Spiritual abuse strips men and women of dignity. It takes away one of the first things God gave humanity after He gave us life–the right to choose our path, without intimidation or manipulation. All of this is done in the name of God, often by men and women who sincerely believe they are doing God’s work, and freely use Him to endorse their behaviour. What does God really think about spiritual abuse?
In a time when the secular world says He doesn’t exist…. when some churches say He does, but, alas, His Word is outdated…. while yet others are very certain that His Word isn’t outdated at all, but requires enforced adherence to their particular interpretation… a time when many in the church suffer spiritual abuse… and it seems only a few churches stand firm on God’s Word and live the life and love of Jesus in the world around…
How does one determine: Who is God really? What is He like? What does He want from us? What does He want to give? In this first blog post I will spend a bit of time establishing answers to some of these questions, based on God’s Word, so that, in future posts when we look at stories of abuse, we have a frame of reference to go back to, establishing how God thinks and how we know that He does not endorse Spiritual Abuse.
What I share in this series is only a small glimpse of the bigger picture. Answers are pulled out of the Bible and accompanied by bits of stories, from time to time—either mine or what has been shared with me by someone else. I encourage you, the reader, to think critically as you read. Be like the church in Berea and take everything I say, line it up with Scripture, and see if what I say is true. Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself!
If what I share from the Bible could be interpreted differently, all I ask is that you try to see the heart behind what I share. If I would use anything I share in an attempt to manipulate, guilt trip, or otherwise control the mind of my reader, I would be guilty of the very thing I am speaking about here. That is not my intent.
Who is God and What is He Like?
God is our Creator, the Maker of the Universe. (Genesis 1) Remove that core detail and He is no longer God—He has nothing of substance to connect Himself to us. If He is not our Creator, then He is, at best, merely a babysitter—hired by whom, I don’t know—who has the responsibility of keeping this world spinning. Literally. If He is not our Creator, His interest in us, and ours in Him, holds little meaning, little substance.
Back in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, God said, “Let’s make man in our image!” And He did. Then He breathed into mankind His very own breath Genesis 2:7—the first known case of resuscitation, though nothing artificial about it—and said, “My creation is very good!”
God, the Creator Artist/Sculptor, stepped back, looked at His work and said, “I like it! It is all I imagined it to be! They are beautiful!” or something like that. (Use your imagination here.)
God proceeded to give some basic instructions and guidelines, as any good parent would and gave the lovely newlyweds free reign of the Garden. (Genesis 2:15-17)
Notice that God did not manipulate. He simply said, “Here’s the do’s and don’ts. If you break the rules, this is what it will cost you. That is the nature of God. He gives us freedom to choose our path, our beliefs, and our consequences.
From the beginning this freedom was His plan for leadership. If His intent was for mankind to manipulate, coerce or control other mankind, He would have set that as His example. He didn’t. He invited Adam and Eve into relationship with Him, gave a few basic guidelines that would protect them from hurt and destruction, and then sent the two young horticulturists off to play and enjoy the garden.
What Does God Want From Us and What does He want to Give?
If the Genesis account of Creation is real, and I believe it is (See ‘NOTE’ below), then, as our Creator, God is powerfully connected to us and the one thing He wants from us is relationship.
When God breathed into man the breath of life, He placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11b), and gave us His spiritual DNA—He made us His children. Immediately man became a living soul—an eternal being—set apart from all of Creation as the image-bearer of the Creator. Just as most children long to know their biological parents, that DNA is what makes us spiritual beings who long for a spiritual connection with someone or something. Every religion that exists is birthed out of that inner longing to know God and be known by Him. Even atheism is ultimately rooted in a longing for deeper meaning, even if only to be our own god and the ultimate authority in their own lives. This still comes full circle to the need for validation and identity that is there because of the emptiness we feel apart from God.
