A: Godly rebuke or private confrontation blesses our abusers
Jesus didn’t mean we should feel heart-melting affection for our enemies; He meant we must simply do the right thing in obedience to His Word. Confronting our abusers God’s Way is His disciplinary love and therefore always glorifies Him, no matter the physical reaction we might experience. Our obedience to Jesus opens the way for Him to use us as His instruments of mercy and light.
Our abusers, as ‘stumbling-blocks’ to the innocent, are already under the judgment of God, and, if they are indeed believers) in danger of losing their salvation, redemption and blessing in Christ, (Mt. 18:6.) Thus, by obeying Jesus to confront our abusers, we actually bless them, as He also commanded in Mt. 5:43-45.
The M.H. Commentary wrote, “If you have received displeasure for any injury your brother [or anyone else] has done you, do not suffer your resentments to ripen into secret malice like a wound, which is most dangerous when it bleeds inwardly, but give vent to them in [Godly] admonition. Do not go and rail against him BEHIND HIS BACK, [which is the crime of slander or crimen injuria,] but rebuke, [reprimand, or admonish] him. Endeavour to make him sensible to the wrong he has done you through private rebuke between you and him alone. If you can convince him, do not expose him, for that will turn the reproof into revenge, (Prov. 25:8-9.) If he listens, there is an end to the controversy, and it is a happy end, let no more be said of it.”
B: The necessity of conviction, inaugurated by ‘rebuke’
Jesus never intended His Scriptural process of discipline as punishment but as correction; therefore, confrontation must always be from the sincere motive of restoration not revenge! The Scriptural guidelines we must follow are uncomplicated. Dealing with hardened unrepentant abusers, however, can be a difficult, emotional, and time-consuming process.
The Holy Spirit’s first work in the salvation and preservation of a soul is to “convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment,” (Jn. 16:8.) Often, He uses humans to bring offenses to light so that repeated offenders have no excuse to continue in darkness.
To confess their sin, sinners need to have remorse their sin, but real psychopaths lack moral conscience. Unrepentant sinners, who do not open their hearts and minds to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, ‘evolve’ into psychopaths – or maybe, they’ve always been psychopathic, growing worse over time. Hence, James spelled out two most important requirements for restoring a broken relationship. He built on the Moral Law of the Old Testament when he wrote, “1: Confess your trespasses [against one another] to one another and 2: pray for one another, that you may be healed,” (Jam. 5:16.)
Still, it is the inherited nature of lost humanity to kick all their dirt under the carpet and never to bring serious sin into God’s light. Religionists might ask God’s forgiveness for sin, but refuse to obey God’s commandment to confess their trespasses to their victims. This is disobedience to God’s Moral Law of Love, and simply piles more dirt underneath the relationship until one day, the whole shebang blows sky-high, resulting in divorce, broken friendships and destroyed families – even murder.
In fact, God views unconfessed sin so seriously that He curses those who deliberately continue in sin, as Prov. 28:13 declares, “He, who covers his sins will not prosper. But whoever confesses and forsakes them, [or repent and do restitution,] will find mercy.” God wants us to live in His mercy and to share His mercy with others. Telling our abusers exactly how they have been abusing us and to what extent we have suffered, is in fact showing them mercy to realize what they have done, so they can sincerely regret and confess their sins to us, and repent.
C: Repentance and restitution are God’s commandments that prove the sincerity of the abuser
If abusers do confess their sin under Godly rebuke, we behold a true miracle! Nevertheless, the Moral Law demands that it is not enough to merely confess our sin; we should also repent from sin, and then, as far as possible, restore what we have taken, or destroyed.
Repentance means, ‘to turn away from sin,’ or to stop committing that sin.
Lev. 6:2-5 describes the act of restoration, which pertains to sin that ‘grieved another’s soul.’ It commands, “If a person trespasses against the Lord by lying… spreading a false report… robbing and extorting… or swears falsely… [or by committing any other immoral sin!] then he shall restore what he has stolen… extorted… lost… [lied about] or all that which he has sworn falsely, [the crimes of crimen injuria.] He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs…”
Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, met Jesus and invited Him into his home. When the people accused Zacchaeus of still being a sinner, he responded in true repentance, saying to Jesus, “Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor [whom I have oppressed;] and if I have taken anything from anyone BY FALSE ACCUSATION, [crimen injuria,] I restore fourfold.” Then Jesus declared him innocent, stating, “Today salvation has come to this house…”
Thus, to have remorse for sin, to confess our sin, to repent from sin, and do restitution proves our faith in Christ and our sincerity with other people, (Gal. 3:6-9.)According to God’s Moral Law of Love, the victim is then compelled to forgive the repentant abuser, as Jesus demonstrated in “The Lord’s Prayer.” In the case of major offenses such as theft and adultery, for instance, the thief and adulterer must prove that he or she has exchanged infidelity for fidelity, truth for lies, and so on, which may take some time.
