Yesterday I experienced an all-to-familiar episode: I heard of another “pastor” who dodged a bullet, who didn’t get caught, who seemed to have beat the rap, and got away Teflon-clean after having abused some very dear, vulnerable people. The story isn’t over by any means, but, O how hard it is to see the rats winning the race! So this morning in my daily reading, Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the violent, abusive Babylonian conquest of what was left of the nation of Israel in chapter 33 really jumped up and smacked me in the nose, and sunk deeply into my anguished heart, and (I felt) applied perfectly both to church leaders who abuse, and to their victims:
Woe to you, O destroyer, While you were not destroyed; And he who is treacherous, while others did not deal treacherously with him. As soon as you finish destroying, you will be destroyed; As soon as you cease to deal treacherously, others will deal treacherously with you.
While pastors who hurt their people may “come to their senses,” and cease their abusive behavior–usually when they sense a threat of being caught–the justice of God will not be abated simply because the pastor didn’t get caught. There is a Great Shepherd of the flock, a lover of His people; it is He who must be appeased, and His application of justice received. The abuser’s only hope is to stop abusing, freely admit his abuse to his victims, his church, and (if a crime) the police, and trust in the forgiveness of God. But if that last part, the trusting in the forgiveness of God, is asserted without the first part, facing up to the abuse–the abuser’s strategy has failed, and is nothing but a load of spiritual-sounding horse scat.
Verse two begins a section in which the prophet speaks of the abused, the hurting, those worn down and used by the pseudo-leader:
O LORD, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their strength every morning, Our salvation also in the time of distress.
These victims are called on by the prophet to do the impossible, really: wait for the Lord, trusting His deliverance and salvation. Why does this seem impossible? It is an agonizing process to trust in God’s judgment to come in defense of the victim. It rarely, if ever, comes according to our timetable. Even after police have been notified (which they ALWAYS SHOULD BE WHEN ANY CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED), denominational authorities apprised, parents warned, audits completed, etc., there is still the unique, awesome and terrible call to simply rest in God, wait for His justice, and Never.Give.Up.Hope. Ever. Our Lord cares–as the rest of Isaiah chapter 33 argues, but O, doesn’t He seem to have a problem with showing up on time, by our standards!?
And so, having done all we can from our side of things, we wait for a God who promises to arrive–not on our time, but always at the perfect time.
With love, for those who wait.