I have been vocal about sexual abuse in the Anabaptist church for over two years now. Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t talk about abuse in the public-school system, the foster care system, or the Catholic Church. Why do I focus so much on sexual abuse in the Anabaptist church? Does abuse in other institutions not matter to me? Am I trying to make the church look bad?
Contrary to what you may think, I love “my people.” I love the Anabaptist church. And that is why I will not stop talking about sexual abuse. You may think I’m exaggerating by referring to sexual abuse as an “epidemic”. But Anabaptist counseling centers across the country tell me I’m not. They put the stats even higher than the regular sexual abuse statistics, which say that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. (See those statistics here.)
The abuse that happens in other institutions and cultures does matter to me. However, the biggest reason for my targeting of the Anabaptist church has to do with our commitment to follow the Word of God. We say we take the Bible literally and that we follow it. But when it comes to sexual abuse, we have greatly misrepresented God and His heart.
I fear we have separated the Bible and the Holy Spirit. To understand the Bible, we must have the Holy Spirit. Because we shy away from the doctrine and work of the Holy Spirit, we are not able to identify the hypocrisy in the lives of perpetrators whom we called “brothers and sisters” in our church. They look good on the outside, but on the inside, there is nothing but “dead man’s bones”. Jesus said we will know if a person is right with God by their fruit. But according to us, if someone obeys the church rules, they’re okay.
Our hearts can be full of sin and we can still “look good” on the outside. “Looking good” does us no good if our heart is not right before God. You see, “hypocrisy” is not saying one thing and doing something different. The Greek meaning of the word “hypocrite” as Jesus used it, is actor. An actor plays a part. In other words, a hypocrite acts like a Christian, but the “Christian” part is only skin deep. Hypocrites are super good actors. They know how to create and maintain a “good name”. They are smooth talkers who know all the right stuff to say in devotions and Sunday School.
But underneath the facade of godliness, is a heart full of deceit and evil. And that façade has caught up with us.
If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve heard about the abuse in the Catholic Church. The PA Attorney General was instrumental in releasing a report from the Catholic Church’s own records that details the horrific abuse of over 1,000 children by 301 priests – and the whole epidemic was covered up by the church.
The Anabaptist church is next. The amount of abuse and its cover-up by the church is far worse than the Catholic Church. It is going to shake the entire Anabaptist community, and it should. We have been good actors. We’ve covered up abuse, because no one was watching – or so we thought.
But there was Someone watching. He is watching. These are His words: “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” Mark 4:22
All through the Bible, God promises the exposure of sin. He sees it, and in His time, He exposes it. He told the children of Israel to be blameless, then added: “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out.”
In Eph. 5:11, God comes down hard on people who know of evil, but choose to hide it. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” In other words, we take part in the unfruitful works of darkness when we do not expose evil.
If we had any idea what God thinks of abuse, we would fall on our faces and beg for His mercy. If we understood how God fights for the weak and the hurting, we would be shaking with fear.
Jesus is coming soon, and He is not coming for a beat up, unclean Bride. The exposure of sexual abuse we are about to witness is nothing other than God cleansing His church of evil. He is judging the house of God. We must not fight it. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 2 Peter 4:17
We must repent. We must acknowledge our iniquity without excuse and without minimization. Part of repentance includes accepting the consequences of our sin, even if it means going to jail. What is a jail sentence compared to eternal Hell? It’s nothing. And by the way, going to jail for covering up abuse is not suffering for Christ. It is God’s judgement for not following His Word.
Don’t talk to me about the fall-out. The fall-out happened when innocent children were overpowered and used for the unnatural, evil desires of the perpetrators. The fall-out deepened when we, the church, chose not to get the civil authorities, also known as the “ministers of God” in Romans 13, involved in the punishment of evildoers. By resisting their God-ordained authority to punish evil doers, we have resisted God.
No one, not even the Anabaptist church, is above the law of the civil government. When we obstruct the justice of God, we will face that same judgement. If we do good, we have nothing to fear. If we do evil, we will be afraid, for the sword is not carried in vain. (Romans 13:1-5)
Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23: 23-28: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
I can’t help but wonder if that is what Jesus would say to us today. We deserve to be punished. We deserve to be “brought low.” We have sinned.
We can choose to fight God by fighting the civil authority He has set in place. Or, we can cooperate with God by cooperating with them. We can repent. We can change our culture from being church authority based to being rooted on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We can change our culture from an emphasis on “looking right” to “being right” with God.
But it starts with you. It starts with me.
May God open our blind eyes and clean our hard, dirty hearts.