A Cry For Justice

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

Are You a Practical Heretic?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Mat 25:41-46)

When we think of heresy, we think of facts. When we think of the gospel, we think of doctrinal truth which is so vital to salvation in Christ, that if it is denied it is rightly called heresy. A person, for example, cannot deny the deity of Jesus Christ and still claim to believe the gospel. Facts and details are indeed important.

But notice carefully in the scripture above that these cursed people whom Christ will command to depart from Him on that Great Day to come, end in hell for denying Christ in a hands on, practical way. They gave Him no drink, no welcome, no clothing, no comforting visit. By their actions, or in this case, their lack of actions, they denied Christ and were damned. They were, shall we say, practicing heretics. They literally denied Christ’s very Person by denying His presence and His Body, the Church.

How many practical heretics fill our churches today?

When the victim of any or all kinds of abuse calls for help, you will always find plenty of practical heretics distancing themselves from the nastiness of abuse. They will expound, as we have heard it all so many times before, how the victim needs to patiently endure for Christ. They will minimize the abuse. They will make excuses for the abuser. They will…well, they will do and say just about anything in order to avoid entering into the burden and suffering of the victim. It is fine for the victim to suffer, you see. But victims need to just shut up, suck it up, quit whining, and be thankful. If they won’t, then they just need to go away. This is practical heresy. It is heresy in practice. It is damnable heresy that will result, by our Lord’s own words of warning, in being cast out into eternal fire prepared for such from eternity past. Recite the Apostles’ Creed all they want, it will do them no good. A person can deny the gospel with their actions, or lack of actions, just as much as with the words of their mouth.

Have you ever given thought to this question: “What is the gospel?”? Most professing Christians think that the gospel is a basic set of facts about who Jesus Christ is, about what He has done for us on the cross, about His resurrection, about faith alone that saves, and so on. But if you will study this word “gospel,” in Scripture, you will find that the gospel is much more than this. For example:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
(Tit 2:11-15)

Clearly by “the grace of God” that has appeared, bringing salvation, Paul means the gospel. He means Christ. And an integral part of that gospel is that it trains all who are in Christ to “renounce ungodliness.” We are to be people zealous for good works. That is what James meant when he wrote so much about “faith without works” being a dead faith. Practical orthodoxy. Practical heresy.

And Jesus had a whole bunch to say (as did the Apostles) about how the gospel commands us to help the oppressed. Therefore, one of the chief good works we are to be zealous for is helping victims. Victims of wicked, oppressive power. And yet, if you have ever been such a victim and have called upon your church or other fellow Christians to help you, what did you so often find? The Good Samaritan, or the priest and Levite? Practical heresy, you see. It won’t go well with such on the Day Jesus comes for His own:

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (Mat 15:7-8)

27 Comments

  1. Rhonda

    Thank you, Pastor Jeff, for this powerful reflection. May God be with you as you bring comfort and His healing love to the oppressed & weary today.

  2. As I See It Only

    Once I was able to pick myself up off the floor and begin to recover from abuse, this truth hit me like a ton of bricks. Those people aren’t Christians. At first it stunned me. Then it liberated me. Now it drives me to tears. The hardest ones to evangelize are the ones that think they are already saved. My response now is to cry out, ‘Oh my God, what would you have me do?’ So far, His answer to me is, ‘Do not be like them. Go do what they should have done for you.’

  3. This is so true in so many areas of the church. The last couple of churches we have been to have been very focused on missions, but to an extreme. Don’t get me wrong, as missions are a good thing, but they focus so much on them that they forget the hurting and dying within their own midst.

    I heard a pastor say recently that, taken in context, the passage that Jeff cites is talking about the least of these being those hurting and oppressed in the church. I think he makes a good point. It is so chic to go out and help the hurt and oppressed in the world, yet easy to ignore those in the church who are hurting just as much, if not more so. It is as if, once you catch the fish, just throw them in the church bucket and ignore them, unless they want to go into missions.

