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Author Archive | Wendy

Have You Been Dis-illusioned?

I just turned forty-eight years old, and I get the idea of a mid-life crisis in a way I did not in my twenties or thirties. I walk with many brothers and sisters in Christ experiencing mid-life crises as well. Many believers have them, but we may miss it since most of us remain disciplined enough not to buy a sexy new sports car or have an affair.
Putting away stereotypes of acting out a mid-life crisis, it is valuable for us to consider what happens in mid-life to believers, why we might have a crisis of belief about our life, our person, or our God, and how God Himself meets us in it.
The timing varies person to person, but I think of mid-life as the stage of life when our naïvete wears off, and we become disillusioned.
Disillusion—to free or deprive of illusion.*
Disillusion—to destroy the false but pleasant beliefs (held by a person).**
Those definitions gut me, because that is exactly what happens to many of us in our thirties and forties. It certainly happened to me. I have watched many others struggle as their idea of the good Christian life crumbled before the reality of the life they truly faced. …
Finish this post at Read Your Story, the blog of Christy Rood. There is hope after disillusionment!


Is Numbers 5 Good for Women?

After an interview for Is the Bible Good for Women?, one of my friends who interviewed me asked me about another hard passage in Scripture that I didn’t address in the book. It was the Trial by Ordeal that Numbers 5 prescribes for wives whose husbands have a “feeling of jealousy” without any proof adultery actually took place.The passage was disturbing to me, but I’ve learned studying Deuteronomy 21 and 22 that careful study of these passages can actually give us precious nuggets of Jesus-centered truth when we read them in context of the long story of Jesus in Scripture. So I set off on a study, and once again, was encouraged that God’s long plan for His daughters on earth is truly good.

Numbers 5 is a good case study on hard Old Testament laws that singularly focus on women. It well reflects the harsh reality of life for women in particular after the Fall. It reflects the problem with humankind. But what does it reflect about God the Father? What does it reflect about Jesus? What is its place in the long story of Scripture fulfilled by Jesus in the gospels?

I’ll summarize Numbers 5:11-31, but I recommend you read it for yourself as well.

God told Moses, “If any man’s wife goes astray, is unfaithful to him, and sleeps with another, but it is concealed from her husband, and she is undetected, … and if a feeling of jealousy comes over the husband and he becomes jealous because of his wife who has defiled herself—or if a feeling of jealousy comes over him and he becomes jealous of her though she has not defiled herself—then the man is to bring his wife to the priest.” The husband is also to bring a grain offering along with his wife. The priest then brings her forward before the Lord and gives her holy water mixed with dust from the tabernacle floor, “bitter water that brings a curse.” She will be unaffected by this bitter water if she is innocent of the accusations. But if she is guilty, “the water that brings a curse will enter her to cause bitter suffering; her belly will swell, and her womb will shrivel. She will become a curse among her people.”

Note: Here, God gave Moses steps for judging between a jealous husband and his wife who may or may not have committed undetected adultery. There is no proof of adultery. The Bible gives different laws elsewhere if the wife is caught in adultery.

We call this type of ritual a TRIAL BY ORDEAL. The Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts made Trial by Ordeal famous. Such trials have a long history in many cultures throughout the world. There were various types of trials—trials by fire, trials by burning oil, trials by hot water, trials by cold water, trials by drinking acid, and trials by combat. Most medieval Trials by Ordeal had a common theme, that the gods would protect an innocent person from being harmed. Throw someone tied up into a cold river, and if he was innocent, he’d miraculously float to the top. Force a woman to walk across hot coals, and if she was not burned (or her burns healed quickly), she was innocent of the accusations against her. Religious leaders believed the miraculous intervention of the gods would keep a person safe in a situation meant to harm them. That’s how most ancient trials by ordeal worked.

Modern believers recognize the multiple problems with a trial by ordeal. Such trials seem the work of superstitious people lacking common sense, without access to scientific facts we now take for granted. But what should modern believers do when we encounter a trial by ordeal not in superstitious medieval religious cultures but in the words of the Bible itself?!

