Beware the Typical Distortion of the Biblical Doctrine of Accountability

Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1Pe 4:4-5 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; (5) but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The Bible plainly teaches that all of us are accountable. Ultimately of course this accountability is to God, but He has commissioned certain overseers in this world such as the civil authorities (see Romans 13). Pastors and elders in local churches are to watch over the souls of the flock, remembering that THEY must one day give an account to the Chief Shepherd as to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness in this oversight. Woe to those who abuse His sheep!

So it is not my point in this article to throw the infant out with the dirty bath water and cast away any and all sort of accountability. We are accountable. Children to parents. Citizens to the law. Employees to employers. And Christians, understood the right way, to one another. It is this latter example of accountability I want to focus on here.

Twenty or thirty years ago it seemed that the evangelical church was all abuzz with this thing called “accountability.” Every church had “accountability groups” to which every member was assigned, like it or not. You had to meet regularly and “give account” of how good or bad you were doing in you Christian life. This “accounting” process was taught as a biblical doctrine and verses like this were thrown out there as proof:

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Christians are indeed accountable to the body of Christ. There is a proper, biblical authority given to the local church for the healthy oversight of the flock. The man in Corinth who claimed to be a Christian but who was sleeping with his stepmother was it? – well, he was to be immediately booted from the church. We are accountable to the Lord for how we live, and thus we are accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this regard as well.

But this truth about accountability is very typically perverted and used by false shepherds and other evil people to gain power and control over others that the Lord has never given them. This malignant form of “accountability” does great harm.

For example, let’s say you are a member of a local church and Fred, a fellow in the church who is regarded by the masses as a “pillar,” comes up to you and offers to “disciple” you. “We all need accountability you know,” Fred tells you. “If we are going to grow in Christ then we need to be accountable to one another.” And so it begins. Fred gets his hooks in. It sounds so believable, but in fact the Lord has never called us to be accountable TO FRED! To the true church, yes. To the Lord, yes. But I don’t recall seeing Fred’s name in the list.

If you have read my books and blog posts over the years you have probably heard me tell of one experience I had with just such a “Fred” who used to be in a leadership position in our church. My wife and I were able to finally purchase our own home rather than live in the church parsonage as we had for years. We looked and looked and finally found the place we live in now (this was nearly 20 years ago).

Well, this “Fred” didn’t like it. He saw this as a challenge to the control he wanted to have over “the pastor.” And he also saw it as an opportunity for him to put on his typical “super-saint” act in front of others. So, at the next church board meeting, Fred said “Pastor, you are moving 16 miles away from the church building. You are distancing yourself from the congregation. And now you are going to be ‘down there’ with no accountability. Why, you will have the internet there and no one to hold you accountable.”

If I had the wisdom I have now, I would have stopped the meeting right there, put a spotlight on Fred, and challenged all the other board members to think carefully about what Fred had just said and what his motive was in saying those things and he would have been reproved in front of everyone. But I didn’t fully understand Fred at that time. I thought he was just another one of those too typical “difficult people.” He wasn’t. He was an evil man out to enslave and control others for his own self-glory, in the name of “accountability.”

Wicked people (some are women as well) love to use this accountability business as a tool for enslaving others. And as you think it through biblically, you begin to see that the Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Lord Jesus, his way illumined by the Word, does not need some other human being in a weekly meeting running him through a checklist of questions, in order to walk in holiness. Yes, we meet together as a church to encourage one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10), but the spirit of fear has been cast out when we came to know Christ and instead we experience the Spirit of adoption as sons.

At best, these accountability gurus are rank legalists who do not know the grace of God in Christ. At worst they are out and out wolves prowling around looking for sheep to devour, agents of the evil one.

So beware. Beware this accountability business. As far as I can see, the large majority of it is false, unbiblical, and harmful teaching parading as Scripture but in fact is the mere creation of man.

 

We do Not Really Understand What it Means to “Bear One Another’s Burdens”

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This is a verse of Scripture that is frequently quoted but almost never truly understood. The typical dealings of a local church with a victim of evil proves that this is the case. Let me explain.

