Dear Jack: a letter to an abusive husband


letter to abusive husbandDear Jack,

I pray this letter finds you in good health, sound mind, and quiet heart.

I’m writing on behalf of your wife Jill, the elders, and all your brothers and sisters in the church family. We are all greatly concerned about your abuse and mistreatment of Jill. And I would like to take this opportunity to address you as a pastor, a man, and a father.

Zero tolerance

As a pastor, I want to lovingly communicate to you two messages. First, stop abusing Jill. As you know, our church family takes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to marital abuse. Your hands were not made for battering your wife, but for beautifying her. It’s never permissible, under any circumstance, for you to raise your hand toward your wife in anger or abuse or in any way other than to caress her in love or help her in strength. Never. Under any circumstance. You must commit to no longer battering Jill, who is made in God’s image, who was purchased by Christ’s blood, and who is your sister in Christ. Continuing to sin against your wife in this way will result in further police involvement (I have already counselled Jill to file a police report) and the church pursuing corrective love. A better result would be a clear and tangible commitment on your part to stop abusing Jill.

Learning to love

Second, get help in learning to love Jill. As a church, we are committed to fighting for every marriage in our congregation. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to help the two of you enjoy a reconciled and fully loving marriage, as Christ intends. We’re prepared to do that over the long haul. With Jill, we have taken steps to make a safe place available for her to live. Her safety is our first priority, but it’s not our only priority. We hope also to support you both in experiencing the healing and wholeness Christ provides.

So, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to meet with me, any elder, or any one of the trained counsellors in the church who have from time to time helped others through this pattern of sin, anger, and control. If we need additional resources beyond the local church, we’re prepared to locate and provide them. We’ll put everything the church has behind you and Jill, if you’ll commit to getting some help. If you’re abusing your wife, brother, you’re not well. You need to locate the root of the difficulty in your own heart and learn to live in the grace and power that God provides. We want to help you do that. Will you allow us?

A father’s anger

Can I also say just a couple words as a father of two beautiful daughters? If Jill were my daughter, I’m afraid I’d be writing this letter from my prison to your hospital room. I know: pastors aren’t supposed to say stuff like that. But I can’t think of a better way to communicate how horrible and dark your treatment of Jill has been, and how sudden and violent God’s judgment would be as he looks on Jill, his daughter, and considers your abuse of her. I know my anger would be a pale and sinful picture of God’s. But that’s what’s most frightening: God’s anger would be perfect, just and omnipotent. I fear that for you, just as I fear for the welfare of someone who would harm my girls. My girls are 14 and 12. They’re bright, energetic, funny, quick to serve, curious and outgoing. I imagine those are some of the things you’ve admired in Jill.

As a father, I want my girls to be with a man who multiplies and nourishes those qualities in them. To do otherwise would be to slowly tread these beautiful creatures under foot, it would be to kill them slowly. The husband who does that is a gardener who tramples his rose bed with heavy work boots. I wouldn’t want such a husband for my daughters, and God doesn’t want that for his.

Finally, I also want to speak to you as a fellow man, a brother in the Lord and fellow traveller in this journey called ‘manhood’. I find being a man just about the most difficult and high-pressured thing in life. I feel like I’m often one step behind or one wrong decision from completely ruining everything. It seems to me that a lot of us live with a seething undercurrent of fear and anger. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but no temptation has befallen you that isn’t common to others of us. You’re not a monster, and you’re not alone.

But feelings of anger, control, and frustration express themselves in a number of ways: from abdicating responsibility to fleeing the relationship to abusing others. People often take out their frustrations and fears on those closest at hand — for husbands that can be the wife. We have to find a way to be sober, self-controlled, temperate and respectable. That’s really at the heart of what it means for us to be men.

Misrepresenting Jesus

Let me say something to you that you may fear hearing: as a fellow man, while I can identify with some of the pressure, anger, and frustration you may be feeling, I do not respect your abuse of your wife. The abuse misrepresents Jesus, misrepresents husbands, and misrepresents marriage. In saying I don’t respect your abuse as a man, I’m not trying to discourage you further. I’m trying to bring to light what you must surely be feeling about yourself. How can you respect yourself as a man if you’re resorting to beating the woman who loves you? Surely you can’t. And it’s pretending that you do respect yourself or demanding that others should respect you that will keep you locked in the entangling sins of anger and abuse. The pretending is a heavy blanket of self-deception. So, as a fellow man, I’m offering you a way to admit your struggles to one who shares some of them and to be free from the pretending that keeps us trapped. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be a man that has it all together while feeling inside everything is coming apart. One man to another: here’s a way out. Take it.