It helps to remember that the gospels clearly reveal the Son of God as one who elevates women above their oppressed cultural status. And Jesus Himself taught in Luke 24 that all of the Law and Prophets (which hold many oppressive passages related to women) are ultimately about Him, pointing to His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus’s words in Luke 24:27, tell us clearly that the Law of Moses, such as instructions in Numbers 5, somehow points to Him, somehow gives insight into what He came to do and the necessity of both His death and His resurrection for the sins of mankind. This Old Testament law speaks into the necessity of repentance, Jesus says, which is our first tool for approaching this Biblically sanctioned Trial by Ordeal.

One sided accusations

Numbers 5 is addressing a particular situation in which adultery is suspected but there is no external proof. The husband experiences a “feeling of jealousy” which in verse 14 may or may not be because his wife actually defiled their marriage. This reminds me of Deuteronomy 22’s laws for a husband accusing his wife of not being a virgin at their marriage. Note that in both passages, there doesn’t seem to be the opposite problem, wives accusing their husbands of sexual unfaithfulness. Though other laws on sexual faithfulness apply equitably to both sexes, these accusations of unfaithfulness seem one sided.

It is no secret that the Old Testament reflects a fallen culture that was naturally inclined against women. At the Fall of Man, God said this would be the case. Woman will naturally turn toward the man, but he will oppressively rule over her in response (“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Gen. 3:16 CSB). We see gendered oppression play out regularly in the pages of the Bible the rape of Dinah, Tamar, and the unnamed concubine in Judges are particularly harsh examples. In that fallen, survival-of-the-fittest world, women were commodities among powerful men, which often resulted in irrational, unjust jealousy. In Numbers 5, as in John 8, only the woman was singled out for punishment for a two-party violation of the marriage covenant. Even if she had, in fact, been a party to adultery that broke covenant with both her husband and God, the injustice of the woman bearing the sole consequences without mention of her male partner in sin is obvious.

Unjust accusation

Even worse, this law seems to accommodate an unjust accusation by a jealous husband against a wife as well. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see the seriousness of the sin against the wife in such a case. In his commentary on Numbers 5, Matthew Henry reminds us that “charity in general, much more conjugal affection, teaches to think no evil, 1 Co. 13:5.” But in Numbers 5, the husband’s violation of love by way of an unjust accusation isn’t condemned. It isn’t until the New Testament that we see clear teaching on unjust accusations as violation of the command to love. Why then does this law in Numbers 5 not include some measure of this teaching?

We are confronted with an issue that comes up again and again in the long story of Scripture and in our own lives at times as well.

This is where Luke 24 is particularly helpful. Consider how the Bible slowly builds our expectation of the coming Messiah. Why did God assure Satan of his coming destruction by Jesus in Genesis 3:15 and then wait thousands of years before calling Abraham with the next step in the plan of salvation? Why did he wait around 500 years after Abraham’s call before bringing Israel out of Egypt? Why did He wait another 1400 years past the Exodus before the Messiah was born?

I often ponder 1 Peter 3:8 which says, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” I know God’s perspective of time is very different than my own, but when reconciliation of oppression does not happen in a lifetime, I have no other tools to understand the patient pace of His movement. Our hope as believers is that injustice in this life is fully reconciled in the next, and this passage requires that understanding as much as any.

Yet, even this injustice points to Jesus’s coming in the New.

Interpreting Scripture with Scripture

Despite the obvious problems in Numbers 5, we have tools in our toolbox to better understand this passage. The most important tool is the fact that the Bible is the best commentary on itself.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.” Luke 24 gives us helpful commentary on Numbers 5. But there are other Scriptures that do as well.

In Numbers 5, we are confronted with a passage that can go negatively in our own heads quickly depending on what we believe about God. What do other passages in the Bible teach of the character of God? I find it helpful to review things I know from Scripture about God’s character when confronting a troubling passage like this.

Isaiah 28:29 (CSB)

This also comes from the Lord of Armies.
He gives wondrous advice;
he gives great wisdom.

So could there be some wisdom in here for folks living in that time and place, for men and women facing those types of temptations in ancient Middle Eastern culture?

