January 15, 2007

"Emotional" Attack

A major attack against Christian marriages and ministries by the god of this world is underway and few believers are even aware of it. The spirit of antichrist knows that if he can break up Christian families and shut up the mouths of Bible teachers, then his battle is half won. We are not to be ignorant of Satan’s schemes, and once they’re exposed we are free from that trap and won’t be ensnared. This particular weapon in the devil’s arsenal is a word – and that word is "emotional."
Let’s look at how this secret word is used so subtly to destroy marriages and ministries.


In the gospels Jesus made it quite clear that marriage is a permanent covenant between a man and a woman. He said:

"Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate…Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10: 9-12).

And He only mentioned one reason for divorce:
"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery" (Matt. 5:32a).
But the spirit of this world has a different set of criteria for divorce and believers everywhere are buying into it – this is obvious because statistics show that "Christian" marriages break up at the same rate as the rest of American society. If a spouse is physically abusive, counselors will rightly advise a person to remove themselves for their own safety. And the Bible gives recourse for such an eventuality:
"Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (1 Cor. 7: 10-11).
This leaves room for repentance on the part of the abuser. But a worldly counselor will advise the spouse to divorce such a one, which is NOT in keeping with Scripture.
But now it is taken even farther. Today counselors are telling people that "emotional" abuse is just as detrimental as physical abuse and the determining factor to find out if you are in such an abusive relationship is very subjective. If people were honest with themselves, they would have to admit that all of us receive and dish out emotional abuse to those we love one way or another. And the word "emotional" abuse is becoming the number one reason people give when entering divorce court today. But that should not be so in Christian marriages, but unfortunately it is.
I entered the phrase "emotional abuse" into the Google search engine and got back 945,000 hits. The top site was a place called "Education Wife Assault" and they have a list of questions to ask yourself to determine if you are in an "emotional" abusive relationship, that include:
* Do you feel that something is wrong with your relationship, but you don't know how to describe it?
* Do you feel that your partner controls your life?
* Do you feel that your partner does not value your thoughts or feelings?
* Do you feel that you cannot do anything right in your partner's eyes?
* Do you have to account for every moment of your time?
* If you wish to spend money, does your partner make you account for every penny?
* Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?
Certainly, if a spouse answers ‘yes’ to these questions, s/he should bring it up to his/her spouse and seek biblical counseling if things can’t be worked out. These are symptoms that there is a problem in the relationship. But they are NOT biblical reasons to divorce and yet that is what it is becoming.

This sort of reasoning came out in a recent message by the most popular pastor in America – Joel Osteen (see recent article in the "Church Report" called "The 50 Most Influential Christians in America" ). His New Year’s Eve message on December 31, 2006 was entitled "Giving Your Dreams a New Beginning." In his usual motivational style of speaking, he began by leading his stadium congregation into the chant: "All right - hold up your bibles. Say it like you mean it. This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do..." And then he delivered his entire message without once opening the Bible he had held in his hand.

The core of his message was that God plants seeds of greatness in people’s lives and they need to work it out to do great things. But he pointed out that in order to accomplish your dreams you must create an environment for yourself in which your dreams can take hold and flourish. Of course, a crummy spouse could get in the way. And he lifted up his father, the late John Osteen, as an example of how being in a bad marriage held him back.

"My dad was married at a very early age in life," Joel said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out… My father was so devastated; he felt like his days of ministry were over…One day he got up, dusted himself off. He said I know I've made some mistakes; I know I've made some bad choices, but he knew God had another seed. I know He's got another plan. And it wasn't long after that he met my mother...but God gave my father a new beginning."

Then he went on to give his viewers keys to reaching their "full potential." Look at how subtle this is:
"You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life… You're not going to pull them up, they're going to end up pulling you down…And I know people today that are living in a very abusive environment -- physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and they just stay there year after year after year after year. The person is very dominating and controlling. They're afraid to leave, afraid they'll be lonely, afraid they'll never meet anybody and so they stay in a very abusive relationship… God did not create you to be mistreated and abused. Many times that is just a negative cycle that keeps getting repeated. Your mother was in an abusive relationship and now you are, and unless you make some changes your daughter will be as well... It may be painful, but the best thing you can do is get away from somebody like that."
Even though he gave disclaimers that divorce is not "God’s best," he held up his father’s bad example as an inspiration that God will overlook divorce and give you something better in the next marriage. And that word "emotional abuse" was a key term he used to justify the unbiblical. And people are falling for this, hook, line, and sinker.


