In my research on abusers in the church such as Ravi Zacharias, I’ve come across the very insightful Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church by Diane Langberg. She has been all around the world in her ministry, running into abuses of all types inside and outside of the church. I recommend her book very much. I’m not even halfway and I find her writing very thought-provoking. It will wake you up to the realities that many victims of abuse face today.
Yesterday I read a very telling passage from Chapter Four: The Power Culture and the Influence of Words. She dedicated a section of the chapter to the dangers of good words without good deeds. To those suffering abuse, it can be very difficult to discern what is good and what is evil. This is because abusers say wonderful things. Diane gives an example in her book.
“Today Christianity stands at the head of this country. … I pledge that I will never tie myself to those who want to destroy Christianity. … We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit–we want to burn out all the recent immoral development in literature, theater, the arts, and in the press. … In short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess the past … few years.“
This is a quote from Adolf Hitler. He used these words to win the Christian church in Germany over to his side. And it worked! Little did his followers know what he meant by “burn out the poison of immorality”. Those who built the concentration camps also had no idea what everything was for. They were ordered and efficient and productive and a great many other things. And these are qualities we all aspire to.
Now consider Ravi Zacharias, a “man of God” who set about building a ministry that did some good in this world. And he used this ministry and the very name of God to groom his victims.
“Using good words crafted to disguise evil is the same powerful method used by a pedophile to groom and draw in an unsuspecting child. ‘You want to be a good girl and make Daddy happy?’ Of course she does. But in an abusive situation, there is only hidden evil. … Such words are used by a pimp with a girl on the street, a runaway from an abusive home who has nothing. ‘Hi, honey. You are gorgeous. Why not let me take you out to dinner?’”
How can you tell? You need to be grounded in the truth. This means reading the bible and staying at a healthy church. It also means being grounded by true people. Test those around you. And hold yourself to the test. Don’t just listen to what they say. Notice what they do. If things don’t add up. Run.
For those facing abuse from home, you need to make plans to eventually leave the situation. Pray for God to provide a new mom and dad, new grounded people of God who can replace the abuse with stability, truth, integrity, and right thinking.
I once had a debate with an atheist online who informed me that Adolf Hitler was a Christian. No doubt he was alluding to the speeches like the one above. But there is a very easy counter to this. I told the atheist what the word Christian meant. Which is, “follower of Christ.” This means you act as Jesus acts. Jesus was nothing like Hitler.
This is why Ephesians 5 opens by telling us to “imitate God”. It explains what that means in verse 2.
2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Walking in love means being willing to sacrifice. Verse 3 explains what in fact that isn’t.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
It goes on from there giving victims of abuse a biblical response which is to wisely expose abuse.
Don’t be fooled by flowery words. The dreams they spin are sound enticing and glorious, but in the end they lead to despair. When this happens, be strong and very alert, because, if you aren’t watchful or discerning… it will all happen again and again.
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”