Exodus 34:6 (CSB)

The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

Compassion comes from the Latin for suffering with someone. God enters into the suffering of His children. He is not distant from them, and He is faithful in His love of them. So could God be showing compassion for the accused wife in this passage?

Psalm 119:68 (CSB)

You are good, and you do what is good;
teach me your statutes.

Simply put, God is good. He does what is good. So His statutes are then worth engaging when we are unsure, because we trust His character.

Consider the context. Remember that civilization isn’t very civilized at this point in humanity. In the context of the ancient world, including outside the bounds of Israel, a husband was understood to have full authority over his wife and, if accused of adultery, would have been well within his cultural rights to divorce her without cause and in some cases even put her to death. For instance, in the Code of Hammurabi, an accused wife was expected to “jump into the river for her husband” if he similarly accused her of unfaithfulness, even in the absence of evidence.

Not so for God’s people. In God’s household, if a husband accused a wife without evidence, God commanded that the priest be called in to mediate. Do you start to hear whispers of the good news of Jesus?

The accuser with all the cultural power could not decide the consequences for himself. He had to submit to another who stood in protection of his wife and determined her guilt or innocence by process before God, not by simple suspicion or accusation.

The accused wife was to drink holy water sprinkled with tabernacle dust. And here is the great difference in medieval trials by ordeal, and even those in the Code of Hammurabi contemporary to the Law of Moses, that promised death to the accused unless there was miraculous intervention. Instead, the miracle in this trial would be if the woman was harmed, not if she was saved. This water was most likely from the same source used for ritual cleansing throughout the book of Leviticus. The drink might taste gritty, but it would not be poisonous. It would take a miracle to prove her guilt, not to prove her innocence. She was naturally protected by the process rather than threatened by it.

While this odd procedure can easily become the focus of the passage, drawing our attention to other trials by ordeal throughout history, it is the mediation of the priest that is a better focus, pointing to the long story of Scripture ultimately fulfilled by Christ. John Calvin notes in his commentary on Numbers 5 that “many are causelessly suspicious” and suggests that Numbers 5 is protecting against “trifling suspicions” of husbands against wives. The role of the priest then is key in Calvin’s understanding because “when jealousy has once taken possession of the mind, there is no room for moderation or equity.” In this law, God, the just Judge, stepped in through the mediation of the priest to protect the woman against unjust accusation.

But the process seems by no means perfect, leaving us to wonder why God prescribed this method and not some other more precise one, or just teaching us as He does in I Cor. 13 that agape love puts away suspicions and acts in good faith.

Here we must remember another verse on the Law that give us helpful commentary for understanding the problems in Numbers 5.

Galatians 3:24—

24 The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.

Rather than producing righteousness in the heart of God’s children, the Law was a tutor/guardian/keeper that pointed us to our need for Christ. Numbers 5 may have temporarily provided protection for the wife from an unjust accusation in a way that Trials by Ordeal in other cultures did not, but it did not change the heart of the husband sinning against his wife through unjust accusation. It is this very injustice that shows us our need for something more than the Law could provide. And here, we have hints of that better thing in Jesus that the Law teaches us we need.

This human priest is commanded to step into an unjust situation and stay the hand of jealousy, albeit in a limited way. But this points to our better mediator, our great High Priest and mediator before God, Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5).

1 Timothy 2:5 (CSB)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus,

What is the point of a mediator? They are advocates who stand between an accuser and a judge. In Numbers 5, the husband unjustly accuses, and apart from this law, would likely set up himself as accuser, judge, and executioner. The priest steps in to mediate before God, the just judge. The priest protects this woman from an unjust accusation, as Jesus stepped into our lives stopping both the unjust and the just accusations of the accuser, Satan.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down. (Revelation 12:10)

Why have Satan’s accusations of us before God the Judge been hurled down? Because they were satisfied by Christ’s payment for our sins on the cross! This is key to understanding how Numbers 5 fits into the long story of Jesus in Scripture. Numbers 5 affords wives priestly protection from accusation and misuse, though in an imperfect, partial way. This law was a tutor, pointing to Jesus, yet still unable to make men fully righteous.

