This past week, I was reminded anew how arrogantly self-righteous and legalistic church leaders can be in dealing with situations of abuse.
Persistent Widow, at A Cry for Justice, has been posting her story of escape from abuse and her church’s incredibly harsh and obtuse response. Her story is truly heart-breaking. Even more telling are the many comments by other abuse targets relating similar experiences at other churches.
A substantial number of church leaders operate under an unbiblical false belief that divorce for abuse is sin…and although divorce counts as sin somehow it doesn’t count for dissolving the marital union…that even after divorce the abuse target is somehow still joined in unholy matrimony to the abuser and still accountable to the marriage vows.
Some, such as John Piper and Voddie Baucham, hold what they proudly term a ‘permanence view’ of marriage, by which they mean marriage is permanent no matter what. By their judgment, no matter how egregiously a spouse may unrepentantly violate the sacred covenant vows the innocent partner is condemned to continue living in covenant relationship with their evil abuser. If they should escape the marriage through divorce, they cannot be forgiven and accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven unless they first confess the sin of divorce and return to intimate relationship with their abuser. By the pronouncement of these men and others with similar views, covenant is permanent, and there is no escape from a covenant with evil.
More commonly, others allow that divorce is ‘permitted’ for specific narrowly defined situations such as adultery or desertion, but is ‘forbidden’ for any other situation, such as abuse.
Frankly, these rigid legalistic approaches to scriptural interpretation have much more in common with Pharisaical theology than with the grace and truth presented by Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Deliverer.
In Matthew 7, Jesus begins a discourse in which He openly condemns false judges, making it clear that we will be judged by the same standard we use in judging other’s situations.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
Jesus goes on to specifically warn against false teachers, saying we will know them by their fruits. They are not known by their brilliantly delivered arguments or oratorical skills, but rather by their fruits. Do they demonstrate compassion, justice and mercy in how they advise others, or do they (like the Pharisees) hold people to unbearably difficult standards with no regard to their wellbeing?
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16)
Finally, Jesus sums up the discourse with a dire warning that many who claim to know Christ will be turned away on that great and final day.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
In light of Christ’s words in this passage, I have a question for those who actively counsel victims of abuse to remain married to their abuser, telling them covenant is an indissoluble union no matter how egregiously the sacred vows have been violated.
What will be your plea or defense on that final day?
When Satan, the accuser, makes his case that you belong to him…that you are a subject of the kingdom of darkness…heir of Adam’s sin covenant which you have confirmed with your own sinful actions and attitudes…when Satan says that covenant is an indissoluble union using your own words and teachings as evidence…how will you plead?
I know my Redeemer! I know the covenants He has redeemed me from, causing them to be dissolved on my behalf.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
But you who claim there is no such thing as dissolution of covenant…that there is no escape from a relationship with evil…how will you plead? How will you escape the judgment?
Therefore thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
“I will make justice the measuring line
And righteousness the level;
Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies
And the waters will overflow the secret place.
“Your covenant with death will be canceled,
And your pact with Sheol will not stand;
When the overwhelming scourge passes through,
Then you become its trampling place. (Isaiah 28:16-18)
When you are judged by your own standard that covenant is indissoluble and a pact with evil can never be escaped…how will you escape the judgment? When the kingdom of darkness is cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels, how will you escape sharing their fate, with your own testimony declaring your allegiance to that dark kingdom to be indissoluble?If covenant is indissoluble, there can be no redemption. Without redemption, there is no escape from judgment. Click To Tweet
How will you escape judgment?