ABUSIVE PEOPLE IN THE CONGREGATIONS, then & now
Dealing with church people on this earth is very difficult to do. If we can effectively deal with them, we would find the devil to be easy in comparison. We know he is out to harm us, and are not surprised by his attacks, and deceit. However, in the church, the behavior of "saints" toward one another is shocking and often unexpected. They can catch us off guard and do more harm than can be imagined.
In many homes there is child abuse, and in some, there is abuse of a mate. These ought not to be, yet they do happen. In most churches, there is SPIRITUAL ABUSE. Some "saints" are nit-pickers, some are quarrelers, gossips, complainers, fault-finders, scornful, bickerers, finger-pointers, judgmental persons, apostates, etc. These people can do much harm to the Christian witness. They can cause many to leave the church. Others who have left the church, may never return to it - because of these abusers.
The church is likened unto the "body of Christ." (I Cor. 12:13-27)
All Christians are like parts of the body. Some are like the hand, others are like the foot, the heart, the eyes, etc. Together we are to be a functioning body, able to serve the Lord in a useful manner. The problem is that also on this body are parts the Lord did not put there. The "cancers" are deadly, and must be removed or the body will die. God wants a healthy "body" of believers. Yet, in most, if not all, churches - we find a destructive, abusive, cancers. These abusive people will chase Christians from the church. They will hurt feelings, insult, berate, attempt to control, belittle, stir up dissension, etc.
For too long Christians have tried to ignore, and pretend that the abusers don't exist in our churches. These abusers have kept churches small, or split churches, or caused periodic and sudden drops in attendance. They have hindered revival. The Lord has been unable to give the type of revival and blessing that He has desired. The blessing has been sapped from churches by these offenders and abusers.
How do we know when we should flee such "saints",
or should endure and pray for such "saints?"
The Lord did not mean for us to simply endure such attacks. There are many scriptures that tell us how to deal effectively with abusive Christians.
First, examine yourself.
The Lord spoke of some who try to remove a splinter from another's eye, while they have a log in their own eye (Matthew 7:1-7). To avoid this mistake, we should do as we are instructed in the Word and "examine" ourselves (I Cor. 11:28). What are your motives, actions, and thoughts? Are they pure and righteous? Have you talked with the Lord about the situation, and your own behavior in this situation ? Have you been telling the truth ? Have you been interceding and loving those who are being used of the devil ? Are you able to consider the problem from the viewpoint of the others ?
"FOR ALL THE LAW IS FULFILLED IN ONE WORD, EVEN IN THIS; THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF."
Secondly, we should examine the others.
"YE SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS."
What seems to be their motives? Are their motives right, and their actions wrong? Or are even their motives wrong? Are they "carnal saints," or "tares" sown in the church by the devil? In Matthew 13, we are told that the devil sows evildoers amidst the saints. We confront these troublemakers often in the church, but it is their father, the devil, that is our real enemy. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. We have been divinely equipped to destroy the plans of the devil, and resist against the "tares" that he has sown amidst the "wheat." Often, the problem is some "carnal Christians" who want to play "Holy Spirit" and do the convicting, judging, ruling, etc. for Him. This is dangerous and sinful.
"HIM THAT IS WEAK IN THE FAITH, RECEIVE YE, BUT NOT TO DOUBTFUL DISPUTATIONS....WHO ART THOU THAT JUDGETH ANOTHER MAN'S SERVANT? TO HIS OWN MASTER HE STANDETH OR FALLETH... BUT WHY DOST THOU JUDGE THY BROTHER ? OR WHY DOST THOU SET AT NOUGHT THY BROTHER? FOR WE SHALL ALL STAND BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST."
Thirdly, we should examine the other leadership of the church.
Are they offering help, or part of the problem? Sometimes they are blinded to the evil and hurt being done. The abusers may be closely tied with the leadership, or long-time members, or even family of the leadership. This then poses a very serious addition to the problem. If the leadership is sensitive to the Spirit and anxious to follow the Spirit's leading, the church will move forward. Often, this is the case. But, if the leadership has their ears to the troublemakers and abusers, then the possibility of changing things is remote. Often the best course of action involves praying for the leadership to have them awakened to see the problem as God does. The eyes of many in church leadership can be blinded by a group of abusers who lie, deceive, criticize, and seek power. Sometimes the leadership is convinced that to expose and remove the abusers from power is too difficult. They may seek to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. It doesn't. We need to expose the problem.
Fourthly, examine your ability to minister within the abusive system.
