“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are”
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water
Meeting with Christian men and women, most of whom are recovering from spiritual abuse, or still muddling through it, I have learned something interesting. Many are very bewildered about who God is, and what salvation is all about. Spiritual manipulation and abuse has all but silenced the voice of God and warped His identity.
Almost without fail, when I ask the person across the table, “Who is God to you?” or “What do you think God thinks of you?”, I get very broken answers. When I begin to tell them truth, based on God’s Word—often reading from the Bible or quoting it, the tears begin. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I’ve never known that God.”
That, my friends, is a shame! That we can tout Christianity as ‘the answer’ but not even teach the basics of who God is as a kind, gentle, loving Heavenly Father—our Papa—and how He sees us, is a tragedy. One of the saddest things I have seen in my life is when a man or a woman ‘keeps the law’ and ‘toes the line’, but has no relationship with Jesus.
The hopelessness I have heard and seen in the past few weeks is not what we were created for and it is certainly not what Jesus died to give us. He is hope.
Not everyone I meet with is in that place, but many are, and most are religious church goers. There is inner rage, bitterness and sense of betrayal. Some struggle with suicidal thoughts. Some suffer abuse at home from husbands as well, and are emotionally divorced but living religiously in marriage. Some are afraid of what they are capable of doing to a partner. Some are abused by parents through manipulation, mind control and fear-mongering.
Some pretend to ‘have it together’ at church while, admittedly struggling even to acknowledge God in personal experience. Some have not prayed in years. It is all to ‘dead’ and meaningless. All are caught in the entrapment of lifeless religious experience.
Why do I write this? Mostly in hopes that pastors and leaders who are spiritually abusive get curious about what I write and see that their congregants are lost and desperate. On the prayer that they will give a new answer to these people. The real answer.
After I talk to people about who God is and how God sees them, I begin to unravel their ‘performance’ beliefs. What do you have to do, and keep doing, to be saved? What things, if you stopped doing them, would cost you heaven?
That might seem a foolish question to some readers, but if ever you have been caught in a system that taught you a ‘salvation list’, you will understand. If not, take my word for it, it is brutal and fear based.
When the individual identifies what performance is required for salvation, I write down these words: “Jesus said, ‘I am THE Way…” I underline ‘THE’. And then I ask them how many ways there are to Heaven.
There is only one way. Jesus said, ‘I am THE Way.’ Either He is a liar and religious leaders are right when they add a list, or the religious leaders are liars, regardless of intent, and need a revelation of truth.
I assure every person I meet with that their cultural and religious practices are not sin, in and of themselves, and it’s okay to uphold those practices but they cannot be associated in any way with salvation, otherwise Jesus never needed to die. It has to be one of the other.
Jesus is not one among a number of ways for us to get to heaven. He was God, Himself, dwelling in the flesh. He is the only Son of God. To reject Him is to reject salvation, and heaven.
Jesus is THE Way. There is nothing more that you or I can do to make ourselves acceptable. Nothing. He paid the price. He said, “It is finished.”
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/