We are quickly approaching the one year mark of the #MeToo Movement that has taken social media by storm. Since then, 4.7 million women and counting have come forward with their stories of sexual assault and abuse within the workplace and the Church.
Although sexual misconduct is well-documented throughout church history, 2018 has been an eye-opening year for how prominent the issue really is with multiple allegations against Protestant evangelical megachurch leaders. Although megachurches are coming under fire for these allegations on national news as of late, I must issue the awareness of the fact that sexual abuse is an alarming reality within smaller churches across North America and the world.
Last summer, upon releasing my own journey of healing from sexual abuse by a church member, I have spoken to several women across North America, India, and Dubai regarding their experiences of sexual abuse from church leaders and family members alike. The one thing all of these women have in common is that all of their situations have been mishandled by the church or covered up. There are many wolves dressed in sheep's clothing sitting in our pews today while these women pay for the consequences of these mens' actions for life.
Brothers and sisters, we MUST reflect God's justice on this earth.
We have a duty to protect the innocent and give a voice to the ones who have been silenced. The Bible says it is better for a millstone to be hung around a person's neck for causing a little one to stumble (Mark 9:42) That is how seriously we must take this. The book of James tells us that leaders will be judged more harshly (James 3:1). Yet, there are Christian leaders convicted of sexual immorality and assault left and right.
Church, do we not believe what the Bible says as true? Have we lost the fear of God?
Punishment for evil is not a bad thing. It is a GOOD thing. It lets society and the evildoer know that evil is not acceptable NOR is it tolerated. It protects society from any more harm done by the same individual or by others. We punish out of love for the purpose of CORRECTION as exemplified by the God of the Scriptures (Hebrews 12:6).
I pray that the Church will act on this aspect of God's love. He does not excuse evil and neither must we. There are built in consequences and punishments for evil. We know that dealing with sexual abuse within the church is an extremely messy process, but it must be done for the sake of protecting the flock.
Church, how much are these little sheep worth to you? Are you willing to defend and protect them at all cost?
When we do not protect these sheep, it sends the message that they are not worth enough, that they are unheard and unloved. Is it any wonder so many millennials have left churches today? These sheep should not have to go through the consequences of sexual abuse alone. Church, we must protect them, we must heal with them, and we must listen to them.
Now, I speak directly to the victim. While the church must reflect God's justice on earth, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus, He also calls us to forgive those who have abused us. I have been told by several people, including believers, that I do not have to forgive my abuser.
But that is NOT what the Bible says.
Colossians 3:13 states, " bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive ." This is the crux of the Christian faith. Christ has forgiven us of every vile sin we have committed, and so we must also forgive. I cannot possibly understand the grace God has given unto me if I do not extend that same grace to others who have forgiven me. I dare not praise God for His forgiveness of my own sins while I hoard judgment over another!
I must also state that the benefit of forgiveness is that it enables you to heal and no longer carry the burden of the pain caused you. A life of joy is possible! One of my favorite quotes by Lewis B. Smedes says, "to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to realize that prisoner was you."
A life of bitterness and grudges does not produce the righteousness of God. A bitter heart cannot love as it ought to.
Nor does it produce a joyful life. God does not wish for us to carry these burdens...He offers to carry them for us! I long for all of you to experience the life of joy God blesses us with when we obey Him in this manner!
And while earthly justice and forgiveness are necessary parts of healing, God asks us to take it a step further. He not only requires these things,
He ALSO asks us to reaffirm our love for the abuser! (2 Corinthians 2: 5-8).
This is something completely counter-cultural! The world tells us we can hate our abusers. God tells us to LOVE because He desires their repentance and restoration. We must not wrestle with flesh and blood. And when the world sees this kind of love, they will marvel at the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Church, justice, forgiveness, and love are ALL necessary. We cannot exclude one from the other. Otherwise we fail to display the power of TRUE healing and restoration that can only come from above as presented by the Scriptures.
Church, I plead with you to do all of these things for the successful restoration of both victims and abusers, that Christ's name may be glorified.
"Only on the cross of Jesus Christ do love, justice, evil, and forgiveness converge." -Ravi Zacharias.
Merin Minch, victor in Christ Jesus.