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B2) Godly rebuke or private confrontation blesses abusers
Jesus didn’t mean we should feel heart-melting affection for our enemies; we must simply do the right thing in obedience to His Word. Confronting abusers God’s Way is His disciplinary love for them that glorifies Him, no matter the reaction we might experience. Our obedience to Jesus opens the way for Him to use us as His instruments of mercy and light. So, confronting abusers constitute our “pearls,” which might be trampled while we are torn to pieces, but if it is at all possible to obey Jesus, we must not avoid our responsibility to restore abusers to Him and to us.
Abusers, as ‘stumbling-blocks’ to the innocent, are already under the judgment of God, (Mt. 18:6.) Thus, by obeying Jesus to confront them, we bless them tremendously by showing them His grace. The Matthew Henry Commentary says, “If you have received displeasure for any injury [anyone] 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.”
B3) 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. But we are not alone in accomplishing this task. The Holy Spirit’s first work in the salvation and preservation of souls is to “convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment,” (Jn. 16:8-12.) 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 for their sin, but 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. James 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 sinful nature of lost humanity to kick all their dirt under the carpet and never to bring serious sin into God’s light. Mere 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 that simply piles more dirt underneath the relationship until one day, the whole shebang blows sky-high, resulting in divorce, broken friendships, destroyed families – and even in murder. That is why God views unconfessed sin so seriously that He warned those who deliberately continue in sin, (Proverbs 28:13,) “He, who covers his sins, will not prosper. But whoever confesses and forsakes them, [or repents and does 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 to God, and repent.
B4) Repentance and restitution are God’s commandments that prove the sincerity of the abuser
If abusers do experience remorse and 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. 6:1-5 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…”
So, to have remorse for sin, confess our sin, repent from sin, and do restitution prove our faith in Christ and our sincerity with other people, (Gal. 3:6-9.) According to God’s Moral Law, the abused are then compelled to forgive repentant abusers, as Jesus demonstrated in “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is God’s Way to deal with abuse.
It is not necessary to dissect the hearts of repentant abusers, because that is God’s domain. Jesus said we will know them by the [continuous] “fruit” that they bear. However, abusers should never repeat the abuse. There might be a relapse depending on the severity of the abuse, but no further life-destroying abuse such as adultery must be tolerated!
On sincere confession, repentance and restitution, the case is closed forever, and public involvement will only worsen the shame and injury for both the abused and repented abusers, as well as for the other innocents 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, (Eph. 5:11.)
B5) Call witnesses to bring conviction to that still unrepentant abuser
If abusers still refuse to stop the abuse, repent, and do restitution to rectify serious offenses, Jesus intensified 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 people to spread stories behind the offenders’ backs if it is at all possible to privately confront them during these two steps, with the intention to resolve the abuse between the abused and their abusers — because the latter is slander!
B6) Escalate discipline against that still unrepentant abuser
Should abusers fail to listen to private rebuke AND to one or 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. Nevertheless, it will not always be possible to follow all the steps that Jesus 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 invalid, let them rebuke the complainant and call him or her to repentance instead.”
B7) If public censure also fails, reject him
Jesus continued in Matthew 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 by 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 us twice or thrice, it is their fault; if continually, it is our own.” – (M.H. Commentary.) Titus 3:10-11 commands, “Reject a divisive person after the second [and if possible, third] admonition, [according to Jesus’ disciplinary steps in Matthew 18,] knowing that he is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” The Spirit Filled 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 these rebukes, he is to be avoided.”
If the abused have carried out these corrective steps as far as possible and abusers still refuse to confess and repent from their sin and do restitution for grievous harms; if they have absolutely no true remorse for what they have done, they will most probably never stop their abuse.
As they deliberately choose their destructive ways, it is impossible for the abused to ‘bless’ such hard-hearted, unrepentant abusers with their prayers, confrontation, grace, and forgiveness. (Not at all implying unforgiveness and revenge, as the meaning of forgiveness is explained in this study.) Therefore, 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 lives and the lives of the abused. All the Godly efforts to make them sensible to their great harm to the spirits, souls, bodies, and lives of the abused, would remain as ridiculous and unprofitable as to “throw [precious] pearls before swine!”
B8) Deliver that ‘heathen and tax collector’ to Satan
At this last remedy to reject unrepentant abusers to save the souls of both the abused and their abusers, and again, not as revenge, the Matthew Henry Commentary continues to explain, “Let him be under disgrace, disassociation, and let the members of society, [who are involved with the abused and their abusers,] be warned to withdraw from him that he may become ashamed of his sin that they may not be infected with it, or made chargeable with it… Christ has appointed this method for the vindicating of His [and His true children’s] honor, the preserving of their purity, and the possible conviction and repentance of those that are scandalous…’
Jesus continued with His disciplinary process in Mt. 18:18; escalating the matter into heaven, “Assuredly, I say to you, that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven… If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, [anything good and in God’s true will as in this disciplinary process,] it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, [as during these disciplinary actions and hearings,] there I Am in their midst.”
