The final systemic belief fostering a culture of child sexual abuse is a distorted view of God’s grace and how that Grace is expressed. I’m not referring to the wonder of God’s love and giving everyone an opportunity to receive His forgiveness via the Cross of Christ.
I’m talking about the misuse of grace in holding Active Non Repentant Offenders (ANRO’S) accountable whether they’ve sexually abuse children, were unfaithful in their marriage, are thieves, or have drug, alcohol and pornography addictions. Whether the ANRO is in a Christian Culture or not, they refuse to stop hurting people, will talk about not getting enough grace, fears a loss of control and feels lousy when held accountable. Because they have a twisted view of being unique, they won’t tolerate conflicts of accountability.
LEVELS OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Many religious and secular communities promote accountability through mentoring, sharing formats or confidential online groups where acknowledgement and confession can happen. And for the remorseful, those formats help but they may not be equipped to counsel through the personal and relational wreckage. There are also organizations that can provide tracking software for phone calls and porn use.
Then there are deeper levels of accountability where the ANRO is caught in the act and faces tremendous losses that may involve their marriage, family, wealth, job, jail time and or, personal health. Unquestionably, this will call for a more radical and relational treatment setting, which is where my work often takes me.
ANRO’S REDEFINING GRACE
In that work, I’ve had Active Non Repentant Offenders say things like, “Jerry, I’ve studied the Bible and can’t see your accountability approach in the Bible.” These perpetrators love to ‘God-Talk’ their way out of anything. I’ve also had ANRO’S say, “I’ve studied the words of Jesus and nowhere does your approach have grace in it like Jesus has. In fact, I think its legalism.” Then, after the ANRO says something like that, this reasoning allows them to reject their accountability so they can continue to offend.
But before they leave, I’ll push back on their rationale to see if there’s any glimmer of hope for change and say, “You have manipulated the definition of grace which means you receive something you don’t deserve, to mean something you do deserve! If you are uncomfortable with an accountability that calls out your twisted thinking, your flagrantly irresponsible behavior and applies the consequences for your choices, then, you demand others (usually it’s a spouse and family) bleed and not you—like a blood sucker would.”
There is no doubt in my mind that lacking an understanding of our depravity is linked to this failure to understand grace and what it cost to have it.
SOMEONE HAS TO BLEED
Yes, Christ willingly shed his blood to satisfy the Father’s requirement for entering Heaven and enjoying His company. Anyone believing his sacrifice is enough can be forgiven. Yet, in many places, Christian culture has spiritualized grace by failing to see that the cross is also a model for relational accountability—a core reality or ingredient of grace. This is a principle of God’s grace: It is His way or no way on the road to forgiveness.
That means if a ANRO told Jesus they didn’t think it was right for God to reject others because they thought God didn’t extend enough grace to do it their way, what they’re saying wouldn’t matter. Calvary is the Grace boundary and God holds that line or it wouldn’t be grace. Neither ANRO’S nor anyone else can change this.
In kind, if we show grace to the Active Non Repentant Offender, we must understand it is our choice to bleed for and on behalf of another (Grace). No one, including the ANRO, can demand we do it, how we do it, or it wouldn’t be grace. In and of itself, the very fact they get another chance to repent is grace. But if ANRO’S won’t value this, they will attempt to redefine grace and remain an ANRO.
Frankly, I don’t believe this is understood within many ministries today.
THE MESSAGE VERSUS THE MESSENGER
Here’s good news for the ANRO. “Jesus bled and died for you, once and for all. It doesn’t matter what you have done!” And, this is true because humanity doesn’t have the means to make it to heaven on our own.
But, this wonderful message of Grace is twisted by how some think the messenger of Grace should hold Active Non Repentant Offenders accountable and that is where the confusion enters.
Suddenly, the combination of false beliefs these blogs have mentioned will foster a culture of child sexual abuse, allowing ANRO’S to control their accountability process:
1. Questions That Can’t Be Asked
2. The Breakdown of The Family Concept
3. Depravity Misunderstood
4. A Distorted View of Grace
It’s one thing to say it doesn’t matter what we’ve done when it comes to the question of salvation. But it’s another thing to say that’s true when it comes to a person who was victimized by an ANRO.
Then it’s not about the message of good news, which by the way, not only includes the diagnosis of sin but the eternal consequences of being separated from a loving and holy God. This is about being messengers who won’t treat an ANRO with a Band-Aid; who will hold firm to a method of undeserved redemptive accountability that encourages personal and relational restoration.
THE CLICHÉ BARRIER
The cliché “If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of grace” has been used as a theological construct for how we should treat anyone. But in doing so, it’s easy to forget that the cross is also a boundary issue.
Frankly speaking, I’ve heard and seen many unwittingly use that cliché to lighten the load for ANRO’S who act like they want to change, but are looking for loopholes to continue their twisted lives, and not telling anyone about it. Lightening the load is the worse thing that can happen for ANRO’S who need to build up empathy levels, move toward restitution and consistently work on changing their twisted thinking.
Using that cliché, without understanding what it cost God and to those applying it, is lazy relationship building where distance is the norm. May I remind all of us that grace is given to and not demanded by the ANRO. If an ANRO demands their definition of grace be the standard for how they want to be treated when being held accountable, it’s a sure sign they have not changed.
There are no questions that can’t be asked in an open and honest relationship. If there are, it’s no longer an open and honest relationship. ANRO’S don’t accept responsibility for choices to offend and haven’t matured to an adulthood that will. They will take advantage of anyone and everyone in their way and not to understand that is like playing with fire. If grace is to be given to ANRO’S, it must be within the context of relational accountability where consequences for violating the boundary of grace and those victimized by their behavior will be applied. Otherwise there will be no deep lasting changes within the heart and minds of active non-repentant offenders.
It is wise to remember God’s love holds everyone accountable for our choices, thinking and beliefs; now or later.
“Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy.” Proverbs 28: 13 NLT (Emphasis mine)
“If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked. When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall. Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraints; but blessed are those who heed wisdoms instruction. The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright.” Proverbs 29:12, 16, 18, 27 NLT