A True Church Steps Away from Korah (the abuser), No Matter Who He is!
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Say to the congregation, Get away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.” So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones…. And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. (Numbers 16:23-27; 31-33)
True Christians, those who really do belong to Christ and are indwelt by His Spirit, separate from the wicked. They have the ability by the Spirit and the Word to recognize (it may take a bit for them to sort it out) evil. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and a stranger they will not follow:
I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. (Psalms 26:4-5)
NOTE: Nothing I say here is meant to deny that it is a very hard thing to leave an abuser spouse, especially when there are children involved. If you are an abuse victim and you want to be free but you are struggling and confused and even unable to leave right now, NONE of these words in this article are meant to guilt or condemn you. This article is primarily addressed to OTHER people, like church members and pastors and Christians who continue to enable the wicked by refusing to separate from them.
To refuse to separate from the wicked is to consort and ally with them and, as in Korah’s case, share their fate. Does that sound to harsh? Then listen to Christ Himself:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:32-38)
Let me say something here that may jolt you a bit. It is NOT hard for a Christian to leave their father, mother, sister, brother, son, or daughter in order to follow Christ. Yes, it is very hard in the sense that none of us desire it, and we certainly feel a sense of loss when such alienation must happen. But it is NOT difficult to separate from the wicked who would demand of us that we not follow Christ because within the real Christian the Spirit of Christ is mightily leading us away from such entanglements.
You have probably heard people say, as I have, “but it is soooo hard to leave one’s parents. I can certainly understand why so and so struggles with breaking away.” But do you see this kind of ambivalence of motive in Christ’s words? No. It may take time to come to clarity, but that clarity will come in the true Christian. He will see the evil. He will hate it and have no desire to associate with it. Hear David again –
I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. (Psalms 26:4-5)
“But this is the church I grew up in. I was baptized here. I was married here. All my family and relatives are members here. Surely you understand why I cannot leave.” No, I cannot understand. Because the truth is that if the Holy Spirit is in us, He produces such a zeal for righteousness that to continue to sit with the wicked who are parading as Christ’s people is totally nauseating to us. Understand? It is not difficult for a person characterized by the Spirit of the Psalmist here to RUN out of that place and not come back. To break off with such people and then to sense a great freedom after doing so.
So let me ask this. Why then is is soooo “hard” for local churches to put the wicked, like abusers, out of their midst? Why are they not incensed about the evil among them? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5 that the Corinthians were arrogant in permitting the wicked man to remain among them.
The fact of the matter is this: you cannot continue to fellowship with the wicked, no matter WHO they are, AND follow Jesus Christ. It’s Broadway or the Narrow Way. There is no middle path. If you try to keep one foot in both camps, what is going to happen on that Day when Christ comes is that you are going to go down into the pit with Korah and his kind.
“Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.”
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
- Posted in: Unjust church responses
- Tagged: church discipline, church response to abuse, courage, false Christians, Jeff Crippen, justice, protecting victims
What an enlightening post! I see something here that is empowering to abuse survivors dealing with churches that either give outright overt approval to abusers, or covert approval by their indifference. As this blog suggests, separating yourselves from those that stand with the wicked is a much more powerful way to deal with those that support the abuser than continuing to try to get them to hear you. The passage comes to mind Mark 6:11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”
In fact, later today I’m going to the edge of a property of a church which I experienced as profoundly standing with an abuser while rejecting me. I’m going to do some discreet foot shaking in my private short prayer ceremony. Not for them to see but for God to see and as a witness to myself, they didn’t just reject me, I rejected them and God rejects them.
I like that little ritual of dust-shaking you’re doing for yourself, PD. 🙂
The problem with the abuser is that he seeks to take the place of God in your heart, and he uses fear to bring about his agenda. The more you seek the things of the Lord, the more he will increase his abuse, and when you seek to separate from him, Like Pharaoh, he will come after you with murderous intent in his heart. But God is greater even than Pharaoh, and he is able to deliver you!