Hope in God

Know, Jack, that we stand ready to help you and Jill. We will stand with Jill to keep her safe, connected to the church family, and full of hope for her future with you. We will stand with you to live as the man of God he calls you to be, to repair your marriage, and to be free of the things that have led to this painful time. We serve a God for whom nothing is too hard. Let us walk by faith, obeying his word, and expecting his grace. Please do be in touch right away.

With hope and with Christ, Pastor T

‘Dear Jack: A Letter to an Abusive Husband’ is a post from Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog, Pure Church (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/), and is used with permission.

 

(This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Preaching Matters: Andrew Sach ‘Persecution in 1 Peter’


Here is the newest instalment of the video series from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate designed specifically to ‘equip, encourage and inspire those who teach God’s word.’

‘In this month’s Preaching Matters Andrew Sach shares his thoughts on the kind of persecution facing Christians in 1 Peter.

How has this helped you as you teach God’s word?

When helping hurts (book review)


 

When helping hurtsWHEN HELPING HURTS
How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor … and yourself
By Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
Moody. 274 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 0 802 457 066

The renewed emphasis in evangelicalism on social involvement has led to more involvement by Christians and churches in ‘mercy ministries’, helping those in need at home and abroad. Christians are giving their money, time, efforts and skills to such work. In itself, this is admirable, but it raises essential questions about how best to provide help and who it is, precisely, who needs that help and why.

The authors of this book (first published in 2009 but now re-issued in an expanded edition) are both professors at Covenant College in the US. They are profoundly critical of many well-meaning attempts by Christians in the West to ‘help’ the poor and deprived. They recount numerous stories where such help has done more harm than good to the individuals or communities at which it is aimed: expensive equipment donated by Western churches but abandoned by the recipients and never used again after the donor team had left; a single mother on benefits, on the receiving end of financial help from a generous church, but left firmly in the poverty trap from which she desperately wished to escape; short-term mission trips that built homes which the local people felt ashamed to live in, due to cultural misunderstandings. Corbett and Fikkert urge a radical re-think of Western churches’ approaches to helping the needy, based firmly in a biblical understanding of the real nature of human need after the Fall.

Paternalism?

A truly biblical approach to the problem, they argue, highlights the universal brokenness of humanity in our relations with God, with one another and with creation. This undermines the paternalism and ‘the West knows best’ attitude which permeates so much well-meaning effort to provide help. It also focuses on the true solution, which is the restoration of broken relationships, supremely with God, through Jesus Christ alone. Material help without the gospel is, ultimately, of little long-term use.

At the same time, the authors do not allow us any excuse for failing to engage in practical help. They want us to re-think our approach and analyse more closely and realistically what the needs are and how best to help. They advocate approaches which are long-term and far more radically integrated in an understanding of the particular situation where help is needed, working with the community rather than simply aiming aid at them.

Common sense

Much of the advice and principles in this book are common sense, once pointed out. An approach which truly loves those whom we seek to help seems to be the key — treating them as competent fellow humans, with their own resources, skills and abilities which need to be put to use, rather than simply regarding them as the targets of our goodwill. The book is written from a North American perspective, but provides some very down-to-earth, biblical thinking in this difficult area. Anyone engaged in, or concerned about, how Christians can best help others in need would benefit from reflecting seriously on the approach advocated in this book.

Robert Strivens, 
Principal, London Theological Seminary

This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

 

Journey home


Journey HomeVijay Menon tells of becoming a Christian from a Hindu background.

Kerala is the smallest, most beautiful state in India, yet, in area, it is bigger than Britain.

I was born there in a very devout Hindu family. As far as I can remember, I always loved God, believed in God and was willing to serve him in whatever capacity. I always prayed to him and asked his guidance before any major decision in my life.

Christianity’s triple offence

If anyone had come to me then and said that I would be reading the Bible and following Jesus, I would have panicked and given any contribution to a Hindu temple to stop me from becoming an untouchable and to rescue me from becoming a Christian, such was my ignorance about Jesus.

Christianity was offensive to me because of Christians, the cross and the cost, in that order.

First, I was ignorant of the fact that children of Christians are not automatically Christians and that they have to make up their own minds to follow Jesus and be added into the family of God, by God himself, before they become real Christians. So I was looking at nominal Christians and saying to myself, ‘In no way am I going to be one of them!’

