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.

 

Lessons in Discerning False Victim Advocates

1Peter 5:2-3 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

In my last post, I showed you sermon outlines and a church position paper from a church that claims to be an advocate for victims of abuse. I stated in that post that a church that has the rules and policies outlined in those documents is most certainly not a church for victims to entrust themselves to. We continue to see far too many professing Christian organizations, pastors, local churches, counseling agencies and so on who claim to be experts on the issue of abuse and who energetically invite (or even require) victims to place themselves in their hands. We must be wise and not be duped. The visible church abounds in “nice” people, but far too often these nice ones turn out to be Pharisees who desire to exercise power and control that the Lord has not given them.

Here, once again, is the position paper which that same church (from my previous article) published. I encourage you to read through it again. Immediately following the document I have pasted in several comments which I received from abuse survivors and true abuse victim advocates. Those comments will help you see in more clarity why any supposed victim advocate agency that holds to such positions is not a resource to trust and in fact will, in the end, enable the abuser and further oppress the victim.

As I expected, I received loud outcries from those I criticized in my previous post, denying that what I said about them is true. But I have grown quite familiar with this kind of duplicity. I have seen it over and over again. Claiming one thing, but practicing something entirely different.

Here then, once more, is that position paper (from a church that claims to be a champion of abuse victims). I have included my own boldface to emphasize particularly revealing portions of this paper:

CHURCH DOCTRINAL ELDER PAPER

Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage

Prerequisites for Marriage

1. God’s design is for one man to be married to one woman, for life.
Gen. 1:27 …male and female He created them. Gen. 2:24 & Eph 5:31 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

2. The foundational requirement for Christian marriage is that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

3. A couple must have a pure relationship if they desire to know God’s will about marriage.

1 Thess. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

4. Those preparing for marriage should also be mature and responsible so that they can meet the appropriate biblical expectations of the partners in marriage.
Eph. 5:22-33 wives, be subject… Husbands, love your wives…

1 Tim. 5:8 But if any one does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse that an unbeliever.

Foundational Principles of Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage

1. Marriage was established by God to be a life-long, intimate, covenantal relationship between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18, 24; Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:17). Jesus issued a general guideline that what God joins together, man should not separate (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).

2. Christians must exhaust all biblical means to preserve their marriage. Permanence in the marriage relationship has been, and always will be, God’s ideal and intention.

3. While every divorce involves sin, not every divorce is sinful (Jeremiah 3:6-10; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:15; Jeremiah 31:31-32; Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

4. This pursuit of permanence may involve enduring a marriage that is less than God’s ideal (1 Corinthians 7:12-14, 16; 1 Peter 3:1-2). The desire for God’s glory must supersede one’s desire for comfort or happiness. This principle would not require someone to indefinitely endure unrepentant acts that constitute biblical grounds for divorce (see biblical grounds below). Decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the elders.

5. Divorce may be permissible, but is never commanded. Two believers should always be willing to pursue repentance and reconciliation as part of a life seeking to honor God.

6. Biblically allowed divorce implies the right before God to pursue biblical remarriage. They must seek the counsel and care of church leadership in this process.

7. In cases where Christians come to the church having already participated in unbiblical divorce or remarriage situations, the church will strive to provide compassionate counsel that will lead to personal understanding of these biblical principles, and a careful repentance for all involved.

Biblical Grounds for Divorce

Divorce is allowed for two reasons. Below are explanations of those two broad biblical categories.

1. Divorce is allowed in cases of unrepentant sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:8-9).

  • The “sexual immorality” referenced (Greek, porneia), is broader than adultery, and would include the litany of sexual sins listed in the Old Testament (specifically Leviticus 20:10-21).
  • This provision may also include other violations not specifically mentioned, but which are similar in nature. To constitute biblical grounds for divorce, the sexually deviant behavior of this kind must be continual and unrepentant.
  • Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.

2. Divorce is allowed when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage covenant (“unbelieving” may be determined by their profession, or through the application of church discipline).

