My heart breaks for the spiritual abuse of people whose heart’s desire is to do the best, but who believe (from childhood training) that their best will never be good enough. I have counseled women who suffered sexual abuse by pastors, and whose legalistic churches turned a blind eye to them. I’ve counseled youth and adults who will not find peace because they cannot please an unpleasable parent. And I have counseled LGBTQ tormented by fear of hell because of an orientation that will not change and they never chose.
Hellfire and damnation is a good way to keep people under your thumb, but it is not the heart of God for his children. If you are tormented by fear, please know that is attack of the enemy. God does not torment us with fear. He is the comforter who longs to pull us under his wings like a mother hen. Going to hell for being gay has been an ‘effective’ fear tactic, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. We are saved by Jesus alone, not our behavior. Jesus railed on the religious leaders who clobbered people with passages 2000 years ago, and that has not changed. Those who trampled the little guy to retain power, control and money are as reprehensible now as they were then, and I will do my best to stand against them and to encourage you.
(John, this one’s for you.)
Now for your heart. If you are struggling with spiritual oppression — which means doubt about whether you’re really saved, whether you’re going to hell, whether you have lost your salvation — let me tell you, it’s ALL from the enemy. I strongly recommend you find someone to pray with you for freedom from the spiritual oppression of this stronghold in your life. ALL the enemy has are lies and false accusations. That’s it.
Certainly pray on your own behalf for freedom from this stronghold, but also find someone trustworthy to pray with you for freedom. (NOT someone from that old denomination, no one legalistic.) No one needs to be tormented. We are either under condemnation or we are not — and Romans 8:1 says we are NOT under condemnation. The whole NT goes to great length to tell us not to live under the law, we’re not under the law, we are to live in grace and not allow anyone to put us back under the law. It’s the pervading theme of Paul’s letters! We get so sidetracked splitting hairs over specific instructions Paul gives specific groups, some of them in answer to specific questions, that we often forget the pervading theme of freedom from the law. All of that applies to real live ways in which we miss the mark (sin), as well those things which we experience fasle shame and guilt from abuse of spiritual authority. And no shame is not evidence of guilt;
Only two people have anything to do with sheep: shepherds or butchers. The shepherd is kind and loving and caring and generous. The butcher is hard and driving and unloving and self-interested. So when you hear the voice saying you are in danger, you’re wrong, etc — if it sounds condemning, you can bet who’s saying it. When the shepherd corrects you, he does it in a way that inspires hope, that whatever it is you’ll be able to make amends and move forward. It’s also specific. (“You were unkind to your neighbor, you can apologize so you keep a good relationship.” Versus, “You were rude – you’re a rude person. What a loser.”) Do you see what I mean?
Hearing daily that you’re going to hell is surely the butcher, because he hates you, and torment is all he has. The Shepherd does not speak like that.
In the ever-abundant, life-giving love of Christ,