The Lord gave me that same verse in Matthew when I was dealing with my husband’s attempts to control my life. I had to make a choice between the Lord and the fear with which governed my life which meant I had to be willing to lose everything, including the affection of my children. (My husband made every attempt to steal away the hearts of my boys.) My husband did try to kill me when I stood up to him, but my husband is also a very deliberate man, and he was able to think through the consequences of his actions. He decided not to kill me. Instead, he played a game called “I will do everything in my power to push my wife out of the house so that she looks bad and I look good.” (When he realized he no longer had control over me, he hated me for it.) That went on for ten years, and during that time, the Lord increased my ability to confront and stand up to my husband. The Lord has rendered him powerless in my life. He is repentant, and I still live with him because he has chosen to live with me despite the fact that the Lord comes first in my life. My family is intact. My relationship with my boys is good, and I have wonderful grandkids who are being raised for the Lord. My husband’s actions have been exposed, and believe me when exposure comes, the game really gets intense. The Lord also brought exposure to the abuse that was happening in his family of origin. However, I would NOT RECOMMEND STAYING in most cases as it is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. If my husband had been a more impulsive man, I would probably be dead right now. But think of it this way: An abuser is so good at deception that he is able to pull the wool over the eyes of those closest to him for years on end, so why not also those in the church? Unfortunately, there is a resistance to the truths of God’s word regarding this subject. The traditions of me are too entrenched in the hearts of believers. Many times they refuse to hear me on this subject because they are truly afraid of disobeying God.
It rang a bell with me to read what you wrote here:
That thought alone probably was my biggest obstacle in speaking up. Yet when things done in the home were finally exposed before a few in our church who were in positions to do something about it, the church leaders and a few others chose to back away and not get involved – to wring their hands about the matter. When the pastor knew of lies my husband told, the pastor said things like, “Well, I don’t know because I wasn’t there” and “the Bible says every man in a liar” and “You have to seek the Lord about forgiveness.” (The latter was directly solely at me.)
It took a long, long time, but I finally realized that I give the benefit of the doubt far too often to people who are flat out telling me who they are by the sides they take, even if by default “not taking a side.”
I realized that it’s wrong to give the church the benefit of the doubt. It’s incumbent upon the church to stand with the target of abuse. if the church does not take a definitive stand, then the church is siding with the abuser. So often this is the case, and it’s a poor reflection on the wisdom of the church. How can the church be a lamp stand with wolves in her midst because of her own woeful neglect?
It took a long time, but it finally dawned on me “Why shouldn’t the church leader and congregants believe me, even if they don’t witness the abuse? They believe the testimony of others regarding far more trivial matters, and they’ve believed me with everything I spoken about over the past decade. Why should this be different? If anything, if they are my true brothers and sisters in Christ, won’t they want to protect me? Wouldn’t they protect their own blood brothers and sisters or spouses?”
And yet…. it was my second jolting wake-up call as to the reality of the non-relationship in which I was involved – the first being my marriage. The second being my church.
What a sad indictment on the church.
This is why I have such trouble sitting in most churches. When I’m in any church I’m instinctively on high alert because the likelihood is that some / many / all of the people there are people who think they are converted but are not, who have no zeal for righteousness and would be trying to ‘correct’ my zeal if they knew what I really think. I scarcely dare show them my real thoughts and feelings.
Most often if I do stay for the whole service and do try talk to someone afterwards, I’m trying to subltly sus out whether and to what extent they are genuine Christians. This is so sad. Fellowship was not meant to be like that!
And it feels lonely when I walk out of a service before it’s over, but it’s better for me to walk out than to sit under a preacher who is speaking man-made traditions without any grasp of the Spirit of Christ and the people in the pews are all happy to sit there and listen. I don’t like sitting with a mob of hypocrites.
Barbara thanks for your honesty about your experience shared by so many. I’m so glad to hear I’m not alone in struggling to go to church and once I do, to stay there. God is near to the brokenhearted, in that position He has made Himself real to me. That is the treasure of His comfort. Emanuel, God with us. I can’t listen to some minister peddling a God that promotes a man’s agenda, or God as a genie in the bottle or some other nonsense. I can’t listen to the patriarchal God created to reinforce man’s lust for power over women or some trite image that demeans His honor and glory. I find these teachers which I got set free from and out of bondage too hazardous to my spiritual health. When I sit in a new church I ask “is this hazardous to my spiritual health” and quite often it is.
I think that your words “Does that sound too harsh?” and “may jolt you a bit” is a real reflection on how soft and spineless our culture (and the church with it) has become. I find myself doing that a lot – couching or framing truth that I think the audience may receive as sounding harsh, as if I’m softening a blow. I think we’ve been conditioned by a dumbed-down entertainment-oriented society (and abusers) to do this.
Jesus’ words and those of the prophets and disciples are far more direct and politically incorrect, and yet professing Christians today will walk around as if they are in total agreement with Scripture, but if those men of God were here today speaking as they did then, today’s professing Christians would be the first to condemn them for it.
