Mercy to the Guilty

This is Day 366 of my sinus infection.

Ok, not really.

It’s actually been only a week and a half. However, it feels as if I’ve been sick for a year and a day. Breathing too deeply triggers fits of deep coughing.  And I feel very fatigued. I have been taking lots of naps. EJ feels just as sick–although I think his suffering is worse because he also has intense back pain. A co-worker told him about a chiropractor who does “alternative” chirpractory (I don’t know if that’s actually a word), and EJ is considering going to him. He needs to do something to get his pain under control.

Yesterday someone shared this meme at FB:

Image result for mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent

I actually think the meme the poster shared said, “Mercy to the cruel is cruelty to the innocent.” I think that “cruelty” is one of the adjectives describing an evil person. Other adjectives that I would add would include “abuser,” “unrepentant,” “deceptive,” among many other similar words.

I got into a discussion with another commenter…until the original poster deleted her post. That made me sad because I thought the discussion was very respectful and could have done much good. Too often these days people shut down good discussions. I can’t share the actual discussion–it’s been deleted–but I would like to discuss some of the concepts that the other commenter brought up. It’s something that many Christians seem to struggle with–or maybe it’s that they repeat them without really struggling with them at all. They are concepts I run into repeatedly.

The commenter mentioned that we need to forgive people because we, ourselves, need forgiveness. She said that the Apostle Paul had done many evil things but he was forgiven. 

She is correct. King David had also committed evil acts–including adultery and murder–and he also was forgiven. However, both David and Paul received forgiveness because when they were confronted with their wrongdoing, they acknowledged it and repented (turned from it). Because of their genuine repentance, they both were forgiven. Their forgiveness was a result of their repentance.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

People seem to treat everyone as if they are the same. “We all sin. We all need forgiveness.” True to a point. However, there is a HUGE difference between a “normal” person who acknowledges his wrongdoing and turns from it, and an evil person who refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing and refuses to repent. I think that a major truth an abuse victim learns is that there are some people who delight in causing suffering to others. God treats the repentant and the unrepentant differently. One is humbled by his sin, the other harden’s his heart and finds pleasure in doing wrong. One receives forgiveness, the other doesn’t. The Bible says the following [Sorry about the number of verses. Uh, well, I’m not really sorry. I believe that if I just list references, many people won’t look them up so I quote entire passages in the hopes that they will be read and pondered. These are just a few of the many other verses that address these topics]:

Don’t follow the path of the wicked
or walk on the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, don’t go on it,
turn away from it, and pass on.
For they can’t sleep if they haven’t done evil,
they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone fall.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence. (Prov 4:14-17)

Crime speaks to the wicked.
I perceive this in my heart;
before his eyes there is no fear
of God.
For, the way he sees it,
crime makes his life easy —
that is, until his wrongs are discovered;
then, he is hated.
His words are wrong and deceitful;
he has stopped being wise and doing good.
He devises trouble as he lies in bed;
so set is he on his own bad way
that he doesn’t hate evil. (Ps 36:1-4)

The wicked plots against the righteous
and grinds his teeth at him…
The wicked have unsheathed their swords,
they have strung their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slaughter those whose way is upright… (Ps. 37:12, 14a)

“Now this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light. Why? Because their actions were wicked. For everyone who does evil things hates the light and avoids it, so that his actions won’t be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

There are many other such verses. These people are not those who occasionally do wrong. They intentionally plot and plan. They do not fear God. How does God feel about these wicked people? Glad you asked:

Adonai tests the righteous;
but he hates the wicked and the lover of violence.
He will rain hot coals down on the wicked,
fire, sulfur and scorching wind
will be what they get to drink. (Ps. 11:5-6)

But by your stubbornness, by your unrepentant heart, you are storing up anger for yourself on the Day of Anger, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed; for he will pay back each one according to his deeds. To those who seek glory, honor and immortality by perseverance in doing good, he will pay back eternal life. But to those who are self-seeking, who disobey the truth and obey evil, he will pay back wrath and anger. (Romans 25-8)

The LORD is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous. (Prov 29:27)

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry The LORD sets the prisoners free. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous; The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked. (Ps 146:5-9)

The Lord is a God who avenges.
    O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth;
    pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long, Lord, will the wicked,
    how long will the wicked be jubilant?
They pour out arrogant words;
    all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, Lord;
    they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner;
    they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
    you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
    Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
    Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
The Lord knows all human plans;
    he knows that they are futile. (Ps 94:1-11)

We aren’t comfortable with the idea of an angry God, are we? Yet, I think it’s very comforting to observe exactly who God is angry with. He is a God who judges wickedness and is against the wicked. I think it’s very comforting that God loves those who are oppressed and needy, crushed and broken-hearted. God is NOT angry with the oppressed. He does NOT support the wicked.

