Luke 13:10-17 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
We have written about this Scripture before, but I think that it is worth re-visiting. Yesterday for some unknown reason I found myself remembering an incident that occurred when I was in the fifth grade. We lived in Southern Oregon and I attended a local elementary school. I didn’t have any friends yet as we had just recently moved there, so it wasn’t the most fun time of my life. One morning, I think it must have been through a newspaper report, my parents were talking about a fatal traffic accident that had occurred near our house. In the night, a man and his wife had smashed into a tree and the wife was killed.
Later that day, unknown to my parents, I walked over to the scene of the wreck (I often walked through that area anyway) and there was the tree. A big chunk of bark freshly ripped off it. And later that day I found out at school that the people in the wreck were the parents of a girl in my classroom. I still remember her name — Norma.
A few days later as I was walking to a store, I happened past a local funeral home and there was the funeral procession for the lady who was killed. People were standing outside the building, I suppose getting ready to head out to the cemetery. And there was Norma. I saw her standing with some other people, someone holding her hand.
Norma had become untouchable. At least that is what happened in my 11 year old mind. Norma was now different from me. Her world and mine had parted and hers was a world that I was afraid of. I looked away and just kept walking. Funny, I can’t remember anymore interaction with Norma after that. Oh, she must have still been in my class at school, but I just draw a blank now when I try to remember any other contact with her.
There is something about evil that makes us afraid of its victims. Take the woman Jesus healed in the account above. She had been struck with an evil malady. No fault of her own, but still — people went the other way. The religionists of the day used their theology to explain the thing, but did nothing to help her. Jesus called them hypocrites.
When we encounter people who are the victims of evil — such as the evil of abuse that we are exposing here on this blog — our human tendency is to go the other way. To enter into Norma’s new world of grief is fearful for us. To listen to the story pour out of a woman who has been wickedly abused for years and years is not comfortable. To have a relationship of any kind with her is to have contact with that which we really would rather not touch or see. It is ugly. We don’t understand it. Our world is so different, we think.
And I have to conclude that this is one of the chief reasons abuse is so often swept under the carpet and victims are dismissed and told to be quite or go away. We don’t want our world rocked by theirs. We want to stay in our happy place where life is pleasant and untroubled by the “uncleanness” of a person tainted by evil. We don’t want to hear about it and we don’t want to talk about it. And this tells me two things about church leaders who cover up abuse:
- They are personally weak and immature at best. They have never truly faced up to their fears, and they don’t want anything or anyone reminding them of the cold, hard facts of life in a fallen world.
- They are hypocrites. I was a hypocrite in regard to Norma. Immature indeed. Just a kid, yes. But I professed at that time to be a Christian. And Christians are supposed to be the pre-eminent people to seek out when death and evil strike, right?
As the people of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to be the leaders in staring evil in the face when we see it and announce its presence to all who will hear. “Hey, look! This lady is bent over double and suffering terribly. Let’s see how we can help her!”
In the case recorded here by Luke, the culprit was some kind of “disabling spirit.” Jesus cast it out. In the cases of abuse that we find, the culprit needs to be cast out too.
The following lectures/sermons are given by Pastor David Dykstra, Pastor of Grace Covenant Baptist Church in Willis, Texas. David is a long time member of ARBCA, the association of Reformed Baptist Churches that Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook is a member of. I am beginning to be much encouraged by the response of our association churches to this whole issue of abuse, divorce, remarriage, and all the related issues. As Pastor Dykstra mentions in his lecture on the fallacy of the so-called permanence view of marriage, we know of no church in ARBCA that would discipline someone who divorced for reason of abuse (which is desertion).
I should also make note here that Pastor Dykstra pointed out to me that in my book, A Cry for Justice, I said that the London Confession of Faith allows for divorce for adultery and desertion. That is not correct. The London Confession actually has no section on divorce or remarriage. Ps Dykstra’s sermon The Puritan Confessions on Divorce and Remarriage explains why. If I ever am able to get revisions and corrections made in future printings of my book I will correct that point as well. Many thanks to Pastor Dykstra for pointing that out.
Here are Pastor Dykstra’s lectures/sermons on Divorce. We have also put this list on our Sermons page which you can find at the top menu of this blog.
The Puritan Confessions on Divorce & Remarriage — discusses why the London Confession (the confession of Reformed Baptists) did not include the section on divorce and remarriage which the Westminster Confession included.
