Prayer for those who have been abused

Gracious Lord, as we see more attention given to church abuse, we ask 
for Your guidance for all who are exposing. Give them Your wisdom, 
strength, courage, and love each day. We pray for those who have been 
abusing that they would be stopped and receive true help. Most especially, 
Lord, for all who have been abused and struggling, facing consequences 
that many do not know or understand. Open our eyes to see clearly, 
and be proclaimers of Your comfort.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.  (2 Cor. 1:3-7 NAS)

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6th Petition of Lord’s Prayer

The pope recently changed the wording of the 6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. This may cause some to consider how this affects us as Lutherans. In reality, the papal church decision does not affect us at all. Here is the papal statement regarding the change:

The translation of a line in the Lord’s Prayer has been changed by The Pope after he signalled he was frustrated that it implies God might lead people into temptation.

Pope Francis approved altering the translation of the line “and lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.”

Luther already in 1530 addressed the concern when he wrote his explanation to the 6th Petition in the Small Catechism.

6th Petition: And do not lead us into temptation.

What does this mean? God indeed tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and although we may be assailed by them, still we may finally overcome and obtain the victory.

Immediately Luther addresses the concern whether God tempts us. He does not. The focus of the 6th petition is to call upon God’s protection against the three spiritual enemies: the devil, the world, and our flesh. Further that none of the three may not deceive us nor seduce us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. With the outcome that we finally overcome all these temptations in Christ’s power, and that we may obtain that the victory in Christ.

So is there any need for us as Lutherans to change the wording of English translation? Absolutely not. The current translation is acceptable and the result does not change even with a wording change.

Rest assured that our praying the Lord’s Prayer is acceptable to God and reflects God’s own desires for our prayers.

Other translation changes:

A final note is that the new translation by the papal church will affect oral recitation by congregations, small groups, and by individuals. In pastoral care to shut-ins, those hospitalized, home visitation, I recite the Lord’s Prayer, inviting the person(s) to join with me. What advantage is a wording change? None. Negatively it will cause confusion, stumbling, uncertainty at a very critical time for the person to be actively praying the commonly known words. Word changes like this are not helpful for pastoral care and private devotions.

Also, note that even when new Bible translations or revisions (NASB, ESV, NIV, etc.) appear, that change never affects the liturgical form used in worship or private devotions.

The pope also changed the text of “The Gloria” in the liturgy. That change will not affect us as Lutherans at all.

Restoration of Peter

In the Gospel reading for today (John 21:1-19) Jesus restores Peter to ministry. He does so by asking Peter three times: “Do you love Me?” Each response by Peter “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you,” is met with Jesus saying, “feed My lambs”; “Shepherd My sheep”; “Feed My sheep.” This parallels Peter’s three-fold denials when asked if He was one who followed Jesus. Peter was forgiven, restored, and called to care for people.

Note how Peter writes about this change in 1 Peter 5:1-4:

1 I exhort the elders who are among you, as one who is also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, take care of them, not by constraint, but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly. 3 Do not lord over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that will not fade away.

(1 Peter 5:1–4 MEV)

Chronological CSB #04

Chronological Bible comment: I have noted elsewhere that the CSB Chronological Bible has several commendable features. But I noted that the Act-Scene-Readings structure offers no help to the Bible reader.

Sometimes when reading I may flip through the Bible looking for something specific passage or referent. Unless I have to open it on the Day intro page, I am left with this view (below) with no navigation capability. Nothing on this page indications what book of the Bible is presented; even the chapter number is only marginally helpful. This is confusing (especially for a new reader) because the books in the reading sequence have little bearing to the normal listing of the Biblical books (i.e. Genesis is followed by Job). I think some kind of reference could be given on each page. Thus, on this page at the top instead of “Governance: God rescues His People” they could put “Exodus 18.”

Chronological CSB #03

Comments on Job

I am a little surprised that the comments focus on the suffering, but ignore the critical issue, namely a human’s righteousness before God. Notice in 4:17 (Eliphaz: “Can a mortal be righteous before God?”) Eliphaz identifies the right question/issue behind the suffering The again in 5:8 Eliphaz the right solution (Eliphaz: “However, if I were you, I would appeal to God”)

Then even more clearly in 6:29-30 Job responds: “my righteousness is still the issue”

And in 7:21 (Job:) “Why not forgive my sin and pardon my iniquity?”