Truth is being snuffed out by – of all people – professing Christians who are unwilling to state what you do here. I think they are afraid – of offending, of being politically incorrect, of whatever. But they are afraid. And they don’t have truth and facts behind them to back up positions, so it’s easier to just throw stones at those standing up for God’s truth.
Does anyone else struggle with the fact that the “little ones” were punished for the sin of the parents? I’m trying to see God’s compassion in spite of that……
I find that stuff hard, too, M&M — ditto visiting the sins of the fathers unto the children to the third and fourth generation — but it’s just one of the things I believe I ought to leave to God, and trust I will understand it when I get to heaven.
We are all born with original sin, and if a person doesn’t come to faith before they die they will go to hell, so I think of it like this: the fact that they all went to Sheol shows that none of the members of Korah’s family had come to faith, they were all still in sin (like all other unbelievers are) and they simple went somewhat earlier to Sheol than they might otherwise have done. God is abounding in steadfast love and mercy, but he also punishes iniquity.
At the same time, it’s possible that the children of Korah may not be suffering as much in the abyss as Korah is suffering. After all, Jesus talked several times about punishments in hell being of various intensities; it will be more tolerable in Hell for Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for Chorazin and Bethsaida. (Matt 11:20-22). And Hebrews 10:29 says: How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
That’s the only way I can figure it, but as I said, I don’t try to have all my doctrinal stitches joined up when scripture itself is not all that specific.
Hello Barbara and M&M,
I have a different take on what this could possibly be referring to, and please understand that I am not a Bible scholar like so many here seem to be so I could be dead wrong. But still, it’s possible, I mean we are talking about God after all, who knows all and can do all and who warns us in order to keep us out of more trouble than we already are in. (And if this might be offensive or in any way harmful, please don’t post it.)
Let’s call “the sins of the father” doing something unwise such as eating poorly and causing nutrient deficiencies. It is possible to permanently change one’s own genetics via the epigenome (epigenetics) by eating something or thinking and believing something or inhaling something… you get the idea, in other words the external and the internal environment not only can but will turn genes on and off sometimes reversibly but sometimes permanently. When any changes happen and health defects are realized, these are passed on to the subsequent generation, and on down the line. It has been shown via scientific studies on cats, on rats, and on pigs, and by human observation that it takes four generations to reverse health issues that were caused by nutrient deficiencies. I find it highly interesting that the number four is the same as that in the Bible. Four generations. (I am referring here to the Pottenger’s Cats study, which had a few issues, but this generational reversal of health is spot on.) Not all animal studies show that four generations are necessary to reverse the effects, and some take less time, but for humans it seems to take four as far as I know.
I submit that some of the sins referred to are more along the lines of doing something ignorant or flat out stupid rather than downright evil, and God is not telling us that He will clobber us for those four generations but rather that if we don’t smarten up, there are consequences that we will have to live with, and it will take four generations to reverse them. I see it as a warning, not a threat.
Here’s a second idea, the “sins of the father” really does mean sins, and the children copy those sins and they are passed down the line. Maybe it takes four generations to work itself out after one of the generations realizes the problem. Then again, idea number three: maybe it takes four generations from the father to become diluted enough to no longer be a problem.
I never take these concepts as a threat but rather as a warning, because the one big characteristic God claims about Himself above all others is LOVE. He set the natural laws into motion and He allows them to play out, but because He loves his children He warns us.
What do you think?
I find that epigenetics idea interesting! And I have no difficulty with your other ideas as well. 🙂
Hello, Hope. I’m so glad you shared your thoughts on these passages. I hope you don’t mind if I share some of my thoughts on your thoughts. The following is all just my fallible understanding; I greatly welcome Scriptural correction.
1) Re: doing something unwise as being sin, Paul writes that all things are permissible although perhaps not profitable. So for the Christian to be unwise about a choice is not necessarily sin. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8 that if you do something against your own conscience before God it is sin to you. (I wouldn’t limit sin to that definition though.)
My understanding is that sin is really what we do against God, not something we do against ourselves, like inhaling something that alters genes. That is not necessarily sin because it is permissible, but it is not profitable. It will hurt the body that houses God’s Spirit.
“Against You and You alone have I sinned,” wrote David in the Psalms regarding David’s proxy murder of Uriah and adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. They were certainly affected by David’s sin (as was the baby who died at the hand of God because of David’s union with Bathsheba), yet David’s sin wasn’t against Uriah or Bathsheba, but the Lord.
2) I like your second idea very much. I think that when God says “sin” in the Bible, it is not allegory but sin as God defined it in context. As such, the Korah text is in the Old Testament with God speaking to His covenant community the Israelites. In Korah’s case, his sin was defying the Lord in His selection of Moses.