Footnote, 1991 Spirit Filled Bible, “When believers are acting under the lordship of Jesus in administering discipline, God sanctions the action. The promise that Jesus gives, [‘whatever you ask,’] may apply to [righteous] prayer in general, but more specifically [in the context of this passage,] it concerns the divine guidance that is sought and received in matters of Godly discipline. In such cases, much sincere prayer [and obedience to Scripture in the guidance of the Holy Spirit] guards against a vindictive spirit.”
In Jesus’ own words, decidedly unrepentant abusers are “bound on earth and in heaven” until that day when they truly repent – if they themselves should choose that such a day would come for them. Then only, will they ‘be loosened on earth and in heaven,’ (as only on repentance will God forgive abusers their offenses,) to be restored to fellowship, friendship and family, and to live the Godly life that they forfeited through their hard-hearted unrepentance from sin.
May such a blessed day come quickly for all eternity-forfeiting Esaus!
¨ This, we may believe, is the process, which Paul followed before he came to this conclusion in 1 Cor. 5:4; 5,11, “Deliver such a [deliberately unrepentant] one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, [so that, under dire conditions, he may decide to repent from his sin and submit himself to the Lord,] that his spirit may be saved in the day of [death or of the Lord Jesus’ return…] Now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother [or sister,] who is [unrepentantly] sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, [a nonstop, verbal abuser such as a false accuser, persecutor, or slanderer,] or a drunkard, or an extortioner, [who abuses facts, trust, people and their money,] – not even to eat with such a person.”
B9) All this means: count the cost; self-mutilation is now the only option
When they turn themselves over to Satan as his instruments of destruction, abusers have the incredible power, (through trust in them and dependence upon them,) to cause the abused to disobey Jesus Christ, lose their faith and hope in Him; turning away from God, and thus forfeiting their salvation forever! – (Heb. 6:4-6.)
To protect His disciples against such dangers, Jesus commanded, “[If you have followed My directives as far as possible and your abusers still refuse to repent, be prepared to allegorically mutilate yourself to set yourself free from them. So,] if your eye, right hand or foot, causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, or two eyes, to be cast into the everlasting fire!” (Mt. 5:28-30.)
From the gravity of Jesus’ teaching on self-mutilation as a final spiritual, emotional, and physical remedy to abuse, it is apparent that He wasn’t referring to the casual hurts of outsiders. He referred to the abusive loved ones of His disciples; the treasured ‘apples of their eyes;’ their [helping and supporting] ‘hands’ and ‘feet,’ on whom they depend for provision, guidance, comfort, and protection. Jesus’ instruction compares to a leopard, whose paw got caught in a snare. To escape with its life, the desperate animal must chew off its own foot to survive.
Jesus was warning that the abused must count the cost to follow Him to freedom, (Lu. 14:26-35.)
The abused must know that, if they are unable to recover their abusive loved ones from the edge of that consuming crevasse, they must be prepared to “cut them off;” cut them loose; let them go, hand them over, or flee from them while they tender for their own lives — or risk being “cast into the everlasting fire” with them! The Matthew Henry Commentary gave the following advice, “Part with what you cannot keep without being entangled by sin; that which grieves your soul! (1 Cor. 8:12.) Abandon all occasion for sin with abhorrence! Think nothing [and no one] too dear to part with for the sake of your eternal life — that is how the evil power of that demon-controlled beloved is broken!”
Hence, when we trace the final steps of obedience to Christ in this manner, we should count the possible cost for freedom in Him; believing that we will never be alone during this trial. The Holy Spirit “abides” inside all His sincerely obedient believers, as Jesus has promised, even “to the end of this world,” (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 5:32!)
B10) Take the full benefit of the law against that completely unrepentant psychopath
If the abuse cannot be resolved by following all Jesus’ disciplinary steps, Paul did not forbid Jesus’ disciples to seek judicial recourse against ‘unstoppable’ unbelievers and unrepentant‘ believers’ alike. Paul forbade believers to go before pagan courts with matters that should have been resolved among themselves, (1 Cor. 6:1-11.)
Where Paul said that believers should “rather accept wrong and let themselves be cheated,” he was not speaking about abusive crimes such as major fraud and adultery. He was referring to the loss of a ‘shirt and coat,’ which Jesus commanded, will not destroy life, limb, or soul, (Mt. 5:40.) Real believers will, if not immediately, then under Scriptural rebuke, stop their abuse and turn away from it permanently, (Mt. 18:15-20.) On the other hand, unrepentant abusers, who grow worse under Jesus’ disciplinary grace, are unbelievers and do not belong to Christ. Such people proved that they are immoral pagans, although they might pretend to be very religious and even spiritually born again.
¨ Paul forbade resolvable matters between believers in Christ to be referred to a worldly court to be settled there before unbelievers, while Jesus’ true disciples should have ‘judged the matter between themselves,’ (1 Cor. 6:1-5.)