Most all of you who follow this blog have been targeted by evil – by abuse of some type (domestic, spiritual, sexual, etc). You were there. The abuser abused YOU. The abuser hated and hates YOU. It was YOU who had to deal with him. It was YOU who had to expose him, confront him, report him, protect yourself and your children from him. YOU had to do all this. YOU were the one who was there.

And yet what happened when you went to your pastor, your church, your fellow church members, for help? I can tell you because this is what almost always happens:

  • You heard your abuser excused or at least his sins minimized
  • You heard people remind you that “you are a sinner too” (a lie by the way. The Christian is not perfect, but is no longer classed as a “sinner” by God)
  • You saw people seem to show some empathy toward you, and yet they continued to associate with your abuser
  • While YOU could not tolerate being in the presence of your abuser without being re-traumatized, your fellow Christians continue on visiting with him and often even attending church with him still seated in the pews.

Such “friends” have failed to do what Paul says is the fulfillment of the Law of God. They have failed to truly extend genuine love toward you because they have failed to bear your burden. Why?

They failed because they think they know. They think that they understand what you have gone through at the hands of the evil one. But they do not know. They do not understand. And really, they don’t want to. It is too troubling and unpleasant.

If we are going to bear the burdens of victims of evil, then WE are going to have listen to them very, very closely. WE are going to have learn about how this kind of evil works. WE must put their shoes on and walk in their steps and do our best to understand just what it means to be THE target of abuse. And until you understand that, you will fail to fulfill the Law of Christ. You will continue to have no real problem attending a church service with the victim’s oppressor. You will have no real trouble chatting with the abuser when you run into him in the grocery store. Worse, you will piously preach at the victim – “come on! Move on! Quit reflecting on the past. Forgive.” – and other such whitewashed tomb talk.

Tell me, you who are comfortable in the presence of a wicked, oppressing person? Tell me. Why? How is it that anyone can truly understand the evil worked upon a victim (who YOU claim to “love”) and still be comfortable in the presence of that evil? Let me answer for you – you cannot. You do not. And until you do, you are failing to fulfill the Law of Christ. You are not loving the widows and orphans.

And God sees it all.

Reject the “Politician” Pastor

Job 32:21 I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person.

Psa 5:9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

Psa 36:2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.

Years ago when I was still a relatively new pastor there was a man and his wife in our church who had appeared on the scene, looking as if they were “God’s gift” to our church. I mean, they read the devotional “Our Daily Bread” EVERY morning. Their life’s energies were focused on “serving the Lord,” which they did primarily through youth and music ministries. Everyone assumed that they were the finest Christians to be found.

Over the years we found out very differently – and that would be a long story with many chapters if I were to tell it to you. But I wanted to focus specifically in this post about one particular event I experienced under the hands of these people.

They were BIG on “community involvement.” As they became leaders in our church they were right in the middle of our efforts to establish a new church in a neighboring community. And in that process they pressured me to “get active in the community” to increase our exposure. Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, that kind of thing.

I didn’t. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing something like this as a pastor, but in my experience over the years all that those kinds of things do is produce “Jeff converts.” That is to say, people may come to your church and even become members, but as the time goes by, more often than not, all that you have in the end is people who are present simply because they “like the pastor.”

I took other stands as well. I would not participate in the local “ministerial” fellowship of pastors. (I have found those in every case to be dens of compromising Christ’s truth). And this is what precipitated the incident that is the main focus of this post.

This couple came to me and the husband said, “Jeff, if you are going to be a successful pastor, then you are going to have to become a better politician.”

What did he mean by that? He meant that I needed to stop taking stands on my convictions. He meant that I needed to start compromising truth. To stop offending people by being too plain-speaking with them. That way, the numbers of people coming to the new church would increase and (of course this is the excusing justification for his politics statement) “then they can hear about Jesus and be saved.”

