Some time ago I received this letter from a reader:
The scripture that caused more pain, confusion and hopelessness in my two-decade bondage in an abusive marriage was this one from 1 Cor.7:13-16.
“If you’re a woman married to an unbeliever and he wants to live with you, hold onto him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife…otherwise YOUR CHILDREN WOULD BE LEFT OUT; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God. . . . For how do you know O wife whether YOU WILL SAVE your husband.”
Ohhh, the pain, the staggering confounding pain these verses have caused.
I know it must grow wearying to many Jesus-lovers to hear of one Christian leader after another being accused of seriously disqualifying sins and even crimes. I become weary too, but not because I believe the accusations are false or nit-picky. No, I’m glad for any such truths that are coming out, and I’m glad criminals and hypocrites are being exposed. It’s the hypocrisy itself I grow weary of.
The hypocrisy was especially brought to my attention this time in an article my husband told me about a couple of days ago, which defended one of the recently accused, Bill Hybels (who has been accused of long-term adultery as well as attempts at seduction, allegations against whom can be found here and hereandhere).
The other day I received a request to comment on the topic of God punishing us for our sins in a seemingly random way:
It was ingrained heavily when I was a child that God punishes us for things long after we’ve repented. Any “bad” sin leads to year and years of punishment, even if it’s been repented of fully. My parents will say this often, that someone (even their own child) is being punished because of a very bad [unrelated] sin. I’ve felt an incredible amount of guilt and shame over my child’s health problems and always wonder if it was because of my sin.
Occasionally I’ve talked with friends who have feared they haven’t really forgiven the person who harmed them. “I keep thinking about the harm,” she might say. “It keeps hurting. So that makes me think I haven’t really forgiven.”
It’s not only a common feeling, but also a common accusation.
[One book I’m reading] talks a lot about loving yourself. Every time I read that phrase, I flinch, because my theology in the past has been based on the idea that I’m sinful and thus there’s nothing about myself to love. This article from Desiring God [“Do You Love Yourself Enough?”] sums up the viewpoint perfectly.
But what about God’s grace? What about the work of Jesus on the cross, that purifies us, and our new natures now that we’re in Christ? I’m conflicted at the moment. Where does self-love fit with the Gospel? Am I sinful? Am I a worthless worm? Is there really nothing good in me? What about “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”?