The commenter I debated quoted that we are to “love our enemies” and “do good” to them.

Most people who I have encountered quickly quote “love your enemies,” but I do not believe they ever really pause to define what “love” really means. Uh…have you considered what it means?

To most, love seems to be some vague, nebulous concept that means that we are never to speak against evil, never challenge the behavior of an abuser, never say “This is wrong.” I think they think it means that because any time a victim speaks out against abuse, she is told that she is unloving and needs to forgive and “love her enemies.”

By that definition, God, the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles were very unloving because they said some pretty harsh things. For example, this is one “woe” in a chapter (Matt.23) filled with many statements of “woe to you”:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Not exactly a statement filled with nicely sweet “love,” is it?

So could it be that “love” is not just nice, sweet, nebulous words? Could it be that a loving person is not one who keeps silent when evil is done, but one who challenges and confronts evil, who exposes it, who stands against it? Could it be that when we speak out against evil and challenge the evildoer, we are “doing good”?

Elohim stands in the divine assembly;
there with the elohim [judges], he judges:
“How long will you go on judging unfairly,
favoring the wicked? (Selah)
Give justice to the weak and fatherless!
Uphold the rights of the wretched and poor!
Rescue the destitute and needy;
deliver them from the power of the wicked!” (Ps 82:1-4)

Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9)

Have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:11)

Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them. (Prov. 24:25)

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isa. 1:17)

I have been hearing a lot about a Netflix series called The Keepers so I began watching it last night. It is a 7-episode documentary that explores the unsolved murder of the nun Sister Cathy Cesnik who taught at Archbishop Keough High School, and how her former students believe that there was a cover up by authorities after Cesnik suspected that the priest at the school, A. Joseph Maskell, was guilty of sexual abuse. It’s a very horrific and heartbreaking series to watch, but very eye-opening. It is a very important series to watch.

I remember years ago when numerous stories began to surface of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. I thought it was horrific–but I’m not Catholic. Catholics were “them” and it’s not surprising that “they” would cover up sexual abuse. “My” denomination wouldn’t do such things. Or so I thought. I think everyone would like to think that “my” church, family, or organization are safe places filled with good people and such things couldn’t happen there.

As I experienced abuse and began to research it, I began to realize that most sexual predators know their victims and many are in positions of trust: family members, family friends, teachers, pastors, counselors, children’s leaders. As I have said many times before, predators go where they can find prey, and their favorite hunting grounds are churches, schools, children’s clubs, counseling offices.

Christians do not want to hear this. Whenever a person tries to speak out about abuse in the church, he/she is immediately accused of being unloving, unforgiving, judgmental, unChristlike, bitter, angry.  She (or he) is instructed that she must “love her enemies.” I’ve almost never heard anyone express any concern for the victim or mention anything about showing the victim love, mercy, and justice. In fact, Biblical concepts have become twisted: challenging evil is seen as unloving, longing for justice is seen as being judgmental, repentance is legalistic. This is not what the Bible says–go back through and re-read the Scriptures I have shared if you need to. Or do your own research. Look beyond the few verses you always look at.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter. (Isa 5:20)

By the way, I think it’s more important to pursue righteousness–to do what is right–than to cover up evil in order to protect the reputation of a family, group, church, or organization.

I watched three episodes of The Keepers last night and I was so troubled that I had trouble sleeping. I ended up having a nightmare in which a woman was abusing her foster kids. “Stop!” I cried. “Don’t do this! What you are doing is wrong! It is not right!”

Indeed.

Here are a couple excellent links posted at the Church Protect site:

Do I Need to Face My Abuser?

WHY CHILD RAPISTS ARE TREATED FAR BETTER THAN THEIR VICTIMS IN THE CHURCH

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