Dale Ingraham from Speaking Truth in Love Ministries live-streamed this seminar with A Better Way on September 26, 2020. Thanks for Kim Beachy for providing a transcript. View the original livestream on Facebook here. Also check out Dale’s book, “Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches (For those who will hear)“.
Dale: Okay, so hopefully we’re back again. I apologize for the technical difficulties, we’re still trying to figure all of this this stuff out. We’re actually live streaming from South Bend, Indiana. Faith and I are out here for a couple of events this weekend. We were going to live-stream from the hotel room and a friend of ours, Jen, offered to let us use our home. We actually have a live audience, so that’s cool. But again, if you have some questions, we’re talking about God’s view on abuse. We’re going to look at verbal abuse, we’re going to look at child abuse, and we’re going to talk about marital abuse. Because the Bible really does address these issues, and I’m really hoping as we get into some of these verses that you’re really going to see God’s heart on this.
Now, if I was to ask you where in the Bible you would go to see what God has to say about verbal abuse, where would you go? There’s probably a variety of places you could go, but the first one that came to my mind was actually the book of James chapter 3. I’m going to read some of those verses and I want you to think about what God is saying here through James about verbal abuse — about the tongue. He’s talking about the tongue. He’s talking about how damaging it is. Listen to the words as I read down through here.
James says in verse 3,
Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turned their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
So he’s talking about the tongue, and very early in the discussion he’s talking about how much damage a little fire can do. Look at all the fires out west in California and Oregon and Washington. I believe it’s the worst year on record. The tongue is like that. That’s what God’s comparing the tongue to.
Now, he goes on to say,
The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
Now we’ve all heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. We all grew up with that saying, and if someone said something to hurt your feelings it’s like “Big deal. Grow up, get over it.”. But the Bible, thousands of years ago, talked about the incredible damage the tongue can do.
Faith and I have a friend that grew up in a very abusive home. And his father used to tell him all the time. “You’re worthless. You’re good for nothing. What good are you? You’re never going to amount to anything.” We were actually having a discussion a few years ago about her ministry and the whole issue of abuse. And he said that — and he’s probably in his mid-50s at this point — and he said for most of his life, when he’s looking or thinking about applying for a new job, that there was job after job after job he never applied for, because echoing in the back of his mind was what his father used to tell him over and over and over and over again.
Verbal abuse is very damaging. One thing I want to point out too is whether we’re talking about verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or spiritual abuse — they all have specific definitions. They’re distinct one from another. But one of the things that we found is that the impact of abuse is very similar from one type of abuse to another. How it shuts down the person. So think about this passage as I’m reading it, and think about verbal abuse. Think about what you went through when you were growing up, what you were told. Maybe by the pastor, by your parents, by other siblings. But echoing still in your mind, maybe decades later. About how worthless you are, or maybe how you felt, you can’t do anything right. I mean, how many times have you been scolded because you didn’t do your homework right, you didn’t clean your room right, you didn’t do this right or that right? And someone tells you “you can’t do anything right” or “you will never amount to anything”. And pretty soon, you believe that, and it has a really profound negative impact on you.
James goes on. He says in verse 7,
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
There you go. It’s an unruly evil. Full of deadly poison. Verbal abuse. We have to be so careful as Christians that we don’t read verses like this and think “well, that’s just the unsaved” or “that’s just the guy down the road or the guy in a different country.” He’s talking about every one of us. We have got to be careful how we use our tongue.
Just a couple more things out of James, and then I got a couple verses in Proverbs that are kind of a beautiful contrast to this.
He says in verse 9 With it, we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God.
Think about that. We bless God with our tongue, but we curse men. Verbal abuse. And it’s even in our Christian homes. The homes that kids grow up in where Mom and Dad are screaming at them, where Mom and Dad are angry all the time, where Mom and Dad are saying things and, in many cases, cussing their children out. Swearing at them. That is so demeaning and so damaging.
So keep those verses in mind for a minute, and let’s put a couple other verses with it. In Galatians 5, Paul gives the people in the region of Galatia a warning, that you’ve got to be careful that you don’t bite and devour one another. Well what’s he talking about? He’s talking about verbal abuse. He’s talking about a critical tongue, a critical spirit. He’s not talking about being literally in danger of eating each other, but we have to be careful we don’t bite and devour each other.
