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FOLLOWING JESUS TO FREEDOM
Jesus Alone is the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the salvation, blessing, deliverance, comfort, healing, and peace of the Father, except through Him! Jesus’ Word is true under all circumstances. Jesus Himself has promised, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away.” Our Lord did not give us His Word to make life difficult, but so that we can live a life of emotional and spiritual freedom in Him. He did not speak in riddles either, but gave us clear-cut instructions to follow, so that we do not stray from His Way and get lost in the ever-deepening darkness of this world.
Especially when dealing with sin, suffering, and abuse, His “lamp for our feet,” (the whole context of Scripture,) tells us exactly how we should do ‘unto others,’ and what we can expect others ‘to do unto us.’ All we need to remember is to stay prayerfully at Jesus’ feet. He is the Good Shepherd. If we are willing to follow Him all the way, He will always lead us to safety.
Step 1 – Let us deal with our own ‘hang-ups!’
We cannot deal with anyone’s sin and abuse against us, if we do not deal with ourselves first, (Mt. 7:5.)
Jesus said, if we are truly His disciples, we will [increasingly] know the truth; and the truth shall set us free! Therefore, we should first ask our Father to let His Holy Spirit reveal the truth about ourselves and our own sinful emotions such as unforgiveness, hatred, and revenge. Then, we must seek Him to show us the truth concerning our situations, so we can know God’s will, and act according to the Truth of His Word!
A: Do not believe lies about yourself
A concerned mother caught her overweight, but clever and talented 15-year-old daughter crying in her pillow at night and sticking her finger in her throat after meals. The girl abhorred school and wanted to quit. On further investigation, it came to light that, in gym class, one of her classmates, who were always on her case, mockingly laughed, “You know what, old Daisy de Melker? [Daisy de Melker was a serial killer and the first woman to be executed in South Africa!] No one can ever love you because you have the ugliest legs on earth!” No amount of reasoning could save this intelligent girl from quitting school soon afterward, and years later, she probably still lives with hang-ups about her looks. This victim of abuse did not realize it, but that was in fact a demon speaking through her ‘pretty, popular’ classmate. Yet, this girl chose to believe the devil’s lies; allowing Satan to murder her sense of self, as well as her desire to follow a promising career as a teacher.
It is a self-destructive sin to believe lies about ourselves. If the hurtful criticism of our behavior were true; if we are lazy, or a loveless busybody, or whatever, we must ask God’s forgiveness and repent with all our heart. However, when Satan reviles our looks, intelligence, character, gifts, calling, and worth; that is the crime of tongue-murder. We must reject and disregard such malicious onslaughts on our humanity and God-given abilities with all our might.
God did not merely love the world – He SO loved the WHOLE world, [every one of us personally,] that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who [personally] believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life! We can and must believe that we are SO valuable and loved that Jesus our Lord suffered and died, and was risen from the dead especially for us! May God help us to always remember that in His holy estimation, we are perfect just the way He made us! By human standards, we might not be rich, good looking, or clever enough; but praise God; He will never leave us nor forsake us, while He supplies all our needs! May God grant us His grace to always be grateful for what we do have, and use all our God-given talents, and everything He had entrusted to us, to serve and glorify His Holy Name above all else!
B: Realize that you had been the victim!
This heading does not pertain to victims, who turned themselves into unrepentant abusers by seeking revenge, not resolve. This discussion relates to people who have been conditioned to believe that they are the abusers, while the true abusers hide behind a victim-façade.
As per the example at the beginning of this study, many years ago, a woman desperately sought help for her ‘unreasonable jealousy’ of her husband. She took full responsibility for ‘destroying’ their marriage, because he repeatedly told her she was ‘sick,’ ‘demented,’ ‘senseless,’ and if they were to divorce, everything would be her fault, as he is “breaking his back” at earning a decent living for them, and “all she can do, is nag and complain.”
He was a heavy drinker, who constantly embarrassed her and the children in public. At her insistence, he promised a ‘thousand’ times to take control of this destructive habit, but failed every time. She suspected that he was also a womanizer as he eyed nearly all females, sometimes flirted openly, (which humiliated, hurt and angered her deeply,) and some of her friends complained that he had made suggestions to them. When confronted, he aggressively denied everything and thundered that she is insane and making his life a misery with her jealousy and false accusations. When she retaliated in desperation and anger, he violently assaulted her. Because she could never find proof of adultery, loved him, and was dependent upon his provision, she always stayed on. She also described him as a workaholic, who left at five in the morning and came home at 10 o’clock at night; supposedly working weekends and most public holidays as well. Although he was a good provider, he left her to tend to all the other needs their family and take care of the household and garden as well, while working at her own career.
