Paul Heimbach
For Tammy Schultz
February 22, 1996

Second Mini-Paper: . . . two examples of unredressed abuse in the NT, compared with two examples of redressed abuse. . . . Consequences personally, spiritually, and socially. . . what constitutes Godly ministry for these cases of abuse?

When I considered this second assignment, I was somewhat puzzled with respect to where to look for examples of abuse, for I had always considered the New Testament to be two things: quite concentrated on the love of Christ, (the Gospels) and quite logical, (everything else). I remembered little storytelling that didn't serve some purpose or another of Christ's. On reading through the Gospels and Acts, however, I did find enough examples. I was however, interested to note that they are of a different tenor than the examples available in the Old Testament, in that they are comprised of examples (mainly) of spiritual abuse, over against the rampant physical and sexual abuse of the OT.

The first example of what I see as redressed abuse can be found in three different places in the Gospels: Lk 6:1-11; Mk 2:23-28; and Mt 12:1-8. This example is typical of many encounters between Christ and the Pharisees in the New Testament. The story, in a 'bite', tells of Christ and His disciples walking through a wheat field, eating as they went. Technically, the accused were in violation of several of the 37 Shabat commandments. This, however, isn't the place to consider those, nor are the violations as important to note as the spirit behind the violations. (It could just as well be argued that the farmer was technically providing tzedekah (charity), which any Jew at the time would have known. ) It is this juxtaposition which, typically, the Pharisees were incapable of seeing, and which occasioned what I am labeling their spiritual abuse. I label it thus because I see the Pharisees suppressing all human urges to the dictates of their need for control of the Shabat.

The redress comes as Christ intervenes on his disciples' behalf. Christ rather sharply questions Pharisaic priorities, asking in one account whether it was not more important to save life on Shabat than to destroy it. This question also makes clear the level of abuse Christ likely detected. We never hear from the disciples in the matter, so we can assume that they simply were able to ignore the Pharisees, and that they were more healthy for being able to eat seven days a week, rather than six. Appropriate 'g-dly ministry' in this case, then, would consist of comparison of the oppressive system with a normal system, which takes into account legitimate human needs other than spiritual.

Another equally fascinating vignette which also builds upon the ministry aspects brought forth above can be found in John 7:53 to 8:11. In this story, we are shown a woman whom the Pharisees caught in the act of adultery. (I'm not sure I want to know how they did this, as it makes today's attempts at moral censorship pale. ) No matter how she came there though, there she was, out on public display, amidst the potential instruments of her destruction/death. This sounds like the position in which, by Allender's and Herman's accounts, many far more innocent women find themselves today.

Christ redressed this situation not only by juxtaposing human needs with spiritual needs as He did above, but by comparing human faults and value systems. He quietly but bluntly challenged the abusers to a self-exam of their own needs, and when they had answered his question, he completed the healing process by one more simple question. This question not only freed the woman of condemnation, but likely instilled in her a new value system.

I look to Matthew 23: 37 to 39 for my first example of unredressed abuse. In the last paper, we saw the G-d of the Old Testament punish whole tribes for their intransigence and for their abusive hearts. Here too, we see cities being taken to task, but for spiritual matters, rather than for the more physical issues. The city in this case is Jerusalem, its 'crime', seeing control the Law as more important than dependence upon Christ for the revelation of the spirit of the Law. I ought to hang this warning on my own wall, for it represents my own problem: I expect Christ to come in and clean house, but when He does, in an unrecognized way, I stone Him. On that basis, I must say, with Jerusalem, "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD" to heal me, or I too shall be "left desolate", as I now feel, and not see Him.

My second example comes from Acts 6:8 to 7:60, in which we encounter Stephen. I feel, here, that even though Stephen was allowed to defend himself, such a defense was never truly a 'fair shake', since the jury was stacked against him anyway. Poor Stephen really had little hope of changing the world-view of a huge, secure crowd of religious leaders. Stephen's wisdom and preaching threatened their control over their lives, so they created false charges. Their response to Stephen's truth was not the expected 'Oh, Stephen, we're sorry they created charges', but rather a "gnashing of teeth" (7:54). There was, apparently, little the church could do in the face of this, especially in light of the rapidity of the action. We have been fortunate so far in this country not to face such levels of abuse, but the time will come again when religious zealots may try to repeat the actions of the Freedmen.

Conclusions: Distribution of evidence leads me to believe that Sexual Abuse and Physical Abuse are placed on the same level as Emotional Abuse and Spiritual Abuse. I am also interested by the difference in style of redress. OT style was far more violent and physical, where redress here is much more cognitive and faith oriented. There seems to be a correspondance of level and type. Finally, I'd be interested to see an increase in the study, within the church, of spiritual abuse.

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which can and often does lead directly to spiritual abuse.

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