He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? The LORD’S voice cries unto the city, and wisdom shall see your name: Hear the rod, and who has appointed it. Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the short measure that is abominable? (Micah 6:8-10 KJ2000)
This morning I was led by a dear sister in Christ to read a blog of another sister who had been raped and had gone through all the mental and spiritual trauma that goes with it. She came out the other side even closer to our loving Father in heaven. Both these dear women had gone through rape and abusive relationships in their lifetimes and have been healed over a period of years as they cried out to Jesus for help. I am finding that there are many women like these two out there who want to have their story heard, be free of the stigma of those horrible events, and be vindicated. With the help of our loving Father, many of them are being healed and are reaching out to other abuse victims.
Vindication is tricky business. I have never been raped physically, but I have suffered much abuse from power hungry men in many church circles we have been part of over the years. It seemed like it would never end. No matter what church we became part of, it happened again! Then one day I was sharing my latest church abuse story with a sister in the Lord, and she said something very profound. “When you go into a yard and start up the front steps, and a big mean dog comes out from under the steps and bites you on the leg… maybe you should get the message that you don’t belong in that yard!” That was it for me. I knew that I had heard from God (not the first time) about this issue of trying to make Sunday church work. Now, I just keep walking down the street and no longer try to go to front door of any of the “houses” I encounter. I finally found out that Jesus does not live in houses made with hands (see Acts 7:47-51 and Heb. 13:11-14).
Now about this issue of seeking vindication. One of the many churches we tried was taken over by a cult with the pastor’s permission. At first I was taken with their message about living lives of holiness to the Lord, but then it became evident that only they had the right to determine who were living “holy lives” and who weren’t. One of these leaders wanted to come over and spend an evening in our home, and we were honored at the thought. We found out later that he wanted to come over to do a critical inspection of my wife’s housekeeping (not always totally orderly with four growing kids in the house) and anything else he could find fault with. He was not there for a loving time of fellowship as we had hoped. Only these two leaders had the right to determine who was “holy” and who wasn’t. If you knuckled under to them and did all their wishes, you were “holy,” but if you failed to do this in some way, you weren’t! They were heavily into the subjugation of women as well. After we left that group (and the town), we heard that they went as far as renting an isolated house and using it for a women’s prison for those poor sisters who needed “extra attention.”
The final outcome of trying to make this church continue to work for us and submit to the pastor, was to come under fire for not submitting to their heavy handed authority over us. We finally saw it for what it was, another damned cult! What started out with the promise of being a fast track to God’s holiness turned into a living hell.
After we “got out of Dodge,” we found out that a baby of a couple in the group had come down with rapid onset child diabetes. They treated the crying child as rebellious with spankings, and they deprived him of medical attention until he slipped into a coma and finally died. It was then the authorities investigated the group and it was all down hill from there.
Meanwhile, I had been “scape-goated” by the leadership and sent out into the wilderness to die with their sins on me (see Lev. 16:8-22). I was told later that they put out the word for no one to have anything to do with me because I had “seven demons.” It was almost ten years before we went back to that town and tried to make contact with various former members of that church. The trouble was that none of them wanted to be restored to us in any way. The group had fallen apart, yet despite my warnings while we were with them, somehow in their minds I just represented a bad memory. There was no real restoration with any of them. These were the same people I had been close to before the cult split us up–people who had been like family to me.
After we left I spent months, maybe years, praying, “God, vindicate my name! Show these people that I was right and correctly warned them not to follow these men!” I never got any vindication from men. That was not what God had in mind. But I was to eventually find out that HE knows how to vindicate the abused in His own way. But first He gave me this promise that I would be vindicated… but not by people.
“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication is from me, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17 RSVA – emphasis added)
We have a saying in America that goes, “Pay-backs are hell.” With God this is not always literal, because He wants all men come to repentance and call out to Him for healing. But in some cases these molesters, rapists and murderers (both physically and spiritually) have to “pay the piper.” Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 RSVA). There is a sowing and reaping principle. God notices the things we do to others in our lives. If we sow judgment and cruelty, we will eventually experience the same in this life.
The same is true of sowing seeds of love and forgiveness in the lives of others. Eventually we will reap the same into our own lives. Paul goes on to say, “And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10 RSVA). Sowing and reaping is a spiritual law in this world. It took me a long time after this church wounding to come to the place where I was determined to pray for the grace to do what Jesus said, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45 KJ2000).
When I finally quit back biting people who did me wrong, started praying for them and praying that Father would put His love for them in me, things started to change in my life. I found that all the critical people that attacked me started to disappear, too. After planting seeds in your garden, you can’t go out and start pulling up carrots the next day, but in due season you get back what you planted, and not just weeds.
So what happened to the two cult leaders who tore apart our church, and what happened to the pastor? It was not pretty. One of them died of cancer less than six months after the church split up. The other one went to prison for his part in the death of that child. And what happened to the pastor? The cult leaders won his wife from him. She divorced him and took their kids with her into the cult as the groups’ “prophetess.” I have since been restored to this brother. He has suffered much over the years, but is remarried to a widow. His kids have finally started to make contact with him now that they are adults. His heart has been broken and changed by God for the better, and he is a wonderful brother in Christ.
The one thing I hope to leave with you is that God is the one who vindicates us, but we first have to give all our pain over to Him. If we cling to our anger and bitterness, it binds us where we are. Do we have to trust those who wounded us and submit to them once again, even though we forgive them? No. Unless they have proven themselves to have been changed by God’s power and filled with His love, it would be wise to stay clear of them, knowing that they are capable of abusing us again and again. As for abusive husbands? I cannot tell a woman to hang in there when she and her kids’ lives are constantly under threat. Sometimes it takes a wife leaving the abusive spouse to finally get his attention and seek help from God. God is always in the business of restoring sinners to Himself and to wholeness, but not all will repent. I have also observed that most abusers were abused in their own childhoods, and they are only acting out what they have suffered. This is why Jesus was able to truthfully pray on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)