Now, only because it necessitates spiritual, emotional, and physical safety, and/or financial freedom and restoration in Christ, as well as the safety and freedom of others, the abused should take the full benefit of the judicial law against psychopathic abusers. Many battered and otherwise abused wives, husbands, and children especially, have endured a lifetime of humiliation and slavery, while squandering their lives in the service of the ‘thief, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy;’ not realizing that Jesus never commanded them to do so. In fact, Jesus came to give them life in abundance! (Jn. 10:10.)
Sincere believers do not belong to this world, but they still must live in this world. Incessant personal and corporate injury do justify petitioning a court of law for justice. If victims are forced to stop the abuse through a court of law by negotiating legal justice as far as possible, they should not hesitate. It does not weaken our trust in God, or offend the Judge of the Universe to utilize the avenues of help and protection in this judicial world, should it be impossible to resolve serious abuses through the disciplinary steps, which Jesus commanded. As such, Paul directed us to pray for, and obey even pagan government authorities, “for he is God’s minister to you for good… and does not bear the sword in vain… an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil…” (Rom. 13:4.)
B11) Should the abuser eventually truly repent, forgive and restore him!
Should abusers finally repent after the abused have gone through Jesus’ disciplinary steps, and allowed ample time for them to prove that the repentance is genuine, Paul explained in 2 Cor. 2:5-11, “If anyone has caused grief… be not too severe, for the punishment which was inflicted by the majority [of spiritual people as the last step of discipline before rejection,] is sufficient for such abusers. [They were delivered to Satan but finally repented, and now,] the abused ought to forgive and comfort them, lest perhaps they be swallowed up with too much sorrow. “Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your [sincere, Godly] love to [them…] Now whom you forgive anything, [after you have followed Scriptural discipline as far as necessary to accomplish repentance,] I also forgive, lest Satan should take advantage of [our harshness and disobedience not to forgive those who have been disciplined and have truly repented.] For we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices [to implant unforgiveness, bitterness and vengeance in the hearts of believers.]
FINAL WORDS ABOUT FORGIVENESS
Obedient forgiveness, just as prayer, is warfare of the celestial kind
Whatever the outcome of obedience to take God’s disciplinary action against abusers as far as humanly possible, forgiveness will always remain the most important choice for ultimate settlement with abusers. Even if abusers refuse all Godly attempts to settle accounts and it seems as if they ‘always win,’ God still gives the abused the final say. Jesus does not disempower His abused children. Truly obedient disciples of Christ still get to choose the outcome of the battle. The Matthew Henry Commentary comments, “Conquerors give peace [or forgiveness] by God’s power; it is no less to give peace by the meekness of His wisdom. It is a noble conquest to yield for peace’s sake, [or submit to His righteous judgment to gain inward peace and protection when the abused have done all they could;] it is the conquest of ourselves; our pride and passion.”
The abused should remember that forgiveness cannot be a mere feeling. Neither is true forgiveness avoidance, denial, or any other emotional means of ‘coping.’ Forgiveness is a willful, rational decision to obey God, and to do what He has commanded His disciples to do. After that, forgiveness must be the final decision. This means, the abused are willing to let their abusers ‘go free’ by refusing to hate them, harbor prolonged anger against them, or turning against them in revenge. (This does not mean that the abused are submitting to their refusal to repent, returning to their abuse all over again, or allowing them back into their lives without their sincere restitution!)
When abusers lift themselves above Scriptural admonition, they also lift themselves out of human reach. Then the time has come to tender for our own spiritual, emotional, and physical safety as seen in the steps of following Jesus to freedom. To ultimately “forgive” all abuse is to decisively deliver the whole matter into the inescapable hands of God. Having done all humanly, and above all, Scripturally possible, complete forgiveness is death to self and absolute surrender to God - which is in fact, warfare of the celestial kind.
Especially when the abused cannot find answers; cannot find ‘closure;’ cannot access and pursue the desired avenues of resolve – whatever they decide to do on a physical level to free themselves from abuse - spiritually, there remains only one way to neutralize the deadly venom of that poisonous old snake the devil, and to bring healing to the wounded spirits, souls, bodies, and lives of the abused: they must administer the anti-venom of forgiveness in liberal doses.
Forgiveness is never cheap
It cost the suffering of Jesus Christ; His own life, to buy our forgiveness. He had to endure all our griefs and sorrows so that we could receive His Holy-Spirit comfort. Through His bruises, stripes, and broken body, we received eternal healing for our wounded and sick human bodies and souls, and the chastisement for our inner peace was upon Him, (Isa. 53:4-5.) While the sinful ways of this broken world will always necessitate forgiveness of those who have abused us, our obedience to forgive still has absolutely nothing to do with earning our salvation or redemption. Unavoidably, by our condition as strangers and sojourners in this world, Jesus’ real disciples will have to endure sorrow in order to forgive others, (1 Pt. 2:11.) And so, God command through His servant James, “Lay aside [we have to do it!] all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, [hard-heartedness, unforgiveness and hatred,] and receive with meekness [in submission to the will of God] the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls; [the Word of God renews our abused, sin-polluted minds