Answering Abuse and Sin in the Church

I just recently read a very sad blog about a dysfunctional church that encouraged very abusive behavior under the guise of “holiness”. You don’t have to look far to find news articles on people in the house of God who do things that God would not approve of. In fact, it is because of things like this that I am sure God’s heart breaks. Yes. God has a heart and yes it can break.

Isaiah 63:9-11New International Version (NIV)
In all their distress he too was distressed,
    and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them
    all the days of old.
10 Yet they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
    and he himself fought against them.

I can imagine lots of things that would do the job, but I am sure that breaking God’s heart wouldn’t be too far from what breaks our hearts. Child abuse. Suffering. Evil advancing. Yes. Even sparrows falling from trees.

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”

After reading, I decided to write a blog to address two different situations. The first is abusive homes and the way they destroy the hearts and faith of children.  The second is normal homes of believers in Jesus that struggle with imperfect relationships and sin. Each affect the faith of future generations.

The blog author penned a harrowing story of atrocities committed in a church/cult, but even more terrible, his Christian family. These are the very worst atrocities, in my opinion, because God created little children to be sheltered from the evils of the world in the womb of the home. Parents reflect the heart of God to children.

Children need to know, “Does God love me? What does his love look like? How do I talk to God? Does God get angry when I ask questions? Does God want to reject me when I’m tired or upset? Can God handle my emotions?”

Usually, these questions are answered subconsciously when they interact with their parents. If their father is merciless and graceless then how would God be any different? Even if they can acknowledge that with their little heads….does it make it to their hearts?  If the mother is withdrawn and emotionally absent, how could God love them more than mom?

However, If the father disciplines with firm love, forgives and accepts the child in the middle of his or her vulnerability…how could God NOT be this way? If mother hears the worst news in the world, and doesn’t withdraw into denial and doesn’t reject the wayward teen, but forgives with open arms of grace, the story of the prodigal son comes home into his heart.

I’ve read so many articles on why teens turn away from God when they go to college. I personally believe it has way more to do with the home and what goes on in it, what is taught and what is “caught” than what happens in youth group, what type of schooling you experience or most anything else.

In a situation where there is severe abuse, the confusion about God can be so great that many deny Christ. (Because it seems like all of Christianity is a sham….) A decade or so ago I heard from a daughter of 2 pastors. She rejected her belief in Jesus. The reason? When she got pregnant outside of wedlock, her pastor parents forced her to have an abortion, when she didn’t want to.

She felt violated. No grace. No redemption. Hiding to save face. Covering-up sin, instead of taking it to the grace-filled cross of Jesus. She felt she had the inside scoop that all pastors are like this. She was devastated, hurt and confused.

This is honestly sick. Now, I do NOT believe all churches and Christians are like this. In fact, many are not like this, but it’s hard to believe when that is all that you knew growing up.

It is oh so difficult to admit that the people you loved, trusted and grew up under were dysfunctional or even “abusive”. It is easier to throw out everyone- especially God, and speak in generalizations than to deal with the real and personal pain of what actually happened in your life.

Hurting hearts easily believe if there is one rotten apple in the bunch, they ALL must be hypocrites. This belief stems from the pain and anger caused by sin. It is incredibly sad to me. I think of how God’s heart must break when little children are subliminally taught by the actions of adults that religion is a fairy tale.

This is why more and more people in this generation want a real encounter with God. They crave authenticity. Even the word authentic is popular. No one wants to be fake.

So, how now do we live?

Coming into the light. – If you have been hurt and disillusioned in a Christian home or are struggling to live out Christ in your home, there is good news in Christ.

John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

No one is perfect. Own up to your weaknesses and sin. Bring family pain and sin -your own first, of course- into the light! That light is the light of God’s love and grace.

There is a way to deal with the imperfection, and the sin and pain inside of us. The sin is the problem. Sin -disobedience to God, or missing the mark-brings the pain. (How many of us can admit we miss the mark as parents, no matter how hard we try?)

Jesus brings the healing, when we confess our sin to him and acknowledge our shortcomings. When we repent of our sin, and humble ourselves before Jesus, the loving, sacrificial Son of God, we are forgiven. Jesus paid for this amazing amenity of heaven with his own blood. He thought you were worth it!

Fresh forgiveness and grace! It flows out of God like a fountain of rushing water! This is what we need in churches and families today.

Struggling with God as a Father in the middle of your sin, or in the aftermath of someone else’s sin? Jesus said, if we’ve seen him, we’ve seen the father. Our father in heaven is a loving father. He is a giving father. He is a merciful father. We become a part of this safe loving family- God’s eternal family, because Jesus sacrificed himself in our place. He took the punishment for our sin on his own body on the cross. We can find healing, deliverance, freedom, perspective, grace, and mercy.

