(Note: don't miss the valuable resources at the end of this post.)
The church of the twenty-first century needs to awaken from its moral slumber. In this age of “enlightenment,” we have been taught to be tolerant. We have gone soft on the exposition of the Scriptures. We have learned to ignore sin rather than deal with it. We have adopted the flawed notion that God’s grace somehow covers a carnal lifestyle. What a horrible misunderstanding of grace!
Let me be blunt. Far too often within the Christian home, wives are battered, husbands are neglected, children are abused, and dark, shameful forms of sexual depravity occur. As the Prophet Jeremiah said of the people of Judah: “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15 NIV).
The one vestige of hope in the home used to be the innocent child. But now, not even children are safe. Many are used for sexual exploitation. Children are raped by relatives . . . girls are abused . . . boys become victims of incest. In their own homes, helpless children are molested—and by the very ones who should be protecting them!
Even Scripture reveals such awful carnality among God’s people. After King David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, David’s son Amnon lusted after his half-sister, Tamar. Amnon faked an illness and requested that Tamar bring him food in his bedroom. When she arrived, he grabbed her and—because he was stronger—raped her in spite of her resistance (2 Samuel 13:6–14).
Following this abhorrent act, this dear girl was awash in her grief. “Tamar put ashes on her head and . . . put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went” (2 Samuel 13:19 NIV). When her father David heard of it, “he was furious” (13:21 NIV). But that’s it! He only got mad. David never got involved in the crisis.
When Tamar’s other brother Absalom heard of it, he told her: “Be quiet now, my sister; [Amnon] is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart” (13:20). Can you believe those words? What stupid counsel! Don’t say anything? Keep silent when God’s law says Amnon should be stoned? But what could she do? Her brother said to hush, and her father did nothing. Tamar had no person to go to with her pain.
Both then and now, when such violations occur—with no one to act in defense of the helpless—the child faces a threatening future of moral confusion, personal shame, spiritual disillusionment, emotional scars, and family anger.
Fellow-pastor, it is time we speak up in defense of the helpless. The innocent victims of sexual abuse need a safe place to share their stories . . . and they need direction toward the emotional and spiritual healing found in Jesus Christ.
The world has never provided a safe and secure place from those who would abuse children. That’s why the church must be that place. It is the responsibility of church leaders to make sure the church of God remains a place of trust and respect. A haven where no one is touched inappropriately. A refuge where hurting individuals can confide in a teacher, in an elder, in a pastor, or in an older friend.
I urge you to speak out on this subject and to foster an environment where those who need to talk can share their stories. I have provided below a list of related resources that may help you in your role as a pastor, teacher, and shepherd. At the top of this list is a two-part interview I did with Dave Carder that you can listen to right now. This interview gives us as pastors a much-needed perspective on dealing with sexual abuse in the church and in the home.
I hope you’ll also keep handy a stack of business cards of qualified counselors in your area who are experienced in talking with families and victims about the struggles connected to sexual abuse. Those who come to you need you to direct them to trusted professionals who can walk them through the challenging process of healing. If you’re not sure where to find a good counselor in your area, Dallas Theological Seminary has a Web page that helps you find counselors in your area.
Many today are living like Tamar did, with ashes of shame and humiliation on their heads, weeping aloud with no one to hear.
Shepherds must protect the sheep.
My prayer is that as a result of you speaking out in defense of the helpless, many victims will reach out to someone for help for the first time.
How Churches Can Deal with the Issues of Molestation
How Families Can Deal with the Issues of Molestation
Visit Insight for Living's Topical Page on Sexual Abuse
Door of Hope: Recognizing and Resolving the Pains of Your Past by Jan Frank
Victims of abuse—any abuse—need to know how other people have made it through the recovery process. As a victim of incest herself, Jan Frank understands the myriad emotions that victims struggle with and offers ten proven steps toward recovery in Door of Hope. A powerful story of inspiration and restoration, Door of Hope is Jan's journey toward wholeness. But it is much more than a story. It is hope for other victims. And in this updated edition, Jan provides a special section featuring answers to questions most often asked by abuse victims and those who love them.
The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dan B. Allender
The statistics are shocking—the number of people who have suffered sexual abuse is staggering. All the more need for the substantive help and hope that Dr. Allender offers to those wounded. Going well beyond the general issues, you will find real answers that reach deep into the heart of the issues where healing is often hindered. A companion workbook is also available to lead you in a practical way through the complex issues of recovery.
The Wounded Heart: A Companion Workbook by Dr. Dan B. Allender
Thousands of women and men have experienced life-reviving healing from Dr. Dan Allender's book The Wounded Heart. This companion workbook will help you work through the complex issues of sexual abuse in a concrete way. Designed to be used on your own or in a group, the workbook will lead you step-by-step through the process of change: facing the truth about past and present experiences and feelings; wrestling with God, other people, and yourself; and understanding the goals and fears that have determined how you relate to others. It also includes specific sections for men, ideas for discussion-group facilitators, and reflective quotations from fellow strugglers with sexual abuse.
Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most by Dr. Wess Stafford
The leader of Compassion International shares his inspiring boyhood adventures growing up in an African village and challenges us all to change the world one child at a time. Why are children easy to ignore in the busy mainstream of life? They rarely cry out if overlooked—or worse, traumatized or abused, Yet it is vital for the future of humanity that we make children a priority in every area of life.