Biblical counseling for (1) abusers & religious hypocrites; and (2) victims of abuse.
The kind of counseling that John the Baptist did for religious hypocrites and abusers: [additions in brackets added by me, for modern application]
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ [or ‘We have been baptised and received into church membership and some of us are even in leadership in the church!’] for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham [children of God in Christ Jesus].
Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10)
The kind of counseling that Jesus did for religious hypocrites:
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:33-34)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte [convert], you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
. . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin [and campaign on ‘family values’], and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice [for the victims of family violence and abuse] and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets [you say you love Christ and follow the teaching of the apostles] and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets [or the Reformers].’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:13-33)
This is what John the Baptist didn’t do:
When he saw many of the religious hypocrites coming to be ministered to by him, he said to them, “You oppressors, let me tell you something. You folks are enslaved to the desire to be served rather than serving the Lord. You are worshippers (i.e., believers) who need to be redeemed from oppression. At present you are not free to worship the Lord. You need to be free from enslavement. Let me counsel you how to be free, so you can to serve the Lord rather than serving your own selfish wish to be served by your victims. I have just the program for you . . .
This is what Jesus didn’t do:
And when he saw the oppressed coming to be ministered to by him — the crowds of women bereft of true husbands, entrapped by anti-husbands, and some men who were married to abusive women — he said to them in very politically correct language (avoiding gender), “You oppressed ones, let me tell you something. You folks are trying to serve and follow the rules of your abusive spouse, rather than worshipping God. You are meant to worship the Lord. You obviously haven’t been trying to worship the Lord because you’ve been serving your abusive spouse’s demands.
What’s that you say? Did I hear you say, “We have been trying to serve and worship God!”? I think you’re wrong there. You were serving your oppressive spouse. I saw the way you relate to your spouse. It’s wrong. It’s mistaken. You need to let me straighten out your thinking and your worship. [HINT: You’ve been a bad worshipper, you’ve fallen short.] So let me offer you this counseling program… it will fix you up. Hey, it will REDEEM your worship, and you can’t get better than the R word, can you? And it’s okay, I’ve got your oppressor signed up for a counseling program too . . . and look, here is Mr Pastor to help me steer you both onto the right path!
This is the kind of counseling Jesus DID give to victims of abuse:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
The religious hypocrites said the ‘eye for eye’ verse meant it was fine to take vengeance on someone who hurt you. Actually, the Mosaic text was given just to set limits on the penalties that a properly constituted court could dispense, according to the heinousness of the crime for which the criminal had been convicted.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:38-41)
In other words, if someone intentionally does something to oppress you or intimidate you, hold your spine upright and look them straight in the eye if it’s safe to do so, letting your look convey to them that you know they have intentionally wronged you — and then, with dignity, self-respect and self-command, without stooping to revenge, or remonstration, simply show them, in derisive mimicry of their behavior, how ugly and base their conduct towards you just was.
And of course, this is not the only counsel the Bible gives to victims of oppressors and religious hypocrites. There is lots more. For example, Paul strongly advised NC (No Contact):
have nothing to do with them (2 Tim 3:5)
But that’s enough for this post. I’m needing to finish this and get on with other things. 🙂
Have a lovely Sunday, dear readers. Or, for those on the other side of the date line like me, have a lovely Monday.