The Bible talks often about edifying one another, which means to build up. We get our word ediphous or ‘building’ from that word ‘edify’. When we’re abusive verbally, what we do is we tear people down. And so instead of tearing each other down, we need to be building each other up. I’m not saying that there’s never a time to rebuke. Yes, there are times when we all need to be rebuked. But that shouldn’t be every time we talk. That’s a special occasion when you might sit down and you might rebuke someone in a loving manner. But our whole life, what we should be known for is building each other up. Which ties into the verses in Proverbs, and I’m going to go back there.
The first one is in Proverbs chapter 25. Again, I want you to see the contrast, if you will, because so many times you read the passages, but it doesn’t sink in. So the first one is Proverbs 25:11. Solomon says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver on platters of silver.”
That is kind of flowery language. But what does it mean when he says “A word fitly spoken”? It’s an appropriate word. As we communicate with each other, the things that we say can be so valuable, so precious, so meaningful.
It’s easy to look back and think of all the negatives and times when someone said something that really demeaned us. I can go right back and I can name them off, one finger after another, of times in my life as a child growing up where my father said something. I remember my father saying to me “I’ll break your neck. I’ll kill you.” You know, I can go back and I can think of specific things people said, but let’s flip that for a minute, and let’s go back and think about somebody in our life who’s very special to us, and think about some simple thing that maybe they said to you that meant the world to you. And it might have been “I love you”, or “You’re special to me”. That’s what Solomon’s talking about here. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold on a platter of silver”. It’s valuable, it’s special.
Here’s another one in Proverbs 16:24 that I thought was interesting. Now let this sink in; just think about this for a minute.
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb. Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
Now we’ve probably all read that before, we’ve all heard that, but have we thought about that? Pleasant words. They’re like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul. But he says “Health to the bones.”
There’s all kinds of studies now. A lot of you are familiar with the term ACE or ACEs now. “Adverse childhood experiences”. There’s actually an excellent documentary that everybody should watch called Resilience. It’s based on some fairly recent studies dealing with abuse and the profound negative impact that it has on people. And there’s actually an ACE test. There’s 10 simple questions, you can go online, find it, you can take this ACE test and find your ACE score. The higher your score, the greater your adverse childhood experiences have impacted you. And they’ve done extensive studies comparing the impact of adverse childhood experiences on your health. It’s like if you draw a graph out that goes up and down. In the study, they did, and it shows a pattern of abuse in a child’s life. And then they go back and they look at that person’s health, and they do an overly one on top of the other. And the more profound and negative the abuse, the more profound the health problems.
But what’s interesting is that God said, thousands of years ago through Solomon, that pleasant words are health to your bones, or to your body. So if that’s true, then reverse it. What about the negative words? What about the abusive words? The opposite effect is also implied. God does care about abuse. You know, God doesn’t just look the other way when somebody is verbally abusing you and you’re feeling devastated, you’re feeling crushed, and you’re very likely feel like God doesn’t care. But he actually does care. We could go to other places, but I’m not going to take the time to do that at this point.
But I want to talk about child abuse, and for that one we’re going to go to Matthe 18. When we first started our ministry back in 2008, most of our focus was on childhood sexual abuse because that’s a big part of Faith’s story. Faith experienced a lot of domestic violence, and a lot of verbal abuse and other things. This was our primary focus for a lot of years. I remember when we started our ministry — and we knew we wanted to go into churches and talk about these issues of abuse — I remember having a conversation with Faith like “what are we going to use for passages? What are we going to use for examples and biblical illustrations?”. And I remember saying that “There aren’t that many verses that deal with abuse.”
That was back in 2007 when we were first thinking about the idea of putting presentations together. We did our first pastor’s conference in February 2008. But since 2007, it’s incredible, as I’m reading through the Bible, I’ll be like “there’s another verse, and there’s another verse.” There’s all kinds of verses that either relate directly to abuse, or maybe in an indirect sense. Or maybe it’s a story like Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon, and all the trauma that she goes through and that she lives through.
So there’s all kinds of places we can go in the Bible, but when it comes to child abuse, Matthew 18, the first 14 verses, thats where you want to go. At least for the starting point. And I say the first 14 verses — verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, verse 10, and verse 14 all mention little children. So a lot of times what we do is when you start reading down through, you think about the first few verses, you know, Jesus brings the little child and sets him in the midst. But then we’re not paying attention when he talks about “if your eye offends you, pluck it out”, or “if your hand offends you, cut it off”, and so on and so forth. And when he talks to you about the lost sheep and leaving the ninety-nine and going out, we’re thinking about something else. But in this context, it’s all talking about child abuse.