    Sometimes we forget that The Great Commission says to make disciples, not converts. Disciples do make converts, but they care for the other disciples too, and true disciples don’t stab other disciples in the back nor push them aside when they are a bother.

    What does it say in Galatians 6?

    1Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

    Two thoughts here. Even if you accept the premise that divorce for abuse is sin (which I don’t), where in the church is the gentleness spoken of here?

    After all, what does bearing one another’s burdens really mean? Kicking out the hurting? Beating them to a spiritual and emotional pulp? I don’t think so.

    • Katy

      I can’t believe you just mentioned missions Wendell, because I have had a few experiences with churches pushing missions trips on the destitute church members, making them feel like going on a missions trip was their highest duty to God, when they can’t even pay their own bills.
      It makes me super angry and I just thought I had finally calmed down about it…. argh 😦

      • Sorry Katy. Shall I go stand in the corner now? 🙂

        Actually, I feel the same way about those who push tithing so much that it makes the same destitute church members feel that they won’t make it into heaven if they don’t give their 10%. It is as if there will be a book next to the Lamb’s Book of Life to see how much you gave over your lifetime vs. your income.

        I don’t want to enter into a debate with anyone about whether tithing is still applicable in the New Testament, but I do know that next to divorce, failure to tithe is another unpardonable sin. It is another area that strict obedience to the law trumps any kind of grace.

        Sorry, if I took everyone off on a tangent there….

      • Brenda R

        That is so wrong. Missions begin at home, in our home church and our communities. We are to look after one another. There should not be anyone merely surviving in our midst. We should be helping them, not making them feel guilty about mission trips. That is as bad or worse than those who would distance themselves from others who are abused. They have eyes but do not see. Missions has become a quest and not a calling. I know many that will write checks for missions, but not lift a finger to help their neighbor. It makes me sad.

  4. IamMyBeloved's

    I don’t think I will ever forget the Sunday when a sermon was preached on the “Good Samaritan” passages. All during that time, I sat in the pew wondering why they could not see that they were doing to me and my children, the very things they were preaching against that day!! It was actually laughable, that they were so blind, but thought they were so righteous.

    You are right, AISI, these people are the hardest, but I think it may be, because their faith is in their works and theology and knowledge and practice, not in Christ – and they don’t really want Him – they are more comfortable with their own works.

    • LorenHaas

      Speaking of blind, when I first glanced at the title of Ps. Crippen’s contribution I thought it was, “Are You a Patriarchal Heretic?” I will leave it a that.

  5. Wisdomchaser

    According to the dictionary I was reading this is the first definition of a heretic – a professed believer who maintains religious beliefs contrary to those accepted by his or her church. If you are an arminian in a calvinist church you are a heretic. If you believe in mercy, compassion, love, etc etc in a church which teaches extreme legalism you are a heretic. If you believe that divorce or whatever is biblical and your church does not you are a heretic.

    I do understand what you are saying. But unfortunately “they” may never see it because you are the heretic. So many people can even read the exact same scriptures that we are looking at and see something totally different.

    • Wisdomchaser

      I should have said that we are the heretics. I am one of the oppressed and I fight for and support other oppressed people in the church.

      • Brenda R

        If I am found standing up for and helping the oppressed as God instructs, I will be proud to be called a heretic or anything else they want to call me.

  6. The concept of a practical heretic is so obvious but I’ve never heard it termed that before. Thank you Jeff!

    This post should be required reading for every Professor of Practical Theology at every seminary.

  7. Thank you for this excellent mini sermon. I am inspired to choose that passage in Titus for my memorization verses this week. (I’m not great at memorization but I try! At least some of it sticks.)

    I’ll never forget a kindness from a family in my church when I was a young divorcee and single mother after leaving my abusive ex. Most people had dropped me socially. But this one couple made a point of inviting me and my kids over for dinner regularly. I would bring over a dish too and we would sit down and watch Superman together afterwards. Just counting our little broken family as worthy of socializing with was a healing balm to our souls. May God bless them for their kindness to me, to us.