In that moment we, as human beings, were perfectly connected to the Greatest Being that ever was and ever will be. And in that moment we were defined forever by infinite Love. (This identity is a critical detail when it comes to working through any kind of abuse—whether spiritual, emotional, physical, psychological or sexual. If we don’t have a deeper identity than life experience, if there is nothing else to fall back on, then we are of all creatures most pathetic and hopeless. Then, indeed, we are the sum total of what life does to us and there is no higher purpose to our existence or our pain.) This connection and unbroken relationship is God’s ultimate desire from us. It is what He created us for—relationship.
What He gave us in the Garden of Eden, life in its purest form, is what He longs to give us still. Because of the fall of man, and therefore the awareness of good and evil that introduced sin into the world, we have lost the unbroken relationship with God.
That is where Jesus comes in. God loved us so much that He chose to come to earth in human form, indwelling the body of Jesus Christ, and lived among us. (Emmanuel, God with us.) Through Jesus, He offers restoration of all that was lost, and authority over the destruction left in the wake of sin. In Jesus everything is redeemed, if only we offer it to Him as our gift of love and trust, expecting Him to keep His end of the promise.
Even in the coming of Jesus, God made one thing very clear—that He wants relationship. Contrary to the example of many spiritual leaders, who seem eager to condemn or judge—while claiming to be like God—even Jesus, who was God and would have had both right and authority to do so, did not choose judgement or condemnation. (John 3:17)
Everything that Jesus did, brought hope, healing, life and restoration, during His time on earth. The only harshness, if there was any at all, was reserved for those who exercised religious control, contrary to God’s plan and example. (In other words, those who were spiritually abusive, Matthew 23:12-14.) Only then do we hear anything that resembles judgement or harshness.
And that one thing should tell us exactly where God stands on the issue of Spiritual Abuse. He doesn’t like it.
To summarize, God is our Creator, who made us in His image, with His spiritual DNA, so that when people see us they see a reflection of who God is. The instructions He gives are to protect us from sin and death, because He has our best interest at heart. He loves us and wants to bless and prosper us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He longs for intimate relationship with us—it is what He created us for—and He offers us life with purpose and meaning, in exchange for our sin and brokenness, when we offer these to Him by faith through Jesus.
A sweet deal, if you ask me. God always gives something better than what we offer Him. Always. That is His character. Through Jesus’ life mission, God showed us that He is a servant first and foremost. If leaders function at any other level than that of servanthood, they are not in keeping with God’s call on their lives. It’s as simple as that.
In the next several posts I will share stories from my own experience that contrast the difference between God-like leadership, and man’s desire for control. Both take place within the Mennonite church, back in early 1988, shortly after I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.
(NOTE: Because the topic of God as Creator and 6-day Creation is such a controversial one, even in the church, I feel that including it in this post without explanation could serve as a distraction from the main topic. For this reason I am sharing my personal views here, so you better understand my frame of reference. I am a literal 6-day Creationist. Unapologetically so. I love science and have no difficulty reconciling God, Creation and Science. They are not at odds, as secular scientists would try to make us believe. (I worked for almost a year with Dr. Emil Silvestru, and learned much from him, as a recognized scientist and creationist, and am currently reading book 4 of 14 books by Dr. Ravi Zacharias–including ‘Has Christianity Failed You?’–all of which I highly recommend.) If you are an old earth Creationist, or an evolution-based Christian, please don’t take offence. I am not here to argue with you or debate the topic publicly, because this blog is about spiritual abuse. However, I am not trying to avoid challenge on that topic , so I welcome emails. (info-insert ‘at’ symbol-faithgirlsunleashed.com) I refer to Creation/Evolution here to establish my view of God, based on my frame of reference, which comes from what I read in my Bible—an authority I accept on all matters—and what I see in nature. What I read in Genesis establishes much of what I believe about God throughout Scripture. If you don’t agree, hear me out as we move through the topic of Spiritual Abuse, and form your own opinions… or keep the views you have. No harm done. I am not trying to sell a viewpoint here. I won’t judge you, and hopefully we can extend grace, and agree to disagree, as brothers and sisters in Christ.)
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to First Post In This Series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/