In the Gospels, we see the fulfillment in Christ, as Jesus stepped in to halt the just condemnation of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and silenced the shameful accusations against the sinful woman of Luke 7. Ultimately Jesus on the cross silenced for all time both the just and the unjust accusations of Satan against us all, male and female. He brought our case before God the Father, Judge over all the earth, protecting us from unjust accusation and paying the penalty for the just ones. Jesus became “a curse among (the) people” in our place (Num. 5:21). Numbers 5 then is a tutor that points us to the One Mediator between God and men who silences all accusations against those who believe for all time. Apart from its context in the long story of Scripture, Numbers 5 is troubling and confusing. But understood as a tutor showing us our need for Jesus, this law is transformed into something truly beautiful.

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”



Women’s Ministry Coaching

I have met a number of life coaches over the last decade, a growing trend that I admit I’ve always thought a little hokey. Hokey is the best word I can come up with, indicating a general unease or weirdness about the concept without any real data or even anecdotes attached to that weirdness. It just seemed odd and suspicious (my apologies to any who do that kind of thing for a full-time living). Without looking at any real data, I thought of it as a job for folks who liked to talk about things more than they actually liked DOING things. It made me think of that old saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Despite the critique in that saying, I know my own desire to teach is a spiritual gift, and I have embraced that gift with gusto. I am coming to see coaching in a similar fashion, and my opinion of it has changed.

The primary thing that changed my opinion on Christian coaching was (as fits a math teacher) some data on the subject. In this video, Ross Kaellner at Tailored Coaching shared interesting results from a survey that convinced me that there was more benefit to a coaching/mentor relationship (with clear parameters and accountability from both sides to persevere with the relationship) than I had originally credited to such a venture.

All that to say, I am going to coach through Tailored Coaching starting in April. The topic is Women’s Ministry and Practical Theology, with six sessions for leaders on developing a women’s ministry that is …

1. Mission Driven.

This session will lay a foundation for orienting a women’s ministry around the larger vision for discipleship in the local church of which it is a part.

2. Jesus Centered.

In Luke 24, Jesus taught His disciples that all of Scripture points to Him, including the hardest parts of the Old Testament. This session will cover what a Jesus-centered hermeneutic looks like when developing and presenting content from Scripture.

3. Gospel Focused.

As leaders develop vision, content, and strategies, even the best will fail without the gospel as the oil that keeps the engine running. Friction inevitably develops when leaders attach their identity to how well their strategies are received. The good news of Jesus offers us an identity that holds fast whether we are affirmed or critiqued in ministry.

4. Theologically Rich.

How do leaders communicate the riches of the knowledge of God in ways that women in a particular ministry can receive and apply? This session will aid in developing practical theology—content that is both doctrinally correct and relevant to women’s daily lives.

5. Relationally Relevant. 

Every individual church’s culture is at least slightly different from the next. This session will focus on understanding the language and culture of a leader’s particular church and translating into that culture in ways women in that ministry can receive.

6. Women’s Ministry Troubleshooting.

This session will help apply our understanding of the Triune God and our union with Christ to the various issues that cause frustration and discouragement in women’s ministries–gossip, family dynamics, critique, friction with other leaders, etc.

I am particularly excited about the first session, on helping folks develop women’s ministries that reinforce the larger mission of the church, working with pastors and elders to be genuine helps to their work of equipping disciples in the church. Pastors need the support of women leaders in their congregations. And women need the support of their pastors in a congregation. Building mutual relationships between pastors, elders, deacons, and deaconesses for the discipleship of the church is a great need about which I hear regularly.

If any of this sounds intriguing or helpful to you, you can find more information about it here. There is a cost, but I hope that cost feels reasonable for the time invested by all parties to make this a mutually accountable relationship. The first session begins on Friday, April 20. All monthly sessions will be on Fridays from 10 am – 12 pm Eastern. I apologize to west coast friends and hope down the road to offer sessions more convenient to those in mountain and pacific time zones.

Join us if you can!