    • Brenda R

      Becky, Your story brings joy to my heart. It is good to know there are true Christian people in this world and in our churches. I have a few who talk to me and make sure I know if there is anything I need, but not who go out of their way to invite me to anything. Blessings and hugs.

      • fiftyandfree

        That’s wonderful Becky. God bless that couple for their kindness. I attribute much of the healing I’ve done in the last year on the fact that the Lord put some wonderful Christians in my life who have taken me and my children into their hearts and treated us as family. Had I remained isolated as I was before I doubt I ever would have had the courage to get out in the first place and I certainly would not have healed as much as I have thus far. I am very thankful!

  8. I’m 58 and was married for 37 years to an abusive man. I finally left him 24 months ago…but I left him for another man. I sinned. I was so hungry for love and so frantic to leave, but so scared to do it alone, I leaned on my boyfriend for the courage. I couldn’t even think straight, I was so terrified. If it hadn’t been for my boyfriend, I think I’d still be there. I’ve never loved anyone as deeply as I loved him.

    The past two years have been a disaster. Our divorce was final 17 months ago, but he got everything. I’ve recently discovered I was defrauded out of my share of the equity in the house — because his lawyer was clever and mine was inexperienced (cheap). I attempted suicide 13 months ago. My boyfriend committed suicide 6 months ago. I’m still in therapy for PTSD. I’ve moved so many times (7 in two years, in 4 states), from one person’s spare bedroom to the next, that I got my first job only 5 months ago. I’m up to my eyes in debt, so I still can’t afford an apartment, but I’m saving for an online schooling that will give me a leg up.

    I’m back in fellowship and making emotional progress. I’m depending on the Lord like I haven’t in years (been a Christian for 36 years); I’m even paying a full tithe. But the thing that makes me want to just give up — and I still think about that — is how alone I am. My grown sons side with my ex, I lost all but a couple of the friends we knew for decades, and even my extended family has turned on me. I guess because adultery is something they can see, while his wrongs toward me were invisible…like my scars.

    I’m so glad I found this blog. Bless you for shining a light in a very dark place.

    • Hi Diane, welcome to the blog. What a story! Thanks for sharing and being so transparent. 🙂
      We hope you find some solace from the loneliness here. Many of our readers are lonely in that they have no close family or supporters that they know personally. I am so glad you are on the way up out of what must have been a horrible pit. I was suicidal at an earlier stage of my life ( a few years before my first marriage) and I remember how hard that time was.

      Bless you for your courage to stay alive.

      Hugs from Barb

    • Diane, I am saying prayers for you right now. May you find comfort, and fellowship and love with other believers.

      • Thank you so much, Becky. I’m making progress. Though it’s not as speedy as I wish, it is progress.

      • Brenda R

        Diane,
        We are all a work in progress. All is in God’s time, not ours. Hugs Brenda

      • You’d think I’d have accepted that by now. I get impatient. Thanks, Brenda!
        –Diane

  9. Jeff Ludwig

    Excellent explanation of “practical heresy,” however what Bro. Crippen is calling practical heresy I think should be called “sins of omission.” Heresy refers more to doctrine than to our personal failings as Christians. Nonetheless, what he is describing is sin and if we individually are guilty of this we need to ask earnestly and fervently that the Lord will renew a right heart in us, and that we correct our indifference to the sufferings of others.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Trigger. “Sins of omission”. Hmm. That sounds pretty simple there, Jeff Ludwig. Don’t know that you yourself are neglecting the people of God, when you claim to be one of those people?