The other use of "emotional" to make a thing something it is not is "emotional" affairs. As pointed out already, Jesus showed adultery to be a biblical reason for divorce. And when it comes to ministry, pastors and teachers must be "the husband of one wife." So naturally, sexual affairs would be a biblical reason for a pastor/teacher to be defrocked.
But today this new term "emotional affair," borrowed from the wisdom of the world, has become grounds for Christian divorce and also for expulsing men from pulpits. A Google search on this phrase came back with 72,200 hits. Here’s the definition given by one of those web sites:
"An emotional affair occurs when one member of a relationship consistently turns to someone else for their core, primary emotional support in life. It often develops slowly, even innocently, as a friendship with a co-worker or friend. There may or may not be a romantic/sexual attraction initially accompanying this budding friendship."
Adding the word "emotional" in front of "affair" does not make this a case of adultery, yet that is how it is being treated in the world today, and through osmosis, in the church as well. Surely it is a signal that a marriage needs to be worked on, but it is not grounds for divorce or pastoral disqualification. The church has bought the world’s philosophy and the devil is using it to destroy marriages and ministries.
I am in no way defending pastors who have fallen into these traps. Spouses are hurt by such things and the offending partner needs to repent of it and turn away from those wrong friendships and cling to his wife. And the elders need to hold such men accountable and they should be confronted. But it is NOT the same thing as having a sexual affair – not the same thing at all. But because of the influence of the world, the distinctions have been blurred.
A recent situation brought this to my attention. I was contacted by a woman – Let’s call her Liza. She had read my criticism of the teachings of a pastor, whose teachings I had publicly refuted. I guess she thought I was out to get him and sought me out to assist her in getting her own retribution on him. Liza told me that they had had a two-year "emotional affair." She had gone to him for counseling and they had become friends and shared their problems with each other. I tried to get her definition of affair and so I asked questions such as "Did he ever kiss you?" No, she said, but he held her hand as she poured out her heart to him about her marriage problems. And he complained to her about his own marriage difficulties. I thought it was quite amazing that they poured out their hearts to each other for two years and he never made a pass at her. Liza forwarded to me emails between the two of them to demonstrate, she thought, how he was playing her along and trying to break up her marriage. But the emails revealed that she was more of the aggressor than he was, and in the email in which she accused him of leading her on, he responded in shock that she would ever have gotten that impression.
But Liza was insisting to leaders in this man’s church that he be exposed to his entire congregation and to be labeled disqualified for ministry forever.
I’ve seen this in several churches in recent years. So-called "emotional affairs" are given the same weight as actual sexual affairs. These men have mustered up their inner strength to avoid crossing the line sexually, and yet are treated as if they had committed adultery. Certainly Jesus said all who look upon a woman with lust are guilty of adultery, but if we applied that criteria to the ministry we wouldn’t have many qualified candidates for preaching. It’s one of those cases of "those without sin cast the first stone." But those stones are being hurled and this is not right.
The church is letting the world take the lead in casting people aside. We need to get back to Scripture as our criteria for marriage and ministry and be open to forgiveness and restoration, lest we drive a pastor into the arms of a sympathetic friend of the opposite sex.


     Heavenly Father, Protect your ministers from the snare of the seductive wo/man who is lonely and looking for companionship in all the wrong places. Give your people wisdom in knowing where to draw the line in friendships with the opposite sex and help them to flee from immorality. Open our eyes to the schemes of the enemy and the accuser of the brethren who will use our good intentions against us. Save Christian marriages from this attack of the enemy and help us to differentiate between Your voice and the psychobabble of this world that is devoid of lasting commitment as they take the easy way out. Set us apart as vessels of honor in a world devoid of high moral standards. Help us to avoid the appearance of evil and keep our feet from stumbling. In the name of Your Son, Yeshua Ha'Mashiach. Amen.


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