Ephesians 5:1-13 (ESV)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light.
This series is not intended to discredit people's experiences or make light of them. There have been severe cases of clergy abuse, mostly of a sexual nature, over the last 2000 years, and many more have come to light in this fast Information Age. However, when incidents occur, we often tend to generalize everything under one label, viewing everything through that lens.
What we need to do is discern between genuine church hurt and instances where our feelings were merely hurt by being part of a church. How can we determine the difference? How do we navigate this serious topic?
This is a true statement we live in a hyper sensitive culture right now. Often times if our feelings are hurt we call it abuse. Often times when people truly abuse people they just say aw it was just your feelings that got hurt. How do we differentiate who’s right and who’s wrong? Truth! Truth is how we do that.
John 1:14 (ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 17:17 (ESV)
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Narcissism is the epitome of sin! We are all narcissistic is various degrees but we often crucify our flesh enough to not let it run wild. This is what sin produces. Often this narcissism takes hold of pulpits and goes unchecked and leads to genuine church hurt. Not just the sand paper of accountability but physical abuse, manipulation, and sexual exploitation.
What is narcissism?
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence, they are not sure of their self-worth and are easily upset by the slightest criticism.
- Mayo Clinic
Scripture doesn't exactly use a word for narcissism but it does use the word fool or foolish for it!
Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 29:11 (ESV)
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Proverbs 28:26 (ESV)
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
Proverbs 26:11 (ESV)
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
Here is a fact:
MAN WILL ALWAYS USE THE DIVINE TO EXCUSE THE DEMONIC.
How does this play out?
When holding people accountable they will say things like only God can judge! Using the divine to excuse the demonic.
When people are spiritually manipulating another person to do something ungodly they say God told me or I feel the spirit is saying. Again using the divine to excuse the demonic
Often times we talk about culture here! How our values determine our culture. Culture is the feeling or atmosphere of a place. We believe that we can strategically design this or let it get set by our default sinful natures. Another word often used is Ethos!
the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution
Our values that make up our culture are:
- Community - If we all live out community for Jesus then that leads to...
- Life-Change - We measure our effectiveness by lives being changed by Christ
- Excellence - We try to view the small details as we would the big. It's a lot of small that makes the big
- Generosity - We want to be known for our generosity because Jesus was the biggest giver. He gave His life we aim to be like Him.
- Grace - We are nothing without the grace of God. We were given forgiveness & freedom without deserving it. We aim to love one another the same way!
- Honor - All people are deserving of honor because they all have value in God’s eyes. We value everyone and show honor to everyone, because God does. So if I honor you then I won't transgress you.
Ethos or culture shaped by Gods word is not abuse or church hurt:
Church says having sex before marriage is wrong - not abuse
Church says I can’t serve in a certain area because I’m pro LGBTQ - not abuse
Church says in order to be a leader I must tithe and not get drunk - not abuse
Church says no beer during a church event - not abuse
Church saying we don’t gossip here - not abuse
Ethos or culture shaped outside of Gods word is abusive & leads to church hurt:
Someone in church leadership propositioned me for sex - that’s abusive
Someone in church leadership gossiping about me - that’s abusive
Church leadership is directing my every day life and then using it to control me - that’s abusive
Church leaders pitting one person against another for leverage - that’s abusive
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Colossians 3:13 (ESV)
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
It’s the job of church leadership to preach scripture and set culture according to the Holy scriptures. In doing so there needs to be accountability towards one another. It’s your job to decide if your heart desires that or not. It’s not church leaderships job to control your life - but when your life engages the ethos here the church leadership has to manage that biblically and at times with graceful aggressiveness.
As the bride of Christ, our constant endeavor should be to lead holy lives, set apart and free from sin. We ought to submit to leadership and to one another. Sometimes, we may hear challenging truths about ourselves that are difficult to accept, but it is often the roughness of the sandpaper of truth that smoothens the unholy edges of our flesh, making us more like Him. Running from this process hinders our maturity and growth.
However, it's crucial to emphasize that we must never tolerate abuse that causes harm. We should be vigilant in protecting the vulnerable and refrain from making hasty judgments on accusations, instead seeking the truth before forming an opinion. The ultimate guide remains God's word.
Our focus should be on praying for, loving, and guiding one another according to God's word and the leading of the Holy Spirit, without exploiting or abusing one another for selfish gain.
Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.