In light of Ravi Zacharias unsettling sin of sexual abuse to many all over the globe, I thought it right and true to explain the biblical response to this evil.
Paul explains it best in Ephesians 5:1-21. Note that these verses are placed before verses on the family. So, they must be read before explaining how husbands and wives should love each other and also how children should act. In this context Paul is very clear. In short, sexual immorality is not to be tolerated.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
This is what Paul means whenever he writes something that is to be done “in the Lord”. You must imitate what God does and how God acts. If you claim God’s name over your sin then you are breaking the third commandment which is, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain”. So Paul calls us to do things as the Lord does things. Then, in the very next verse he gets right into it.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Not only is Paul calling out the act of sexual abuse, but the talk of it. This covers verbal sexual abuse. Victims should not be subject to the act or the crude jokes that often surround the act. God detests all of it. Those who practice this evil are going to hell.
5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Why does Paul lump “covetous” (or idol worship) in here? The abuser seeks out sexual sin because of his or her lack. Instead of turning to Christ (as we all should be doing when lacking in anything) they take and steal sex from others. They covet something and then they take it. Paul calls this idol worship, that is, making a secret sin your idol and worshiping it above God. To the abuser this evil sin is an obsession. And so Paul concludes that they have no inheritance in God’s kingdom.
I can’t say this enough, abusers are going to hell.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Abusers are often very clever with this or that explanation. Paul calls any arguments they come up with “empty words.”
If they are abusing their children, they quote Ephesians 6:1 which calls the child to obey their parents. But this is that of an obedience “in the Lord”. So, claiming abuse is of the Lord is, again, breaks the third commandment. And, chapter 5 clearly covers sexual abuse. A sexually abusive parent can’t claim to be “in the Lord”. They can’t even use Ephesians 6:1 because chapter 5 calls their abuse out.
Their actions are not “in the Lord”, therefore, in their current state, they are hell-bound.
Oftentimes, male abusers will claim Ephesians 5:22-24 which calls for the wife to submit to the husband. But again, in context, this is mentioned right after Paul calls out sexual abuse. Those verses actually mean that the husband should act towards their wife as Christ does to the church. Christ is loving and kind. He is not abusive.
And in turn, a female abuser might use 5:25 which calls for husbands to love their wives and give themselves up for her as Christ loves the church. But, a husband giving up his life and time for her does not mean she can abuse him.
Everything in context speaks against spousal and child sexual abuse. Let’s continue with Ephesians chapter 5.
7Therefore do not become partners with them;
Don’t be an enabler meaning, don’t allow them to abuse you or enable them to abuse others.
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
To those unknowingly helping the abuser, abuse can be happening right under your nose! Be prayerful and mindful, seeing that you do not help them abuse others.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Call out the abusers! Expose them to the light. If you are being abused, talk to your pastor or the pastor’s wife. Bring it before the church. I urge you to first build a case against the abuser. Two or more witnesses doesn’t literally mean people. It can be two or more documents (texts, emails, pictures) that prove he or she is an abuser. This process of exposing them takes time. But get started and write it down. Be fully prepared when you bring it to light.
12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
It is very hard to talk through sexual abuse. Paul calls it shameful, not meaning “don’t ever do it!” but that in the process of doing it, much shame will be felt. The shame is not of the victim. It is directed towards the abuser. It is very shameful for the abuser and should never be shameful for the victim. Though a shame may be felt by the victim, it is not a godly shame but rather a shame that has been the product of abuse, the product of sin. God does not place shame on victims.
There will be a shock wave felt through the community from those who know the abuser personally, might even be friends with them. They might have also even, unknowingly, helped the abuser to continue his or her abuse.
13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
This quote is directed to the victim. They feel dead and alone, sleeping on this huge secret that could change so much. God is calling them to arise from the dead. Let Christ shine on you. Let His light shine on the sins that have affected you. Let God’s justice reign against the abuser who in his current state is hell-bound.
Look, sexual abuse is a mixed emotions thing. The victim might still feel a love for their abuser. Well, God calls the victim to not enable the abuse (verse 7). The abuser also has no inheritance in God’s kingdom, meaning if the abuser dies without repentance, they are hell-bound.
Even if you have a love for the abuser you should bring this abuse to the light. This will give the abuser a chance to repent, suffer the consequences (meaning possible jail time), and perhaps in the end God will forgive them and receive them in the kingdom to come. If nothing is done, abuse continues and the abuser goes to hell.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
To the victim: I know it’s so hard to understand all the evil that has happened to you. How many of your dreams have shattered by this abuse? You will need to seek help and counseling over this. It will be a long process of healing, but there is a light at the end. Why did this abuse even happen to you? Paul says that “the days are evil.” Very simply put, we live in a fallen world. Your abuse is one of many proofs to this.
But God has a hope for you, calling you to bring it to light. Be very shrewd and careful when doing this, be sure that you have evidence. Don’t rest only on your own words. If there are other victims, find them and together with two or more witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19), bring this sin to light!
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
This is directed to the abuser. Paul is calling them foolish. They might be deeply embedded in the church. Like Ravi Zacharias, they might be strong church leaders. They could have convinced themselves with “empty words” that their secret sin is okay in the eyes of God. But I tell you, Jesus calls them wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mathew 7:15). In the end, with all of their great and mighty works and books and sermons and debates and conversions… God will look down upon them and state, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you.”
Sexual immorality is a fruit of the flesh not of the Spirit. No books written or sermons said can ever change that fact. Those whose members are subject to their sins and are not subject to righteousness will go to hell. Sexual abusers are hell-bound.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
Sexual abuse is often preceded by drunkenness. A drunkard is less in control. This doesn’t give the abuser a way out. They can’t claim it all on drunkenness for Paul ends these verses with a positive:
19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Only after understanding these verses can you then go on with the following verses about wives, husbands, and kids.
I urge and pray for those victims. Awake and bring to light (shrewdly) the abuse that is happening. The victims of Ravi Zacharias have paved a way for you. The church is very shocked. They are listening and ready.
Speak the truth and bring the abuser to repentance or damnation. In the end, the choice is theirs.