Holly T. Ashley

Oh did I type that outloud?

What to do with abusers in the church: Jeff Crippen

How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever? 
(Psalms 74:10)

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11)

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

I want us to think some more about this word “revile” and the person who is called a “reviler” in Scripture. Every abuser is a reviler. As you can see from just these verses, a reviler is not a Christian. Revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God. That is about as plain a way of stating it as you could want.

Reviling is a very, very evil and serious sin. What does it mean? Well, you see that root in there — “vil” — that makes us think about other words like “villify,” or “villain.” I suggest to you that “revile” means to falsely accuse, to malign, to wrongly curse, to make an innocent person the villain. All of you who have been targeted by an abuser know exactly what all of this looks and feels like. Revilers are the children of the devil. After all, he is known as the accuser of the brethren, right? You even see in the verse from the Psalms quoted above that revilers revile God!

Alright then, what does this reviling look like when it comes our way? I can tell you, and I know that most of you can tell us as well. The reviler looks for opportunity to falsely accuse his victim. One of the most wicked I have ever dealt with (a man who hid behind a facade of “saintliness”) seemed to be very unpredictable. You never knew where he would come down on an issue. But eventually, we realized that in fact he was very predictable and consistent. He would always be watching for some situation or topic which he could use to vilify others. He would do this by:

  • Championing the opposite position, accusing those who saw things otherwise as being wrong or even sinful
  • Watching for a statement or action made by his target, then accusing them of being guilty of sinning for making that statement or performing that action
  • Even more deceitfully, he would “refuse” to voice his opinion or position on a subject, claiming he would simply remain “neutral,” when in fact his behavior made a loud and clear statement which accused others of sinning or at least of being seriously wrong

This is the reviler in action. I have no doubt that local churches are peppered with these kind. Of course, like all abusers, what they are about is fulfilling their lust for power and control, of being “first,” and of demanding that everyone do what they say. Diotrephes was a reviler:

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10)

See it? He lusted to be “first” and to do that he reviled. He vilified. He spoke”wicked nonsense” against the Apostles and other servants of the Lord. Diotrephes was a wolf in wool. John was going to call him out in front of everyone, and that is precisely what we need to do today.

These kind creep into our churches. They crave to be pastors, elders, or “eminent” church members. Their tongue is their weapon of choice.

Now, let me tell you the mistake that genuine Christians often make when they are not yet wise about the reviler. When they are reviled, they accept the guilt, wear the blame, or at minimum, they assume that a Christian is to be humble when falsely accused. And sometimes that is the course we are to take. But not when dealing with a reviler. When we see a pattern of reviling in someone, we must realize what we are dealing with is incredibly wicked and is being carried out by a person who is a servant of the devil. We are to put them out of the church and have nothing to do with them.

So then, why is it that pastors and churches and counselors and theologians are telling us otherwise? Why are revilers being warmly received in the church and their victims expelled?


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