In verse 1, the disciples were having a discussion about who’s the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And I think that’s interesting. It has nothing to do with the children, other than I think it’s indicative of much of what’s happening in the church. It’s an adult world. It’s all about us and who’s going to be the greatest in the church. Who’s going to have the best position, who’s going to do this, who’s going to do that? And it’s really interesting, the way Jesus answers this question. Because they’re thinking “Which one of us twelve are going to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”. And Jesus takes a little child and sets them in the midst and says “Unless you become converted and be like this little child, you’re not going to get to heaven.”
Now right away, something should strike you, and it strikes me: there is something so special about a child that Jesus holds a child up as a model for salvation. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t know exactly what it is. He mentions humbling yourself as this little child. Later he talks about the faith of a child, or the child that believes in me. So it may have something to do with the humility of a child, with the faith of a child, maybe with the innocence of a child. But there is something so special about a child that Jesus brings the child in and says to these adult men “unless you humble yourself and become like this little child, you’re not even going to get to Heaven.”
Now, what Jesus does next is interesting, because he moves on from the subject of who’s going to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. He wants to use this occasion to talk more about the children, which is not on the disciples’ radar. I’m going to be honest, I know for a lot of churches it’s not on the church’s radar. And I can tell you example after example, and many of you — probably all of you — know of examples of children who have been abused in church. Horrific examples. Faith and I have a really good friend back in New York who has a little daughter who was sexually abused — horribly sexually abused — in a church. During the children’s ministry time. And it was happening, and it was a woman who was sexually abusing this little girl. She reported it to the authorities and the church refused to believe. They thought the little girl was lying, the mom was lying, and they took the side of the offender.
This happens over and over and over, and for most Christians, it’s not even on our radar. We’re not thinking about it. You know, as long as the children have their ministry, and we’ve got someone willing to teach them, that’s great. They’re out of our hair, right? They’re not up here in the sanctuary, causing a fuss, so we can have our praise and worship time and our nice message time. So, as long as the children are out of our hair. Well, I think that’s the disciples. But Jesus is going to get their attention focused on this child. As long as he’s got his attention there, he’s going to deal with that.
So let’s read a few of these verses. Jesus says in verse 3 “Surely, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” There’s a transformation that needs to take place. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven”. Then he says in verse 5 “Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me.”
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Now that’s animal abuse. And you probably had no idea that God actually addressed the abuse of animals in the Bible, but he does. Solomon did that thousands of years ago. So let me go through it again and I want you to think about each part of this. “The righteous man regards the life of his animal.” Now, what does that mean? The righteous man considers his animal. Takes care of his animal. Looks after his animal. The righteous man does. But then he doesn’t leave it there. There’s two sides to this verse, just like two sides to a coin. He says, “but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”. Both the righteous and the wicked are mentioned in this verse, and I don’t want to gloss over this, because we gloss over too much. “The righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
When you take out your anger on your pet, or the cows in the barn. I grew up on farms and I worked on farms as a teenager. So we were around cows all the time. And I remember seeing some farmers, not all of them, carry a cane with them. And they would hit the cows as hard as they could hit them if they didn’t go into the stanchion right, if they didn’t do what they wanted them to do. No patience. No mercy. That verse says “But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”. You beat your animal, you come home and kick your animal, kick your dog, kick the cat. Are you being righteous or are you being wicked? And I know you guys that are listening to this, you dont think it’s funny. But there’s probably a lot of people in churches that might snicker when we talk about animal abuse. And I would say they have a problem. Now I’m going to be honest, there have been times in my life that I’ve been abusive. And there’s no excuse for that.
God actually addresses animal abuse. But here’s my point of bringing it in here, where we’re talking about child abuse: if you think God cares about animal abuse, how much more does he care about child abuse? “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” I could give you example after example, and I know you guys out there to give me all kinds of examples of how you were treated by your pastor by church leaders, by your Christian parents… and they were cruel to you. Whether it was verbal abuse or sexual abuse, they were cruel. You know what God says? They are wicked. That’s what he’s saying here. “The righteous man regards the life of his beast.” Proverbs chapter 12, verse 10. “The righteous man regards the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
Jesus said, “Beware of false teachers, for they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). One of the things that people have to understand, that every Christian needs to understand, is that the only one that sees the wolf is the prey — the child that that wolf is ravaging, or maybe it’s an adult that that wolf is ravaging. They know how cruel and how vicious and hurtful that this individual is to them. But every other Christian that’s around there, if they’re not being abused, then all they see is a sheep. This person is a nice person. How many times have we heard “Oh that person would never do that”?
