Corruption in the Church: 4 Motivations for God Allowing it
It’s surprising sometimes that abuse and corruption finds its way right inside the church. I’m embarrassed that people outside the church see these things and make the assumption that all Christians are abusing, cheating thieves. I hate that! Do you ever wonder why God doesn’t sweep in and zap these abusers like he did Ananias and Sapphira. They fell dead on the spot when their corruption was revealed. Well, it’s true that most criminals and abusers get caught at some point. So if God allows these wrongdoers to go unchecked for a time he must have good reason. I’ve thought a lot about this and here’s what I’ve come up with.
1. To Purify his Bride
Just as the impurities in raw gold cannot be extracted without heat so it is with the purity of the church. It’s clear we haven’t reached heaven yet and until we do there will be trouble in the church. There are times when pollutants in the church are brought to the surface so they can be eliminated. Often this is accompanied by great pain and suffering on the part of those who are trying to address abuse and sin in the church.
We might ask why this isn’t happening all the time. Why aren’t we continually seeing sinful and abusive behavior being flushed out of the church? Sometimes it takes putting up with a certain amount of sin before God’s people are awakened and get disgusted enough to take action. Like in parenting, be it good or bad, we often let bad attitudes and sinful behaviors slide until we reach the disciplinary point of no return. I think God treats us the same way. Sometimes he reaches the point where he says, “That’s it, this must be dealt with.”
Taking into account what is happening in the church we may be observing such a move of God. If that is indeed what is taking place we will want to ensure that we are completely on the side of the Lord and not be partakers in any actions or attitudes that might come under God’s discipline. It’s never wise to put God to the test. Luke 4:12
2. To Allow his Followers to See the Depravity of Man
The first two Bible verses I memorized as a child were Jeremiah 17:9 and Isaiah 53:6. Both of these verses speak to the depravity of man. They teach us that we are sinful to the core. I’m so glad that someone thought a small child needed to learn the truth about the human condition. This helped me begin to understand that I needed something greater than myself to take care of my sin problem. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.
Sometimes we forget that we’re still sinful. Like Pharisees we lose perspective and begin to see ourselves as God’s gift to the world. I get the sense that in the early church God’s people spent quite a bit of time confessing their sins to one another. Apparently, like us, they had a lot to confess. When we observe a leader fall we should take note that we too are plagued by sin. Yes, that sin needs to come out into the light but in the process let’s not forget we’re sinners too. It’s an opportunity to press in to purity.
James 4:8 (NIV) Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
3. To Help us Relate to his Suffering for the Gospel
Jesus said, “If they persecuted me they will persecute you.” John 15:20. Let’s not forget that those who persecuted Jesus the most were religious leaders. And the trouble he faced came from right inside the temple. So don’t be surprised when you experience persecution and abuse coming from those you thought were on the right side. Remember that foxes do the most damage when they’re on the inside of the hen house. So if you’re experiencing adversity at the hands of supposed fellow believers know that you share in the sufferings of Christ. He sees and cares that you suffer in his name.
4. To Strengthen the Resolve of his Followers
We tend to think of scandals and abuse in the church as an anomaly when we run across it. When we hear about the grievous actions of a leader in another church we tend to think not in my church. The truth is that the New Testament actually indicates that running across troublemakers in the church might actually be more normative. There are numerous warnings to be aware of those who would infiltrate the church and stir up trouble. For a list of these scriptural warnings click here
While the evil one works to destroy the church and distort the gospel message one of the byproducts of scandal and deep church conflict can be the strengthening of God’s people. It’s often in the wake of realizing the deceitfulness of our enemy that we renew our determination to strive ahead.
It’s true that trouble makes us bitter or it makes us better. I’ve seen both responses in Christians who’ve been wounded by abuse in the church. It’s understandable that some have left the church because of deep wounds but I believe that what some intended for evil God can use for good. My prayer is that if you’ve experienced pain from spiritual abuse you will allow God to turn your suffering and your wounds into strength for combating evil in the church.