Christ has no place for politicians in the ranks of His servants. I don’t mean by that that anyone who serves in political office is going to hell!! (One does get that impression sometimes of course). No, what I mean is that Christ calls His servants to speak truth, no matter what. To preach the uncompromised gospel which is (Romans 1) God’s power for salvation. And the preaching of that gospel includes the announcement of God’s wrath against man’s sin (Romans 1, again). Most politicians do not put the truth right out there most of the time. They speak in words that flatter. They equivocate (say one thing in words that sound like something else). In other words, they withhold truth.

In the church, this means that sinners are not called to account. They are….flattered. Their ears are tickled. And guess what? Evil ones become very comfortable in the pews, even as behind the scenes they carry out their campaign of abusing wickedness against their oppressed victims. That is to say, the politician pastor is the ally of evil. We certainly do not get the “politician pastor” model from Christ:

Mat 15:12-14 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (13) He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. (14) Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

 

 

 

Just STOP Saying “We Are All Sinners” – STOP IT!!

1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I cannot fully convey to you how absolutely sick and tired I am of hearing this line from people who claim they are Christians. “Well, you know, we are all sinners.” Let me explain why this not only nauseates me, it makes me boiling mad.

I detest false piety. It’s what the hypocrite does. A showy disguise of “godliness” – or so they would have us think. And that is exactly what this motto is. It is a lie, disguised as humble, saintly, biblical, godliness and worse – it is a lie that is used to:

  • Minimize the sin of the wicked (like an abuser)
  • Guilt and shame the righteous who are the target of the wicked
  • Justify doing absolutely nothing in the face of evil

Let me illustrate. I will try to disguise the culprits, though I don’t really know why I should. Here is Janet. You probably already know her story. Janet has been married for 30 years. She is a true Christian, but she has been soooo confused not only by the deceiving tactics of her abuser husband (who claims to be a Christian and loves to quote Scriptures to her) but also by the false teachings of her church. As Janet begins to sort through the confusing fog of all this, she finally approaches her “friend” Margaret (you know, the kind of “friend” who it turns out you need to steer clear of).

“Margaret,” my husband is not who you and everyone thinks he is. He is not the saintly, serving, godly man he appears to be. Let me tell you what he is really like and what it is like to live with him.” And so Janet shares part of her story.

Now, Margaret, for numbers of reasons (none of which are good) begins to churn inside as she works to process what she is hearing. Her world is threatened and she doesn’t want her world rocked. Too costly to her. So, when Janet is finished, Margaret gives her some “Christian words of wisdom” – “Well, Janet, none of us are perfect. We are all sinners. You need to be patient and loving all the more.” Margaret feels so warm and fuzzy inside. She has been a fine Christian in all this you know.

What is the reality however? The truth is that what Margaret has just done is right out of the pit. It is a conniving, evil tidbit of distorted doctrine invented by man, never taught by God’s Word. Margaret has just blamed and shamed Janet, the victim, and enabled and protected the wicked. Margaret is an ally of evil.

The Bible NEVER teaches us that Christians are sinners. Never. We were. We used to be. We were born into this world fallen in Adam. By nature:

Eph 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (2) in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– (3) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

BUT…. BUT GOD!!!

Eph 2:4-6 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– (6) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

The Christian is a child of God, a saint, a holy one, beloved of God, a new creation, and on and on the titles for us go. We are still battling our fallen flesh, but that is not who we are anymore.

Gal 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Notice the “you” very carefully (boldfaced). Who are YOU, Christian?  YOU are the one who wants to walk in the Spirit. Those are the things YOU want to do. YOU are not defined as a person any longer by the flesh. The Bible says this over and over again:

Rom 8:4-9 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (5) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (6) For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Therefore, when some supposed Christian like Margaret says “Well, we are all sinners you know. You need to forgive him. You are just as bad as him in God’s sight…” they are denying Christ. They are denying and rejecting the gospel. They are saying that a true Christian walks in the flesh but is still on his way to heaven. They are saying that the Christian is just as evil as the wicked abuser, deceiver, liar, child of Satan.

So if you are using this line, repent of it! Go to the person you shamed and guilted with it and ask their forgiveness. Get your head screwed on straight and start thinking biblically.