This is God’s Way to deal with all abuse among the believers in Christ.
It is not necessary to dissect the heart of the repentant abuser, because that is God’s domain. Jesus said we will know them by the [continuous] “fruit” that they bear. However, the abuser should never repeat the abuse. There might be a relapse depending on the severity of the abuse, but no further life-destroying abuse must be tolerated!
On sincere confession, repentance and restitution, the case is closed forever.
Private sins should remain closed from the moment of confession, repentance and forgiveness, as public involvement will worsen the shame and injury for both the victim and the repented abuser, as well as for the innocent involved. However, public sins such as slander, (the public assassination of someone’s name and character,) as well as the teaching of false doctrine, must be confessed and restored in public.
Step 3 – Call witnesses to bring conviction to that still unrepentant abuser
If the abuser still refuses to stop the abuse, repent, and do restitution to rectify serious offenses, Jesus continued the confrontational process by commanding, “But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
When abusers realize, they cannot bully their victims in secret any longer, united confrontation might shame them into conviction of sin.
Note that God does NOT allow us to ‘call in witnesses’ if we have not privately confronted our abusers first — that is slander!
Step 4 – Escalate discipline against that still unrepentant abuser
Should abusers fail to listen to private rebuke AND to two witnesses, expose them to more conviction by “telling it to the congregation.” Naturally, this does not apply to abusers who have repented by now. However, if rebuke by two or three witnesses also fails, tell it to a group of spiritual, responsible, impartial people to further the discipline, not to destroy the abuser. If possible, stand up IN THE PRESENCE OF THE UNREPENTANT abuser and tell the “congregation” of the abuse and the steps you have taken, and ask them to investigate and judge the matter in a civilized and Godly way.
We must follow as many of Jesus’ directives as possible in our attempt to resolve the bad situation. However, it will not always be possible to follow all the steps, which Jesus had commanded, as circumstances may differ.
The Matthew Henry Commentary wrote, “Private admonitions must always go BEFORE public censures; if gentler methods will do the work, those that are more rough and severe must not be used. Those that will be reasoned out of their sins need NOT be shamed out of them. Let God’s work be done effectually, but with as little noise as may be; His Kingdom comes with power, not with observation. Where private admonition does not prevail, there the public censure [of preferably, spiritual people] must take place. Tell it to wise people who can be referees; [NOT TO SLANDER HIS OR HER NAME but] to let them examine the matter FAIRLY and, if they find the complaint groundless, let them rebuke the complainant and call him or her to repentance instead.”
Step 5 – IF PUBLIC CENSURE ALSO FAILS, REJECT HIM
Jesus continued in Mt. 18, “If the abuser refuses even to hear the congregation also, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector…” or “Break off your friendship and familiarity with him, though you may be no means study revenge, yet you may choose whether you will have dealings with him, as to give him NO opportunity of doing the same again. You would have healed him [by loving rebuke and by calling him to accountability;] would have preserved his love and friendship, but he would not, and so has forfeited it. If someone cheats me once or twice, it is their fault; if continually, it is my own.” – (M.H. Commentary.)
Titus 3:10-11 commands, “Reject a divisive person after the first, second [and if possible, third] admonition, [according to Jesus’ disciplinary steps in Mt. 18,] knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” The S.F. Bible explains, “A ‘divisive man’ is one who makes a choice to please himself regardless of all other considerations. He is obstinately attached to a sinful opinion that threatens the [sanctity and safety of his victims and the] unity of believers, [families, and society.] If such a man does not heed the rebuke, he is to be avoided.”
If we have carried out all these corrective steps as far as possible and our abusers still refuse to confess and repent from their sin, and do restitution for grievous harms; if they have absolutely no remorse for what they have done, they will most probably never stop their abuse.
As they willfully choose their destructive ways, it is impossible for us to ‘bless’ such hard-hearted, unrepentant abusers with our prayers, continual confrontation, grace, and forgiveness. [Not at all implying unforgiveness, as the meaning of forgiveness in this context is explained in this study.] Thus, it is impossible to ‘do good’ to them by entrusting Jesus’ Gospel to them, or to teach them Jesus’ commandments for their salvation and the healing of their (and our) lives. All our Godly efforts to make them sensible to their great harm to our spirits, souls, bodies and lives, would remain as unprofitable and silly as giving “what is holy to dogs,” or to “throw our pearls before swine!”
