Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is the church a safe place to repent?

Posted by Hannah at 9:01 PM

The Internet Monk wrote in an article called, Is there a Place to Repent?

I Corinthians 6:9-11

6: 9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. -Paul the Apostle, First Letter to the Corinthians

He spoke of how we have heard this scripture stated many times, and how you have heard if you don’t repent of those sins you will not inherit your place in Heaven. What he does say that makes a lot of sense to me is that the church at isn’t to welcoming to those on that rocky road to repentance. Once you are received within that Christian bubble you are no longer moving from one type of person to another, but you are already THERE in a lot of cases it seems to me!

This may shed some light on the situation in I Corinthians chapter 5, where Paul says the Corinthians are “proud of” their acceptance of a man living in a Jerry Springer-esque relationship with his step-mother. Acceptance of the sinner may have been the Corinthian’s strong suit if chapter 6 is any evidence, and their lack of discernment and leadership may have let them to sometimes tolerate too easily- even gladly- what they should have sometimes excluded as incompatible with belonging to Christ. In fact, a number of passages in these letters leave the impression that the Corinthians’ acceptance of real sinners and their patience in dealing with real sin may have gone off track without unified, mature leadership.

What I want you to see, however, is that their acceptance of sinful, repenting, in-the-process-of-changing new believers was a legitimate and importance application of the Gospel. We don’t just arrive at the destination; we travel the road and the road may be less than a straight line. The Christian community into which the Corinthians were all baptized as converts was, at any one moment, a community of persons moving from one kind of person to another; a community of persons acquiring in real time the inheritance and realities given them in their union with Christ in baptism and

Our only other choice is to assume that the person who was “once” on the list in chapter 6 was excluded from the community until they became the new “you” of the same verses. There are Christians and communities that strive to be this very thing: communities where all transformation is instantaneous and the stated rules render the process of repentance and personal transformation unspeakable…unless it is finished. This, by the way, is the genius of Paul’s “sin lists,” which always counterbalance the “big” sins with what we would judge as more mundane sins, by human comparison. Of course you must exclude a persistent sexual sinner, but “greedy” people? We can work on that as we go along. No need to make a big deal about that sort of thing.

I’m not suggesting that Paul or any New Testament writer was advocating that anyone in leadership would be in the process of committing scandalous sin. The pastoral letters are clear on such matters. I am suggesting, with good evidence I think, that the Corinthian fellowship contained persons who entered into the Christian journey as they repented from real sins, and that such repentance was ongoing and, I’m certain, imperfect. That the church is to be a “hospital for sinners” and not a ward of healthy people telling stories of their former illnesses is a challenging calling.

Now I have more than a Bible study in mind this morning, and I want to get to the point. I think there are sins we virtually don’t talk about at all simply because we don’t want people in the process of repenting of those sins around us or our families, and so we fail to see that the church as community is, in many ways, much more like the moralistic, judgmental secular world than like the movement that grows from Jesus and his world-altering Gospel.

He went on and spoke about the sin of domestic violence, emotional abuse within the secular and faith communities. He will admit it’s rampant within both, and he is NOT the type that tells you to go home and SUBMIT to your husband!

He mentioned that he has read – as we all have – that abusive people will never change. He didn't agree with that statement. I personally have never believed that either, but I can understand why people do at times. What I think he has a good point about is there is no place in the church for a repenting abuser.

No fellowship of mere humans can create the community where everyone can repent openly. It’s just not possible. Some sins and their consequences are too controversial and dangerous, even in the process of sincere repentance. Most churches are too imperfect to love every sinner as they should be loved. No church can turn an eye to realities of risk and recurrence

That could be WHY they deny the existence of domestic violence within the church to begin with! Their instant transformation can’t be a reality if the risk of recurrence is there! I do believe that abusers will have recurrences within their path of healing and repentance. Heck the victims will have recurrences of the codependency at times – among other issues. Its not something you can just shake off one day, and be clean as a whistle the next!

What it will take is a lot of effort, education, love, counsel and acceptance. We need these things will BE THERE if people want them bad enough…and are willing to work for towards repentance. That God wants this for you, and he will be there to help you on this path. The church must be a safe haven to speak about this, and are willing to be a support system, accountability partner, and deal with reality…and not FLUFF! It’s going to take more than the words, “Leave it at the CROSS”. Yes, the church HAS to go there! It will be ugly, messy, and hard to deal with at times.

You’d probably be more surprised to learn that the woman next to you at the gym is there because her husband verbally abuses her about her weight. Or what your best friend’s husband is doing on that work computer. Or who is on the sex offender’s registry because as a 22 year old public school coach they had consensual sex with a 17 year old student. Or who is addicted to prescription medications. Or who punched their 15 year old son in the jaw. Or who is paying the mortgage having sex with strangers off of Craig’s list. Or who is a three time convicted shoplifter. Or who was arrested for a DUI last month. Or who smokes pot every day.

Yes, most of us don’t want to think about it, because these are messy, life dominating sins, scattering trails of wreckage behind them that no one wants to become involved with. But we preach the Gospel to them when we preach it to anyone.

We have a Word to hear, an aisle to walk, water to be washed in and a table to come to, but do we have a people gathered around that Gospel who will strive to make a community of repentance possible?

verbally abusive

I think the author of this article brings up some good points. You don't hear to much about those sins, and the struggle to get past them to often. You hear the testimonies once they have overcame their struggles, but not to much concentration on the path of those struggles.