Is it possible for you to minister in the system without it changing? If not, and if the system refuses to change, then one should probably leave the abusive system and find one where they can minister and be ministered unto... Often the Lord wants us to stay within the abusive system to effect a change. This means we must do much intercession, work, and loving. Moses found himself with several million people for 40 years that abused him and each other. Moses had to occasionally withdraw to a mountain top, or other retreat to be near to God. Christians are sheep that are sent out amidst wolves (Matthew 10:16). The only way we survive the wolves is to stay near the Good Shepherd.
Do not expect a "pat on the back" by many, if you stay inside an abusive system that does not want to be awakened to see the abuse. Even the non-abusers will come to the side of the abusers. They will perceive you as the one who is "rocking the boat." They have seen many who noticed the abusers, and then left the church. These who have already left, have been criticized as weak, etc. Those who notice the abuse and stay to confront it, will be called "rebels," and branded as "troublemakers." Jesus was a troublemaker when He chased out the abusers in the temple. He was hated when He confronted the Pharisees, who were the religious abusers of His day. It was those who saw Jesus as a troublemaker that determined to have Jesus crucified. We have been warned by Jesus that we will be also hated as was He.
In the abusive church, we cannot be silent.
We must speak the truth, preach the whole gospel,
teach the complete Word of God.
When someone speaks out against a case of spiritual abuse, the people who calmly have watched the "abused" leave the church time after time, often get disturbed that the "abusers" might leave the church. Young Christians, youth, new attenders, are the most vulnerable victims of the abusers. We must stop the abusers from chasing them from the churches, and from God.
The ones who are being abused must decide whom they serve and to whom they give account. The abused should determine to serve and listen to God alone. There will be much advice, direction, and guidance offered. Most of it will be in error. Let the Lord be your only Master. Don't be intimidated by code words as "chain of command." These words and others attempt to put some under the domination of others. This was the "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes" referred to in Revelation 2.
We are all "priests" to God, and the true "chain of command" is:
God first, the One Mediator -Jesus, as Second, and then you.
I Peter 5:3
"NEITHER AS BEING LORDS OVER GOD'S HERITAGE, BUT BEING ENSAMPLES TO THE FLOCK."
We all answer directly to Jesus and God. The ones who want to look down on some as inferior Christians are in opposition to God's plan. Surely, there are rules in a church. These rules are supposed to make sure that all is done in love, fairness, and in a way to edify each other. Other rules are just a potential wedge for the devil. Abusers will take these rules and attempt to divide the saints over them.
We need to find a group of like-minded believers to stand with us in prayer. The abused often need to exhort and encourage each other into continuing with the Lord. Often the abusers are already unsaved and backslidden. If the abused also backslide, the devil wins. Build relationships with others who can help pick you up when you have been hurt.
"AND LET US CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER TO PROVOKE UNTO LOVE AND TO GOOD WORKS. NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING OF YOURSELVES TOGETHER, AS THE MANNER OF SOME IS, BUT EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER; AND SO MUCH THE MORE AS YE SEE THE DAY APPROACHING."
Do not counterattack. Revenge is not the answer. Often people feel the need to strike out and get revenge. Our pain and disappointment can make us feel justified in this course of action. Yet, it is never right. There is an appropriate way to confront and change abusive situations. God's way will result in your growth, be based on Biblical truth, and not make you apologize later. Don't get drawn into a course of action that will bring regret and necessitate an apology.
"A LITTLE LEAVEN, LEAVENS THE WHOLE LUMP."
We must seek out the leaven, and effect change. We cannot weed out all the "tares" ( Matt. 13). Some of the wheat would be weeded out along with the tares. So we effect change by changing the system whereby the abusers function. The message and emphasis of the church must be altered to put God back into control. When He sits upon the throne of the church, the abusers lose their power. Their power depends on the leadership being blind, unaware, or apathetic to what they do. When the Spirit reveals to the revived leadership the abuse that is occurring, the leadership will expose the abusers and remove their power to continue in positions of authority. A revival of love and worship to the Lord, Who is now back on the throne, will cause the abusers to either get revived too, or leave.
To effect this revival back to the Lord, requires much intercession.
Many Christians are not up to it. Many will run at the first sign of opposition. Others will fight for revival and wait long for it. Sometimes they too leave, but only after the people or leadership have thwarted the revival God tries to give.
Some who enter the fellowship are saints who have been in an abusive situation elsewhere, and are now attending where we worship God to find a place of peace, love, and healing. We should love and attend to them. We must not let them be abused in our church.
