Abusive Women in the Church

Rev 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

In our ministry to victims of abuse – specifically victims of domestic abusers who parade as “Christians,” we normally find ourselves speaking of the abuser as a man. And most often he is. Fundamentally, domestic abuse is the sin of wicked men, though we have dealt with some women who are domestic abusers as well.

However, this morning I want to write about a particular kind of woman who I have met far, far too often in my pastoral ministry. It has happened with remarkable frequency. In fact, this kind has shown up in every single church I have pastored. The abusive woman. And if we are going to be wise as serpents about evil, we need to acknowledge the existence of such women hiding in the pews. Of course we know that there are wicked men in churches as well who also seek power and control over the flock. But as I said, today I want to talk to you about women who abuse all the while parading as “daughters of righteousness.”

Let me tell you some stories. The names have been changed to protect the guilty…ha!  I don’t know why they deserve any protection, but I will at least expose their deeds.

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This Should be Happening if a Local Church is a True Church

1John 2:19-21 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (20) But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. (21) I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

Church growth. What is it? Well, “church” growth necessarily requires a “church.” A real church. Otherwise any increase might be “growth,” but it won’t be “church growth.” Still with me?

A real church is a local group of people who truly and genuinely know the Lord Jesus Christ, gathered together to serve and worship Him. A body, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, growing together into the image of Christ. John is addressing just such a church here in his First Epistle. He tells the believers there that they are anointed and taught by the Holy One. They know and believe the truth of Christ.

But there had been some other kind of people present there as well. They were people who were not, as John puts it, “of us.” They claimed to be Christians, but when faced with the truth of Christ, they rejected it and left. They were false sheep whom Christ did not know.

John presents this in terms that are meant to encourage the real Christians in that church. It is always a bit disheartening when a group of people who claimed to be your brethren in Christ, say “adios.” More often it isn’t “adios” (which means “God bless”) but something more akin to a curse! I have seen such people literally take their shoes off as they went out the church door and shake the “dust” out of them so as to say, “you are filthy and I don’t want even the smallest dust particle of you clinging to me.” Oh yeah. That’s a lot of fun.

But John tells them not to be discouraged. In fact, he explains the thing as something that needed to happen and therefore is actually encouraging. It is a sign that the church is real. That Christ really does dwell there. That is the reason these counterfeits left, you see. They don’t want to be in the presence of Christ.

Now, think this through. This means that we must not think of “church growth” as something that always results in bigger numbers. Just as a healthy human body is healed when an infection leaves, so it is in the church. Christ and anti-christ are incompatible. And therefore, if such a departure, a going of separate ways, never occurs in a local church, we must ask some hard questions. Why is it that the church down the road is just growing and growing and growing? How is it that the building program can’t even keep pace with the numbers? Why does “everyone” seem to be so happy and content there?

One final application. I deal in my ministry with Christians who have been or are victims of domestic abusers who most often pose as fine “Christians” in the local church. Let me ask an obvious question. How is it that such an abuser can continue in “fellowship” in a local church and be quite comfortable – even enabled and comforted? He is clearly of the spirit of anti-christ, so why doesn’t the true church dynamic John writes about (they went out from us but were not of us) kick in when it comes to this abuser? Why is darkness comfortable among people who claim to be “sons of light”?

I think the answers to these questions are rather obvious.

Take Care to Build on a Sound Foundation -Or Trouble’s a-brewin’

1Corinthians 3:9-15 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (10) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. (11) For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– (13) each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. (14) If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. (15) If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

What does it mean to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ? Most often we think that it simply means to preach the gospel, telling people that if they believe in Christ their sins will be forgiven and they will be saved. This certainly is true, but…

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