The Duggar Disaster

How should the church react to abuse?

The church must never demand that victims of sexual abuse quickly forgive their abuser. It is worth noting that in the Bible forgiveness is always (always!) predicated upon repentance. The church needs to understand the unique nature of sexual abuse. It is a profoundly heinous sort of crime and the victims must therefore be cared for in a way that reflects the horror of what they have suffered. That means they must be protected from their abuser.

 

By now you have no doubt heard the troubling news concerning Josh Duggar of the immensely successful television program 19 Kids and Counting. Many others have weighed in already. It is an important story not least of all because it gives the church another opportunity to think about how it should react to sexual abuse. I wanted to wait a few days before making my thoughts any more public than my own living room.

In no particular order, I do believe it would be helpful for us to consider the following:

1. Sexual abusers are found among Christians, atheists, Muslims and Mormons. They are found among liberals and conservatives. Sexual abuse occurs in traditional households and leftist communes. When a well-known Christian or famous atheist falls to sexual sin or is found to be guilty of sexual abuse there is no room for boasting from any camp.

2. Sin is birthed in the heart long before it is coveted with the eyes or acted upon with the body. Surrounding Josh Duggar with girls clad only in ankle length denim jumpers could not have kept him, or anyone else, from lust.

3. The church and Christian families must never tolerate or in any way seek to cover up sexual abuse. Among Christians, sexual sin which does not violate the law can and should be dealt with through the means of church discipline (Matt 18; 1 Cor. 5). Illegal sexual activity, however, is never an in-house matter for the church. Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities. That means Christians are accountable to God to report any sexual abuse to those authorities God has entrusted to administer justice (Rom 13:1-7). A failure to do so is a sin both against God and the victim.

4. That God can and does bring beauty from ashes should never be used as a covering for the guilt of an offender. That God promises to work all things together for good for those who love and are called by Him must never be used to diminish the horror of sexual abuse and the pain experienced by the abused. It is therefore bad form (a gross understatement) for an abuser or the family of an abuser to publically rejoice in all the “good” that God has brought about through the abuse.

5. The church must never demand that victims of sexual abuse quickly forgive their abuser. It is worth noting that in the Bible forgiveness is always (always!) predicated upon repentance. The church needs to understand the unique nature of sexual abuse. It is a profoundly heinous sort of crime and the victims must therefore be cared for in a way that reflects the horror of what they have suffered. That means they must be protected from their abuser.

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