Second, I looked at the large, tall statue of the crucifix outside the Catholic College at the university in Kerala and I felt sorry for the poor bloke hanging up there. I had the revelation of someone being crucified, but no one interpreted to me that he died for me, in my place, so that God could forgive me, even me, a bad Hindu, and still be the just God. If someone had explained to me that he suffered all that in order to take the punishment I deserve, I would have immediately bowed down to him, worshipped him and been willing to do whatever he wanted me to do. My question was: How is a mere man hanging dead on a cross going to solve the problems of the world? To me that was ignorant idolatry — worse than Hindus.

The third offensive thing about Christianity was the cost. For a Hindu to become an untouchable, it was unthinkable. Not only me, but the whole family would be down-graded unless they threw me out of my home and refused to let me come back.

I did my engineering studies in India and worked my way to England to be better qualified, to then go back to India for a better job. I was ten years at sea, rising from Junior to Chief Engineer and then I got married. So I had to leave the sea to gain my extra first class engineer’s qualification at Newcastle to take up the prime job of Senior Engineer Surveyor with Lloyds Register in London at their head office in 1961. I became a member of the British Nuclear Energy Society and the Royal Institute of Naval Architects, a Chartered Engineer, and also a fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineers. I have worked in London ever since.

Following the crowd

It was in March 1965, when I was doing a spot of shopping in my lunch break, that I happened to walk along Bishopsgate at 1.00 pm, right in the centre of the City of London. To my surprise I saw hundreds of city gents in their pinstripe suits, bowler hats (you don’t see a bowler hat in London now!) and ‘stiff upper lips’ all rushing through a cubby hole at Great St. Helen’s. I followed them out of curiosity and landed up in a big packed hall with hundreds of men, some even sitting on the concrete steps. They ushered me in and all I could see in the corner was a big table with sandwiches, fruits, cakes and delicious food. So I sat down, wedged between the city gents, wondering ‘what next?’ Then I realised that I was in a church and I panicked! You wouldn’t have seen me dead in a church; but I couldn’t get out and had to sit down and suffer for half an hour! Can you imagine over 500 people coming to a church in five minutes, managing directors, brokers, underwriters, bank managers, solicitors, accountants, clerks, engineers and others. Men and women listening to a 20-minute talk from the Bible and then lunch.

Jesus died for me

I sat down and heard for the first time that Jesus died for me, the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, those who go to church and those who don’t, so that I may know God today and all I had to do was to come to him and receive it as a free gift. It is not what I can do for God that is important, but what God has done for me.

I knew, if I had died on that night as a Hindu, I would have to face God as my judge, ending in reincarnation. A chink of light gave me the hope that I could avoid all that. I didn’t have to sit for a final exam with God (I hated exams and have nightmares about them sometimes). I can get a pass mark now and avoid my final! So I prayed then and there, ‘I will have a try’ — I didn’t know any Christian prayers.

Sitting behind me

So I went back to my office and asked my Australian colleague how I can get one of his religious books to know all about Jesus. To my surprise I found out that he went to St. Helen’s Church every Tuesday. He had been sitting behind me at work and praying for me for two years and he didn’t have the guts enough to ask me to go with him. I am glad he didn’t ask me, because if he had asked me that would have been the end of the story, because Hindus don’t go to church. He gave me a Bible with a bookmark in John’s Gospel, advising me to read it from there. I am glad he did, because if I had started from the beginning I would have soon given up.

100% convinced

It took me a long time to fully understand the gospel, but, as an engineer, I was curious, so what I understood I accepted, but what I didn’t I waited for an explanation and prayed. After 42 years I am still learning, but I am following Jesus today because real Christianity is true, and Jesus has never let me down once, even though I have had to go through some tough times, including suspected cancer of my spine.

If I was not 100% convinced that Jesus lived, died, rose again from the dead and that he is fully God and will one day come again to destroy all evil and establish his Kingdom, I would have given up Christianity a long time ago. Everyone is free to find out. If it is true we can accept it, if not, we must reject it. But, for me, to be threatened with death is to be threatened with heaven. As a Hindu I knew about God, but, as I now follow Jesus, I know God personally. You may fool everybody else, but you cannot fool yourself. I know God as my Saviour, Friend and Master.

This article first appeared in Men of this age, produced by Christian Vision for Men, and is used with permission of the author.

Vijay Menon

(This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

Unapologetic Christianity from Chris Sinkinson: A day at the museum


For our UK readers or those passing through the capital, London offers a priceless resource for studying the background to the Bible.

The British Museum first opened in 1759 and since that time has been acquiring a wide range of artefacts from the ancient world. Many originate from the lands connected with the Bible — Egypt, Canaan, Greece, Assyria and Babylon — often as a result of Britain’s formidable influence during the Victorian era. This collection includes many exhibits that are of great value in the study of apologetics.

