How the Misuse of Matthew 18 Bullies Abuse Survivors Into Silence

My head jerked up once I heard the chapel speaker instructed the women within the auditorium that they should mow your garden. I used to be much more shocked when this dean on the Southern Baptist faculty the place I taught prolonged the metaphor by saying that girls who had a number of sexual companions have been like crack homes, the place folks additionally enter and depart usually.

I educate Previous Testomony, and Id spent a lot time in my lessons over the previous 4 years discussing the picture of God and its implications for a way we view different human beings. I used to be sure once I went by means of the channels outlined within the college handbook that my objection to the objectification and degradation of girls could be dealt with shortly and seamlessly. In fact my college doesnt suppose sexually lively girls are crack homes. In fact my college doesnt suppose its okay to inform girls to mow your garden. In fact theyll launch a press release affirming that each one people are made in Gods picture and, due to this fact, all people have inherent worth distinct from their sexual exercise or pubic hair.

The president responded predictably, in hindsight with an electronic mail to all college students, college, and employees encouraging us to comply with Matthew 18 as a substitute of the colleges acknowledged coverage for issuing complaints. When somebody is perceived to have dedicated an offense, we should . . . search extra official redress solely after the biblical technique has failed.

Heres the passage:

In case your brother sins towards you, go and inform him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you might have gained your brother. But when he doesn’t pay attention, take one or two others together with you, that each cost could also be established by the proof of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to hearken to them, inform it to the church. And if he refuses to pay attention even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:1517)

Jesus is speaking to his disciples concerning the correct option to deal with battle amongst themselves, that’s, inside a church setting. However making use of this passage isnt as simple as what occurs within the church stays within the church.

Unknown or Unintentional Sin
Why does Jesus inform the sinned towards individual to confront the sinner, to inform him his fault? As a result of the sinner doesnt know he sinned. Maybe it was an offhand comment supposed in jest or maybe the sinner did one thing he legitimately thought was okay. However Jesus isn’t speaking about one thing that’s clearly and self-evidently improper, corresponding to rape.

Non-public Sin
The sin Jesus mentions right here is private one thing an individual has carried out towards one other individual. Thus, correcting a fellow Christian ought to occur in non-public when that individual has sinned in non-public. Typically folks will publicly make outrageous feedback, like calling girls crack homes, then cry, Matthew 18! when somebody confronts them publicly. Take the instance of Peter refusing to eat with non-Jews a racial distinction that Jesus abolished. In Galatians 2:11 Paul states, I opposed him to his face, as a result of he stood condemned. Peter sinned publicly, so Paul opposed him publicly. He even enshrined it in scripture for all to see!

Presumption of Guilt
Key on this passage is that Jesus assumes that the individual sinned towards is telling the reality. This runs towards the grain of how Christians usually deal with abuse allegations, the place the abuser is presumed harmless. Its high-quality to take care of innocence till guilt is confirmed; its a bedrock of america legal protection system. However one can’t each clamor for Matthew 18 and presume innocence.

Not Prison
As well as, the sin isn’t legal exercise, for the offender would already know that’s improper. It’s extra akin to the kind of offense that occurs when somebody makes a hurtful remark about one other individual. Nonetheless, even when a fellow Christian has dedicated a criminal offense, there stays a distinction between church self-discipline and civil self-discipline. An individual can obtain forgiveness for a sin and nonetheless face penalties for that sin. For instance, if somebody steals my automotive, I can confront him, he can repent and return the automotive, and I can forgive him. However he can nonetheless even be arrested and face penalties for stealing the automotive. The 2 should not mutually unique. The New Testomony makes clear in different places that the federal government was established to punish wrongdoers (1 Peter 2:14), and there’s no indication that punishing legal exercise issuing justice, that’s is within the churchs purview.

This technique of church self-discipline ends in excommunication if the individual refuses to repent. That’s, after being confronted by one individual, then a number of folks, the one that wrongly maintains innocence within the matter is to be banned from the church. If the scenario in query doesn’t meet every of those {qualifications}, then Matthew 18 doesn’t apply.

Frequent Misapplication
Wes Feltner, who was not too long ago accused of sexually abusing two girls below his pastoral care, cited Matthew 18 in his protection, stating: “The Bible directs Gods people to take their grievances first to the person accused and, if that person wont listen, to try again and bring a witness; and if the person still wont listen, then to take it to the church (Matthew 18:15-17). The group circulating these allegations did not bring them to me, rather, they took them directly to the church and, not being satisfied with the churchs response, they have taken them to the general public.”

This response is typical of pastors accused of sexual abuse. Lets suppose by means of Feltners use of Matthew 18 in gentle of the necessities for making use of it particularly circumstances.

Is it doable that sexual abuse was unintentional? No.
Was the sin non-public? Sure.
Was there a presumption of guilt of the sinner? No.
Was the sin legal? Sure.
Did the church comply with by means of to excommunication? No.

Matthew 18 doesn’t apply in each single case of sexual abuse Ive ever heard of. Whereas sexual abuse is often a non-public, private sin dedicated by one individual towards one other, it can also be an intentional, legal act. Additional, innocence and never guilt is the standard presumption, and church buildings hardly ever carry the method by means of to excommunication. As an alternative, the abuse survivor is often not believed, instructed to stay silent, and/or gaslighted. Moderately than confront the accused, of us are inclined to defend the accused: Pastor Doe couldnt have carried out that!

Since resigning from the Baptist faculty the place I heard girls in comparison with crack homes, Ive waded into the world of advocacy for sexual abuse survivors. And Ive discovered, to my disgrace and chagrin, that the colleges misuse of Matthew 18 is much from regular.

Matthew 18:15-17 accommodates the phrases of Christ to his church, instructing us on how one can cope with inner battle with a brother or sister who sins towards us and doesnt understand it. Its acceptable to comply with that mannequin in that scenario, however its insufficient and turns into itself a software for abuse when it’s used to bully abuse survivors into silence.


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