Why Jesus was tougher than your church leaders

Before people lose their minds, let me explain–Jesus had very different responses to different sins. If you divorce God’s love from his justice, Jesus becomes a sheepish wuss who never guards his flock, and this is exactly what the church has become. Jesus was anything but sheepish. In fact, he was a fierce warrior when it came to matters of oppression, especially when it was against children. Jesus began name calling the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 15 when they questioned his disciples about not ceremonially washing their hands before eating. Jesus lectured them and called them hypocrites to their faces. The disciples were concerned and quickly came to Jesus saying, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” At this point we would expect Jesus to do the Christian thing and apologize. He is, after all, the Lamb of God. Maybe he was too harsh when he called them hypocrites. Maybe he should clarify and apologize in order to keep the peace. Maybe he should hug his enemies. Nope! Jesus’ response is classic: “Every plant that my heavenly father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides! And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Let’s not forget when Jesus spoke in graphic terms about tying a donkey millstone around the neck of someone who offended a child and drowning the person in the depth of the sea. This suggests that the person’s neck would be snapped as soon as the stone plunged into the water. So why drown someone who is already dead before they even leave the boat? It’s a way to ensure the person is double-dead. Jesus didn’t apologize here either. In fact, after giving this gruesome picture, he says that this scene would be better for that person than for him to have ever sinned against a child in the first place. Let’s not forget about when Jesus became indignant when the disciples blocked the children from coming to him. Or when the oppressive money changers met an angry Jesus who was snapping whips at them and flipping their tables in the Temple. Can you imagine how awkward that was for his disciples? Heck, it would have been awkward for everyone. But Jesus never apologizes for any of these, and John never apologizes for the ugly picture he paints of Jesus in Revelation. I’ve heard plenty people quote Jesus when he tells us to turn the other cheek but have never heard someone quote the Bible passage when Jesus had the chance to practice what he preached after an officer literally struck him on the cheek: “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

Peter addresses false prophets who were sweet talking young converts into bed. They intentionally targeted vulnerable women, likely ones who had been in abusive relationships before–“For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error” (2 Peter 2:18). Read all of 2 Peter chapter 2. Peter does not say we should work extra hard to help these people out. He doesn’t say we should love them into the church. He does not say that where sin increases grace abounds even more. He does not say these women should forgive them and “move on.” He does not say nobody has the right to question their past. In fact, Peter goes on a rant that would make the church choir blush. He calls them “accursed children,” “waterless springs,” “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant” and Peter ensures they “will also be destroyed in their destruction.” Should you think I entered in a series of typos, read 2 Peter 2 for yourself. Peter doesn’t back down, he’s just getting warmed up! And here’s the catch–he’s talking about sleazy prophets who find pleasure in enticing vulnerable women for sex. He’s not even talking about those who derive pleasure from raping children.

Yet here’s the problem we routinely encounter–Church leaders think it’s their Christian duty to treat everyone the same and they think it’s unfair inhumane to ask a child predator to explain themselves and even to take a necessary hike. We consult with churches where survivors are terrified and predators are excitedly welcomed. We’ve lost count of the e-mails we receive where victims write us saying, “We told the leaders what this man had done to us and they refuse to even confront him.” It’s breathtaking how many stories we hear where victims of abuse are told to forgive their abuser but those same leaders never ask a thing of the abuser. Jesus became angry with certain people because he understood that some people derive sick pleasure in oppression. We don’t have to convince survivors what these monsters are capable of. Somehow they survived to tell us about the wickedness perpetrated upon them. There is no accidental abuse that happens when a child’s innocence is forever stolen from them. It is intentional and the abuser derives pleasure from it. How do we know? Because they keep doing it over and over and over and over again. We know because in prison they still fantasize about abusing children. They continue to lie, cheat, steal, and pretend in order to cozy up to our children. We consult with so many churches where abusers continue demanding that they be placed in leader positions overseeing. . . . children’s ministries! This is hardly a response from someone who is repentant. And church leaders welcome them into the fold “in the name of Jesus.”

We’re given platitudes: “Jesus wants us to hate the sin and love the sinner.” Then pray tell why we are ignoring the sin and encouraging the deceiver. We acknowledge that this is very problematic and we are working on a better system of training where we empower survivors to be the ones trained to monitor churches and take action. I will write more about this at a later time, but we are excited for what God has in store for us. While we experience a lot of frustration with the current climate, we only see hope. We will not stop fighting for justice and we will never lay down our spiritual swords as long as children are being abused!

One thought on “Why Jesus was tougher than your church leaders”

  1. When my husband’s siblings learned that we had very limited contact with their toxic brother, they tried to bully us into having unlimited contact with him. Feeling overwhelmed, I talked to abuse experts who told us that the brother’s behavior toward our son when he was younger was “typical victim grooming behavior of molesters” and they said we did exactly right in our actions. They did suggest that we warn the family to protect children. I did so and the siblings became even more angry with me. Some of them unfriended us. They defended and excused the toxic brother and accused us of being unloving, unforgiving, lacking grace, and unChristlike. They seem to think they are being very spiritual but as Prov. 17:15 says, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous — both alike are an abomination to Adonai.”

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