Religious Abuse

My pastor had called on church staff members to share in hour-by-hour prayer yesterday from 7am through the evening’s Vacation Bible School activities in preparation for the evening’s presentation of the Gospel message to the children who were there. I signed up for 9am and took with me a handful of Scriptures selected to pray over the children from “Praying for our Children” , by John Maxwell.
-Pray that they will come to know Christ early in life. (2 Tim. 3:15)
-Pray that they will be protected from the enemy. (John 17:15)
-Pray that they will get caught when guilty. (Psalm 119:71)
-Pray that they will seek good friends and avoid negative influences. (Prov. 1:10-11)
-Pray that they will remain sexually pure until marriage. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)
-Pray that they will be responsible in their relationships. (Daniel 6:3)
-Pray that they will submit to God in all things. (James 4:7)

I included, John 17 and all of Psalm 119 in my prayer time, as well.

For about 30 minutes of the time, my pastor was present in the Chapel with me. Each of us prayed out loud, alternating back and forth. Just before he had to leave he prayed about not neglecting to share the Gospel.

When I had prayed the texts I had chosen, I still had 10 minutes left, so I turned to Hebrews and began sliding my finger down the verses to see if there were other things the Lord would have me pray over the night’s presentation and the children who would be there. It didn’t take long for this to jump out at me:

“For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard..”  Hebrews 2:2-3 (NASB)

Immediately I was gripped with the reality that we, I, all believers are accountable If we neglect so great a salvation….. What will be the consequence?

And I was reminded, too, of Romans 10:14

“How can people invoke His name when they do not believe? How can they believe in Him when they have not heard? How can they hear if there is no one proclaiming Him?” (The Voice)

The word “neglect” challenged me, perhaps convicted me. As I left the church I stopped in the pastor’s office to share that scripture with him and reiterated his prayer that we should not neglect sharing the Gospel.

I returned to my work for the day which included a session with a student on Steps 6&7 of the Twelve Step work she is doing. It is rooted in the transformational work of surrendering one’s identified character defects and inviting God to replace them with his own righteous character attributes. As part of that session, there is a discussion of the difference between “religion” and “spirituality”. The young lady with whom I was talking understood and articulated well the differences. One of the questions for that section is “Have you ever experienced religious abuse?” As I waited for her answer tears came to her eyes. She said that when she came to that question she thought about all the ways one can experience abuse in general and the one that came to her mind was…..”neglect.” In over a decade of doing Twelve Step work with women, I have never heard that answer given.

She related how she attended Sunday School and worship with a family member when she visited as a child and she was aware of God’s presence then, as a child. She related that in her own family, where there was no church attendance or religious practices, she had felt a void. Now, as an adult she felt she had been denied something that she realized others had the opportunity to know as children…… the love and presence of God. We talked about those feelings of “religious neglect”, of having wished that she had known sooner how to reach out to and accept God’s invitation. She expressed no blame or anger at those who had neglected to share and live the Gospel in her childhood. She expressed only gratitude that she is now experiencing God’s presence, peace, and joy in her life.

She is growing into a personal relationship with Christ, understanding God and herself in relationship to God, and his plan for her life now as an adult. She is enjoying working the Vacation Bible School and perhaps, is enjoying with adult eyes, ears, and heart some of the things she would have experienced as a child had she not felt the neglect of some in her life whom God had appointed to guide her.

My husband grew up attending church on rare holiday occasions.  I was raised in a family for whom attendance at church occurred several times a week. When our children were toddlers, I told Bill that the children and I were going to attend Sunday School and worship and I would like for him to be with us.  For the rest of our active parenting years we attended Sunday School and worship as a family.  His response to people since that time has been that church seemed like a better choice for raising our children than the streets.

Last Sunday our pastors baptized two infants and we as church members affirmed our commitment to join the parents in the responsibility to raise their children in the knowledge and nurture of the Christian faith.

Let us not neglect this great salvation, the wonderful story of God’s love given to us through Christ’s death and resurrection. It can mean the difference between a life of hopeful confidence and a life of hapless chaos.