COUNSELING THE ABUSED (CPY 550, PM 744)
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
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.
Click here for more on issues of spiritual addiction,
which can and often does lead directly to spiritual abuse.
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