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.

14 thoughts on “Biblical counseling for (1) abusers & religious hypocrites; and (2) victims of abuse.”

  1. I wish I had had the guts to look them in the eye as you describe in the last few paragraphs. I grew up in a non-aggressive family and was quite timid. This set me up for a bad time in the legalistic ‘c’hurch and career world. On the other hand, many women have felt safe in sharing their life’s secrets with me. Now I am learning to stand up and look the abuser in the eye and still be a safe person for other women to share with.

    My courage and self-confidence continues to grow, in part from ACFJ. Thank you.

    1. Oh Seeing Clearly, remember I said “if it’s safe to do so”. Clearly, you do not lack the guts, rather, you have found out, from bitter experience, that looking them in the eye like that is NOT safe for you to do. Don’t blame yourself. And remember the other principle: Have nothing to do with them.
      Dear sister, I’m sorry that my post send you into a spin of self-blame. Please forgive me.

      1. Oh Barbara, you did nothing wrong. I was recounting experiences back in college days; the financial aid officer at the Bible school who called me in his office even tho my mother was paying regularly. And the voice instructor who came late to my lessons, with no apology, that I was paying for. And the organ instructor, the next semester who spoke rudely. All entitled men. I was a female freshman. They represented a very incorrect picture of authority. If I had not been raised in the church, if I had missed the authoritarian junk, I wonder if I would have handled situations differently. My bosses were most always men in the medical community. So I would second guess myself, not them. It is the perpetrator in my childhood, a man in the church, not you, who should apologize.

        There is a place in my current situation; Christmas family get together that I am not sure what “having nothing to do with them” should play out like. It is my abusive sister who wants nothing to do with me because I am too bad and unrepentant. Her children follow her lead. Last Christmas I sat at dinner table with her and said I would not do the holiday like that again. My brother longs for the day when relationships are healed. If everyone but me shows up because I want nothing to do with her, is that appropriate or is that not what the principle means? Perhaps there are not enough details for you to understand.
        I guess this is where I could easily spin into self-blame. Can you help me?

      2. glad to hear you explain this a little more, Seeing Clearly. Thanks 🙂

        Re the family gathering — those ones are tricky eh? I guess all you can do is weigh up the pros and cons as best you can, and make a decision from there.
        How much will it hurt or trigger you or expose you to risk of further abuse
        a) if you attend the event
        b) if you don’t attend the event.

        And to what extent, if any, do you want to take your other sibling’s feelings and wishes into account?

        What regrets might you have if you did not attend? What regrets might you have if you did attend?

        And what might be the longer term consequences of the two options?

        And if you can’t easily decide, at least you can tell yourself that you are facing a polylemma, a situation where there are multiple options and all of the options are undesirable — so you can at least go easy on yourself, not garotte yourself in self-blame whatever way it pans out.

      3. Thank you for insight. Mostly, I am living in a mode of dread. I was waiting to make my decision on that day, based on timing. Or perhaps I would volunteer my time someplace.

        It is wiser to be proactive in sorting out my options You have wisely offered me a template to work from. This us a wealth of information so that now I won’t simply live in a world of dread and worry, but be in control of my choice. And flexibility might be a good idea, too.

  2. I left an extremely abusive situation to literally save my life. My husband at the time was a leader in the community in the medical field and very respected. Because of his reputation he was sought out by ministry leaders because having him in their church put a feather in their cap. When I left, I had a good job, which enabled me to leave. I took a day off from work put my things in garbage bags, left most off my possessions and started my life over in a camper trailer in a hidden location.

    There were no messages about where I went and no desire for further contact. I felt free, my daughter was deliriously happy to escape the cloud of oppression and terror that hung over us. My pastor contacted me at work 2 weeks into my disappearance and asked to meet him at the church. My husband was waiting there and on bent knee asked me to forgive him for his bad temper.

    The pastor with a PhD and acclaim as a counselor said “what more do you need, he is asking forgiveness now you can forgive him and move back home”. I had an ungodly respect for men of the cloth at the time, and certainly was not earned by one wiling to throw me under the bus. I moved back home despite my daughters tears.

    I quit working in order to “save” my marriage, in what was an anti-relationship where I was literally being brainwashed that I was crazy. The more power I lost the greater the increase in abuse. Eventually, almost 10 years later after destroying my relationships with children and my future a Christian friend, extremely anti-divorce did an intervention and told me “he wants to see you dead, leave if you want to live”.

    The pastor that encouraged me to go back for the sake of being a good Christian, lost nothing in this deal, I ended up losing 10 years of my life and an additional 7 years to lousy misguided treatment trying to recover. My career turned into garbage, relationships with family were devastated, and I paid a significant price in permanent injury and health damage.

    There are some pastors whose occluded justice for whatever perks some important man gave them. They will account to God.

    1. a prodigal daughter, I am so grieved for you! What a terrible, terrible story. My heart goes out to you. I have prayed for you. God your Father must also be so grieved, that this happened to his child. I am sure he will make this up to you in the next life, but how badly you have been treated in this one.