Again: (9:2 Job:) “Yes, I know what you’ve said is true, but how can a person be justified before God?”

Finally, in 9:33-35 Job admits:

“There is no mediator between us, to lay his hand on both of us. Let him take his rod away from me so his terror will no longer frighten me. Then I would speak and not fear him. But that is not the case; I am on my own.”

So suffering is certainly an issue, but behind it is the righteousness of the one who suffers. Ultimately that is resolved in chapters 38-42, most pointedly in God’s questioning of Job. Even after ch. 38-39, Job still does not get it. God ultimately asks: 

Would you really challenge my justice?
Would you declare me guilty to justify yourself? (40: 8)

For such a critical issue, it seems that the comments could lead the reader to at least watch for something so significant.

Chronological CSB #02

The week 4 readings are from the Book of Job. I think this is where the introductory comments in the Chronological Bible fail the reader.

The comments throughout Job readings focus on the suffering, but ignore the critical issue, namely a human’s righteousness before God. Yet look at the textual hints about the righteousness of the one who suffers throughout the book. Here are a few:

Job 4:17 (Eliphaz asks: “Can a mortal be righteous before God?”) Eliphaz identifies the right question/issue behind the suffering The again in 5:8 Eliphaz the right solution (Eliphaz: “However, if I were you, I would appeal to God”)

Even more clearly in Job 6:29-30 Job responds: “my righteousness is still the issue.”

And in Job 7:21 Job speaks: “Why not forgive my sin and pardon my iniquity?”

Again in Job 9:2 Job speaks: “Yes, I know what you’ve said is true, but how can a person be justified before God?”

Finally, in Job 9:33-35, Job admits: “There is no mediator between us, to lay his hand on both of us. Let him take his rod away from me so his terror will no longer frighten me. Then I would speak and not fear him. But that is not the case; I am on my own.”

So suffering is certainly an issue that Job faced. But behind it is the question about the righteousness of the one who suffers. Ultimately that is resolved in chapters 38-42, most pointedly in God’s questioning of Job. Even after ch. 38-39, Job still does not get it. God ultimately asks: 

40: 8 God asks: “Would you really challenge my justice?
Would you declare me guilty to justify yourself?”

With such a critical issue, it seems that the comments could have helped the reader to at least watch for something so significant with regard to the ultimate revelation in chap. 40 and 42.

Abuse in the Church and heresy that supports it

The Plague of Abuse

Abuse is a major plague affecting churches of all persuasion. It not only destroys peoples’ lives, the ripple effects for family, friends, and churches grow beyond our eye sight.

Thankfully, many people are addressing the problem of abuse. Here is a small sample of people writing about abuse in the church.

Dee Parson: http://thewartburgwatch.com

Amy Smith: http://watchkeep.blogspot.com

Julie Ann: https://spiritualsoundingboard.com

Others are writing and providing organized help for those abused, such as:

Boz Tchividjian: https://www.netgrace.org

And many of those who have been abused and continue to suffer from the church, such as:

Lori Anne Thompson: https://loriannethompson.com

Every person in the church would do well to read what each of these people write. To see the devastating effects of abuse. To grapple with the hidden costs of abuse. To realize that reintegration into a church can be threatening to say the least. To come to grips with how pervasive, soul destroying abuse can be.

The Heresy behind Abuse

Another layer of recognizing what is going on is to realize that many abusers and their defenders have used what seemingly provides a theological/Biblical basis for “handling abusers.” That is, a seeming “confession of sins” by abuser is offered (ala Matt. 18:15-20), then a quick absolution, and even quicker turn around to begin another ministry. As if that solves the problems. 

It gets even worse. Many of them claim that the only solution is for the abused person to meet face-to-face with the abuser, so that forgiveness can happen. By such a practice, this ensures that the abuser does not face consequences because he (I am using male pronoun, because most often it is a man) is in the position of power, hence the abuse is multiplied. Little wonder that those abused refuse to be put into that position.