In counseling, she was very relieved to hear that every relationship is a two-way street, and such a problematic marriage rarely has only one culprit. What’s more, jealousy, as any other emotional problem, has many causes and catalysts. Therefore, the counselor insisted that her husband join his ‘jealous’ wife in counseling.
The man refused with the excuse that “he cannot even talk to his own wife; how would he be able to speak to a stranger?” As usual, the wife accepted his lame excuse and again overlooked his extremely clever manipulation. To offer consolation, he solemnly promised he would work on their relationship from then on. The wife believed him again and struggled along, promising that she, in turn, would try everything in her power to get her ‘jealousy’ under control.
After carrying on for years, flirting and constantly scanning their environment for potential sex partners, it turned out that the husband was an alcoholic not just a ‘heavy drinker,’ as well as a secret drug addict, a child molester and serial adulterer. While the whole world knew what he did, as usual, the good spouse was the last to know. In short, this evil man, pretending to be the perfect example of kind heartedness, was a dangerous passive aggressive psychopath, who, through all their married life, constantly made a rubbish heap of their marriage and flushed all her love, trust, respect, goodness, fidelity, and continual forgiveness down the drain.
Apart from agonizing nearly a lifetime over non-stop abuse, such maltreatment is always on a multilevel, coming from different angles to layer itself like an onion around the thought-patterns of victims. Thus, chronic abuse adversely affect the way victims perceive God, themselves, other people, life, human feelings such as love, institutions such as marriage, and other relationships. For instance, the spouses of serial adulterers will eventually see most men or women as immoral, and a threat to their marriages. When the callous lovelessness and rejection of such adulterers finally dawn on spouses, they will have a hard time to define their marriages in terms of romance, fidelity, acceptance, and a safe harbor. This is because the soul-destroying crime of adultery is emotional murder. Adultery instantly demolishes the holy marriage covenant, and one of the deepest and most serious forms of love humanity is capable of, (Mt. 19:4-10.)
Although none of us are without sin, real victims of abuse should never allow abusers to obliterate them with false accusations and projective guilt. It can never be true that ‘it is all your fault.’ Real abuse can never be the victim’s fault, (except for tolerating and thus allowing it to escalate and continue unrepentantly,) unless the victim is not the victim at all, but a clear-thinking, psychopathic dominator or dominatrix, [the dominant male or female partner in a sado-masochistic relationship,] disguised as the victim. Such so-called ‘passive’ dominators act out disturbed and even life-threatening role reversals. They are incredibly troubled people, who dominate all their victims for sexual and other gratification, and emotional and physical control.
Real victims never choose such intolerable situations of entrapment. They never willfully escalate their own dreaded abuse and spiritual, and emotional (even physical) imprisonment; although abuse nearly always continues and escalates through the passivity of the victim. Neither do real victims intend to continue that misery to the end – whatever horrible end that might be. True victims always long for, and work towards an escape; a solution to the problem and closure, so that they can find peace and a new life.
Real abusers, on the other hand, are never interested in ending their abuse or letting their victims go free. (This is especially true for victims turned vengeful abusers and those who wear the I-am-the-victim mask!) They have no conscience, feelings of guilt, shame or remorse. For instance, although truly unrepentant spouses might cry a river of tears when exposed, their emotional tantrums will be just another manipulative trick to regain control of the situation, get their own way, and continue and escalate their abuse. Thus, true victims of abuse dare not treat abuse as ‘forgiven and forgotten’ until they have obeyed Jesus’ Moral-Law commandments to resolve the matter to aid their own healing and to bring the abuser to repentance, should the abuser eventually choose to obey the Word of God and surrender to the conviction of the Spirit.
C: Realize that God loves both you and your abuser
In God’s eyes, sin is sin in young and old. Physical murder is just as serious as spiritual and emotional murder. Both fornicators and liars will not inherit the Kingdom of God. God has no favorites. He is into Complete Righteousness. Thus, God forbade us to destroy our abuses and commanded us to restore them, if possible.
Step 2 – Private rebuke is a Scriptural commandment
Jesus commanded in Mt. 18:15, “If your brother [seriously, unrepentantly] sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…”
Still, hardened abusers hardly ever take kindly to rebuke. Therefore, I believe we should tread carefully if this step endangers our physical safety. In this case, we should rather talk in public than in private - for instance, in a restaurant. Nevertheless, let the necessity of this step be fully explained by Lev. 19:17-18, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, [venting or expressing your anger and resentment in a grown-up, Godly way,] and not bear sin because of him…” As we have seen, Godly dialogue has the power to eliminate the reoccurring problem of abuse, and, if the abuser chooses to repent, save the relationship.