One on-line commentary put it this way: “Korah’s complaint about the need to democratize holiness in the camp was a smokescreen for what really bothered him. It is clear from vv.10 and 40 that he was dissatisfied with the limitations imposed on him…. Thus the real issue was not a religious one per se, but one of personal power and pride.”
“Democratize holiness.” Boy, that to me speaks volumes about sin right there. Wasn’t Adam’s sin trying to be as God? In the end, it seems to me that sin is just that – an effort to not have God rule over us and to decide for ourselves what God Himself says is up to Him.
3) I agree with you that sins can (and are often) repeated through generations. However, in the account of Korah, those children didn’t have time to repeat Korah’s sins. So in this account, as at least I read it, I see God’s sovereignty over how He punishes and / or judges sin – which in and of itself is a very strong warning to witnesses (including us, who read the account) and for me quite a frightening thing. Not that I believe He’s going to punish me for my sin (as He would have every right and just cause to do were it not for my Savior and Lord Who suffered it for me), but the power, sovereignty, and ability of God to do so to me is daunting.
In the case of Korah, the consequences extended to his family. That brings to mind how often the sins of abusers extend to and through their own families – the consequences of those sins. Not to the extent that God punishes the targets, but that the effects are deeply felt. With Korah’s wife and children and extended family, they suffered death, but that doesn’t mean they were being punished. It was Korah’s punishment (and also that of the men who allied with Korah), but the families likewise felt the effects of that punishment – as did anyone who was in physical proximity of Korah who were warned to ‘get thee away from Korah.’ Psalm 1 leaps to mind: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers “
4) I agree with what you wrote re: “threats.” The words of God to the covenant community I likewise wouldn’t qualify as “threats,” but I would add that as warnings they are ever so severe and very strict.
While I don’t feel “threatened” by God, I do feel a sense of dread at His power, His ability, His character – which, yes, is love, but that love contains justice and a righteousness that I find dreadful, intimidating, and inviting all at the same time. God’s love can include things that can feel most difficult at times; God chastens those He loves – and yet, chastening doesn’t feel good.
God can in all fairness cast my soul into hell by my own merit. Because He has delivered me from myself through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, I don’t fear that righteous judgment – but of God I do have a kind of …. fear, trembling, don’t-know-how-to-describe-it awe, respect – a combination of all of these and more, but fear is still in there. I mean, when Christians say they are “saved,” what are we saved from? We are saved from God Himself, i.e., from His wrath – and that is a fearful thing.
I hope it’s okay with you and the moderators that I chimed in again. I know your comment was not directed to me, but when you asked “What do you think?” I hoped it might be an opportunity for discussion. If not, this comment doesn’t need to see the light of day, but I thought it might be a good thing for iron to sharpen iron. I consider my sisters and brothers here on this site as Christian family, and as family – I hope we can discuss the Word in an effort to all grow in Him together.
Thanks for adding this, Still Reforming. 🙂
“Democratize holiness” … that seems like a good term for what Cain was trying to do too, when he took umbrage about his sacrifice not being accepted. In his heart, he must have known that he didn’t offer his sacrifice with a humble and contrite heart. But rather than admit his real motives (ambition, envy, pride, etc) he argued that God “wasn’t being fair” — wasn’t treating him and Abel with democratic equality.
In the same way that children of an imprisoned murderer suffer from not having a healthy father in the home, little children suffered from the consequences of Korah’s sin, but they were not the object of punishment. And, as another commented, if epigenetics plays a role, “visiting the iniquities to the third and fourth generations of them that hate Me,” then may the circumstances of the little children’s perishing have been God’s harsh mercies to “blot out all their transgressions”?
It may have; we can’t say for sure because Scripture isn’t explicit on that.
The rebellion of Korah is the exact story that God used in my life to separate from my abuser.
Suddenly I understood, “what fellowship has light with darkness?”. I could no longer excuse stubborn rebellion as anything other than darkness.
Finally, I had an answer to those who demanded, “honor thy father and thy mother”, but ignored “honor isn’t fitting for a fool”.
I was no longer conflicted that honoring a parent who is a fool does not honor God, and in fact is not what God meant.
I desperately just wanted to follow Jesus, and no longer cared if others understood. I no longer answered to those who failed to see that turning toward the cross meant turning away from those who obscured it.
I just want Jesus.
What a great testimony, SWaF!
Thank you for that. We need the whole counsel of Scripture, not just snippets that are usually extricated from Scripture and thrown at us like they’re all that matter.
