Defending Wrong

I always tell JJ to live centered between the hands–you know, “on the one hand…but on the other hand…”

We had learned that in Greek thinking, something is EITHER one thing OR another. In Hebraic thinking two seemingly opposite things can both be true. For example, God is sovereign AND yet we have free will. If we go too far to one extreme to the exclusion of the other, we fall into error. The important thing is to hold on to BOTH: God is sovereign AND we have free will. This sort of thing, I have found, applies to just about everything in life.

I have written about, on the one hand, having compassion on others because we have no idea of what they have suffered, and we all sin, we all have dysfunctions, we all have wounds, and we all need love and understanding. I have written, on the other hand, that there is a time to seperate from people who are abusive. I think that time occurs when there is a refusal to repent and forgive. There is yet another hand to consider.

This week many of my Jewish friends on Facebook were anguished about a broadcast that has been on Youtube. A so-called rabbi wrapped a pastor of a megachurch up in what he said was a priceless 312-year-old torah scroll and proclaimed him king. I have read that the rabbi has never been formally ordained as a rabbi, and that although he talks about Hebrew, he doesn’t really know Hebrew. The pastor, called a bishop, has been under investigation for molesting several boys and for mishandling finances.

My Jewish friends said that many things the Rabbi said were not true. For example, the covering of the Torah is called the cloak, NEVER considered as the foreskin! The human hand NEVER touches the parchment. No flesh EVER touches the Torah. The Torah is NEVER used to ‘wrap’ a person. The Torah is called the Holy Scriptures. It is always kept in an Ark, also called the Aron HaKodesh, the Holy Closet, only to be brought out for reading. The people stand and even bow as the Torah is taken from the Ark, its two spindles are all that the readers can touch, other than the outer cloak. My Jewish friends said that what the rabbi and bishop did was an abomination that desecrated the Torah Scroll.

In response, a Christian or two defended what happened, saying that the Jews needed to love the rabbi and bishop and not be judgmental and unloving. A lively discussion occurred.

I mention this because it illustrates what I have wrestled with over the years: What is love? Is it unloving to confront error or sin?

I encountered this over the years as I struggled with an emotionally abusive family who manipulates and guilts and lies in order to gain control of thought and choices. Over the years, many Christians told me that I needed to love and forgive more, that relationships are more important than anything. In a normal sense they are right–we do need to let go of offenses and forgive each other. Absolutely. However, the problem occurs when an abuser does not repent but continues his abuse. Are we then to submit to his abuse in order to keep the relationship? Are we to allow another person to tell us what to think or do? Do parents have complete authority over their adult children’s marriages and lives? Because of the advice I was given–that a loving person never confronts and never discontinues the relationship–I remained in the turmoil of abuse. Many times I was told “I’m sure your Mom really loves you…” when I was aching with emotional wounds. Would they tell a woman sitting in a hospital room with bruises and broken bones that “I’m sure that person who beat you up really loves you….” That’s love? I don’t think so. Just because the bruises can’t be seen doesn’t mean they are less real.

Many Christians today seem to think that love means always give in, always being “nice,” never speaking up, never disagreeing, and never confronting. They call for “loving” and “forgiving” unrepentant abusers, pedophiles, and liars and call those who confront them “judgmental” and “unloving.” They defend the abusers and condemn the victims.

I have reached a point where I believe that while on the one hand, we are to be compassionate toward people because we have no idea of what they have suffered, and we all sin, we all have dysfunctions, we all have wounds, we all need love and understanding, and we all have faults that need to be forgiven. On the other hand, I do not think it is loving to defend those who do wrong and teach error. It is NOT unloving to confront error and sin. Yes, when we disagree with a person, we need to be respectful and state our opinion without resorting to abusive insults. However, to defend those who engage in all sorts of abuse, error, lies, and false teaching is to condone it.

John Parsons of the Hebrew for Christians website wrote on his Facebook page a couple days ago something that I think is relevant. He wrote:

Though we are called to be “peacemakers,” this does not mean that we concede to this evil world and its devices. No, we offer the terms of peace in God’s Name and invite the rebels of this world to surrender…Where it is written, “have your feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace,” the “peace” referred to is God’s offer of reconciliation; it does not mean going around “making nice” to everyone…”For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever” – Micah 4:5

Several years ago, Parsons wrote something that really helped me when it comes to dealing with abuse. In John Parson’s article Mechilah – Forgiving Others, he explains the Jewish understanding of forgiveness, which is that

  • If we have wronged someone, we are obligated to ask him for forgiveness.
  • If a person has harmed us, we are obligated to tell the person in order to allow him to correct the wrong that he did to us. This is the path of mutual respect and responsibility.
  • If a person who wronged us asks us to forgive him, we are obligated to forgive him.
  • However, if a person refuses to ask for forgiveness for the wrongs he has committed against us, we are NOT obligated to forgive him. If fact, if we forgive an unrepentant person, we are allowing him to continue in his sin.

Not forgiving an unrepentant person, John wrote, might at first seem unloving, but it’s intended to ensure the integrity of everyone involved. We are not respecting ourselves or others if we suppress our pain by immediately offering excuses for the sins of the other person. Not only are we being emotionally dishonest with ourselves and hypocritical toward the other, he explains, but it degrades the image of God within us. It takes courage and self-worth to say to a person who has hurt us, “Hey–I am important here. I am hurt by what you did. And you matter to me, too. This relationship matters to me. If I didn’t care, I’d blow it off, but I do care, and therefore I won’t let this go.”

“Not forgiving an unrepentant person” does not mean we should live in hatred and bitterness toward him. Forgiveness is a long process, and part of it means that we release our hatred. However, I think it means that reconciliation is not possible with a person who refuses to repent.

And, certainly, I believe we ought not to defend those who unrepentantly continue to do wrong.  Love does NOT mean that we accept everything a person says or does. Read the Prophets and see how many times they confronted wrong. Read the Gospels and see how many times Jesus stood against hypocrisy and evil. He did not defend wrong.

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