Divorce & Remarriage under the Sinai Covenant — Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Exodus 21:7-11
Divorce and Remarriage Under the Prophets — Jeremiah 3:1-10, Malachi 2:13-16
That Thorny Issue of Divorce — Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:31-32
Thoughts on the Permanence View of Marriage — Matthew 19 — this sermon strongly criticizes the permanence view
Divorce & Remarriage under Christ and The Apostles, part 1 — Matthew 19 continued, 1 Corinthians 7
Abuse IS Desertion — Paul’s directive to those in mixed marriages in 1 Corinthians 7[ on Sermon Audio this sermon is titled: Divorce & Remarriage under Christ and The Apostles, part 2]
DivorceCare is a resource ministry that churches can purchase video and support material from to begin a DivorceCare ministry. At the end of this post we have pasted in the description of DivorceCare, taken from the DC website itself.
The following evaluation was sent to us by a blog reader whose church put her through the five week Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce program along with her abuser husband. While the bulk of the DivorceCare material is for people who have already divorced, Choosing Wisely is a module designed for couples who are considering divorce:
Choosing Wisely is a five week workbook/video you go through as a couple with one mentor couple before divorcing. The first night you agree to certain requirements while taking the class, one of the requirements is not to physically abuse your spouse, no mention of any other type of abuse. I expected helpful advice but instead got weekly lessons on how divorce will ruin your health, kids, finances and relationship with God. This was often three of them against me because my spouse kept saying how divorce wasn’t his choice. I was asked straight out how my decision lined up with Gods principles of divorce only for abandonment and adultery.The last two weeks are on forgiveness and reconciliation which results in you asking each other for forgiveness and signing a contract with specific steps for reconciliation. I felt hugely pressured in the contract making to agree to couples counseling (but didn’t sign any agreement). The only thing I would agree to was attempting to have civil conversations about the kids. The last video ends with two different people saying that no matter how bad your marriage has been, nothing could be as bad as divorce.I told the church it was like five weeks of emotional abuse. It could be horribly damaging to people who have needed to leave a toxic relationship and when they finally do, the church guilts them into going back. I wish I could say it was helpful but feel that any abuse victim would be traumatized by the experience without years of strengthening before taking it. The church will look into it.
Jeff S relates that in a recent discussion with someone else who had been through the DivorceCare program, very similar criticisms were shared. However, that same person was very positive about the DivorceCare for Kids material.
To be fair, understand that DivorceCare provides its material only to local churches and also provides, as you can see below, leadership training for those churches in operating this ministry. All well and good UNLESS what you have is an abuser and victim. Then this turns into the same old error of couple-counseling in an abuse situation and it can end up, as our reader above tells us, being a gang up on the victim session led by the abuser.
The Following is Info from Divorce Care Website:
Church Initiative was founded in 1993 by Steve and Cheryl Grissom. Steve serves as the president of Church Initiative. Cheryl serves as the ministry vice president. Here’s what led to the start of our ministry and how we’re serving local churches all over the world.
After experiencing the pain of divorce, Steve’s church played a key role in helping him heal. Once he was ready to resume active service in his local church, Steve felt burdened to make sure churches around the world would be prepared to help others going through divorce.
So, in 1993, Steve and his wife Cheryl designed and developed DivorceCare, a Christ-centered, video-based support group program.
As local churches saw success with the DivorceCare program, pastors began requesting additional resources, similarly structured, to help minister to people in other life crises, such as grief due to a death. In 1996, the ministry underwent a name change to Church Initiative, with a vision to create biblical, Christ-centered resources that mobilize lay people to help hurting people, within the context of the local church. The DivorceCare program was joined by DivorceCare for Kids, Single & Parenting, GriefShare, and other dynamic ministry tools created by Church Initiative to minister to people in a life crisis.
Today, over 18,000 churches are equipped with one or more Church Initiative ministry programs. Here are some of the programs we’ve developed:
Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce, a marriage crisis intervention tool designed to help prevent divorce and save families
DivorceCare for Kids, DC4K, designed to bring healing to children of divorce and to give them hope and the tools to develop healthier relationships within their families
GriefShare, a grief recovery program to help people grieving the death of a loved one
Single & Parenting, a support group program for single parents who are divorced, widowed or never-married
Church Initiative has a strong commitment to provide ongoing support to churches using its materials. The ministry provides free consulting, promotional tools, and an extensive leadership development website. In addition to the comprehensive leader training resources that come with each curriculum kit, Church Initiative has also developed “Boot Camp Training on DVD,” which provides churches with a complete tool kit to host area training events for the DivorceCare, DC4K, and GriefShare leadership teams.