I need to start dwelling in the book of Proverbs more.
I think Barbara’s thoughts really cover my own, but I would add to what she said that I don’t know if the little ones who died the day that Korah was punished were punished as well for his sins. I don’t really see it that way.
What I see is that his sin resulted in their deaths. I don’t write “early” deaths because God numbers our days (“You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” – Job 14:5)
It reminds me actually of passages in the OT:
In those verses I see that the sins of parents have consequences, and it is not unlikely that sins are repeated by children and grandchildren by learned, acceptable behaviors.
So although the children didn’t die for their own sins, it’s possible that they could have continued down the same path as their father Korah. Only God knows and it’s in His counsel to judge rightly.
King David too lost a baby – and that was a consequence of his own sin with Bathsheba. From our human perspective, it would be easy to think that harsh, but David said that he stopped fasting and praying because the baby couldn’t return to him but one day he would go to the baby – which could make one think that at least David’s baby is in heaven – and eternity is not only a lot longer but better than our lives here.
I reread the text too re: Korah and it’s not specifically stated that the little ones went to hell to be punished for their father’s sins forever. They went to the grave (sometimes Sheol can mean the grave), but after that, we don’t really know.
Perhaps one of the lessons from the Korah text is that sin has far-reaching consequences – beyond just ourselves – and are visited onto our children and grandchildren and thereafter. (By visited I mean the consequences of sin – not the punishment only.)
Likewise, however, we remember that the Lord’s steadfast love is farther reaching: “to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” And in Jesus – all His people keep His commandments because of His righteousness imputed onto us.
There are ofttimes difficult texts with which I think we as Christians need to think through as you are doing. I long struggled with the Hagar and Ishmael account of being cast into the desert, but in God’s mercy they didn’t die. Also, I eventually reasoned that had Ishmael not behaved as he did, they wouldn’t have been cast out – and so therefore, in many ways, he brought it upon himself.
I hope this helps.
Thanks Still Reforming, I really appreciate your additional thoughts here, and esp the reminder that Sheol means the grave, not necessarily Hell. I’m still recovering from my father’s death, and my brain is not on all cylinders yet, so I’m very glad you pointed out that correction to my analysis. 🙂
I’m glad you welcome the additional info, Barbara. I didn’t see my comment as a correction – merely an addition. Just thoughts from the top of my head. It’s very good to see you back here. You’ve been missed. 🙂 (((hugs)))
Clarification: I didn’t mean “acceptable” behaviors in writing “sins are repeated by children and grandchildren by learned, acceptable behaviors.” I meant acceptable TO THEM, i.e., “accepted” (by them), not truly acceptable.
Thank-you everyone! And I if they were too little to understand (it doesn’t say their age) I imagine they’d be in heaven too. But I also feel like using Numbers 16 to say “step away from the abuser” can also be combined with Ezekiel 18 to say “don’t step away from his children if they are too young to know whose side they should take”. I already know that people at ACFJ care deeply for children and know that kids aren’t responsible for their parent’s actions, but I wanted to say it directly.
very good point.
I hope this isn’t too far off subject. I was reading about the Korathites who were the keepers of the thresholds in the temple. Also, many of the Psalms were written by them or for them. I understood that Korah and his followers along with their families were swallowed up. If that is true where did the Korathites come from? I have also heard there is a modern group who call themselves Korathites and believe that they are the keepers of true Judaism.
Wow, Wisdomchaser, what a great question!
As I only briefly did an on-line search, this came up: “The line of Korah, however, did not die out.” – Numbers 26:11
And this goes into far greater detail on Korahites if you’re interested: Korahites; Sons Of Korah [Internet Archive link]
I know the practice is not to link sites here, but this could probably be readily verified as it is a Bible study tools-encyclopedic site.
Wisdomchaser, I believe you were reading about the Kohathites, the descendants of Kohath, one of the sons of Levi. Numbers 3 and 4 tell of their duties of service. Also, Kohath was the father of Amram, who was the father of Moses (I Chron 6:1-3). I Chronicles 6:22 tells us Kohath had a grandson named Korah. Perhaps he is the Korah mentioned in the Psalms.
I was just thinking how amazing it is that God’s Word has been preserved for thousands of years! We can certainly learn a lot, can’t we.
Also, Esau had a son named Korah (Gen. 36:5), and Caleb had a descendant named Korah (1 Chron.2:43). (Concordances are helpful aren’t they!)
Also, Number 26:11 says the sons of Korah did not die in that episode where Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled.
And my ESV Study Bible has a footnote on this verse which says —