Count the cost: self-mutilation is the only other option
When turning themselves over to Satan as his instruments of destruction, our loved ones have the incredible power, (through our trust in them, our love for them, and our dependence upon them,) to cause us to disobey Christ; to lose our faith and hope in Christ; turning away from God, thus forfeiting our salvation forever! – (Heb. 6:4-6.)
To protect His disciples, Jesus commanded, “[If you have followed My directives as far as possible and your abuser still refuses to repent, be prepared to mutilate yourself not literally but allegorically, to set yourself free [from that abuse. So,] if your eye, right hand or foot, causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, or two eyes, to be cast into the everlasting fire!” (Mt. 5:28-30; Mark 9:42-48.)
From the gravity of Jesus’ teaching on self-mutilation as a spiritual remedy to abuse, it’s apparent that He wasn’t referring to the casual hurts of outsiders. He referred to our abusive loved ones; the treasured ‘apples of our eyes;’ our ‘hands’ and ‘feet,’ on whom we depend for help, provision, guidance, comfort, and protection. Jesus’ instruction relates to a leopard, whose paw got caught in a snare. To escape with its life, the desperate animal often must chew off its own foot.
Jesus warned that victims must count the cost to freedom, (Read Lu. 14:26-35.)
Victims must know that, if they are unable to recover their abusive loved ones from the edge of that consuming abyss, they must be prepared to “cut them off;” let them go, hand them over, or flee from them while they tender for their own lives — or risk being “cast into the everlasting fire” with them!
The M.H. Commentary gave the following advice, “Part with what you cannot keep without being entangled by sin; that which grieves your soul! (1 Cor. 8:12.) Abandon all occasion for sin with abhorrence! Think nothing [and no one] too dear to part with for the sake of your [eternal] soul — that is how the evil power of that demon-controlled beloved is broken!”
Before we trace the final steps of obedience to Christ in this matter, we should count the possible cost for freedom in Him; believing that we will never be alone during this trial. The Holy Spirit lives INSIDE all His sincerely obedient believers, as Jesus has promised, even “to the end of this world,” (Mt. 28:20; Acts 5:32!)
DELIVER THAT “HEATHEN OR TAX COLLECTOR” TO SATAN
As a last remedy and again, not as revenge, Jesus commanded in Mt. 18:17, “…If he does not hear the congregation either, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” M.H. Commentary, ‘Let him be under disgrace, disassociation, and let the members of society, [who are involved with both the victim and abuser, so as not to commit crimen injuria,] be warned to withdraw from him that he may become ashamed of his sin that they may not be infected with it, or made chargeable with it… Christ has appointed this method for the vindicating of His [and His true children’s] honor, the preserving of their purity, and the possible conviction and repentance of those that are scandalous…’
Jesus continued in Mt. 18:18, “Assuredly, I say to you, that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven… If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, [anything GOOD AND IN GOD’S TRUE WILL,] it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, [during these disciplinary hearings and actions,] there I Am in their midst.”
Footnote, Spirit Filled Bible, “When believers are acting under the lordship of Jesus in administering disciple, God sanctions the action. The promise that Jesus gives, [‘whatever you ask,’] may apply to [RIGHTEOUS] prayer in general, but more specifically [in the context of this passage,] it concerns the divine guidance that is sought and received in matters of GODLY discipline. In such cases, much sincere prayer [and obedience to Scripture in the guidance of the Holy Spirit] guards against a vindictive spirit.”
In Jesus’ own words, decidedly unrepentant abusers are “bound on earth and in heaven” until that day when they truly repent – if they themselves should choose that such a day would come. Then only, will they ‘be loosened on earth and in heaven,’ (as only on repentance will God forgive abusers offenses,) to be restored to fellowship, friendship and family, and to live the Godly life, which they have forfeited through their hard-hearted unrepentance from sin.
May such a blessed day come quickly for all hard-hearted abusers!
This, we may believe, is the process, which Paul followed before he came to this conclusion in 1 Cor. 5:4; 5,11, “Deliver such a [deliberately unrepentant] one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, [so that, under dire conditions, he may decide to repent from his sin and submit himself to the Lord,] that his spirit may be saved in the day of [death or of the Lord Jesus’ return…] Now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother [or sister,] who is [unrepentantly] sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, [a nonstop, verbal abuser such as a false accuser, persecutor, or slanderer,] or a drunkard, or an extortioner, [who abuses facts, trust, people and their money,] – not even to eat with such a person.”
