The Gospel Coalition

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."  Colossians 3:15

The tsunami of sin flooding the world today touches us all.  We add to it.  We suffer from it.  It is flooding our churches.

If somehow we could all get together and gently swap stories, my hunch is we would be shocked at the mistreatment that has been dished out to many of us by churches - both by abusive leaders and by abusive members.  There is, of course, a difference between being hurt and being harmed.  I am not thinking of people who get their feathers ruffled and then howl their complaints.  I am thinking of people who have been harmed and wronged, people who have suffered slander, lies, loss of position, loss of reputation, loss of friends, and more.  Many reading this post have suffered in these and other ways.  It is shocking what churches can do - both leaders and members.

Wouldn't life be easier if we fought our battles on only one front at a time?  But we usually fight on two fronts at once - not just conflict with others but also conflict with ourselves.  We need God's help to be especially aware of all that endangers us within.

What can a sufferer easily lose sight of?  Keeping himself, too, under the judgment of the Word of God.  A sufferer looks at the wrongs done to him, and he brings them under the judgment of God's Word.  Good.  But it is easy to be so focused there that the sufferer doesn't notice how, in his appropriate indignation, he might mistreat those who mistreated him.

Never mount a campaign to correct those who wronged you.  The Bible says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God" (Romans 12:19).  The wrath of God is all the wrath this world needs.  It would be nice if unjust people finally owned up.  But they don't have the self-awareness to do that, which is what makes them unjust in the first place.  They will never see it, until God opens their blind eyes.  But he will.  And only he can.  If you appoint yourself the one to open their eyes, you are putting yourself in the place of God - which is what your abuser did to you.  Don't let your abuser make you an abuser.  Sit tight, and trust in the Lord.  This is extremely difficult.  But your own moral fervor will inevitably make things worse.  So, the extremely difficult choice you are left with is this: a bad situation (of their making) versus a worse situation (of their and your making).  That really stinks, doesn't it?

Heaven will be a relief.  But for now, while we're still in this mess, our primary business is with God.  In fact, our primary battle might even be with God.  My recommendation, as a pastor, is that you wave the white flag of surrender to him.  Not to them, but to him.  Rather than be frustrated that he isn't fighting for you the way you'd like, why not do what the Bible says and trust him to deliver you in his own time and way, and maybe not until we are all standing before him above?  There is no danger in trusting the Lord.  If you're going to err, err toward waiting on him to vindicate you.  When he does - not if he does, but when he does - it will be much more satisfying.  What could be greater than for Almighty God to rise up and say about you, "This one you mistreated is my beloved, my friend, my servant.  Back off"?  That moment is coming.  "He will deliver you" (Proverbs 20:22).

Trust him.  Trust him.  Trust him.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.


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Owl Post 7-30-12 « 42lifeinbetween

July 30, 2012 at 07:56 AM

[...] The peace of Christ: The tsunami of sin flooding the world today touches us all.  We add to it.  We suffer from it.  It is flooding our churches.  And many people are suffering for it. [...]

The Peace of Christ | Time For Discernment

July 30, 2012 at 05:57 PM

[...] Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in KFD. Bookmark the permalink. ← Worldviews in Collision: At War with the World 3 Things The Gospel Authors Would Have Never Invented About Jesus → [...]


July 30, 2012 at 04:18 PM

Dear Dr Ortlund. I know of many Christians who have been abused both psychologically and sexually by Christian leaders. One such Christian leader, a school teacher, was regarded as ‘a man of God’ by many Christians as he led boy’s camps each year and preached in several churches. When I heard him speak as a teenager in the 1970’s I thought he was the most spiritual Christian I had ever met, yet year after year, this man, who led many young me to Christ was systematically abusing other boys. The boys who were abused were afraid to speak up because of his spiritual reputation, and when some did speak up decades later, many prominent Christians (some who had come to faith in Christ by him) did not believe that he was guilty.

My friend who was abused by him also became a Christian around the same time but was only able to speak out some twenty years later. He himself was a spiritual young man and one reason why he did not speak up because he did not want to besmirch this man’s reputation. He realises now that he should have spoken up earlier instead of ‘leaving it to the wrath of God’ as he had been counselled by some. Sadly now he has lost all faith in God, as he can not reconcile how God could use a man to bring many to Christ on the one hand while on the other be an instrument to abuse the innocent.

Clay Crouch

July 28, 2012 at 03:28 PM

Dr. Ortlund, how would you define "avenge" in the context of the scripture you quoted? Could you give a real or hypothetical example of a grossly wronged individual or group seeking vengeance as opposed to proper redress?

Thank you.

Ray Ortlund

July 27, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Thanks, Larry. You are right. And that can work, when people are open. The Lord showed us how in Luke 17:3-4 -- an often overlooked but highly relevant passage.

But when the wrongdoers are not open, and they are saying, "We've moved on," as if that declaration somehow ended it, then we hold fast to the Lord as all our hope. When people don't see the wrong they've done because they don't want to see it, that chosen blindness is impenetrable. In the meantime, those who have suffered can trust the Lord for a new era of blessing. No one can stop God's purpose of grace. The tragedy might be that the wrongdoers will have no share in the new blessing coming down from above.


July 27, 2012 at 08:33 PM

Lived for years with a relative who hated anything Christian. When asked I would give an answer for why I believed what I believed but was always attacked for my faith. I would strive to return evil with good and to be loving and kind when I didn't feel very much love or kindness. After 30 years this person was lead to the Lord 6 weeks before she died by her caregiver. I'm praising God still. She went home to be with the Lord almost 20 years ago and when I see her again she will be all changed from the way she was!


July 27, 2012 at 08:33 AM

Ray, thanks for this post and for your blog in general; it's a great blessing to my soul.

While I agree with your fundamental position here, what is the proper place for correction, rebuke, admonishment, etc. in the paradigm you present here?

Don't get me wrong; there are too few people who are willing to forgive and forbear and entrust the matter to God, who judges justly. We need your exhortation here, for sure!

But even the context of Colossians, the very next verse (3:16), calls on Christians to admonish one another with all wisdom. While we shouldn't "mount a campaign to correct those who wronged" us (meaning, I assume, vow that we will make them feel the pain of what they've done if it's the last thing I do!), there is still a significant place for correction in the life of the church, isn't there? It is one of the means the Spirit uses to make us more into the image of Jesus, isn't it?

Curious to know your thoughts on this,



July 27, 2012 at 08:31 AM

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:15-16;Isa 53:3

George Brodie

July 26, 2012 at 07:16 PM

The theology of today's church is to "protect" God from his involvement in all of our life. We "save" Him from being associated with all our pain. We are saying our "Father" has turned His head from providing protection and call it His "permissive will". Then we say "protect me". One's spirit cannot have it both ways. Either He is sovereign in all of life or not at all in life. Coming to resolution with this begins to resolve the conflict of trust.

Weekly Links (8/24/2012) « The Beacon

August 24, 2012 at 03:02 AM

[...] No mat­ter how many arti­cles there have been, I can always get a lit­tle more of Ray Ortlund. You can find his encour­age­ment to the wronged here. [...]

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