There are now a number of useful books to guide anyone making a passing visit. Brian Edwards’s and Clive Anderson’s Through the British Museum with the Bible (Day One) is particularly useful, and the British Museum publish their own guide to the Bible by T.C. Mitchell.

Planning a trip

It is worth planning a trip to the museum by identifying a few exhibits that you really want to see and then allowing extra time to make a few unexpected discoveries of your own. For anyone interested in apologetics I can suggest a few essentials.

Firstly, the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III is displayed on the ground floor in the Ancient Near East section. It is a victory monument from ancient Assyria recording the tributes brought by surrounding nations. Among them is King Jehu and the Israelites bringing various treasures as tribute. Dating to 841 BC, the detailed images provide the earliest clear pictures of what the Israelites looked like and what they wore.

Missing information

Secondly, in a nearby gallery is the stunning display of the siege of Lachish. The Assyrian King Sennacherib captured this town in Judah in 701 BC (2 Kings 18-19) before marching on Jerusalem. This event is recorded in astonishing detail. The weapons of the Assyrians, the siege ramp, the fruit on the trees, captured Israelites and plight of women and children are all recorded. From here, Sennacherib moved on to besiege Jerusalem, though he failed to take the city. The nearby Taylor Prism includes a cuneiform reference to King Hezekiah trapped in the city and recounts the Assyrian withdrawal from Jerusalem. No reason is given for the failure of the Assyrians to repeat the successful conquest so proudly recorded from Lachish. For that missing piece of information one must turn to the Bible (2 Kings 19).

Upstairs in the museum are a number of displays from the region we call Canaan. Among them an apologist should take note of the Jericho tomb burial, the Amarna letters and some of the small but significant jar handles and pottery shards bearing Israelite inscriptions. These objects bring to life the stories, people and places of the Bible and endorse its historical value. Beyond this gallery one comes to the priceless, ancient artefacts recovered from the region of Ur, Abraham’s hometown. These help to confirm the sophisticated civilisation from which Abram came as God called him to settle in the more primitive landscape of Canaan.

Great resource

To see such important finds from modern day Iraq, Israel, Turkey and also from Egypt, Greece and Iran might have required a wealth of air miles and a lifetime of travel. Instead, a few hours spent in our nation’s capital can provide a solid boost to our understanding of the historicity of the Bible. And, did I mention entry is free? Of course, I don’t recommend being locked in overnight. But the British Museum is a resource every Christian should have some interest in!

Chris Sinkinson is pastor of Alderholt Chapel and lectures at Moorlands College. His book on apologetics, Confident Christianity, has recently been released by IVP.

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Remember the poor – Local church responsibility towards financially needy believers


Remember the poorWe are living in days in which many Christians have been plunged into great financial difficulties.

This is often through no fault of their own. Our country is in the throes of significant economic recession, and it seems likely that far greater financial heartaches are just around the corner for our stagnating economy.

Christians are not immune from the effects of the near collapse of Western capitalism. Unemployment can suddenly strike, or be the unwanted lot of students even years after graduation. Sickness within the family can bring less opportunity to earn, coupled with greater living costs. State benefits have been squeezed and the criteria for receiving them toughened, often rather arbitrarily.

I want to bring out five key principles from the New Testament to show that local churches have a responsibility for those in financial difficulty in their midst and beyond. And then I want to show how one very ordinary local church, with fewer than 100 members, has sought to help those going through such times. My aim is to spur churches to think about their God-given duties in this area.

1. Supporting others is normal

The organised support of the poor in the fellowship is part of normal church life. This was part of the everyday life of the church in Jerusalem, seemingly from its inception (Acts 4.34-35, and 6.1ff).

Doubtless there were exceptional circumstances there, as many converted at Pentecost remained in the city to learn more of their newfound faith. Yet, surely, the principle of organised help for the needy jumps out to us from the text. Sadly, a combination of right suspicion against a ‘social gospel’ and the rampant individualism of our culture have deadened us to the need for organised care for those in dire financial straits in our midst.

2. Consequence of love

Organised care is a natural extension of individual Christian love. The joy of new life in Christ and of truly belonging to God’s people inevitably brought a spontaneous sharing and hospitality in the days after Pentecost (Acts 2.44-45). Indeed, such practical love is the natural and essential fruit of true conversion (Matthew 25.34ff). And, as time passed and the needs increased, it was very appropriate that the ministry of care was formalised, so that needs were not missed (Acts 4.32-35, compare 6.1ff).