Faith had people after she came out with her story back in 2006 – 2007 about what her dad had done to her — and at this point back in 2007, realizing he had abused many others. We had people then tell us that “your dad would never do that.” Well first of all, they had no idea what they were talking about because he did do that. And if someone discloses that they’re being abused, or they were abused as a child, in the vast majority of cases they are telling the truth. People don’t lie about those things, and they need to be believed.
I want to bring that in about the animals because, if he cares about animals, guess what? He cares about children. So in Matthew 18, Jesus continues, he says in verse 5, “If you receive a little child in my name, you receive me.” Then he says in verse 6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
In the parallel passage and Luke 17 in verse 2, it says, “Whoever offends one of these little ones.” and the Greek word “offend” means to trip. Every time someone abuses a child it’s like sticking their foot out when a child is running by and they fall flat on their face. And they fall flat on their face over and over and over, someone is always trying to trip them. Someone is abusing them, someone is verbally abusing them, someone is physically abusing them, someone is sexually abusing them. And every time they try to move forward in life, as they’re trying to grow, they’re trying to maybe grow in their relationship with God, they’re trying to move forward with their life. Somebody’s always tripping them up, and boom, down on their face they go. And then they got to get up and start all over again.
When you have an abuser in your life, you’re just continually being tripped over and over and over again. And Jesus said, it would be better for you that a millstone was hung around your neck and you were drowned in the sea. Now most of you have probably seen a millstone or picture of a millstone (you can Google search it) and it’s a large round stone and it was used for grinding grain. And Jesus is being pretty graphic here.
We know the verse, right? We’ve heard it over and over. But I want you to think about what it means. I want you to actually picture it, because it’s pretty graphic. If you picture somebody being thrown out of a boat into a sea, and they’ve got a concrete anchor to them and they go right down to the bottom. And they’re struggling, trying to get up to the top so they can get some air. Why is Jesus being so graphic? He’s being so graphic. And by the way, who’s he talking to? He’s talking to the offender. And he’s saying it would be better for you to have a millstone around your neck then that you harm one of these little ones. And every time I go through this, I really want it to sink in. He said that it would be better. If it was in the movie, it would be an R-rated movie, right? Violence. It’s graphic.
Jesus said that would be better, but he doesn’t say better than what. But here’s the implication. Better than when I get my hands on you, because of what I’m going to do to you if you harm one of these little ones. You sexually abuse a little child, you rape a little child, you molest a little child, you abuse a little child. Buddy, when I show up and when I get my hands on you, you’d be better off drowning in the sea with a concrete anchor then when I get ahold of you, because of what I’m going to do to you.
Why do I stress that? I stressed that because Jesus stressed that. I stressed that because God is not okay with abuse. And people need to hear that, because it seems like most abuse survivors — I’m not going to say all; I don’t think Faith struggles with this when she shares her story and her testimony — but many, many abuse survivors feel like either God doesn’t care and it doesn’t matter to him, or somehow even worse that he’s okay with it. But “Hey if you want to abuse a child, they’ll live. Go on and abuse a child.” God’s not okay with it. And yet it is not being taught in our churches. For most of my ministry I would preach through this. But I never dealt with the real depth in these verses. And it’s about child abuse. Jesus is talking directly about child abuse and he says again in verse 5, “If you receive a little child, its just like receiving me. But you harm these little children, you’d be better off drowning in the sea.”
Now he doesn’t stop there. Go to verse 7, he says, “Woe to the world because of offenses, for offenses must come.” Well what does that mean? Is that saying it’s okay? Is that okay with him? We live in a fallen broken world. God made Adam and Eve, he made mankind, and God in his sovereignty gave mankind the ability to choose. And mankind very quickly chose to do wrong. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, their son Cain winds up murdering his own brother. So I mean, one generation away and we’ve got the murderers. God gave mankind the ability to choose. The world, as it began to be populated after about fifteen hundred years or so, became so wicked and it said God actually was sorry that he made man on the earth. We go back and read it, Genesis 6 through 9. That’s pretty bad, and God’s now going to destroy the whole thing and we’re going to start over with Noah and his family and the animals that he got on the Ark. Well God rebooted the whole system after about a year of devastation.