The Head of Jack Pearson’s Family

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Biblical concept of head and headship. I’m interested in the concept in part because it is a theological point of great debate for those who like to discuss gender and biological sex in Scripture and the Church. Headship (a word not actually in Scripture) can be used as a bludgeon to keep women and kids in line, and in some cases, to justify various forms of abuse in the church and home. But on a more practical level, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about headship because I lost one head in my divorce and fell back on another (my dad) after it. Now, my dad is sitting in a hospital room, as dear to me as ever, fighting off congestive heart failure. Between tears and prayers, I contemplate all that he has meant to me as my head (a word by the way he probably has never associated with himself since it isn’t emphasized in his Christian circles). Daddy just IS a head, without being all focused on what the word means in debates about gender and the Church.

I also spent last weekend catching up on all the episodes I had missed of This is Us (SPOILERS AHEAD), including Jack’s death after rescuing his wife and kids from the house fire. The culminating episode for me was not the one with his death, but the episode about the family car, which became a metaphor for his desire to see his wife and kids happy and healthy, or as he put it, “OK.” And the final scenes showed that they were OK. For all they had experienced, Jack’s care of them in life set them on a bumpy trajectory, yet one they survived and even in some cases flourished. He gave them a financial and educational footing. He sacrificed in life to provide for them. And twenty years after his death, his legacy lived on in their lives.

In terms of a Christian story of headship, Jack’s story lacked a vision of spiritual guidance and any kind of church involvement. But it did highlight to me an important nugget of Biblical headship, one that my dad also exhibits to me. For all of our debate about AUTHORITY in the home as it relates to headship, Jack and my dad exhibit instead RESPONSIBILITY in the home as it relates to headship. There are all kinds of authorities in our lives who do not take responsibility for our well-being, for our flourishing. But Jack did for his family, and my dad has for his.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When Daddy says, “Jump,” all of his daughters ask, “How high?” Even as adults, we respect him as an authority in our lives. But Daddy doesn’t give orders much. He never has assumed an authoritarian role in our lives. And Jack didn’t either. Daddy never demanded the right to give us instructions. But he earned the right. He sacrificed for us. Over and over again, he made the hard choices he needed to provide for us, including a college education he saw as a tool to launch us out into the world without debt so that we could in turn provide for our children. Today as an adult with some life experience under my belt, I am aware of the weight he bore on his shoulders to provide for us and take responsibility for our well-being. His delight is for his family to be happy and flourishing, and when we suffer, he steps in to carry it with us as best as he can still to this day.

Black Panther and Wonder Woman gave us visions of woman as ezer and necessary ally in the image of God, but they both did so in unrealistic settings. Still, as a woman, I found both inspirational. In contrast, Jack in This is Us reminded me of the beauty and value of a father and husband who takes loving responsibility for the welfare of his family in a setting I could directly relate to. Jack didn’t seem to know Christ, but he made me think of fathers who do, my father in particular.

I have lost one head, and I have felt that loss in a thousand painful ways. But that loss highlights for me what the concept of head in Scripture represents and helps me now see it when it shows up in good and right ways. Jack was an inspiring picture of a flawed head, and the flourishing of his children (despite their scars and wounds) reminds me of the real life person sitting in this hospital room with me who has, for nearly 60 years, taken responsibility for the flourishing of his daughters and stood in the gap for us when others did not.

That, friends, is a Biblical head.

Confessing Sin in the Midst of Suffering

I’ve been on a long, hard journey of suffering. Unlike previous trials which let up over time, the last few years of my life have only had new trials added to the previous ones, culminating in a breast cancer diagnosis in July that was compounded by what we thought was a second abdominal cancer found in October (biopsy results finally showed that it is NOT cancer, thank God). Two surgeries later, I was in a really bad mood. I was angry. I was bitter. I was snarky. I could only see the lack, not the good, in people’s actions toward me. I complained to friends who kindly let me vent. And many encouraged me and prayed for me.

Finally, after a few days of wrestling with very dark emotions, the Holy Spirit broke through and strongly convicted me of my sin of complaining.

