What Abuse Is Not

What Abuse Is Not

As believers, our final authority lies with scripture. The Bible itself is full of examples of people, saying to other people, that the Bible says their behaviour is troubling or needs correcting. That is the bread and butter of church discipline and, according to James, a matter of life and death (cf. James 5:20). 

The concept of abuse is floating around a lot at the moment. It is absolutely right that we recognise that there are pastors who abuse their sheep and, similarly, congregations who abuse their pastors. But it also bears saying that not everything that is called abuse is any such thing. Here are some things some people call abusive but are not.

When Someone in Authority Disagrees with You

This is just what it is. Disagreement is not abuse. Someone disagreeing with you who also happens to have some authority over you is also not abuse. You may go to your pastor and ask for something to happen that he does not think should happen. That is not abuse.

The fact is, people will disagree with each other. It may be over minor stuff, it may be over major stuff. But disagreement is not abuse. Disagreement is just disagreement. And disagreement will inevitably have consequences inasmuch as you presumably have to do something in line with whatever it is you are disagreeing about (either doing a thing or specifically not doing a thing). But to disagree and act in line with what is decided is not abusive.

Someone in Authority Not Doing What You Want

Similarly, just because somebody with authority or power does not do what you want does not make them abusive. I have written various book manuscripts. When it comes to the writer/publisher relationship, I am very much without power in that I cannot make a publisher take my book. All the power lies with the publisher. Hold onto your hats for this shocker, but not every manuscript I have written has been accepted by publishers when I sent them in. Some of them had the audacity to say they didn’t want my book (imagine that! The impertinence!) There is nothing abusive about them choosing to do what they are within their rights to do. Just because they didn’t do what I wanted does not mean they have abused me.

Similarly, you may want to do something in the church that your pastor, vicar or elders determine is not appropriate (for any number of reasons). That, similarly, is not abuse. There are any number of reasons why your suggestion might not be adopted. But just because they say ‘no’ to your idea does not mean they are abusively trying to control you. They are just not doing something that you would prefer they do. That is not abuse.

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