Others who may come to our church may be the abusers who left a church that exposed them for what they are. These ECCLESIASTICAL TRANSMANDICANT MENDICANTS (church bums), will go from church to church to find one who will tolerate them and allow them to rise to positions where they can abuse others.
We cannot always know the abusers from the abused. We need the guidance and the help of the Spirit. We need to examine our church fellowship and pray often for it and its leadership.
"HE THAT TROUBLETH YOU SHALL BEAR HIS JUDGMENT, WHOEVER HE BE... I WOULD THEY WERE EVEN CUT OFF WHICH TROUBLE YOU. FOR, BRETHREN, YE HAVE BEEN CALLED INTO LIBERTY; ONLY USE NOT LIBERTY FOR AN OCCASION TO THE FLESH, BUT BY LOVE SERVE ONE ANOTHER. FOR ALL THE LAW IS FULFILLED IN ONE WORD, EVEN IN THIS; THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF. BUT IF YE BITE AND DEVOUR ONE ANOTHER, TAKE HEED THAT YE BE NOT CONSUMED ONE OF ANOTHER."
II Peter 2:1-3
"FALSE PROPHETS...FALSE TEACHERS...DAMNABLE HERESIES...DENYING THE LORD...PERNICIOUS WAYS .. . COVETOUSNESS ...MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU... WHOSE JUDGMENT NOW OF A LONG TIME LINGERETH NOT, AND THEIR DAMNATION SLUMBERETH NOT."
"FOR THERE ARE CERTAIN MEN CREPT IN UNAWARES, WHO WERE BEFORE OF OLD ORDAINED TO THIS CONDEMNATION, UNGODLY MEN, TURNING THE GRACE OF GOD INTO LASCIVIOUSNESS, AND DENYING THE ONLY LORD GOD, AND OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST..."
II Peter 4:17
"FOR THE TIME IS COME THAT JUDGMENT MUST BEGIN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD..."
"THE SON OF MAN SHALL SEND FORTH HIS ANGELS, AND THEY SHALL GATHER OUT OF HIS KINGDOM ALL THINGS THAT OFFEND, AND THEM THAT DO INIQUITY."
"ANOTHER PARABLE SPAKE HE UNTO THEM: 'THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE UNTO LEAVEN WHICH A WOMAN TOOK, AND HID IN THREE MEASURES OF MEAL, TILL THE WHOLE WAS LEAVENED.'"
"BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS, WHICH COME TO YOU IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING, BUT INWARDLY ARE RAVENING WOLVES. YE SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS. DO MEN GATHER GRAPES OF THORNS, OR FIGS OF THISTLES? EVEN SO EVERY GOOD TREE BRINGETH FORTH GOOD FRUIT; BUT A CORRUPT TREE BRINGETH FORTH EVIL FRUIT. A GOOD TREE CANNOT BRING FORTH EVIL FRUIT, NEITHER CAN A CORRUPT TREE BRING FORTH GOOD FRUIT. EVERY TREE THAT BRINGETH NOT FORTH GOOD FRUIT IS HEWN DOWN, AND CAST INTO THE FIRE. WHEREFORE BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM. NOT EVERYONE THAT SAITH UNTO ME, 'LORD, LORD,' SHALL ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN; BUT HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN. MANY WILL SAY TO ME IN THAT DAY, 'LORD, LORD, HAVE WE NOT PROPHESIED IN THY NAME? AND IN THY NAME CAST OUT DEVILS? AND IN THY NAME DONE MANY WONDERFUL WORKS? AND THEN I WILL PROFESS UNTO THEM, I NEVER KNEW YOU; DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY."
"BUT WHOSO SHALL OFFEND ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES WHICH BELIEVE IN ME, IT WERE BETTER FOR HIM THAT A MILLSTONE WERE HANGED ABOUT HIS NECK, AND THAT HE WERE DROWNED IN THE MIDST OF THE SEA. WOE UNTO THE WORLD, BECAUSE OF OFFENSES ! FOR IT MUST BE THAT OFFENSES MUST COME, BUT WOE TO THAT MAN BY WHOM THE OFFENSE COMETH."
The above passages are seldom discussed in our times. They are vital to keep in mind when dealing with abusive situations in the church. Prayer, intercession, and the Word of God are our weapons of warfare against the devil. Dealing with the people is harder than dealing with the devil. Therefore, pray and follow the Word. Preach and teach the truth, the Word of God will speak to hearts, and the Spirit will convict. There were abusive 'saints' then, and there still are now.