- In response to the world’s overt worship of sex, the church goes silent.
“Let your manhood be a blessing; rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight.” Proverbs 5:18-19, TLB
Did you know if you Google ‘what the Bible says about sex’, Google will suggest ‘what the Bible says about sexual immorality’? The popular search engine suggests that we are well-versed in how not to do sex, but do we really know what sex is?
Sex is a beautiful act of worship to God. The sexual union of male and female within the marriage commitment is a beautiful expression of love that brings God great glory. Satan does not want God to receive this glory, so he twists sex that it becomes about man worshiping himself instead of God.
Instead of rising up to combat this lie with the truth of sex’s created purpose, we as a church tend to go silent. We stick the subject of sex away to be brought out only when it is time to talk about the birds and bees, at marriage ceremonies, and during youth events. Satan must be delighted as he watches us fall into the other ditch and ostracize sex instead of celebrating it as God intended. The glory that is due God’s name is lost to fear, silence, and misconceptions.
Until sex is something we can talk about as a gift from God, sexual abuse will continue to harm innocent lives within the church. Sexual abuse is a lie in which two people are entangled. Neither will find freedom unless the lie is replaced with truth. The victimizer worships himself and the victim suffers in silence, while the church righteously preaches about sexual immorality and whispers occasionally of sexual pleasure.
We must break the deception that sex is shameful and reignite the dying ember of godly sex if we wish to sever our generational ties with sexual abuse.
2. We expect the church to raise the children.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV
The Bible is full of advice for raising children. The admonition is clearly directed at parents, yet some of us seem to have missed the parent part, or maybe it’s just easier to expect the church to raise them. “If I go to the right church, send them to the right school, and keep them from outside influences, then I can be sure my children will turn out good” seems to be some church-going parents’ motto, rather than Deuteronomy eleven.
While church life is important and influences need to be monitored, there is no substitute for parents. They are the child’s main instructors, while the church fills in the gaps. Rarely does a church have all the necessary resources or time to raise the child.
In a culture where the church is expected to raise the children, the children usually end up raising the children. If parents are not teaching about sex and the church has gone silent, children will turn to the world. Children want answers and the world is more than happy to oblige. The answers they receive will be hidden and covertly passed on to the next generation, for children imitate what is modeled. And for far too many, secrecy appears to go hand in hand with sex.
3. Authority is revered more than the Creator of authority.
“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3, 12
Authority is an important Biblical principle. But it is only one of many Biblical principles. The moment an authority figure steps out from under the Ultimate Authority and hides sin in the guise of God-given authority, he replaces his first love with a love for self and becomes nothing but a clashing cymbal. Lucifer was guilty of declaring himself independent of God’s authority and was thrown out of Heaven as a result.
When we as a church preach loudly submission to authority at all cost to our congregants, we become a harbor for abuse. The abuser’s authority protects him while condemning the victim to suffer in silence. Sexual abuse is a crime of power.
The hands of those who exalt authority without accountability will sooner or later be covered with the blood of the vulnerable.
4. Our redemptive programs focus on the sinner & expect the sinned against to forgive and move back into normal life.
“Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” 2 Samuel 13:20, NIV
Most churches recognize the need for the sinner to find help. What we seem to miss is that the victim needs help, too. Too often they become lost in the resulting confusion and continue to suffer silently. They are expected to heal by simply stepping back into normal life while the pain within them remains largely untouched.
Sexual abuse is devastating because it attacks the victim at her very core. The lies she accepts in order to survive are devastating and can affect her heart for years after the abuse has ceased. The only way to find healing is to pour out the lies and allow truth to bring freedom. The victim cannot do this alone. She needs truth speakers in her life who will lay down their own lives in order to lead her tenderly to the Source of all Truth, her ABBA.
The only path that will successfully lead to Him is a path of sacrifice and commitment. When we attempt to do this in our own power, we won’t succeed. We will take one step only to turn around and run the other direction, many times dragging the victim with us. We don’t want to hear the heart-breaking, shocking words their hearts have felt, so we turn away, feeling inadequate. We forget that while we may be inadequate, our God is not.
The way to freedom leads through a victim’s memories. Godly compassion will walk with them through their pain so that they can experience the rainbow at the other end. How will they see Jesus through their pain unless someone walks with them in the footsteps of Jesus? The church of God should rejoice in the opportunity to introduce the hurting victim to true Love by example.
5. We gossip rather than lovingly confront.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 ESV
Sexual abuse defined simply is a person fulfilling his lust for power by sexually exploiting the vulnerable. Victimizers have a position of authority (spoken or unspoken) in the victim’s life. God structured authority with the intent that authority figures would care for their young as shepherds. Young children innately trust their authorities. We were created this way.
When the vulnerable encounters what God created to be a structure of safety and experiences rather the devastating thievery of selfish authorities, the damage cracks their foundation of values. Their whole world shakes and where trust once ruled, distrust now dictates.
Gossip reinforces both the victim and victimizer’s perceived lack of value. It continues to feed the victim’s belief that she is not worth rescuing and is only good as a source of entertainment. Gossip waters shame and grows the belief that nobody can be trusted. It is always harmful, but especially within the church. The church should be a place where we can safely expose the dirtiest parts of our hearts and experience healing community. When gossip reigns in the church, the exact opposite happens: people close up and go numb to avoid greater injury. Or they just leave. The very place God intended for healing becomes a place of condemnation.
In order for healing and restoration to happen, someone must step up and be willing to call out the sin. If we truly believe that both souls trapped by this sin, are souls that God created and loves, then shouldn’t we be the first one knocking on the sinner’s door? We seem rather to be content speculating on what may or may not be happening rather than lovingly requesting explanations and calling out inconsistencies in the story (these always exist in incidents of sexual abuse).
Many times we are hesitant to confront because we equate confrontation with condemnation. Confrontation is only condemning when it is done without the spirit of Christ. Sin is what condemns the sinner, not confrontation. Loving confrontation brings restoration for the repentant and healing for the victim.
Confrontation of a situation where sin exists is the first step in rebuilding lost trust in the heart of the victim. Confrontation reassures the victim and the victimizer that they are valuable, so valuable that we are willing to be vulnerable to ensure their spiritual and physical safety.
- We separate ourselves from justice.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NIV
Just as Satan has twisted the purpose of sex, so he has twisted God’s purpose for justice on earth. Justice in the hands of an evil world tends to be accomplished through violence. This is not how God practices justice. Justice is about redemption, not violence!
The Bible assures us that God is a God of justice AND redemption. Even before man fell into sin, before God created the world, He had already devised a beautiful plan of redemption for His creation. Justice was part of this plan, and justice remains a key factor in redemption.
There’s a term floating around in our judicial system today that few people know about and even fewer welcome in their moments of grief and loss. The term is restorative justice and its purpose is just that: to restore the wrongdoer through justice (there is hope that justice may recover from its negative connotation yet :)). When I look at God the Redeemer, I see a God who uses justice to restore the sinner.
When we separate justice from the restoration process, we remove a vital component in the redemptive process necessary for both the sinner and the sinned against to find healing. God is the only Healer of broken hearts. He made our hearts and He alone knows how to fit the pieces back together when we lie shattered on the ground. If we desire healing for those suffering from sexual abuse, then we must follow God’s principles and act within His character. Choosing to leave justice out of the picture is choosing to leave God out of the picture. If healing is our goal and God is the only Healer, then we most certainly do not want to do that.