There is nothing like trying to parent complaining middle school children to remind one of all the verses against complaining. I talk with my boys regularly about facing hardship with a happy attitude, because I know (when I stop complaining myself and actually think about it) that complaining only makes hard things worse. Years ago, my pastor preached a sermon from Philippians on this subject, and it ministered great grace to me. I’ve never forgotten it.  God’s instructions to not complain are a GIFT OF GRACE from Him for us to endure in hard times.

But I had forgotten that truth.

The Lord reminded me in that way only He can orchestrate. My boys have been reading through The Journey, and as my son walked by me, in the midst of my very negative attitude, I asked him about his reading for that day.

“It was on the Israelites being bitten by snakes because they complained, and Moses making a snake on a cross.”

Oh, the arrow of conviction through my heart. The Spirit wasn’t whispering. He was shouting. Complaining destroys the soul. I’m not suffering because of my sin, but my sin certainly doesn’t help me endure in my suffering.

Now, for some, this may sound like legalistic condemnation. Except it’s not. If you listen to the sermon I referenced above, you’ll hear a compelling case for these instructions from God against complaining being help and grace to His children to navigate a harsh, sinful world. I have found them to be that for myself. The bottom line is that, in the middle of my deep and painful suffering, grumbling and complaining do not help me. They won’t help you either. Grumbling and complaining actually weigh our spirits down even more than whatever circumstances we were already facing.

So I confessed my spirit of complaining to God. I submitted to His instructions. He forgave me, and I immediately felt a release of some of the burden weighing me down.

The Bible talks of sin this way. It’s a weight. It’s a burden.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

I was tempted to ignore my sin, to justify it as if I only needed to confess sin when things were going well for me. But complaining doesn’t start or stop being a sin based on how justified I feel in my complaint. In the midst of very deep suffering, I found that acknowledging my sin didn’t create a new weight for me to carry on top of all my other burdens. Instead, it actually LIFTED some of the burden. And that is the profound beauty of the gospel of Christ.

Did Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Ecclesiology Conflict with U. S. Law?

[edited to note that Maryland began requiring mandatory reporting of abuse by clergy around 2003. Allegations of abuse in SGM span several decades, many preceding mandatory reporting by clergy. Allegations are that SGM elders covered up crimes by pressuring families not to report sexual crimes against minors to civil authorities.]


Conversations with wise friends (including Bekah Mason and Rachael Starke) have given me clarity on the disconnect between Sovereign Grace’s language and understanding of their “cover-up” of sexual abuse versus that of most of the rest of folks (I hope) in evangelical circles. I am not writing THIS POST to either exonerate or condemn Sovereign Grace or CJ Mahaney’s handling of sexual abuse claims. I am writing THIS POST to explore the logical disconnect between what leaders at SGM believe they did in response to allegations of sexual abuse and what others see as a cover-up.

Sovereign Grace Ministry leaders really do not believe they covered anything up because they don’t accept the premise that they were obligated to report sexual abuse in the first place.

SGM leaders interpret or define the phrase “cover-up” as the suppression of facts rooted in malicious intentions. They saw reporting at the time of these events as a choice they had, not something they were obligated to do. The essential problem then is that they put themselves above the law as a direct result of their ecclesiology and hierarchy. SGM leaders issuing these statements truly do not think they did anything wrong. Why? Because they created a hermetically sealed world in their churches and singular denomination where the elders were not submitted to anyone except themselves and CJ – including even the US government.

The key problem isn’t the scandalous details of the abuse–it’s the underlying authority structures and ecclesiology that made these elders think the right thing to do was to keep allegations in house.

CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace elders cannot admit to any wrong doing because they simply don’t have a category for it. They view themselves as apostles, receiving direct word from God Himself through the charismatic gifts. This theology then fed their understanding of their own authority as elders over themselves and others in their congregations. They can not confess anything else until they first recognize and confess failure to submit themselves to secular governing authority. Until they understand that their “apostleship” did not mean that they did not have to obey Romans 13 (which was written by actual apostles), all other reasoning to them is useless. Instead of seeing God’s law commanding their obedience to civil law, they saw themselves as above it.