God does care about abuse and he has a lot to say about abuse. And Jesus says offenses are going to come, there’s a lot of bad things are going to happen. But look at what else he says here. He says “But woe to that man by whom the offense comes.” You’re going to answer for what you do. You abused a child, and you’re going to pay a price for that. Now he goes on. In verse 8, he says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It’s better for you to enter into life lame or maned rather than having two hands or two feet and be cast into everlasting fire.” If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, same thing.
Now believe it or not, those are obviously gruesome verses, but the part about believe it or not is: there’s hope in there. If someone truly repents, if someone takes this seriously, they can find forgiveness. But what Jesus is saying here in these verses — I call them kind of obscure verses, because you read them and it’s like, “What does that mean?” Jesus uses these same verses in a different context, If you read through the Gospels, it’s a little different context. But in this context here, it’s child abuse. So he’s talking about the offender, saying, “You better do everything possible to keep from harming these children. Your hand offends, you cut it off”. But the ray of hope even in these verses is, as harsh as Jesus is on offenders, he said it is better for you to enter into life whole or maimed. You do everything you can, you do not harm these children. I don’t care what it takes, you don’t harm these children. You’d be better off dying and going to heaven then having your whole body and dying and going to hell. And that is in the context of child abuse.
How do we know that? Well, he comes right back to child abuse. Take a look at verse 9, or verse 10. Jesus said in verse 10, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones.” Here it’s used again, little ones, verse 10. “For I say to you in heaven their angels always see the face of my father, who’s in heaven.” Now think about that for a minute. Their angels, I don’t know if every child has an angel, I don’t know if there’s a group of angels and they’re in charge of all the children. But Jesus says, “their angels”, plural, “always behold the face of my father who’s in heaven.” Well here’s another verse where Jesus doesn’t elaborate, he makes a pretty incredible statement. Their angels always behold? What does that mean? Does that mean they’re just all standing there staring at the father? That’s all I do, just stare at the father all day long? I don’t think that’s what he is saying. When children are being abused, that’s what he’s talking about, because he says, “take heed,” it’s a warning. “Don’t despise one of these little ones because their angels always behold the face of my Father.” The implication is that the angels are reporting to the Father every single day what’s happening to them. God knows what you’ve been through. And God cares about what you’ve been through. And God’s angry when people abuse others.
Faith: We have a couple of questions.
Dave: We have some comments and questions so we will take a break. Go ahead honey.
Faith: So, how does domestic violence affect children, especially hearing verbal abuse between the parents?
Dave: Okay, so lets take that one. The question is “How does domestic violence, the parents arguing, verbal abuse from one parent to another, how does that impact the children? That is domestic violence. If you witness — even if you’re not the one being hit, even if you’re not the one being sworn at, even if you’re not the one being verbally abused — if you witness the abuse, that is abuse.
You might call it secondary abuse, but it’s abuse. You’re being traumatized. What children grow up in, it’s just like PTSD with soldiers who go off to war. They witness their buddies being blown up. They witness their buddies being killed in combat, being dismembered in combat. They might be perfectly fine physically, but they’re traumatized by everything going on around them. It’s the same thing with children growing up in an abusive home. So a lot of times people have gone through abuse don’t even realize or don’t think of it that way because they’re like, “Well I wasn’t abused, it was my mom being abused, or it was my sibling being abused.” But if you witness it, you were abused, and your body takes the impact of that.
Faith: How many children growing up wanted to kill an abusive parent because they were so abusive to the other parent. They wanted to protect and…
Dave: Yes, you hear a lot of children who feel helpless. But even as a child, when they witness, and it’s not always the father that’s abusive, many times it’s the mother, most of the time you hear it is the father. But you hear about children who witness this, and they actually think to themselves, “I want to kill my father because of what he’s doing to my mom, or what he’s doing to my brother, my sister.” They obviously are impacted by it.
Faith: There was just a comment that domestic violence affects every aspect and phase of development including pregnancy. Has been proven to affect muscle tone for example.
Dave: Yes, that was an observation or comment of how domestic violence can impact even an unborn child, a child in the womb. They’ve done some studies, and I certainly can’t speak from an expert perspective on this. But Faith and I, one of the things we try to do is we try to attend a couple conferences every year. So we’re staying up on kind of the latest information that’s out there. So that when we go and present, we’re always learning and growing. But some of the stuff that we’ve been listening to, in terms of presentations, they actually have done studies and they actually believe now that adverse childhood experiences, which is broader than abuse, can so damage somebody that it impacts their DNA. It’s like you can pass on trauma to your children. Not just in your behavior, but when you’re living through it and it has an impact on your child. Of course in the womb babies can hear, there’s a certain point where they can hear. So if there’s domestic violence, even as an unborn baby they can experience the trauma of that.