Take the full benefit of the law against that completely unrepentant psychopath
If the abuse cannot be resolved by following all Jesus’ disciplinary steps, Paul did not forbid Jesus’ disciples to seek judicial recourse against ‘unstoppable’ unbelievers and unrepentant‘ believers’ alike. Paul forbade believers to go before pagan courts with matters, which should have been resolved among themselves, (1 Cor. 6:1-11.) Where Paul said that believers should “rather accept wrong and let themselves be cheated,” he was not speaking about abusive crimes such as major fraud and adultery. He was referring to the loss of a ‘shirt and coat,’ which Jesus commanded, will not destroy life, limb, or soul, (Mt. 5:40.)
Real believers will, if not immediately, then under Godly and Scriptural rebuke, stop their abuse and turn away from it permanently. On the other hand, a truly unrepentant abuser, who grows worse under Jesus’ disciplinary grace, is an unbeliever and does not belong to Christ. This person proved that he or she is an immoral pagan, although he or she might pretend to be very religious.
Paul forbade resolvable matters between believers in Christ to be referred to a worldly court to be settled before unbelievers, while Jesus’ true disciples should have ‘judged the matter between themselves,’ (1 Cor. 6:1-5.)
Now, only because it necessitates your spiritual, emotional, and physical safety, and/or your financial freedom and restoration in Christ, as well as the safety and freedom of others, take the full benefit of the judicial law against that psychopathic abuser. Many battered and otherwise abused wives, husbands, and children especially, have endured a lifetime of humiliation and slavery, while squandering their lives in the service of the ‘thief, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy;’ not realizing that Jesus never commanded them to do so. In fact, Jesus came to give them life in abundance! (Jn. 10:10.)
Sincere believers do not belong to this world, but they still must live in this world. Incessant personal and corporate injury do justify petitioning a court of law for justice. If victims are forced to stop the abuse through a court of law by negotiating legal justice as far as possible, they should not hesitate. It does not weaken our trust in God, or offend the Judge of the Universe to utilize the avenues of help and protection in this judicial world, should it be impossible to resolve serious abuses through the disciplinary steps, which Jesus commanded. As such, Paul directed us to pray for, and obey even pagan government authorities, “for he is God’s minister to you for good… and does not bear the sword in vain… an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil…” (Rom. 13:4.)
Should the abuser finally repent, forgive and restore him!
Should our abusers finally repent after we have gone through Jesus’ disciplinary steps, Paul explained in 2 Cor. 2:5-11, “If anyone has caused grief… be not too severe, for the punishment which was inflicted by the majority [of spiritual people as the last step of discipline before rejection,] is sufficient for such a man. [He was delivered to Satan but has finally repented, and now,] you ought to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
“Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your [sincere, Godly] love to him… Now whom you forgive anything, [after you have followed Scriptural discipline as far as necessary to accomplish repentance,] I also forgive, lest Satan should take advantage of [our harshness and disobedience not to forgive those who have been disciplined and have truly repented.] For we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices [to implant unforgiveness, bitterness and vengeance in the hearts of believers.]
FINAL WORDS ABOUT FORGIVENESS
Obedient forgiveness, as prayer, is warfare of the celestial kind
Whatever the outcome of our obedience to take Godly disciplinary action against our abusers as far as humanly possible, forgiveness will always remain our most important choice for final settlement.
Even if our abusers refuse all our attempts to settle accounts and it seems as if they ‘always win,’ God still gives us the final say.
God does not disempower His abused children.
Truly obedient disciples of Christ still get to choose the outcome of the battle.
“Conquerors give peace [or forgiveness] by God’s power; it is no less to give peace by the meekness of His wisdom. It is a noble conquest to yield for peace’s sake,[ or submit to God’s righteous judgment to gain inward peace and protection when we have done all that we could;] it is the conquest of ourselves; our pride and passion,” (M.H. Commentary.)
Abused victims should remember that forgiveness cannot be a mere feeling. Neither is true forgiveness avoidance, denial, or any other emotional means of ‘coping.’ Forgiveness is a willful, rational decision to obey God, and to DO what He has commanded us. Having done what Jesus has commanded in dealing with our abusers as far as feasible, forgiveness must be our final decision. This means, we are willing to let our abusers ‘go free’ by refusing to hate them, harbor prolonged anger against them, or turning against them with any form of revenge. (This does not mean that we are submitting, or returning to their abuse all over again, or allowing them back into our lives without their sincere repentance!)
When our abusers lift themselves above Scriptural admonition, they also lift themselves out of human reach. Then the time has come to tender for our own spiritual, emotional, and physical safety, and deliver the whole matter into the inescapable hands of God. Having done all humanly, and above all, Scripturally possible, our complete forgiveness is death to self and absolute surrender to God - which is in fact, warfare of the celestial kind.
Especially when we cannot find answers; cannot find ‘closure;’ cannot access and pursue the desired avenues of resolve – whatever we decide to do on a physical level to free ourselves from abuse - spiritually, there remains only one way to