In the ministry Mahaney built, some of these features were readily apparent. SGM represented a society unto itself, one that functioned parallel to mainstream culture and that distrusted that wider, secular world. “They believe God’s law comes before civil law,” as one former member says.

This is why SGM statements repeatedly use language that there was “no conspiracy.” Mahaney and elders didn’t conspire behind each others’ backs to hide allegations – these allegations weren’t hidden at all. They just weren’t reported to authorities. It was actual policy at SGM to deal with things in house. When they handled it in house, they thought they WERE handling it. Before folks criticize SGM’s ill informed techniques for how they handled abuse in house, the first issue is that they kept it in house at all. This is the stumbling block that keeps SGM from acknowledging their sin (by not obeying Romans 13) that resulted in ongoing abuse that harmed many.

In order for SGM elders to understand their complicity in ongoing abuse, one may need to break down the issue for them:

a. This is the definition of sexual abuse … Did you know sexual abuse occurred?

b. Did you report it to police?

c. If not, then you have actively covered up a crime.

d. This is the statute on mandatory reporters of sexual abuse.

e. Did you train your elders to NOT obey that statute?

f. Then you set up a church system that violated and obstructed the law.

Really, the question for CJ Mahaney and his fellow SGM elders is, “During the period in question, did you believe you needed to submit to the governing authorities concerning the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse in your congregations? Did you teach other leaders that they needed to submit to the governing authorities concerning the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse in your congregations?”

If the answer to either is “no”, that is sin, and SGM elders need to confess and repent.

Romans 13

Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. 2 So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. 4 For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath but also because of your conscience.


*I found this article a helpful journalistic review of the SGM sexual abuse scandal.

Donald Trump and Margaret Sanger

After his vulgar comments about African nations and their immigrants, one NBC reporter called Donald Trump “racially ignorant.” I’ve heard several label his comments “insensitive.” He’s certainly not politically correct. But for thinking believers submitted to Christ and the Word, hoping to influence our world in Kingdom ways, we need to understand the philosophy behind Trump’s comments beyond the mere fact that he is insensitive.

Last night, it finally dawned on me who Donald Trump most sounded like (minus the vulgarities) on immigration.

Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

“In a democratic society where the vote of one is as good as that of another, it is a dangerous procedure to accept a way of life where the poor, ignorant, diseased and mentally and socially unfit maintain the stock of the population.” Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger did some good things that women take for granted today, particularly gaining access through the courts to birth control methods that prevented conception that had been previously outlawed by congress. On the way, she also founded Planned Parenthood, which we all know to do far more than prevent conception, which we rightly lobby against as Christians for the millions of murders of unborn image-bearers.

I read an autographed biography of Sanger for a project in college. It was an old book, written before her death in 1966, though I don’t know the exact date. I always figured her autograph in the front meant she approved the book. Her early work is fascinating to study – the very real issues she grappled with, her compassion toward women dying of back alley abortions, her desire for childbirth to be as much in a woman’s control as it was in a man’s. But these real issues, removed from a Christian understanding of the image-bearing dignity of every human, reinforced her beliefs in eugenics. She didn’t believe, as Hitler did, in eugenics by race. She believed in it more around poverty and lack of education.

Put together a little of Hitler’s and a lot of Sanger’s views on eugenics and throw them toward the White House. Then watch them unfurl like a mirror on Donald Trump.

“… keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphiletic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class … .” Margaret Sanger

Christians in the United States tend to understand uniformly the problems with, say, the murder of millions of unborn babies through Planned Parenthood or the enslavement and murder of millions of Jews by Hitler. What many don’t seem to get is that those actions started with a philosophy.

And that philosophy eventually led to those horrible atrocities.

Christians, mobilize yourselves, because philosophies like this lead to atrocities like this.

The basic philosophy held by Sanger and Hitler is one that is shared by Donald Trump – that some folks are worthy of protections and some folks aren’t, that a nation is stronger when they limit access to it by the weak and vulnerable, that some people groups are better off left to exterminate themselves.

This is eugenics. It defies basic Christian belief, and Donald Trump’s views are incompatible with Christ’s.