And perhaps be reminded of this:

Isa 5:20-21 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (21) Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

A Few More Thoughts on “The Happy Church”

I recently posted the article Beware the Happy Church and add some additional thoughts this morning. Consider again the following:

1Co 11:20-30 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. (21) For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. (22) What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (23) For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, (24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (25) In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

(27) Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. (28) Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (30) That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Let me suggest to you that what was going on at Corinth was “the Happy Hour” church. Party time. Here is a line you often hear from the pulpit of such a “church” nowadays: “What a wonderful place this is. So many exciting things happening. The Lord is doing mighty things here.” Such statements are made to tickle the ears of the flock and promote continued numerical growth. But what is the real state of affairs in the Happy Hour “church”? I can tell you:

1Co 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

That is to say, the Happy Hour church is full of sin. That is why the numbers are increasing so rapidly. It isn’t the Lord’s work at all. There is another spirit behind the scenes parading as an angel of light.

Lest you think I am just oh so negative, let me tell you what you will find if you were a fly on the wall in such a place. There are men abusing their wives in those pews. There are unrepentant adulterers parading as saints. There are egos looking to be stroked. Like Diotrephes (3 John) they “serve the Lord” in order to be “first” above everyone else. There are unsaved people being told they are Christians even though they walk in sin, having no desire for the real truths of God’s Word. I know of these things. I have lived in it for over 35 years now, watching. And everyone is happy, happy, happy. You know the line – “what did you expect in the church. We are all imperfect people serving a perfect God.” Thus most all evil is legitimized and excused and anyone trying to expose the real state of affairs is a threat to the happiness spirit.

Evil thrives in the happy church. It flourishes. It preaches “forgiveness” at its victims (“we are all sinners, you know”) and minimizes and excuses the oppressors. It is Laodicea all over again:

Rev 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Do not expect justice from the happy church. You won’t get it. Don’t expect the happy hour folks to interrupt their party with your case and hear you. And generally I advise – do not try to change the happy church. You will only bring misery upon yourself casting pearls before pork. Shake the dust off your shoes and move along. No real Jesus to see here. Keep moving. Perhaps the Lord Himself will intervene as He did at Corinth. Maybe some will be weak and sick. And maybe even a number of them will “sleep.” Maybe, just maybe, that will get their attention so that finally they say-

Isa 6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Beware the “Happy” Church

1Co 11:28-30 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (30) That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Heb 12:28-29 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, (29) for our God is a consuming fire.

The church that I have been the pastor of for the last 25 years used to be what appeared on the outside as “a happy place.” A happening music program, pretty full sanctuary, committees, “testimony time,” and so on. The people bragged on it. In reality however, as was soon apparent, what looked so “happy” on the outside was full of corruption on the inside. Sin. Lots of it. These “happy Christians” hated one another, sought personal fame in their “ministries,” had the freedom to be as foul-mouthed in their weekly lives as they wanted, and on and on it went.

When I began to confront the hypocrisy, or rather when God’s Word began to expose it, the fangs came out. I remember one “pillar” telling me “we have always been known to the community as the happy, family church. Now you have ruined it all!”

“Happy” churches are the friend of evil. “Happy” churches are the abuser’s ally. The main thing is that the main thing always remain the main thing. And what is the main thing? That everyone is happy, happy, happy. Don’t go talking about evil – nope. And don’t preach on the searing holiness of God – uhuh. That ruins the happy.

Recently I saw a church web page that I had some contact with and so I went over there to take a look. I go to the pastor’s page first of course. It tells a lot more than the so-called doctrinal statement (which can sound quite orthodox when in fact the truths stated there are in reality not believed). Here is the pastor’s favorite slogan:

I like to call our church the happy church. And we celebrate happy hour every Sunday morning.

Yep. You can’t make this stuff up.