Added to this dilemma, such an approach short-circuits the role of the congregation in the process (18:17). And the witnesses are not to be advocates for the one who sinned (the abuser), rather as witnesses that the process of confronting the abuser with what has happened. But another disaster has entered the process. The abuser seemingly can suggest his own punishment, even determining if something is too difficult to endure.

The Heresy

That process almost sounds Biblical. But they are using Biblical words with a different meaning, and therefore twist it to support the abuser. In the process, words like “confession of sin,” “repentance,” “forgiveness of sins,” etc. are detached from their biblical context and meaning. Thus, if questioned the abuser/defender can claim that the process of Matthew 18:15-20 has been followed. 

Sadly according to this misuse, a word like “restoration” automatically means as soon as forgiveness is declared, then the person can resume that same position or similar one in another church. That process does not reflect Biblical confession, absolution, or restoration. And that is the heresy.

Is heresy too strong a word to use in this context? I think not. Words of the church and by the Church have been torn from their Biblical context and meaning—coopted to support the abuser. Even church, pastor, authority, forgiveness, reconciliation have been twisted from what Jesus instituted for the Church. In the process these heretics are wanting Christianity as a whole to change in order to accept their perverted understanding of those words. And that is heresy. 

In the 4th century at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) a bishop named Arius was trying to change a teaching regarding Christ. Interestingly the difference between orthodoxy (straight doctrine, hence praise) and heresy (false doctrine publicly defended as true doctrine) was one letter, the Greek letter iota (ι).

The council recognized the widely spread deception of Arius, and condemned the teaching. Heresy could not be tolerated. Even more, the use of words by Arius to promote and defend the heresy had to be challenged. The church would not be the true church if it allowed the false acquisition of Christian/Biblical words by heretics.

The Fallout

In the era of abuse of today, false teachers are using slipshod definitions and use of words like sin, confession, forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation to circumvent the Biblical process of dealing with public sin. That is, the abusers, their supporters, and all others connected with the abuse need to restudy those words, so that these words can be taken as originally intended and not as a means of sidestepping what happened.

This does NOT mean a one hour study session with quickly re-written new policy. Rather, it means taking a long (year or years?) serious look at all the Bible has to say about sin, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. Do NOT jump immediately to “forgiveness of sin,” because that will derail the purpose of the study. Confronting sin has to include not only the specific sin, but the larger consequences of the sin, the affect on family, the church, other spiritual leaders, etc. Over the years I have heard pastors who have abused a member claim that “I have been out of ministry for six months; now I am ready to begin serving again.” The reality is that he probably has not even dealt with the sin in its entirety, nor with the affect on other people.

Notice, too, that in the Matthew 18:15-20 passage, the one guilty of sin, does not determine the forgiveness, nor the consequences, nor the restoration, if any. In other words, he has no role in that whole process, regardless of how “fit” he might demonstrate at the moment. His only role is to confess the sin. He is not to be applauded, nor “rescued to serve again.” Sin has much greater consequences than his inconvenience. The church determines steps forward, and restoration to a former position is certainly not automatic, nor to be demanded.

The Way Forward

It is encouraging to see people and churches take stands against abuse. But it is indeed sad that abuses have lived in a subculture that thrives on heresy. This is a call for all pastors, teachers, and Christians in general to seriously study the critical words in their Biblical context. Don’t settle for a shortcut that seems to cut off the abuser in the immediate situation, but may open to other abuse and other heresies. 

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For Study

I don’t have all the answers. Here is a suggestion for a beginning of this study, which gets to at least a couple items. Most critical I think is addressing the heresy that undergirds the abuse has to be identified, dealt with, and put away from the abuser, defenders, and the church. I would say a deep study of Galatians (what is the foundation of faith), Ephesians (what does it mean to be “in Christ” and in relation to one another), 2 Corinthians (how to deal with trouble in church), 1 John (what does Christ’s love mean for the Church, fierce love that Jesus demonstrated).

Study words such as sin, confession, forgiveness (in that order)

2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51

Psalm 32

3-4 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.

Then

5-6 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

From Jesus’ instruction Matthew 18:15-20

 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

May we as the Church root out this heresy and remove that as a foundation for abuse.