Abuse: No Joke, No Myth

Abuse: No Joke, No Myth

We must not be ignorant or naive about the reality of abuse in Christian circles. And we must not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear when we hear about or see abuse cases of any kind. The Lord loves justice and calls us to practice justice while we walk humbly with him (Mic. 6:8). This means listening to cries for help, coming to the side of those treated unjustly, and making sure that unfit, evil shepherds are not allowed to rule (Isa. 1:17; Amos 5:15; Jer. 22:3; Jer. 21:12, etc.). Churches—and church leadership—should promote and seek justice in a biblical way, a way that glorifies the Lord and is good for his people. In a word, Christians should, in a just way, oppose abuse in the church. 

Abuse. It has been a hot topic in our culture for the last fifteen years or more. Various abuse cases have been highlighted by the media more than a few times. To put it in other terms, pointing the spotlight on abuse has been “trending.” Reports of abuse often go viral online. Needless to say, many people in our culture know about abuse.

Typically, in Christian circles, cultural hot topics lead to debates. From climate change to women’s rights, to immigration policies to political movements, Christians debate and disagree upon various trending topics. However, abuse is not something about which Christians should disagree. Abuse is wrong, and it is detestable. Abuse is nothing to joke about. Whether physical, spiritual, sexual, emotional, or verbal, all forms of abuse are contrary to God’s Word (e.g Jer. 22:3, Ps. 10:7, Prov. 24:1–2, etc.). Although it is unfortunate that false accusations of abuse happen, Christians should despise the very thought of abuse. Abuse is an evil and an injustice that originates from the dark corners of a sinful heart and is instigated by Satan himself.

Most people have heard about abuse cases involving CEOs, coaches, politicians, or people in other positions of authority. Even more discouraging and disheartening are the stories about abuse involving pastors and church leaders. It is not a myth. Some leaders in Christian churches—even conservative Christian churches—have abused God’s people. Like the evil, worthless shepherds of God’s people in Ezekiel’s day, some men today in leadership positions have abused God’s people and ruled them with harshness and brutality (Ezek. 34:4). The evil actions of these harsh shepherds cause the sheep to scatter and wander (Ezek. 34:6). The poor sheep are forced to run from the dangerous shepherd into the wilderness where they face dangerous animals. It happened in Ezekiel’s day; it still happens today. Sometimes men in authority simultaneously abuse their authority and the people under their authority, causing unimaginable harm to the flock. No wonder the Lord says woe to such wicked men and vows to hold them accountable for their terrible evil (Ezek. 34:2, 10).

On a positive note, and biblically speaking, pastors and elders are called to rule with Christ-like love, tenderness, and care (1 Pet. 4:1–4). Pastors and elders must not rule with a brawny, heavy-handed, tough demeanor. Instead, they must care for sheep in a loving maternal and paternal way (Ezek. 34:3–4; 1 Thess. 2:7; 1 Tim. 1:2). Paul says that overseers in the church must not be violent, but gentle (1 Tim. 3:3). Shepherds are not to be arguers who like to quarrel (1 Tim. 3:3). They must be self-controlled in all areas of life, avoiding both anger and too much alcohol (1 Tim. 3:2–3). Along with all Christians, pastors and elders must cultivate and live out the fruit of the Spirit, including love, kindness, patience, goodness, and gentleness.

Pastors and elders must also lead the way in the blessed task of peacemaking. They do not take up weapons in personal conflicts, but pastors and elders help people lay down their weapons and seek peace. Shepherds are not fighters; they must not fight with the sheep. Pastors and elders must be kind to everyone, correct opponents with gentleness, and let love cover all offenses (2 Tim. 2:24–26; 1 Pet. 4:8). Shepherds must stand firmly on the truth and boldly teach the truth, but when they interact with opponents or objectors, they are to speak the truth in love and correct others with gentleness (Matt. 5:44; Eph. 4:15).

Again, all these characteristics are Christ-like. He is our Chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep with tender love. Our dear Savior never harms, manipulates, bullies, lies to, or deceives his sheep. Pastors and elders, by God’s grace, are called to be Christ-like in their care for the flock. Thankfully, God is abundantly kind to his people.

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