I remember years ago I was struggling with my marriage, and I knew something was wrong. I just couldn't place my finger on the cause, and as 'worldly' as it sounds I needed a label so I knew what I was dealing with. Heck I concentrated on ME for years! I know this sounds silly, but I played Melanie Wilkes of Gone with the Wind! I tried to be gentle, loving, positive, encouraging! I tried to do ALL for everyone, and be happy about it. I refused to see the negative and tried to be as empathic towards everything. YES the true me was lost along the way playing this role, but if that made my marriage successful - the kids happy...WELL I was willing to do this! I guess you could say that was my visual for the Proverb 31 woman! If I did all these things my family would appreciate me, and I would finally could be seen with worth as mentioned in Proverbs 31. The abuse would stop, and I prayed that God changed both of us.

I knew alot of the uglies issues of my life were not things you could bring up in polite christian conversation. I knew the answers I would get, and I was trying those! It wasn't working, because things were getting worse instead of better. One day I came across an article called, The Silence Killer of Christian Marriages. You would think, "WOW she got her label!" I did get my label, but for a long time I fought the doubts of my reality, and the ownership of the real issues. It wasn't easy, and I struggled with it alone. YES I'm talking within the human realm! I didn't want to own that I was being abused, and that my husband was abusive! I went down the, 'Its not that bad' path WAY to many times trying to talk myself out of it. It wasn't a badge of honor as other's describe people using it for me. I know its not for others as well, but you would have a hard time finding people that believe that. Its truly sad if you think about it.

You want to know WHY I did it alone? One Lovely Mess is a great example of WHY I didn't wish to go to people within the church! If I would just do it better things would be dandy! I just didn't have the energy to educate people at that point, and I was tired of fighting with people to make them see my world. When I did they questioned my reality, and I have to admit it hurt and was very demeaning. I was struggling enough with what I knew my reality was, and I didn't need to help with that portion. I didn't need more shame, because I had enough at that point. I still wonder why people feel that is the way to go.

I did find help, and I would get angry at those types of responses for a while. God showed me that anger wasn't the way to go. I learned to feel pity for abusers and their enablers that ask you to submit to sin. That divert the conversation about how females use more words, and chances are you are the one doing the abusing by the way! They like abusers divert the issues into other areas instead of dealing with them, and place most of the blame squarely on your shoulders.

Know that I do not write this to excuse any of the sinful behaviors of men. I write this to show that they are not the only sinners in the equation, and that Biblical submission can change the entire picture....
They claim they "GET IT" after they shame the hell out of you, and make you feel worse. Make you question if you should EVER open your mouth again about your pain! You know they don't get it, because mouthing off to an abusive person can get you HURT! They refuse to own that part, and you must have provoked them. YOU MUST HAVE, and they are more than willing to dissect everything to find it for you! LOL! YES they have to dissect it to make them feel their good counsel! You are trying to shake off the denial and doubt, and they are telling you to keep it. I have come to find out that I'm not the one in denial, and people will not talk me into going back there. The truth was hard enough to find, and was hard enough to accept. The truth sent me free!

I pray for those that give that type of counsel. I pray that when they are in pain that they are not treated as they treat others. I pray they have an empathic ear, and council that is encouraging. That will pray for them and with them. That they will be honest with them, and admit at times they don't know the answers all the time! Its okay to PRAY for those! Its okay to point out the uglies on both parties sides, but before you do that? Make sure you know what you are talking about, and WHAT you are dealing with! Diversion doesn't work. It never has.

Is the church a safe place to repent? It could be if they are willing to acknowledge the ugly, and help you deal with the dirty. Until such time? I wonder if it will be safe for most anyone!

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Amy on 3:29 PM said...

This post is really eye opening, and hits home with me right now in my situation.
Although I am getting quite a bit of support from my church family as I am in the process divorcing my h after 20 years of psychological abuse, there are those that take scripture out of context and make me feel guilty for standing against abuse. But the problem is that most people don't understand this type of abuse as you stated and as I told my pastor the other day, if I had black eyes and bruises on my body I think there would be more support from the church in protecting myself and children. As it is my h has been counseled to return home which he did for 5 horrific weeks in which I could not get him to leave and found out later that a couple men from my church actually told him to go home and get things straightened out with his family. Would they have sent him home if he was beating the s--- out of me and my sons?? But beating us up with his psychologically damaging, beyond cruel and insane words is OK I guess.

Someday I pray that I can educate churches in my area to the damage caused by this type of abuse and how support can be given to spouses enduring it.

Hannah on 5:00 PM said...

I hope and pray you do get that opportunity Amy.

I firmly believe that everyone involved with these types of relationships needs help - just different types. The way they handle it now? No one really does. lol and then they question why we don't support such nonsense! WOW!

dancegirldance5 on 11:10 PM said...

I am definitely not at the place where you are with the anger at people's ridiculous responses. My stomach turned at the One Ugly Mess Blog. That woman seemed to self righteous...I am disgusted.

Hannah on 7:48 PM said...

I used to be angry all the time at responses like this. Its so simplistic in a very harsh reality. Goodness knows we would have less hurt in this world if that advice actually worked with everyone.

What is kind of silly about is...does that advice work with addicts of booze, porn, drugs, etc as well? Abusers are addicted to the rage, power and control. If her advice worked for verbal abuse it should work for the rest of it as well. We all know its not that easy, because there are alot of issues at play.

I personally pity the woman.

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