3. The issue of need

The issue of need is the key question (Acts 2.45 and 4.34-35), not how the people got into that need. These matters must be handled with grace and understanding, though it may well also be important to seek to provide help with handling money, if the financial support is to be truly effective.

The ministry of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) can be very useful here, though that doesn’t obviate the need to preach on such issues in the church life. Some question whether there is any need for churches to support their poor, living as we do in a wonderful welfare state. Yet, often, benefits do not arrive quickly enough, nor are they generous enough to meet all needs. Others point out that some financial needs are so great — for example, wealthy believers becoming bankrupt — that few, if any, churches could help meet those needs. Yet local churches can still provide help, which can be wonderfully reassuring and vital to the mental and spiritual strength of those fallen on hard times.

4. Practical wisdom

Support needs to be handled with wisdom, grace and efficiency. The apostles were made aware of flaws in the system of welfare distribution in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6.1). Whether those failings were due to prejudice or inefficiency is hard to say, but it brought dangerous tensions and conflicts to the church. Indeed, anyone who has been in church life for any length of time will have experienced church tensions over money, especially when it comes to being generous with it! That is why it was necessary to have such a group of wonderfully spiritual men to sort the apparently pretty straightforward practical problem out (Acts 6.3). Support always needs to be wisely and sensitively tackled.

5. Outsiders too

The church’s responsibility is not restricted to those in our own back yard. Preoccupation with our own fellowship can be selfish and unspiritual. The New Testament gives us a vision, not simply for the evangelism of the whole world, but for meeting the practical needs of the wider church community. Surely, no thoughtful Christian can remain unchallenged by Paul’s preoccupation with the collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem (Romans 15.23-28).

One church’s experience

Among the things that we at Dewsbury Evangelical Church have been able to do to help believers financially have been the following. We have helped asylum seekers with their living and legal costs, including, on occasions, making a commitment to pay them a weekly ‘subsistence allowance’ and making collections for solicitors’ fees. We have provided holidays for poor families, sometimes by arranging for them to stay in the homes of believers (living in rather nicer areas than Dewsbury!) while the owners themselves are away on holiday. We have paid for youngsters attending YP groups to go on our church camp.

We have sometimes sent money with our Asian worker on his visits to Pakistan to try to help the struggling church there. We have set up a small disasters committee in the church so that the church members can be encouraged to make collections to support famine or earthquake relief (often through Christian organisations) when the need is most urgent.

Help on a weekly basis

And we have established a scheme to provide poorer members among us with bags of groceries on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Since this is an effective, much appreciated, and easily replicated scheme, it is probably worth explaining how it works in some detail.

This scheme was the brainwave of one of our lady members. We provide bags of groceries for those most in need in the fellowship, serving perhaps six or seven families or individuals in an average week. More than 10% of our membership has received them. Recipients include the unemployed, the low paid, asylum seekers, the sick, the elderly, and those under sudden and unexpected financial strain.

The groceries, including hopefully some more luxury items, are collected from better off members in the congregation — most of us! Members are encouraged to buy a little extra when they visit, or order from, the supermarket and to bring it with them to church on a Sunday. That is then organised into bags for those in need by two thoughtful ladies in the fellowship who have gladly undertaken the responsibility. A letter has been issued by the deacons to all who belong to us explaining the working of the scheme, and giving advice about the range of stuff required in our somewhat multi-cultural congregation.

The bags are then either picked up by those for whom they are intended, often after the evening service or the prayer meeting, or delivered to their homes. The bags of groceries are not huge, but they make a real contribution to those in need and express the sympathy and love of the church to those who receive them. We encourage all members to be on the look-out for those in need among us, as many believers are very reluctant to ask for help, even if their needs are urgent.

Giving and receiving

The scheme is far from perfect, but works well and is relatively simple to operate. If needs exceed supply we try to inform members of that situation, but often that has brought the opposite problem! Sadly, we have very little facility to store groceries, and none to store furniture: more room would be a great asset to this work.

Some have found it difficult to receive from the scheme, but it is easier when they realise that others in the church also benefit. Many also respond to the thought that if and when they are in a better financial position they will be able to contribute to the scheme which is helping them now (2 Corinthians 8.14). Sometimes it throws up difficult questions about whether we can and should extend the service into the community, but on the whole it has been a really helpful development in church life. I have written about it not to trumpet what we are doing, but simply to show others one way in which our corporate responsibility to the poorer among us can begin to be met.

Graham Heaps is pastor of Dewsbury Evangelical Church, Yorkshire.

 
(This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)