Now, what do you suppose is going to happen in a happy church when an abuse victim steps forward and reveals that her husband, the head deacon in Happyville, has in fact been wickedly abusing her for decades? Let me tell you:

She will be seen as a threat to happy time. Admitting to the presence of evil in the pews is an unpleasant business. Facing up to the fact that the head deacon has duped everyone and is an emissary of the devil is just, well, grievous. It takes smiles off faces. Therefore, happiness must be maintained. The victim must be silenced. Her story is to be disregarded, and if she cannot jump back onto the happy wagon, she is going to have to take her story about evil and hit the road.

The Christian is a joyous person. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. But joy is vastly different from the “happy” that this pastor is talking about. Joy rejoices and one of the things it rejoices over is justice. Christ’s people hunger and thirst for righteousness. They grieve over evil and the Spirit within them yearns to expose it and deal with it as God does. Real joy is not in conflict with the confession that our God is to be approached with reverence and awe, because He is a consuming fire. Some of the Corinthians thought they could party on and turn the Lord’s table into happy hour. They thought wrongly. The Lord struck them. He struck some of them dead. How happy, happy, happy do you think the church was then? About as happy as when Ananias and Sapphira were struck down for lying to the Holy Spirit.

Act 5:11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

The happy church is no friend of Christ. It is no friend of the oppressed. It IS a friend of the wicked. Have no part in it. It is not the body of Christ.

Spotting the Wicked by Watching for their Unguarded Moments

1Ti 5:24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you know that the Klingons have a device on their ships called a cloaking device. It makes the ship invisible, though just before they fire their weapons they have to turn it off. They become visible at that point, but for the skilled observer, sometimes the cloaked ship causes a kind of wavy irregularity in space as it is viewed on Captain Kirk’s screen and might be just enough to give away the enemy’s presence.

But you have to be watching, carefully.

The wicked expend large amounts of energy moment by moment maintaining their cloaking device – especially if they are one of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that creep into Christ’s church. Think about it. How much effort does it take to put on a disguise and keep it on, presenting yourself as someone you are not? Quite a lot. All wicked, ungodly people do this to some extent, though not always to keep their cloaking device energized. As Paul writes in Romans 1, all men know God exists and that He is the Creator, but they refuse to honor Him or give Him thanks. Instead, they suppress the truth. And that “suppressing” is like having to constantly hold down a spring lest it spring up into full view.

People who cloak themselves with a disguise inevitably slip at times. Their guard drops in an unguarded moment. The “oh ever so nice” pastor snaps at someone for making a mistake. The quintessential holy saint church member scowls at his wife and speaks to her in a tone of voice you have never heard emanate from him before. The famous “christian” celebrity women’s speaker who has cranked out book after book and can’t keep up with the conference circuit she is demanded by, turns to one of her team members just before going to the podium, gives her an ugly look of disgust, then smilingly and with a saintly air walks to the podium to the adoring crowd’s applause.

See it? You can spot the wicked. The wolf’s sheep disguise isn’t perfect all the time. It slips. There is a waviness in space that betrays who he really is. And if you are wise to this reality about evil, you will be able to spot him. Sometimes the slip is so subtle that it only gives you more of a “feeling” than an objective, measurable “I saw him do such and such” that you can describe in detail. DO NOT IGNORE WHAT YOU SEE IN THE UNGUARDED MOMENTS. Do not just explain your observations away as your imagination. Rather, take careful note and realize that most probably “all is not what it appears to be here.”

Do not be duped. And do not be one of the many who simply “pooh-pooh” it away. “Oh no. It couldn’t be. It’s nothing.” And then such people turn right around and when a victim of the evil man tries to tell them he is not what he appears to be, and say “Oh, come on. Look at him. No one is perfect. He is a fine Christian. You are being way to judgmental.”

If you do that, you become the ally of the wicked.

We Must Understand What Reviling is and What the Reviler Looks Like

Luk 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.

1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I have written several times before about this matter of the reviler, but it is so important of a subject that it bears repeating quite often. A reviler is a person who villifies others. That is, the reviler accuses others and makes them the villain. Villification is to accuse and slander and charge someone with evil, but very typically the word is used in the context of false accusations. And that is what we have in Scripture. A reviler is a person who assaults others with his tongue, who makes false accusations, who guilts and shames his targeted victim.

