A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How to rebuke a wicked man – a lesson from Paul

Imagine this: a pastor’s wife telephones an elder in her church to inform him that her husband (the senior pastor) has been psychologically, sexually, financially, socially and spiritually abusing her for years and she has just fled to a shelter. He listens to her story at length, letting her talk out as much as she wants, only interrupting her when he wants to clarify something she’s said and make sure he’s understanding it all correctly.

When she’s poured it all out, and he’s responded with empathy and full belief in her report, assuring her that he’s outraged by what her husband has done, she gives the elder permission to confront the pastor with the allegations, because she feels safe in the refuge and has no intention of returning to her husband.

The elder gets together with the other elder in the church, a man he trusts and who is totally switched on about domestic abuse.  … These two elders have been listening to Jeff Crippen’s sermons on DV, because they’ve been trying to help one of their own granddaughters (who lives in another state) deal with the fact that she’s married to an abuser. They had invited the pastor to join them in their study of this topic, because they thought he might have liked to learn about it for his own professional development, but he’d never shown much interest.

The two elders go and  confront the senior pastor with his problem, telling him that they have heard serious and completely believable allegations that he’s been seriously abusing his wife, and they will be calling a congregational meeting to announce that they are going to stand down the pastor from his position while the matter is pursued through all the proper channels. The pastor responds with verbal aggression, using the predictable tactics of  unjust criticism, self-justification, blame-shifting and scripture-twisting that abusers use when they are cornered. One of the elders replies: “You son of the devil you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”

How shocking! How can an elder use such harsh words? To call a pastor a son of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness, a liar and a villain!

Well he can, and he should.    He’s only using same the language that Paul used:

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.  (Acts 13:6-11 ESV)

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Astounding! These are some of the very Scriptures that I studied this week and looked everything up in the Greek, etc.! Only I thought, that perhaps I needed to say them to my pastor and elders concerning my own situation. By the way, I think all abusers are guilty of this, because they want to be above God and make us doubt that God has an interest in helping us, so we will worship them, not Him. I also believe that God is using this post of yours, to show me that He really is speaking to me and I am hearing Him and He is leading me, which is exactly what I need. I had prayed about where He wanted me to study His Word this week, and I felt He told me Galatians. When I went there, it led me to the passage above in Acts, to get a feel for where Paul was at and where he was going. I found this passage to be so interesting and fitting to my situation, that I spent hours studying it out. God is so good to me, and I am so undeserving. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Jeff Crippen

    Now THAT is justice! Very well said and illustrated, Barbara. It seems that in most churches today the question is not even “How shall we rebuke a wicked man?” but rather “Should we ever confront a wicked man?” Sadly, as we all know, a scenario of justice like this is more rare than a precious jewel. I know abusive men who are able to remain as pastors and even move on up their denominational hierarchy ladders, seemingly able to move to another church pulpit at will. And while on the topic of denominations, let me say that my experience with them has been extremely negative. They create a career ladder and hierarchical structure, budget and “home office,” that must be maintained at all costs. That means sin cannot be exposed or dealt with. I extend my sympathy to any godly pastor or church that looks to their denominational leaders or area representative for outside assistance in dealing with some serious issue in their local church. I have learned the hard way that such processes normally will side with the wicked and refuse to take a clear stand for justice and God’s righteousness. Total independence of the local church is not the answer to all of these problems either, but in my opinion it is far preferable than constructing a larger organization that inevitably gains greater power and control to abuse.

  3. Lisa

    I agree, I left an eighteen year old marriage with an abusive man who doesn’t think twice to walk into a church. In fact we left church on a Sunday and he called me a “F B” right in front of our children. They were about as upset as me. I filed for divorce almost two years ago. Tonight I spoke with the pastor at his church who has a son in our son’s class at a Christian school. He was empathetic but I really discerned that he wouldn’t confront the abuser or say much of anything it was more like “I’m sorry you had to go through that”. Instead of “Wow that’s really unjust and I think I need to confront him on this”. I was hurt even more. I’m finding most churches don’t address abuse they run from it and again, the abuser gets away with another assult. It will have to be God who will make sure Justice survives in the end.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lisa – I am about to post a new article in the Pastors and Abuse series. Check it out. It addresses exactly what you are talking about here. God expects us to practice justice now in our churches. The church should be the most just place on earth. It isn’t, and that needs to change.

      Editors note: Here is a link to part 1 of the Pastors and Abuser series mentioned in this comment: Dealing with domestic abuse (advice for pastors, Part 1, by Ps Jeff Crippen)

    • Yes Lisa, the “I’m sorry you had to go through that” response is so weak. I’ve been at the receiving end of it myself, and every time I felt mysteriously crushed and deflated but couldn’t really understand why, because it seemed like a sympathetic comment. Now I know that the right outlook is outrage about the injustice that’s been done. When no outrage is expressed, sympathy is just limp wristed.

      • Innoscent

        Could you please direct me to the “Pastors and Abuse series”, which Jeff mentions above. I can’t seem to find it. Thanks!

      • twbtc

        Hi Innoscent,

        Part 1 of the series is called Dealing with domestic abuse (advice for pastors, Part 1, by Ps Jeff Crippen). And each post has a link to the next part in the series.

      • Innoscent

        Many thanks Twbtc!! You are ever so helpful. I can’t wait to read this series and keep learning and become stronger in the Word to refute sickening cliches and harmful platitudes.

  4. Finding Answers

    Quoted from the original post:

    But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

    The more I read this, the more I think it applies to my anti-x…..I missed it because his mocking attacks covered a wide range of topics.

    Hard to take in such targeted malignancy.

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