We learn to walk in the light of repentance in Jesus. God’s healing is for you, today, oh seeker.

Let’s take a look at walking into the light and what that looks like: 

Even good parents who love Jesus can make selfish decisions. God knows the motives of our hearts. He desires that our children learn from us as they watch us submit our lives to Jesus. As our children watch us die to self and walk in grace, they will learn to overcome. They will learn who God is. What does this look like?

I remember taking my daughter’s hand when she was 2 in Wal-Mart. As a young mommy, my heart would beat a little faster in Wal-Mart, or any public place for that matter, because I would imagine every possible thing that could go wrong to separate me from my precious child. As we entered the store, God spoke to me.

“When your daughter listens to you, she learns to listen to me. I created the family to raise up children to love me and to have a relationship with me.”

I gently crouched down to eye level with my sweet Ariel.

“When mommy tells you to stay beside me, you need to listen to stay safe. When you listen to mommy, you practice obeying God.”

There is a rule. The rule is to protect you. The rule is because I love you. The rule is spoken in love, not frustration and anger.

Even when my children were sucking their thumbs in their cribs, I would talk to them about Jesus. I want their relationships with Jesus to spring from every part of their being, not just by stories they learned in Sunday School.

Imagine, how many little children around the world, live in homes where Daddy and Mommy go to church, teach them rules, stories and theology, but then don’t live out the heart of God at home. What is modeled for children and subliminally communicated to them when they are taken to church, but live with ungodly behavior at home? Let’s look at a short list.

  • Religion is fake.
  • Go to church, but leave it there.
  • At home, we all know that we can “be ourselves”.  In the homes of those with even the best intentions, sin enters in. (For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.) 
  • The poison of excessive anger. (Because someone wants to be in control or is suffering from some hurt they never dealt with personally.)
  • The poison of lying. (Cause, you don’t want to make the angry family member mad.)
  • The poison of shame. (Because nothing controls a person better than shaming them…)

Now, I want to talk about shame. Shame is not of God. When God looks at his child, even when they need correction, it is not with shame. It is with love. This is a love that is perfect love, and perfect love does not condone sin, but it gives grace and room for transformation.

Perfect love says, “I see the ugliness of your actions, I see the terrible thing you did, but my love for you is greater than your sin. I cannot leave you in this destructive sin. It will destroy your life. I have to rescue you and bring you out of it.” Perfect love says, “I died for you to remove the shame and the stench of your sin.” There is no shame in a child of God.

I don’t believe any child should be raised in shame or that shame should be used to manipulate people. God doesn’t need to manipulate us, he shoots straight and respectfully.

Now, let’s get real parents. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, so to speak. (Well, maybe sometimes… ha ha.) But, if we want to see a change in our children, we need to start with our own hearts and actions.

Early in our marriage, when I was driving with my husband and little daughter, I got a little incensed by the impatience I thought my husband used with our 3 year old.

So, of course, the momma bear came out and I started to lecture him.

Makes sense right? I attacked him for being impatient. Really put him in his place. The whole time, the Holy Spirit was speaking in clear, even tones to me. He was saying, “Stop. Stop talking. Calm down. This is wrong. This is a sin.”

Finally, when I said my piece, and the air was thick with the choking black smoke of discord, the Holy Spirit “cleared his voice” and said,

“The damage you just did to your daughter was greater than anything that you were trying to ‘protect’ her from.” 

Well, at that point, I could obey God and apologize, ask my husband for forgiveness, or I could smugly tuck the correction away for a later time. Sadly, I think I did the latter. Why do we do that? Why do we let pride get in the way?

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit kept pursing me and I repented.

Walking away from sinful behavior and walking into the light is intentional. We need to do it to truly be authentic.

The mom who used to “hollar”, has been transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead of thinking, “I’ll get it better next time,” Or “That won’t happen again,” and sweeping it under the proverbial rug, we ask forgiveness. We admit we are wrong. Own up. We walk in mercy and grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

That is when we walk in transformation. Christ transforms the believer and the children who are watching.

If you have suffered at the hands of abuse or extreme disfunction in church or in a Christian home, do not reject the Lord. He is on your side. Seek his face. Ask him to remove the confusion and pain from your past and to teach you what the truth is. Our good father in Heaven will not let you down. Do not be afraid of him. He loves you.

But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

2 Replies to “Answering Abuse and Sin in the Church”

  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing. You wrapped it up beautifully, “If you have suffered at the hands of abuse or extreme dysfunction in church or in a Christian home, do not reject the Lord. He is on your side. ”

    Thanks for sharing!


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