What do we as Christians make of the shocking reports coming out of Pennsylvania that “more than 300 ‘predator priests’ have sexually abused over 1,000 child victims”?
The terms predator priest or pedophile pastor are huge contradictions as we all know men of God are supposed to be protectors not predators – yet these are the words we find in today’s media coverage. It’s staggering to think that someone in whom we place our trust would betray us and our children so horribly… They also defy God’s standards of purity, bringing the Church of Jesus Christ into dreadful disrepute.
So what do we make of this and how should we react? Here are four things we can do:
1. Offer hope to the victims
Those who have survived child sexual abuse know first hand the devastation each and every one of these cases has caused. So, our hearts go out to each person affected. For many it will be the cause of them turning their backs on God and His Church which is tragic as He offers the greatest hope for full recovery. As believers we need to pray for all affected, that God would intervene in their situation, no matter how long ago and that He would bring healing and closure.
Sadly, the scars of child sexual abuse never really go away completely which is why these acts are so vile, however one can learn to live beyond them by God’s grace and through His healing power. These thousand or more people will never regain their lost innocence and will invariably struggle with boundaries as their’s have been violated. Some of them may have addictions they battle to control that stem back to what happened. However, there is hope…
Our God is our ‘Good, Good Father’ who makes up for those fathers who have abused us, He takes us up into His Heavenly arms and He removes the fear, the guilt, the shame. Jesus is the One who binds up the broken hearted and sets the captives free. And the Holy Spirit is our life-long comforter. He also leads us into all truth. He helps us to renew our minds according to God’s Word and with the same comfort we have received, we are empowered to comfort others.
This is the message we need to share with survivors of childhood sex abuse, especially at the hands of church leaders – that God knows their pain, Jesus has bottled up their tears and the Holy Spirit is standing by to bring restoration. This is possible as they start to walk in the Spirit putting aside the weaknesses of the flesh.
2. Expose abuse at every turn
Unfortunately we hear reports of sexual abuse in the Church or reports of fallen pastors far too often. So many church leaders have let us down and it’s not just in one denomination though that may seem to be the case. We can’t afford to be complacent about this for one minute and we must resolutely expose all kinds of abuse wherever we find it.
To see things in perspective, sexual immorality is nothing new, even to the Church. As we read in 1 Corinthians 5:1 – “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate…”
It seems the enemy is hell bent on using sexual traps to derail God’s people and especially leaders. If he can take out a pastor, that can bring down a whole body of believers or at very least cause a church split. However the Church of Jesus Christ has to be far above this – we are called to purity and holiness not to self gratification and abuse.
The Church shouldn’t have even a hint of sexual immorality. This seems like an obvious fact, but in light of the reports coming out of Pennsylvania it needs to be shouted from the rooftops. No cover up. We need to be more concerned with protecting God’s children than protecting the reputation of our churches.
“Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people”. (Ephesians 5:3)
This same passage in Ephesians tells us that it is “shameful to even mention what the disobedient do in secret” so we shouldn’t focus on the details as a matter of gossip but we must expose sin in the Church and not cover it up as some church leaders have done. We are called to be children of the light, who expose the works of darkness.
3. Pray for the perpetrators
It sounds crazy to pray for those who have hurt us, yet that is exactly what the Bible instructs us to do. Pray that every perpetrator may be exposed so that their sin can come into the light and they are forced to tackle it head on.
We are called to walk in forgiveness even to those who have abused us. This is more about our freedom that it is about their’s. As victims we cannot truly go free until we have set those who have abused us free. Joyce Meyer is an amazing example of this. She shares openly about how she forgave her father for his abuse. Later she was able to lead him to the Lord and God turned that awful situation around.
Pray for the predator priests and pedophile pastors that they would repent from their wickedness and seek God’s intervention in their sexual perversion. They too can be set free by the power of the Blood of Jesus. They can be forgiven. Nobody is beyond God’s grace.
Does this mean they shouldn’t make restitution for what they have done? Absolutely not. They need to take responsibility for their actions and make amends as does each and every church that has been involved in a cover up.
4. Raise a banner of righteousness
We have to show the world there is a better way than immoral living and at it’s lowest level, child sex abuse. Our example when it comes to purity should be faultless, especially for those in leadership, but not just those who are leaders. We all have a responsibility to live our lives worthy of our high calling.
So many of us are some way off here – pornography is a huge issue in the Church today and we have to stamp it out. It takes people on a downward spiral to increased levels of perversion. However, help is available through ministries like XXX Church and many others.
Watching Christian television can also be a great help. We are cleansed by the ‘washing of the water of the Word’ as Ephesians 5:26 says. This is how Jesus makes His church holy. As we renew our minds with God’s Word the filthiness of the world is removed from us.
For those who have failed, we have to make every effort to get back on track with God. For those who have been abused, trust God to cause all things to work together for good, yes even the abuse. It has played a role in shaping you. It has made you stronger and it has given you the ability to understand what others have been through and uniquely positioned you to help them get back on track with their lives.