So let’s keep the questions coming and we’ll take some from our folks here in a few minutes as well.
So, back to this child abuse and what Jesus has to say here in verse 10. “Their angels are always before the face of my father in heaven.” They’re reporting to the father what’s happening to the children, God does care. One of the passages Faith uses a lot when we go out and speak is out of Malachi. And it’s talking about God heard them talking, there was a group of people talking amongst themselves, God heard them talking and he actually wrote a book of remembrance. He wrote down what they were saying. When you read that passage of Malachi chapter 3, and it carries over into chapter 4, they were feeling like “what good does it do to serve God?” They’re witnessing all this wickedness, all this stuff going on and people are getting away with it. In their minds, they are thinking they are getting away with it. And God wrote it all down, God is keeping track; he is paying attention.
Now there is something else in Matthew, before I move on to the 3rd thing I want to talk about. Because then in verses 11 to 14, Jesus starts talking about the lost sheep. He says, “For the son of man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 and go in the mountains to seek the one who is straying? Very surely I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the 99 who did not go astray.”
How do we know he’s talking about the children here? Jesus uses the same story, the same example, in other contexts in the gospels. But in this case, he’s using it in the context of children and child abuse. When he’s talking about the sheep going astray, he’s talking about the children who have been abused. And they fled. How do we know that? Look at what he says in verse 14, “Even so it is not the will of your father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” The lost sheep of Matthew 18 are the little ones. And in the context he’s talking about child abuse.
But what do we see today? Hundreds of thousands of children who grow up in church, on the mission field, they’re leaving the church by the thousands. And we’ve talked about it for generations. We keep talking about the young people who leave. Why are they leaving? We tag them as rebellious, “Oh, they’re just rebellious.”
Well I tell you what, a lot of those young people are leaving because they’ve been abused or they’ve been mistreated by the church. Or they were abused and they’ve gone to the church for help and the church has rejected them and the church has embraced their offender. And they’re like, “I’m out of here.”
And maybe some of you even watching this, listening, have said, “I’m never going to go back to church again, because of what I went through.”
That’s who Jesus is talking about right here. He’s like, “I want to go and I want to look for the lost sheep because I love the lost sheep, I care about them. Neither is it the will of my father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
Now I want to go to marital abuse. We’ve talked about verbal abuse. We’ve talked about child abuse. I want to talk about marital abuse. This is going to be out of Ephesians 5. And this passage, I’m sure that some of you either watching this now or perhaps going to watch it later, when I talk about going to Ephesians 5 you’re probably sick to your stomach.
Faith: Just one more comment.
Dale: Okay, we got a comment, go ahead.
Faith: Can you comment on the eternal consequences for offenders who do not repent? Because many victims have a problem with why doesn’t God deal with them now and stop their offending?
Dave: There’s a couple parts, couple components to that. The last one is, “Why doesn’t God stop them now?” And we’re going to address that. Faith and I actually have been working on a presentation that deals with that, and I’m going to comment on that in just a second.
But the first part of the question. “Where are these guys going to spend eternity?” I’m absolutely convinced that the vast majority of offenders are on their way to hell. Maybe not because they are abusing children, but they don’t know God. God does not live inside of them. It’s possible for Christians to do unthinkable things But it’s not your life’s pattern. And I think David is probably a good example of that. David did a couple horrible things, okay. He rapes Bathsheba, he has her husband killed. Yet the Bible says he’s a man after God’s own heart. I know that’s difficult, especially for an abuse survivor. How do you wrap your head around that? It’s because that was not David’s life. David was a godly man up until that point, and I believe David truly repented.
What we see out of most offenders is the whining and crying and moaning, and they are the victim and it’s everybody else’s fault. That’s not a repentant offender. I don’t care if they cry crocodile tears, and they do all this other garbage. The vast majority of offenders are not repentant. That tells me, buddy, you’re not even saved. You’re doing this stuff, your conscience isn’t bothered by it.
