Why is Our Default Tendency to Focus on “Fixing” the Evil Person Rather than Helping His Victim?

Deu 13:6-10 “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, (7) some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, (8) you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. (9) But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. (10) You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

If you have experienced being the target of a wicked person – a domestic abuser, sexual abuser, sociopath, narcissist, etc. – or if you have followed the stories of abuse victims then you know what I am about to say here is absolutely true. Here it is:

When a case of abuse is exposed, there may initially be some short-lived empathy for the victim, but quite soon the focus of most people familiar with the case will shift. It will shift from the victim to the abuser. It is the evil one who is pitied, counseled, prayed for, and even comforted. And when the victim refuses to enter into that new focus, she is made into the culprit who is standing in the way of the poor abuser being restored.

It’s true. You have seen it over and over and so have I. A great rotation occurs so that north becomes south and south becomes north.

Now, consider what the Lord says in the verses quoted above. Take careful note of what he tells us NOT to do in regard to the evil person:

  • Do not yield to him
  • Do not listen to him
  • Do not pity him
  • Do not spare him
  • And do not protect and conceal him

The Israelites, under the Old Covenant, were in fact commanded to put such a person to death. And EVERYONE was to be in full participation in doing so.

We do not live in that Old Covenant theocracy, and therefore we leave the execution of punishment to the civil authorities God has ordained. Nevertheless, the Lord’s commands to the Jews are also commands to us. Do not listen to him, pity him, spare him, or conceal him. Yet this is exactly what most all people do when evil comes among them and is exposed. And this error (this disobedience of the Lord) is especially common among professing Christians.

“Let’s get him some counseling. Let’s forgive him. Let’s listen to his story of how he was so abused himself as a kid. Let’s not report his evil to the police. Let’s permit him to keep being a congregant in the church.” And on and on it goes.

This is rank rebellion against God’s clear commandments.

Why, we ask, is the lay of the land in such cases sloped toward pity for the abuser? Why is that the direction most everyone drifts toward? Let me suggest that this happens because it is the easy road to travel. Furthermore, helping the guilty one is a way to gain personal acclaim – “just look at how loving and gracious those people are in forbearing with that fellow.” The Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for doing this very thing (see 1 Cor 5).

I saw this very thing happen in our own church a decade ago when an evil wickedness occurred among us. Initially all eyes of pity were on the victim and the victim’s family. But that was quite short lived. Soon the empathy and energy swung over to the perpetrator. Far, far more energy was expended for him than for the victim. And ultimately in fact people left our church in a huff when, in their opinion, we did not show enough “mercy” to the guilty one.

Standing with a victim is far more costly than to conceal and protect and stand with the perpetrator. And I suppose that this is the fundamental reason that it is the perp who gets the pity party rather than the victim.

So, if your eye is on the abuser or the liar/deceiver or the sociopath or molester, it is way past time for you to get your eye off of him and turn your gaze upon his victim. Your eye shall not pity him. THAT is God’s true Word which we are to obey.

 

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.

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.