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How church abuse is aided and abetted

A Christian Adara woman prays while attending the Sunday's service at Ecwa Church, Kajuru, Kaduna state, Nigeria, on April 14, 2019.
A Christian Adara woman prays while attending the Sunday's service at Ecwa Church, Kajuru, Kaduna state, Nigeria, on April 14, 2019. | LUIS TATO/AFP via Getty Images

Abuse in churches is on the increase and it manifests in different ways — physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, financial and spiritual. Many Christians are easily manipulated and seem not to believe that abuses are going on in their churches while others recognize it but are too afraid to point it out for fear of retribution from church leadership.  

These abuses can do lots of harm. Perversion of the Word of God has put many under the control of abusive pastors who twist the Word to give themselves immunity from criticism. They use their power and authority to cover up their crimes and keep the victims silent.

In Nigeria, every report of church abuse results in casting aspersions on the victims who are seen as those who are used by the devil to pull the church down. The victims are usually warned by the mantra “touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15, 1 Chronicle16:22). Sympathizers of victims are not allowed to talk or make comments against the abusive pastor.

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We have built a culture that promotes and tolerates behaviors that we know are contrary to biblical injunctions. This culture has significantly aided and abetted all forms of abuse in churches. Girls and women who are victims of sexual abuse are often condemned for allowing “men of God” to have carnal knowledge of them. They are stigmatized for allowing themselves to be used by the devil to pull down the anointed.

Most victims prefer to remain silent for fear of being attacked. Those who summon the courage to condemn abuse in churches are seen as agents of darkness who are working against the Body of Christ. In addressing church abuse, Jesus Christ is not the issue; rather those who use His Church to perpetrate all manners of abuse are the problem.

So, is reporting church abuse biblical? A good look at Scripture will help us understand whether it is a sin against God to speak out about unhealthy practices in churches. In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Christ told John to write to five churches and their leaders. John wrote, criticized, and condemned many things that the churches were doing. It is important to note that these letters were not confidential, otherwise, they would not have been published in the Bible. In these letters, it was Christ Himself who constructively criticized his own Church and demanded their repentance.

The Apostle Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth and Galatia are known for their pointed criticism. Should we say that Paul is “judging the anointed?” Paul exposed some dangerous persons in the church to ensure that others were protected: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Timothy 4:14-15).

According to the Apostle John, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So, when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church” (3 John 1:9-10). There are so many Alexander the coppersmith and Diotrephes in our churches today who are protected by misapplied lines like “Judge not and touch not my anointed.”

Does being anointed exempt anyone from criticism and correction? Peter was anointed yet Paul rebuked him (Galatians 2:11). Why didn’t Peter defend himself, as these pastors do? This faulty misinterpretation has created a culture of tolerance for sin, abuse, and all manner of evil in churches. But what do we do? If we condemn our brothers and sisters when they err, we are not better than the world, but if we tolerate sins and abuse in our churches then we are facilitators and supporters of evil.

Let us expose evil in our churches and correct those involved in it with love.

Oscar Amaechina is the president of Afri-Mission and Evangelism Network, Abuja, Nigeria. His calling is to take the gospel to where no one has neither preached nor heard about Jesus. He is the author of the book Mystery Of The Cross Revealed.  

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