Faith’s dad graduated from the same Bible College we did. I graduated ‘83 Faith graduated ‘84, her dad graduated 1961. He was preaching at his first church in 1959. I dont know when he started raping and molesting, but it was a long time ago. Back in 2006 was the last time that we know of that he molested a young girl. He was 72 years old. It doesn’t stop. And Dad, he could have shared. He’s dead now, but I believe he’s in hell. Because it was his life’s pattern, he did it over and over and over. There was no repentance, there was no remorse. There were excuses, and there was all this lame stuff. I think that’s why Jesus is so stern in this passage in Matthew 18. He’s saying you guys are on your way to hell. I mean that’s the implication. You better do everything in your power not to harm these children, because it would be better for you to go into heaven, into life, with half your body, right? I mean, we’re going to have a new body one day. But he’s saying you do everything in your power to keep from harming these children. The implication is you’re on your way to hell unless you change.
Faith: And there is change possible.
Dave: It is possible.
Faith: Through Christ. It is possible to repent and turn around and go the other way.
Dave: It is. So back to the question, the first part of the question. It just doesn’t seem like most offenders are truly repentant. To me it all comes down to that. You know repentance is a change. It isn’t just saying something, it’s not just walking up in front of church and saying “I’m sorry, I had a moral failure.” and then nothing changes. That’s not repentance. That’s an indication that you’re a hollow christian. You’re like the Pharisees. Jesus said, “You guys are like white washed tombs. You look good on the outside, but inside” he said, “You’re full of dead men’s bones.” If you want to know what most offenders are like, that’s a description of most offenders. Most religious offenders, they look nice on the outside, but inside it’s just dead. It’s possible for an offender to repent, yes, there are some examples. Manasseh was a rotten guy in the Old Testament, but in the end God stuck him in prison. And by the way offenders need to be in prison. Christians are trying to protect offenders by keeping them out of prison when prison is probably what they need for their own sake. All alone time between you and God may be the only thing that’s going to give them a chance to truly repent and do the self-reflection.
There are examples but I think the vast majority of offenders are going to be on the way to hell. And the religious offenders — remember the passage where Jesus said, “Many will say to me, in that day ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name and in your name cast out demons and in your name done many wonderful works?’ And I’m going to profess to them ‘Depart from me I never knew you, you never had a relationship with me.’” Those are religious people he’s talking about.
Faith: You have about 8 minutes.
Dale: have about 8 minutes, okay. So let’s go right to Ephesians 5 and the part about marital abuse. And like I said, I know some of you listening, when I say, “Ephesians 5” you’re already sick to your stomach, because you were beat over the head, “Wives submit to your husbands.” So let me try to cram this in in 8 minutes.
The passage on the husband-wife relationship really starts at verse 21 not verse 22. Paul said “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord.” Submission is for everybody. When is the last time you heard a pastor stand up in the pulpit and say, “Husbands, you need to be submissive to your wife.” I don’t remember one occasion. But you know what? In verse 21, Paul doesn’t say “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of your Lord, unless you’re a husband, because we all know the husband never needs to submit to the wife.” It doesn’t say that, does it? We as Christians are to be submissive people, and that includes husbands, number one.
There’s several things out of here you got to get, so I’ll try to cram it all in. He does say, “Wives submit yourself to your own husband.” He says, “Husband love your wife even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” Now he never tells the wife that she needs to love her husband. But we all know God wants the wife to love the husband, it’s just he focuses for the wife submit to your husband, husband love your wife. But let’s take that for a minute, husband love your wife even as Christ loved the church. The whole key is, “Even as Christ loved the church.” That’s the key to understanding what he means. I think a lot of times in the church, the guy is like, “Oh, this is really cool. My wife’s got to submit to me. I’m in charge of the love stuff, right? So I’m in charge of all the physical stuff, the sex, the romance, all that kind of stuff. Man, I got the easy part.” That is not what it means, okay? It’s talking about God’s love, agape love. It’s talking about “Even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” It’s a sacrificial love.
Now it says the husband is the head of the wife, right? So let’s talk about headship, because that’s another one that’s triggering, and I know a lot of ladies are going to have a knot in their stomach when we talk about headship, because you’ve been beat over the head with headship. So here’s the question. Is headship about privilege, or is it about responsibility?
