As we end our study on abuse, we now want to address how to help an abuser repent and be restored. Because such sins require very personalized counseling our focus is going to be how our church as a whole should approach the process.
Pure but not Deceived
As believers we have changed hearts and renewed minds; because of this our minds do not naturally fathom or understand the impulses, urges, and deception that engulf the minds of abusers. This pure heart and mind can be used to further abuse if we do not take time to become fully aware of what true repentance looks like. Abusers are usually highly manipulative people and masterful liars. This is one of the reasons abuse thrives in churches. Most believers look at the appearance and outward behaviors of an individual and never even fathom the depths of deception and depravity beneath the religious surface. We must understand that wolves always come in sheep’s clothing and not judge based upon appearance. (Titus 1:15-16, Matthew 10:16, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 7:15-23, John 10:1)
Repentance bears fruit
Jesus taught to judge a tree by its fruit. John the Baptist words it very similarly when he calls for fruit meet for repentance. In other words, truly repentant people will all bear the same fruit. This fruit is not left to us to decide; it is clearly spelled out in Scripture. This fruit is not tears or apologies. True change is going to produce some very obvious fruits. It is essential that we know what these fruits are so that we can recognize true repentance and so we can recognize people who are still trying to deceive us. (Matthew 3:7-8)
Fruits of true repentance
There are many signs that someone is truly repentant, but we will only be looking at a few today:
– Full acknowledgement of the wrong done
– Full acknowledgement of the consequences for the wrong done
– Removal of access to temptation
– Greater concern for others/victims than self
– Humility, or allowing others to see one’s true self
– Acknowledgement of inability to overcome sin in one’s own strength
– Expressed need for Christ’s grace
– Confession of sin and seeking out help and accountability
(Matthew 18:6, 2 Corinthians 12:5-10, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, James 5:16)
Christ’s love for sinners
Abuse should turn our stomachs. It should make us angry. It should hurt. However, it should not change our understanding of the Gospel. Jesus still saves and redeems the worst of the worst. We cannot turn our backs on the worst people among us. Instead we must seek to love them and bring them to Jesus so that He might change them. As we do this we must protect the weak and make sure that we are not being deceived. However, we also must make sure that we do not harden our hearts towards sinners. We must be like Jesus Christ.
Are you truly repentant for your sin? Do you know the forgiveness and grace of Jesus Christ? Will you walk with others and help them find a new life in Christ?