We’re Going to Need a Bigger Millstone (Sexual Abuse and the Church)

It’s not hard or bold or courageous to condemn sexual abuse in the church.

Once pedophilia, pornography, rape or unwanted sexual advances by men and women purporting to be Christians make the headlines, condemning their actions is necessary, but it costs nothing. It’s a stone tossed onto a pile of rubble burying the perpetrators, but beneath their bones lie the hearts and souls of their victims, too.

Harder, costlier, braver is the face-to-face sit-down at the first whisper of concern. Addressing people, we considered closer than brothers or sisters, when the problem is just a sour feeling in our guts.

Asking more questions that time we walk into an office and get the feeling we interrupted something that shouldn’t be happening.

Pursuing an exit interview with the third secretary who quits with a fumbled explanation as to why.

Making persistent efforts to re-engage the boy who suddenly lost interest in youth group after the camping trip.

Insisting on accountability software with the staff member who swears he clicked on those sites only during a particularly stressful week.

Inviting our young church friend out to coffee when we notice bruises on her arm that look like finger marks.

Looking a respected, admired, unquestionably biblical leader in the eyes and insisting that we do need to discuss this accusation with the leadership team, even if he tells us it’s a tactic of the enemy to distract us from our work. – Sometimes, this is the work.

We are not home yet. When we step into glory, all this will be behind us, forever. But here is not home.

Even with a purge of the priesthood. Even with the #Metoo movement in the church. Even with education, workshops, and safeguard, evil exists and persists. When we discover it on one front, it sneaks around from another. Its only agenda is to deceive, rob, and destroy as much of God’s creation as possible before He returns and we’re directly in its path.

While the church of Jesus Christ is a sanctuary, it is inhabited by faulted believers of varying stages of maturity and repentance. There are wolves disguised as sheep. There are plain old posers. So, we have to grow up.

Forgiveness for repentance, yes, of course. But repentance isn’t an easy mea culpa. It’s sorrow. Acknowledgement of wrong-doing. Acceptance of responsibility. Submission to discipline, repentance, and correction. A willingness to make meaningful amends no matter the cost. Compassion for and priority to the victim. The long, hard road of earning back trust and respect.

This isn’t legalism – it’s a realistic and practical appreciation for the insidious nature of evil, the impossible cost of victimizing the most vulnerable in the name of Jesus, and the path of love for both the perpetrators, their victims, and those who would be victims if we don’t act.

There’s no program for this, loved ones. We are the program Jesus put in place. The church. You and me. Falling to our knees and asking for courage, wisdom, compassion, and spiritual muscle to take the hard way through conversations that make everyone uncomfortable. Our willingness to be questioned even if we’re innocent, if it prevents even one child, one vulnerable man or women, one new believer from being harmed in Jesus’ name.

Child abuse. Rape. Pornography. Sexual harassment. Spousal abuse. Perpetrated by people who call themselves Christians. There’s no excuse. No place for this behavior among His people.

But, these acts don’t suddenly emerge at their discovery. They happen choice by choice by choice over time. Little children are groomed. Women are lured. Computer use increases. Spouses are controlled and isolated before the first punch or slap.

Pay attention. Be involved with the family in the next pew. Listen well. Pray for insight. Speak up. Walk with courage. Find words.

These are hard things, but we are the church – we do hard things.

Once it hits the headlines, Satan whispers to us that it’s such a big problem, there’s nothing we can do. Satan lies.

Our job isn’t to defeat evil. Jesus did that already on the cross. Our job is to walk in the freedom His sacrifice purchased for us. We are free to combat evil on every front – even when it comes from within our own church doors.


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7 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Marian says:

    Exactly!

  2. Debbie says:

    You always make me think, sometimes make me cry, and often spur me to action. I want to shout these words today: “Our job isn’t to defeat evil. Jesus did that already on the cross. Our job is to walk in the freedom His sacrifice purchased for us. We are free to combat evil on every front“!!

  3. nancy Haygood says:

    the biggest action point here is for us to really care about one another, as you say “be involved with the family in the next pew”. It takes a community — which is certainly what we are in the deepest sense of the word: a body of believers who even share communion one with another.

    Love is not easy, but it is simple. Care, and be real with one another. When you need help reach out. When they need help reach out.

    i remember a dear woman who prayed often for us when i was overwhelmed in an abusive marriage. Bless you, Bucky!

    thank you, Lori

  4. Rob McCullough says:

    Well written and very true Lori!

  5. Doris says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  6. Years ago in our church an elder was found to be molesting high school girls. After dealing swiftly and decisively with all parties involved (and kindly with the victims), our pastor gave a fatherly, stern, and profound sermon on sin, then told the congregation about what happened. I’ll never forget the seriousness of my responsibility as a Christian both to holiness and to accountability. He set the tone, gave priority and appropriate healing opportunity to the victims, and although the elder was removed from our congregation, he was counseled separately. The elder was a close friend of our pastor, and our pastor grieved from the pulpit. That was 25 years ago, and it was an incredibly brave and right thing to do. Since then, I have seen Christians, both in community and in the name of leadership treat victims as if they brought it on themselves, and tell wives that they just need to submit and pray and everything will get better. Thank you, Lori, for an amazing piece here. We need to listen, to watch, to be bold towards sin in our churches and in our communities. We must ask the questions, and depend upon our Lord to give us discernment.

  7. Michael says:

    Love and empathy. 2 difficult things that the church needs at these times but very essential.