Now first of all notice carefully from the above verses that a reviler is not a Christian. Nope. Not. The thing is impossible. Some Christians used to be revilers, but once they were washed clean by faith in Christ they revile no more.

Notice also that the worst revilers in Scripture – such as the Pharisees – were quite religious. They claimed to be the people of God. And so it is today. Revilers hide in the visible church, disguised by a facade of saintliness. They are quite deceptive and intentionally do their share of what we call “crazy-making.”

Let me give you some examples.

Bob is a reviler. He is also a church leader. A Bible study teacher. He is viewed by most everyone as a very zealous and “holy” Christian. And yet there is something about Bob that is evident to at least a few of his fellow church members. Bob can be smiling and very helpful, a real servant you know. He can participate with you in an interesting theological discussion. But then, in some unexpected way and time, Bob blasts you. He might say things like this:

  • You should not have bought your new house. It is too far away from the church building and you have no accountability.
  • You were not patient enough with that man who verbally attacked you. You need to show him GRACE! for pete’s sake. (the caps indicate a virtual shouting volume by Bob)
  • You are not being kind enough to so and so.
  • I know what you are thinking about doing and I think it is wrong.
  • I remember when you….

And on and on we could go. You get the idea. Bob is a reviler. Revilers accuse. Revilers make other people (never themselves) the villain. Why does the reviler revile? Because like all abusers he craves power and control over his targeted subjects. He lusts to be numero uno and wants to be seen and praised by others for his zeal. And he likes to keep you off guard so that you are easier to control. After all, if you don’t realize Bob is a reviler by his very nature, if you think he is a genuine Christian who happens to be a bit difficult at times, then you are not going to be able to expose Bob for what he really is.

Revilers keep us down. They load us up with shame and false guilt. They make us believe that we are the problem and that we really just don’t measure up to Bob’s level of sanctity. Therefore, the Lord commands us to be wise, to know a reviler when we see them, and put them out from among us, having nothing to do with them.

Otherwise, I can assure you, you will continue to keep getting in the traumatic train wreck the “Bobs” around us love to cause, and there will never be true peace in our lives or in our church if we keep Bob around.

Shame, Inferiority Thinking, and Victims

1Co 12:20-25 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (22) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (23) and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, (24) which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, (25) that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Over the years as I have worked with victims of abuse – the majority of whom are Christians – I have seen a very damaging dynamic at work with some frequency. Victims of domestic or sexual or some other brand of evil we call abuse often find themselves loaded down with shame. They regard themselves as damaged goods, inferior to other people who have never known abuse.

  • As a Christian, my marriage was supposed to last a lifetime and be a model to others. It was in fact a horror of horrors
  • Perhaps some of the accusations my abuser made toward me contain some truth
  • Unlike others, I was foolish and allowed myself to be duped by evil
  • My children were harmed and, unlike other people’s kids, still bear the scars

This is how the thinking goes. I am sure that abuse survivors could easily add to this list, but you get the idea. Shame. Guilt. Seeing yourself as inferior to others and therefore, generally, unwanted.

I think that the Apostle Paul had this kind of thing in mind when he wrote the Scripture above. There were people in the church who did not possess the more visible spiritual gifts others had and who (perhaps helped along by the sinful arrogance of others) were tempted to regard themselves as unneeded, inferior, and unwanted. This kind of thinking, says Paul, is entirely false.

Using the human body as an analogy of the church, Paul reminds us that every real Christian is indwelt by the SAME Spirit, and that all spiritual gifts are given for the very same purpose – the building up of the church to the glory of Christ. No one is inferior. No one is to be ashamed or feel as if they are not needed. Consider, for instance (as Paul reasons) the little finger, or little toe. Small parts in comparison to say the nose or eyes or hand and yet without them, the body would not be complete. And when any part is hurting – well, have you ever smashed your little toe? The whole body suffers.

And there are body parts that are not seen (at least where there is proper modesty, something increasingly lacking in our day). But are those members that are out of sight therefore unimportant and unneeded? Let’s see, without them there would be no human reproduction – and you can think of other examples yourself.