      It is good that you have shared your story, so that other women can be warned off doing the same thing.


    2. A Prodigal Daughter Returns, your true story is a genuine example of Barbara’s post today. Yes, God will have a final say. I pray that God will restore pieces of that 10 lost years in ways that amaze you; ways that you could never imagine. May the eyes of your heart be open in 2015 to see them. May it be a year of refreshing and healing for you. I am so very sorry for the devastation in your life. Thank you for sharing with us.

    3. Prodigal Daughter, thank you very very much for sharing your story here!

      The pastor that encouraged me to go back for the sake of being a good Christian, lost nothing in this deal

      That is why we are outraged so often on this blog. This is the type of injustice we are dealing with!
      The fat cat smiles his cheshire cat grin esconsed in his comfy pastoral office armchair, while your life is shredded and pulverized and virtually flushed down the plug hole.

      And those who lack outrage. . . we have to ask ourselves: what are they thinking? Where are their hearts? What are they worshipping?

      That pastor who trashed you, it’s easy to see he was worshipping a whole bunch of false doctrine.

      1. I am increasingly alarmed – and heartbroken – by the thousands of women writing about the horrific inflicted on them by their husbands – the secondary abuse at the hands of church leaders, counselors, and attorneys is as devastating.

        I know. I have had been stunned by the attitudes of professionals who – if no one else – should have the victim’s safety, care, and well-being as top priority.

        I am creeped out by actual attitudes toward women – particularly abused and assaulted wives – these attitudes have been directed toward me, repeatedly.

        Before this happened to me, I had a professional career and I was treated with respect and I never ever encountered the contempt, the discounting, the blame I have received from police, attorneys, counselors, church leaders…

        When I told my counselor, she discounted me! She told me I was “misreading” people and that I needed to stop reacting!

        I know precisely how I have been treated, and I was sickened that she would dismiss me – She is a therapist with the Sex Addiction certification and they believe that sex addict needs support and that the partner clearly married a sex addict/abuser because she has her own issues that contributed to the dysfunction of the marriage!
        My attorney told me to “own up to my part in the failure of my marriage.” She said “it always takes two…”

        My husband goes to church and tells people that he is so sorry about what he did BUT I am too angry — or too traumatized — or too broken — to repair marriage. BUT, he explains to them, HE is now getting healthy and must keep “going forward in recovery” –
        Everyone says “good for you..” And they tell him “you can’t let her hold you back!” [note from Eds: spelling fixed here, if we made the wrong guess as to the correct spelling please can the commenter email]

        Every thing he says is fabricated! But he gets enormous “support,” and everyone avoids me.
        He told his counselors the same lies, and the men in his 12 Step Sex Addiction support groups.
        Those men and his counselor and the minister supported his filing divorce and moving in with his girlfriend 6 weeks after he spent tens of thousands of dollars for sex addiction treatment center.

        He foreclosed our home, although he earned ten times the amount needed to pay the mortgage each month /

        He has left me penniless, homeless, and at being near retirement age, I will never recover lost savings.

        He and his girlfriend go to church together, they are looking at new homes, she is praised as being so supportive of MY husband…

        I only want fair economic restitution. I do not believe that my husband is in any “recovery” because after nearly two decades marriage, sexually betraying me without my knowledge the entire time, inflicting serious health conditions on me from exposure to STDs, foreclosing home & losing large amount of money in home equity, then severely battering me for two years — requires authentic remorse, amends, and restitution. He only acts to further damage me.

        I am so alarmed that no one holds him accountable. The church treats my husband as the prodigal son. He is duping everyone –

        But why are they so quick to support him, and so quick to believe his lies? They all know he lied to me for years — He is clearly an accomplished liar. Because they do not question and do not verify, they are all essentially now colluding with him to continue defaming me –

        They all want to believe that a man has found God and reclaimed his life, but such narrow vision only further isolates and victimizes the abused wife – ME – packing up my life and wondering where I can go with no money, destroyed credit, severe PTSD, and surrounded by people who “don’t want to take sides.”

        I am told – countless times – to “remember the Serenity Prayer.” Of course, prayer has saved me; it seems, though, that most simply do not think that my losing everything is significant –
        As if I am my husband’s now discarded property, I should say the serenity prayer and “let go…”
        Then what? Do they assume I will find another man and then be okay?
        Or, now discarded, I should “accept” and “forgive” — and shut up…

        [Note from Eds, some details and screen name of commenter airbrushed to disidentify and protect her identity]

      2. Hi CJ, welcome to the blog and thank you very much for sharing some of your story.

        It’s diabolical how these abusers get the velvet glove and icecream candy from the ‘c’hurch.

        I think it’s realy interesting that this post of mine has so far got two long comments from victims who have been HORRIFICALLY treated by the church. We must not and never will give up crying for justice and holding the feet of the ‘c’hurch to the fire, till reform comes. If it ever does.