A: Godly rebuke or private confrontation blesses our abusers
Jesus didn’t mean we should feel heart-melting affection for our enemies; He meant we must simply do the right thing in obedience to His Word. Confronting our abusers God’s Way is His disciplinary love and therefore always glorifies Him, no matter the physical reaction we might experience. Our obedience to Jesus opens the way for Him to use us as His instruments of mercy and light.
Our abusers, as ‘stumbling-blocks’ to the innocent, are already under the judgment of God, and, if they are indeed believers) in danger of losing their salvation, redemption and blessing in Christ, (Mt. 18:6.) Thus, by obeying Jesus to confront our abusers, we actually bless them, as He also commanded in Mt. 5:43-45.
The M.H. Commentary wrote, “If you have received displeasure for any injury your brother [or anyone else] has done you, do not suffer your resentments to ripen into secret malice like a wound, which is most dangerous when it bleeds inwardly, but give vent to them in [Godly] admonition. Do not go and rail against him behind his back [which is the crime of slander or crimen injuria,] but rebuke, [reprimand, or admonish] him. Endeavour to make him sensible to the wrong he has done you through private rebuke between you and him alone. If you can convince him, do not expose him, for that will turn the reproof into revenge, (Prov. 25:8-9.) If he listens, there is an end to the controversy, and it is a happy end, let no more be said of it.”
B: The necessity of conviction, inaugurated by ‘rebuke’
Jesus never intended His Scriptural process of discipline as punishment but as correction; therefore, confrontation must always be from the sincere motive of restoration not revenge! The Scriptural guidelines we must follow are uncomplicated. Dealing with hardened unrepentant abusers, however, can be a difficult, emotional, and time-consuming process.
The Holy Spirit’s first work in the salvation and preservation of a soul is to “convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment,” (Jn. 16:8.) Often, He uses humans to bring offenses to light so that repeated offenders have no excuse to continue in darkness.
To confess their sin, sinners need to have remorse their sin, but real psychopaths lack moral conscience. Unrepentant sinners, who do not open their hearts and minds to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, ‘evolve’ into psychopaths – or maybe, they’ve always been psychopathic, growing worse over time. Hence, James spelled out two most important requirements for restoring a broken relationship. He built on the Moral Law of the Old Testament when he wrote, “1: Confess your trespasses [against one another] to one another and 2: pray for one another, that you may be healed,” (Jam. 5:16.)
Still, it is the inherited nature of lost humanity to kick all their dirt under the carpet and never to bring serious sin into God’s light. Religionists might ask God’s forgiveness for sin, but refuse to obey God’s commandment to confess their trespasses to their victims. This is disobedience to God’s Moral Law of Love, and simply piles more dirt underneath the relationship until one day, the whole shebang blows sky-high, resulting in divorce, broken friendships and destroyed families – even murder.
In fact, God views unconfessed sin so seriously that He curses those who deliberately continue in sin, as Prov. 28:13 declares, “He, who covers his sins will not prosper. But whoever confesses and forsakes them, [or repent and do restitution,] will find mercy.” God wants us to live in His mercy and to share His mercy with others. Telling our abusers exactly how they have been abusing us and to what extent we have suffered, is in fact showing them mercy to realize what they have done, so they can sincerely regret and confess their sins to us, and repent.
C: Repentance and restitution are God’s commandments that prove the sincerity of the abuser
If abusers do confess their sin under Godly rebuke, we behold a true miracle! Nevertheless, the Moral Law demands that it is not enough to merely confess our sin; we should also repent from sin, and then, as far as possible, restore what we have taken, or destroyed.
Repentance means, ‘to turn away from sin,’ or to stop committing that sin.
Lev. 6:2-5 describes the act of restoration, which pertains to sin that ‘grieved another’s soul.’ It commands, “If a person trespasses against the Lord by lying… spreading a false report… robbing and extorting… or swears falsely… [or by committing any other immoral sin!] then he shall restore what he has stolen… extorted… lost… [lied about] or all that which he has sworn falsely, [the crimes of crimen injuria.] He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs…”
Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, met Jesus and invited Him into his home. When the people accused Zacchaeus of still being a sinner, he responded in true repentance, saying to Jesus, “Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor [whom I have oppressed;] and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, [crimen injuria,] I restore fourfold.” Then Jesus declared him innocent, stating, “Today salvation has come to this house…”
Thus, to have remorse for sin, to confess our sin, to repent from sin, and do restitution proves our faith in Christ and our sincerity with other people, (Gal. 3:6-9.)According to God’s Moral Law of Love, the victim is then compelled to forgive the repentant abuser, as Jesus demonstrated in “The Lord’s Prayer.” In the case of major offenses such as theft and adultery, for instance, the thief and adulterer must prove that he or she has exchanged infidelity for fidelity, truth for lies, and so on, which may take some time.