When an abuse survivor is weighted down with guilt and shame and sees themselves as rather worthless in comparison to others, relationship problems crop up. How long, for instance, are we going to last in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are overcome with these kinds of false ideas?

  • She thinks she is better than me, and maybe she is
  • No one wants me
  • My presence causes people to think about what happened to me and they really don’t want to
  • This church would be better off without me

These thoughts are not from Him who called us! They are from the enemy. They are based on the false notion that anyone who is targeted and victimized by an evil person is weak, foolish, marred, and broken. But Christ Himself had all kinds of evil abuse hurled His way. So did all the Apostles and in fact the Bible makes it plain that ANY true Christian is most certainly going to be abused by the enemy. Really then, we are ALL in the same boat.

  • So perhaps we have our thinking all turned around on this thing. While not all of us are going to be targeted by a full-blown sociopath abuser, anyone who stands for Christ in this evil world is going to be abused. And if we are thinking that a person who is so abused is somehow second rate or inferior, then we need to get our heads screwed on 180 degrees opposite to what they are!

Mat 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Wicked Blame Everyone but Themselves

Mal 1:6-7 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ (7) By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised.

If you have dealt with thoroughly evil people – domestic abusers, sociopaths, rank hypocrites who claim to be Christians but do not know the Lord – then you know that they never accept blame for their sins. They always blame others – particularly their victims.

You see this very thing here in Malachi. The wicked are such deceivers that they even deceive themselves, entering into contention with God! “How have we despised your name?” “How have we polluted you?” Here is another example:

Mal 2:13-14 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. (14) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

And still another:

Pro 30:20 This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”

Over and over and over we see this pattern, and if we are going to be wise in regard to evil then we had better thoroughly understand that this is how the wicked operate. Accusing. Blaming. Guilting. Everyone but themselves.

Here is an evil man who habitually, deceptively, and horribly abuses his wife. Oh, he claims to be a Christian and people at church think he is just the most saintly fellow around. So when his wickedness percolates to the surface – perhaps when his victim comes forward and asks for help – very few want to believe her. And even if, over the course of time, the evidence piles up so that the hypocrite is obviously exposed for what he is, what happens inevitably is that those who have to deal with him end up being the ones primarily blamed.

  • They weren’t gracious enough
  • They didn’t forgive him
  • They didn’t handle things as we think they should have
  • They told the whole church and should have kept it confidential
  • Etc, etc, etc

Here you are, perhaps a church elder or a counselor or a pastor or perhaps just the victim’s friend. This evil abuse comes to the surface. It has to be dealt with. Now, unless you are a phony yourself, or a coward, you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Justice must be done. And so you act. Well guess what? The abuser and his allies will now move their sights to YOU! Count on it. The thing is certain.

This shifts blame, you see, off the truly guilty one and puts the focus on others. We see it in the news every single day. An evil criminal is out doing his evil – perhaps even murdering people – and the police catch him. What happens? Soon loud outcries are pouring out of people against the police. Everyone seems to have short term amnesia, forgetting the fact that – “hey, this all started with the criminal! The police didn’t create the situation. They just had to deal with it.”

And so it is when we confront the wicked who are oppressing victims. It happens in the local church all the time (at least in churches where evil is truly exposed and dealt with as the Lord commands). Pretty soon the focus shifts from the wicked man to the victims and to those who did not ask to have to deal with the situation but who are charged with doing so. Now they are being blamed and the real culprit loves it.

There are many people who hate me. Why? Because as a pastor myself and our elders had to deal with evildoers. They didn’t like how we dealt with them. Which is to say, by the way, they didn’t liked that we DID deal with them! Soon, people started listening to their outcries. “They didn’t handle this right. They should have…they should not have…they were too harsh…” and on and on.

But the reality is…what? The evildoer is the one who started the whole thing with his wickedness.

Do righteousness and you will have nothing to fear. Walk in evil and you have no complaint about how you are dealt with.

Rom 13:3-4 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, (4) for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.