Few transgressions prove as distressing, painful, and traumatic as abuse. Those who suffer abuse often feel betrayed, powerless, and used. Such people often find it hard to trust other people or even God on account of their experiences with abuse.
Abuse takes many forms: in truth, anything which can be used properly can also be abused. The most painful and traumatic forms of abuse take place in terms of relationships: abuse by a spouse, a parent (and, in some cases, by children), another relative, a friend, as well as by authority figures in schools, organizations, and sadly, in churches as well. Abuse can take many forms: physical (including sexual), emotional, mental, and spiritual. The problem of abuse is not limited to a certain select group: people of all classes, ethnicities, languages, nationalities, races, and religions abuse and suffer abuse.
The reasons people abuse other people are numerous. Some are abusive because they were abused; others may be experiencing other psychological difficulties or imbalances. Many are abusive on account of a lack of self-control, acting out on any desire or angry impulse which they might feel. Some people abuse out of purely evil desire to control and/or manipulate other people for their own benefit.
Abuse is not a matter to be taken lightly. All abuse is a perversion of God’s intentions for humanity, representing rebellion against God and transgression of His will. We can know this for certain because God is love, and God commands everyone to love as well (1 John 4:7-21). Love, by definition, is patient, kind, not irritable or resentful, and does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-7); abuse is the opposite of these. Love seeks the best interest of the one who is loved, seeking their good (cf. Philippians 2:1-8); abusers seek power and satisfaction of their own desires to the neglect and harm of those whom they abuse. Therefore, there can be no justification for or excusing of abuse: it is wrong no matter what. God loves everyone, does not force or compel anyone to do anything, and expects His people to be the same way!
The harm caused by abuse glorifies and honors Satan, representing the fruit of sin: pain, misery, suffering, a sense of loss, mistrust, betrayal, and often great difficulty in fostering and maintaining healthy relationships. The Bible reveals how God in Christ shows love to everyone, desiring to heal, restore, and reconcile everyone back to Him, re-establishing relationships with God and with His people in the church (John 17:20-23, Romans 5:6-11).
Abuse, therefore, is a great evil and sinful, completely contrary to God’s purposes. We grieve for and wish to express our condolences to all those who have suffered terribly on account of abuse. Yet, just as sin does not make righteousness wrong, so abuse does not make proper relationships wrong. Some spouses abuse their position in their marriage; this does not make what God has said about marriage wrong (Ephesians 5:22-33). Some parents abuse their authority over their children; this does not mean that parents should not properly use that authority for the benefit of their children (Ephesians 6:1-4). Some evil people have abused their professed role as religious authorities, and that is terribly wrong; nevertheless, God is not to blame, and He and His people stand ready to strengthen, comfort, and assist all people who have experienced the evils of abuse or of any other sin. Let us all stand firm against abuse by showing love to everyone, seeking their best interest and their benefit, just as God has loved us in Christ!
Ethan R. Longhenry