  • The unbeliever leaves. First Corinthians 7:12-15 clearly teaches that when an unbelieving spouse “consents to live with” the believer, then the believer should remain married to them. When the unbelieving spouse separates/leaves, however, the believer is not bound to the marriage covenant.
  • The unbeliever says they want to, or are going to leave, but will not. An unbelieving spouse’s unwillingness to remain married (1 Corinthians 7:13-15) may be broader than physical separation or leaving. Repeated expression of resolve and/or desire to divorce, while not pursuing the good will of a mutually beneficial and healthy marriage, may also be not “consenting to live with.”
  • The unbeliever does not threaten leaving in any way, but live as though they have abandoned the marriage. There may be other extreme cases where church leaders determine that the unbelieving spouse has “effectively abandoned” the marriage covenant, although they do not pursue or express a
    desire to separate or divorce.
  • Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.

Now, here are a few comments abuse survivors and advocates sent to me in response to the first post:

  • Look at all the ‘shoulds and musts’ in this, and the mention of ‘church authority’ and ‘church discipline’. The victim is not permitted to make her own decisions.
  • Where is the scripture that says you must “entrust” yourself to church leadership? To God, yes, but the church elder board, just like the Pharisees of the time, did not have the authority to tell people if they could or could not get divorced. It’s not their place. (Abuse survivor/advocate)
  • You know, the Bible makes no clarification about a divorce taking place only when the adulterer is unrepentant. It only says divorce is allowed if there is adultery, period. So all these additions they make about being unrepentant are the Pharisees making additions of their own man made traditions and doctrines. (Abuse survivor)
  • The Bible also makes no clarifying statements about the leaders or Church making those decisions for a believer about abusive marriages. None! It’s all additions by power hungry leaders taking control of believers’ lives. (Abuse survivor)

My last post also included two sermon outlines from messages preached by the pastors of this same church. Here is a portion of one of those outlines to refresh your memory, followed by a very insightful comment by an abuse survivor and professional counselor. You will notice here that the very same theme laid out in the position paper continues to rear up in this pastor’s teaching – that victims must not make decisions for themselves but are required to put themselves under the “care and counsel” of the pastors:

Sermon outline-

  1. Individuals should put themselves under the care and counsel of godly shepherds
  2. Church leadership must understand and respond properly to abuse
    • Scripture requires God’s people to protect the innocent sufferer, and to seek justice toward the oppressor (Psa. 82:3-4; Psa. 10)
    • God-given authorities exist to bring justice where it is needed (Rom. 13:1-4)
    • Discernment must be used to measure and apply principles of repentance, confession, forgiveness, and accountability
  3. Victims must understand and respond properly to abuse
    • To not “cry out” ignores God’s desire for justice, and neglects God’s provision and protection for you and others
    • The abused must overcome fear, and entrust themselves to God and those called to protect and care for them

And here is the victim survivor/professional counselor’s comment:

I have a problem with statements like this: “Discernment must be used to measure and apply principles of repentance, confession, forgiveness, and accountability.” Yes, their discernment usually means and they go by how the abuser presents himself to them (fake). Also, after they said all that, then they offer the only two biblical reasons for divorce! And abuse isn’t included, so they would be compassionate and offer “care and counsel,” but not authorize (which of course they don’t have the authority to do) divorce for abuse. Very cleverly worded on their part to look like they are advocates for victims.

We must be wise. Professing Christians – pastors, elders, church members, counselors, etc – so often present themselves as experts who are wiser than we are, who are appointed by God to rule over us, as people who claim to “care,” when in fact the authority they are claiming has not been given to them by God at all. Such people are quite capable of displaying a kind, caring, knowledgeable appearance, but only later do we find out that in fact they intend to enslave us.

The local church does indeed have authority – the authority of Christ. But notice that virtually all of the authoritative statements in this position paper and in these sermon outlines, apply to the abuse victim, not to the abuser. In fact, the authority of the local church to deal with abuse in its midst (as with all sin by professing brethren) applies to the abuser, to the wicked! It is the evil man who falsely claims to be a Christian who is to be put out of the church. That is genuine authority (see 1 Cor 5). But this church focuses on what the innocent must do, the authority the victim must submit to.

Finally, in any claim to be a true advocate of abuse victims and justice-seeker in regard to abusers, a church like this that is associated with John MacArthur, Jr. needs to openly break with MacArthur’s longstanding position and teaching that abuse is not grounds for divorce. And any past wrong dealings with victims and abusers needs to be humbly confessed and repented of before I would begin to think that just perhaps such a church is on the right track to genuine advocacy for the oppressed and abused.