      So, is abuse when “he didn’t mean to break anything or hurt anyone”, also a sin of omission to you? He just didn’t know what to do? Is not feeding the woman who left her abuser and has half a dozen children, just an omission to you? I don’t know you, sir, but I would assume that Ps. Crippen labeled this post “Practical” heresy, to help everyone including you, see how much Christians are not fulfilling the commands of Christ, and yet want the label of Christian. In “practicality”, they are not living out Christianity, but for all other intents and their own personal gain and purposes, they call themselves Christ’s. I don’t think he is referring to one time offenders who then repent and change, I think he is referring to the ongoing “sit back and let someone else do it” mentality, from people who think they can deny Christ’s commands, as long as their doctrines and theology are sound. Jesus wants us to have sound doctrine/theology AND the actions that prove we have that soundness. We need to stop covering the sin of neglect with the simplicity of “omission”. That’s like saying, “Oh! I just forgot to care for those in need”. Also, we need to stop thinking that our Salvation somehow lies in holding to good doctrine and theology! That sir, is heresy.

      • Jeff Crippen

        IAM- Excellent! Right on.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Reply to Jeff Ludwig – You are quite wrong. Heresy is precisely the correct word to use here. Read the Scripture in Matthew 25 once again. These people who omitted showing mercy END IN HELL. Obviously they denied the gospel by their actions. You are in serious error in what you say here because you are separating doctrinal heresy from ethical ramifications. Matthew 25 certainly does not describe what you are calling “the personal failings of Christians.” It is describing the wicked sin of people who claim to be Christians but who do not belong to Christ at all. Do you see that? Re-read the Scripture I cited. Christ is not describing Christians who “mess up.” When you equate this passage with the actions of Christians, you necessarily are enabling abusers. You enable them to be pronounced Christians. Further, you are minimizing the evil that they perpetrate against their victims. You seriously need to get your thinking straightened out here or you are going to be triggering and guilting the oppressed.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Amen, hallelujah and praise the Lord, for sharing sound interpretation of Scripture here, Ps. Crippen.

        Just another one of those, we can sin and/or do anything we like, as long as we have “called ourselves” to be Christians, instead of God having done the calling. Any sin is fine and acceptable, because we are all just a bunch of flunking Christians who have applied Christ’s spilt blood in vain – yet we have “learned” good doctrines and great theology! We just do not apply it. Why? Because we have not been truly converted. There is no power. When we live this way, His death and resurrection are just still not enough to cause our hearts to change – hence, we still live in all the sin we once lived in, we just believe now that it is “omission” or expected or covered, so who cares? What a bunch of nonsense! Faith without the commanded works, is dead, useless, of no value whatsoever, and today it is showing up with great strength, among the poor and needy who have suffered immense abuse at the hands of another – some professing they hold Christ’s Salvation – but all here having suffered at the hands of someone they should have been able to trust the most.

  10. Raped By Evil

    From the book, “How He Gets Into Her Head,” by Don Hennessy. Emphasis mine.

    “I find it helpful to remind myself that my client is returning to a PRISONER-OF-WAR camp where she is being brainwashed into submission. She has no idea how or why this is happening. She will be convinced that because she helped to build the prison, she must suffer the consequences. She may agree that she feels trapped but will want to convince me it is a trap into which she freely entered. Sometimes she will try to convince me that she has choices. This phrase is used by most agencies to put the blame for the continuation of the abuse onto the target woman. But until we can uncover how her partner got her into the prison and what he does to keep her there we do not have the right to say that she is free to make any choice…..

    The information about the tactics of targeting, setting-up and grooming is received with a mixture of surprise and fear. The realization that the reasons for the abuse lie with him and not her comes as a relief to her. The explanation that the initial tactics are DESIGNED TO SEDUCE AND TERRORISE helps explain why she feels both frightened and in love. The idea that it is all intentional is beyond belief….

    The struggle to believe that THESE BEHAVIOURS ARE DELIBERATE is made more difficult because she has already accepted explanations which exonerate her abuser….Put simply, my diagnosis is that her abuser has deliberately got into her mind and has used this access to control her thinking.” Pgs. 142-143

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