This is God’s Way to deal with all abuse among the believers in Christ.
It is not necessary to dissect the heart of the repentant abuser, because that is God’s domain. Jesus said we will know them by the [continuous] “fruit” that they bear. However, the abuser should never repeat the abuse. There might be a relapse depending on the severity of the abuse, but no further life-destroying abuse must be tolerated!
On sincere confession, repentance and restitution, the case is closed forever.
Private sins should remain closed from the moment of confession, repentance and forgiveness, as public involvement will worsen the shame and injury for both the victim and the repented abuser, as well as for the innocent involved. However, public sins such as slander, (the public assassination of someone’s name and character by lies and deceit,) as well as the teaching of false doctrine, must be confessed and restored in public.
Step 3 – Call witnesses to bring conviction to that still unrepentant abuser
If the abuser still refuses to stop the abuse, repent, and do restitution to rectify serious offenses, Jesus continued the confrontational process by commanding, “But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
When abusers realize, they cannot bully their victims in secret any longer, united confrontation might shame them into conviction of sin. Note that God does not allow us to ‘call in witnesses’ (or spread the story behind the offender’s back,) if it is at all possible to privately confront our abusers first with the intention to restore the matter between ourselves — that is slander!
Step 4 – Escalate discipline against that still unrepentant abuser
Should abusers fail to listen to private rebuke AND to two witnesses, expose them to more conviction by “telling it to the congregation.” Naturally, this does not apply to abusers who have repented by now. However, if rebuke by two or three witnesses also fails, tell it to a group of spiritual, responsible, impartial people to further the discipline, not to destroy the abuser. If possible, stand up in the presence of the unrepentant abuser and tell the “congregation” of the abuse and the steps you have taken, and ask them to investigate and judge the matter in a civilized and Godly way.
We must follow as many of Jesus’ directives as possible in our attempt to resolve the bad situation. However, it will not always be possible to follow all the steps, which Jesus had commanded, as circumstances may differ.
The Matthew Henry Commentary wrote, “Private admonitions must always go before public censures; if gentler methods will do the work, those that are more rough and severe must not be used. Those that will be reasoned out of their sins need NOT be shamed out of them. Let God’s work be done effectually, but with as little noise as may be; His Kingdom comes with power, not with observation. Where private admonition does not prevail, there the public censure [of preferably, spiritual people] must take place. Tell it to wise people who can be referees; [not to slander his or her name but] to let them examine the matter fairly and, if they find the complaint groundless, let them rebuke the complainant and call him or her to repentance instead.”
Step 5 – IF PUBLIC CENSURE ALSO FAILS, REJECT HIM
Jesus continued in Mt. 18, “If the abuser refuses even to hear the congregation also, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector…” or “Break off your friendship and familiarity with him, though you may be no means study revenge, yet you may choose whether you will have dealings with him, as to give him NO opportunity of doing the same again. You would have healed him [by loving rebuke and by calling him to accountability;] would have preserved his love and friendship, but he would not, and so has forfeited it. If someone cheats me once or twice, it is their fault; if continually, it is my own.” – (M.H. Commentary.) Titus 3:10-11 commands, “Reject a divisive person after the first, second [and if possible, third] admonition, [according to Jesus’ disciplinary steps in Mt. 18,] knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” The S.F. Bible explains, “A ‘divisive man’ is one who makes a choice to please himself regardless of all other considerations. He is obstinately attached to a sinful opinion that threatens the [sanctity and safety of his victims and the] unity of believers, [families, and society.] If such a man does not heed the rebuke, he is to be avoided.”
If we have carried out all these corrective steps as far as possible and our abusers still refuse to confess and repent from their sin, and do restitution for grievous harms; if they have absolutely no remorse for what they have done, they will most probably never stop their abuse. As they willfully choose their destructive ways, it is impossible for us to ‘bless’ such hard-hearted, unrepentant abusers with our prayers, continual confrontation, grace, and forgiveness. [Not at all implying unforgiveness, as the meaning of forgiveness in this context is explained in this study.] Thus, it is impossible to ‘do good’ to them by entrusting Jesus’ Gospel to them, or to teach them Jesus’ commandments for their salvation and the healing of their (and our) lives. All our Godly efforts to make them sensible to their great harm to our spirits, souls, bodies and lives, would remain as unprofitable and silly as giving “what is holy to dogs,” or to “throw our pearls before swine!”