      3. Hi CJ,

        Something in your comment stood out to me as similar to an observation I’ve had recently. I’ve told the account of my marriage and my husband’s lies and manipulations of me and our child to my pastor and church leaders, three individual counselors, three marriage counselors, two attorneys, and a few government organizations. Only one of the individual counselors (with whom I’m still working) has not provided alternative suggestions for my husband’s behavior. In other words, the vast majority of “professionals” out there want to offer alternative reasons for my husband’s bad behavior. “Maybe he’s just scared…” “Maybe the thought this or that….” “Maybe… Maybe…. Maybe….” Just yesterday I was speaking with a local professional who can provide testimony in court as to an abuser’s behavior as a professional witness in support of an abused wife. In my case, however, “there’s a whole lotta smoke, but no fire.” In other words, the anti-husband didn’t cross any boundaries far enough – so his tirades and shenanigans probably are not “enough” in the eyes of the law to protect us. (Man’s law, not God’s Law – thankfully.) It’s just so frustrating to be told over and over possible reasons why my husband behaves the way he does. Yesterday I finally spoke back to one of these suggested “Maybe he’s…” and replied, “Or maybe he’s got a personality disorder where the pattern of behaviors include blame-shifting, lying, manipulation, diversion, name-calling, and so on…” The counselor just stopped, nodded, and said, “Well, maybe….”

        They may be the “professionals,” but we’ve done the real world laboratory work.

  3. I love this, Barbara. God forbid anyone should ever tamper with the very Word of God, but I can just see one more translation to appear (akin to many other new-fangled translations out there, such as those that try to eliminate gender specificity from Scripture):

    “Accused of Abuse? Then you too can have God’s Word just the way you want it in “The Post-Modern Free-for-All Let’s-Not-Judge-Anyone-or-Anything Bible for the Masses: With Special Textual Footnotes and Cross-References for Those Who Know They’re Right and It’s Everyone Else’s Fault, but Especially Your Wife’s.”

    What you wrote that Christ and the Apostles didn’t do would fit perfectly in this translation, which, by the way, can just dump all those nasty verses about the Law and judgment and all, unless it points at a wife or mother. A textual footnote can be added that those particular texts are under dispute.

  4. To Seeing Clearly & Prodigal Daughter & Barbara & everyone else: it grieves me no end to read about families longing for “healed relationships”, or PhD pastors duped by abusers-on-bended-knee-begging-forgiveness. What these people really want is appeasement, not healing; they want “forgiveness” that allows them to continue sinning “so that grace may abound”. They define “forgiveness” as having no consequences. “I just want peace” means “shut up & keep walking on eggshells (but don’t hold me accountable)”. When natural consequences occur (ie: not letting your children ride in a car with a driver who is impaired with drugs or alcohol), they quickly point their bony finger at the victims, accusing them of being ridiculous or holding a grudge or being mentally ill or crazy or anti-family or haters or, yup, you guessed it: unforgiving.

    I, too, was told that I needed to “extend grace”, that my poor, little abuser was “the least of these”. As if!!! The idea that an abuser is the least of these is so profane that I had to catch my breath. So, today I had to stand my ground again regarding my unrepentant abuser, who “wants to be forgiven and be a family again”. Translation: “Christmas is coming & the family to supposed make me look good”.

    There is ALWAYS a hidden agenda, and it’s not about peace or healing or repentance or forgiveness. It’s about the status quo. It’s about faking peace while they continue the abuse covertly, overtly, & dare I say, gleefully. Suddenly my abuser “misses me” and “loves me”….but failed to say that just last week she paid $$$$ to change her will and trust (again) to humiliate & abuse me from beyond the grave. That’s not love. That’s not peace. That’s just power and control and greed. I could care less about inheriting anything from an abuser, but abusers put great emphasis on their “gifts” and nothing on the truth. My inheritance is from the Lord alone, but isn’t the abuser just like Esau begging for it with tears? Or Simon the magician thinking he could “buy” the “magic to heal” from the disciples?

    I would love to look my abuser In the eye and repeat the words of Paul:

    You who are full of all deceit and all wrongdoing, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness – will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? Acts 13:10

    Or, Peter in Acts 8:

    May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire God’s gift with money!
    You have no share or part in this matter because your heart is not right before God!
    Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that he may perhaps forgive you for the intent of your heart.
    For I see that you are bitterly envious and in bondage to sin.

    Wow–wouldn’t it be shocking to hear those words from a pastor to an abuser? Or from a family member or a friend who “gets it” and defends the truth?

    I’m getting better at holding my “spine upright” (love the imagery of that) and being resolved to the truth, but I must admit that deep in my heart I long for a pastor or friend to speak those words. Sadly, I doubt that will ever happen and I feel betrayed by many. But I know that Jesus stands ready to defend the innocent & the oppressed. I do take comfort in that fact, that yes, abusers will have to account to God.

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