The illustration that I use to try to get this across is a mom and dad who have children who are getting old enough to stay at the house by themselves. Mom and dad are going to go out. So you’re going to go down to your local Outback or you’re going down to Texas Roadhouse, and you’re going to have a nice meal, a date night, Mom and Dad, and you will leave your children. So you get your children around and you say to them, “While we’re gone ,stay in the house. Do your homework, clean your room, no fighting.” Right? You’re going to give them this whole list of stuff. And then before you go, you’re going to say, probably to your oldest child or to your most responsible child, you’re going to say something like, “You are in charge.” So, when you say, “You’re in charge”, is that privilege or is it responsibility? What do you mean by that? Do you mean that, when Mom and Dad get in the car and go down the road, because you’re in charge you get to sit in Dad’s chair and you get the boss the other kids around? You get to demand that they go to the freezer and get you ice cream and bring it to you and you get to watch the TV and they have to clean their rooms, and when they’re done cleaning their rooms they have to clean your room, right? And you’re barking out orders as the kids are doing this, “Clean my room!” And then when they get done with their homework they have to do your homework, right? Because that’s privilege. That isn’t what you mean as a parent.
When God said the husband is the head of the wife, he’s not talking about privilege. You don’t get to sit there and bark orders to your wife to get this for you and do this for you and do that for you. That’s nonsense. What God’s saying is, “You know what, when I come back and there’s a problem in the home, you know what I’m going to do, I’m going to come talk to you.” That’s headship, that’s responsibility. And if there’s a problem in the marriage, it doesn’t mean it’s always the husband’s fault, but that the husband is the head of the home and we’re the ones that are going to be responsible. We’re the ones that God’s saying.… When he shows up and it is time to give an account, I have to give an account for my home, for my children when they were there under our roof, in our marriage. I’ve got to give an account for that. But somehow we’ve perverted that, we’ve twisted it to mean that, “Man, I’m the king now of my castle. I get to bark orders to my wife, and bark orders to kids.” And all of that is false teaching, it’s all nonsense. I’m supposed to have a submissive heart. I’m supposed to love my wife in a sacrificial way. So much that I would die for her.
Here’s one other, and I’ll close with this illustration, because to me this is so powerful. I just heard this probably a year-and-a-half ago. I know two men, two Christian men. One’s a pastor, and one’s an administrator at a Christian College who’s retired now. Both of their wives, one has Alzheimer’s, one has frontal lobe dementia. So they’re going through similar things. One’s in a nursing home. The pastor decided he wanted to bring his wife back from the nursing home because he was going to take care of her. They tried to talk him out of it, because it is difficult caring for someone in an advanced state of Alzheimers. But he said, “I’m going to bring her home.” And so he’s doing everything, personal care, everything he’s doing for his wife. And the pastor said, “I love my wife. I discovered I love my wife more now than I ever did.” And he said, “It took me a while to figure out why.” And then he said, “I realized it was because I was serving her.” And then you think about what he said. You think about what Jesus said when he said, ‘I came not to be ministered unto but to minister.” God the Son didn’t come down to earth to be ministered unto, He came to minister.
Well back to the verse, “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church.” What does that look like? It means you minister to your wife. When do we hear that preached from the pulpit? You serve your wife because, you know what, just like this pastor discovered that the more he serves his wife, the more he ministers to his wife, the more he loves her. That fits the biblical model in Ephesians 5.
But reverse it. When the husband is abusive to his wife, do you think he’s going to love her? He’s going to despise her, he’s going to not respect her, he’s going to look down on her, he’s going to be more demanding and more selfish. It doesn’t fit, and yet in many, many churches it’s even openly taught that the husband can boss his wife around, do whatever he wants to do. He’s lord over his castle, or it’s implied. But in very, very few churches will you ever hear that the husband is supposed to serve his wife. But it’s there, it’s in black and white. God talks a lot about abuse.
So, we’re going to do this again. Hope Anne’s got a wonderful ministry with A Better Way. And obviously you guys are all connected with her. But be praying because this message needs to get into churches.
God, we know that you do care about abuse. Abuse is not your will for somebody’s life, sometimes we hear that, it drives me crazy. Sin is never your will for somebody’s life, abuse is not your will for somebody’s life. Now you can pick up the pieces and you can do amazing things in spite of all that we’ve been through. And something else that every survivor needs to hear is, “Abuse is not your fault. It’s something that someone who is evil chose to do to you.” And God, I just pray that you bring hope and peace to those who’ve endured abuse, especially to those who endured abuse at the hands of religious people. Help them to be able to separate out in their heart and mind that you’re not okay with abuse. And even though you don’t, in the vast majority of cases, just miraculously intervene and stop abuse, you are going to stop it one day. And I just pray for healing and comfort and strength in Christ name, Amen.