Religious organizations are constantly being caught covering up abuse. Most of these organizations follow the same line of reasoning. Jesus taught us to forgive not seek vengeance. Christians shouldn’t take each other to court. The church should handle this privately and not get the pagans (police, government, etc.) involved. Christians should handle abuse privately behind closed doors. Is this a correct understanding of Scripture?
Right use of the law
First and foremost, God’s Law is used to bring conviction of sin and show us our need of a Savior. Through the Law we learn that we will face God’s wrath for what we have done. However, God’s Law does not end there. God’s Laws were literally given to be the law of human society. God’s Law was to be the legal code for Israel’s government. Judges were to enforce God’s Law. All sin is a violation of God’s Law, but certain sins are specifically spelled out as crime to be punished by earthly judges. One of these crimes is physical assault. All physical violence is a violation of the sixth commandment. God is very clear that physical violence is to be punished no matter who the aggressor is and especially no matter how weak or lowly the victim is. The Law of God offers the same protection to men, women, servants, and children, including the unborn. The Law of God also spells out sexual assault as a crime to be punished by earthly judges. Interesting enough God places sexual assault in the same category as physical assault, a violation of the sixth commandment. Both physical and sexual assault are not just deserving of eternal judgment, they are crimes that human governments are to punish. (Exodus 21:18-25, Deuteronomy 22:25-27)
Spheres of application and authority
The Bible places all human beings in the same category; we all have the same individual responsibilities before God. However, God has ordained people to be in authority in three spheres, the family, the church, and the government. People who hold these positions of authority not only answer to God for their individual actions as a person, they will also answer for their actions as an authority figure. Because of this, God has given additional instructions to authority figures. When reading the Scripture, I must ask, “Who is the Bible speaking to?” In Romans 12, God is speaking to the individual; all individuals have a responsibility to not seek vengeance and forgive. However, in Romans 13 God tells us that authority figures have an additional responsibility; they are to punish those who violate God’s Law. In other words, it is not the place of the individual to seek vengeance, but it is the place of the government official to enforce God’s Law and punish evil. (Romans 12:17-13:4)
Proper submission to government
Romans 13 teaches us that proper submission to the government is just that, we submit our wrongs to the proper authority because God has ordained that authority to exact punishment. When I refuse to submit allegations of abuse to the proper authority and handle it myself I am resisting the ordinance of God. Many people quote Paul’s admonition against lawsuits in 1 Corinthians 6 as a reason for not reporting abuse to the government. 1 Corinthians 6 is not speaking about crimes. It is speaking about civil disputes where no crime has been committed. There are things that belong to human government by the ordinance of God. One of those things is the investigation and punishment of crimes like physical or sexual assault. We must submit to the government what God says belongs to the government. (Romans 13:1-4, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Matthew 22:21)
Immediate reporting of abuse
When abuse is not reported immediately it convinces the abuser that they can get away with it, or worse, that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. This delay in justice can lead to worse abuse or additional victims. Christians should immediately report all abuse to the proper government official. We do not do this because we are mandatory reporters according to man’s law; we do this because we are MANDATED BY GOD to submit cases of abuse to the government. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
Jesus, our substitute
It is a terrifying thing to read of the death penalty for crimes we or our loved ones have committed. However, the wages of all sin is death. This is why Jesus came. He came to die for criminals. He came to die for sinners. He came to be the substitute for those who are condemned to die. For this reason we may all find hope. Jesus loves sinners and died so that they might be saved.
If you are aware of abuse, you must report it immediately. If you have been hurt, you must learn to forgive and let God bring about justice through His ordained means. Because we all are guilty we must run to Jesus, our substitute, and receive His love and forgiveness.