the love of the Lord is in us, we will be changed in incredible ways that free us from the affects of abuse—whether during childhood, within relationships, or from within the church. We will also learn how to stop being abusive, both physically and emotionally by the power of Jesus changing our natures into conformity with is love, mercy, and forgiveness.
When we are honest with ourselves, all of us have been abusive and we have all be victims of abuse. No sin and no pain is too much for the Almighty. Turn to Him and you will be lead to the green pastures of Jesus Christ—a present-day and future-coming kingdom of God where love abounds and peace overflows. Believe in the gospel. Grow in the faith. Lay hold of the promises. Be FREE INDEED!
This is part 3 of a 3-part series entitled, “When Abuse Affects Our View of God.” This is a sub-series within “For Christians Abused by Christians.”