by Erica Fehr, GT Editor
Unless we’re already too jaded to care, news of sexual abuse by yet another respected Christian leader will be unsettling and discouraging. The final report into sexual misconduct by Ravi Zacharias is expected to be released in the next month, but preliminary reports from the law firm hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) have largely confirmed allegations.
In this first issue of Growing Together, we will address concerns raised by this recent example of sexual abuse by a Christian leader. It’s an uncomfortable topic in almost every way, including that it seems so one-sided. We know that both men and women are victimized and, as we are reminded with the recent allegations regarding our governor general, women too can abuse their power. Nevertheless, when it comes to sexual abuse by church leaders, it is uneven. In that context, abusers are almost exclusively men, and most victims are women.
Our focus in this issue is on understanding the impact of abuse and considering ways to prevent it. Two equally important topics that we are not addressing are the different journeys of both the abuser and survivor after the abuse has happened.
We do know that for the abuser it takes the tremendous power of the Holy Spirit to have courage to acknowledge the truth and repent, to face public shame, to do the very hard work required to change and to accept the consequences of their actions. Every instinct for self-preservation fights it, with full support of the Enemy. Equally hard is to recognize that God’s grace and forgiveness is available and at work here too.
It takes the equally powerful daily presence of the Holy Spirit for the women and men who have been abused to beat back the persistent shame, to genuinely believe they are innocent, to relearn to trust God and the church, to understand what God does and does not require of them in terms of forgiveness and, finally, to live whole and free. Our Enemy’s power is engaged to keep us captive to disillusionment and shame.
And for everyone else—the spouses and families, friends, and the church—it requires the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, truth and love, to find a way through the emotional journey we’re on. Our Enemy will goad us to compound the damage as much as possible.
Along with the Holy Spirit we need the help of friends, family and, very likely, professional counselling.
Winning the battle requires strength beyond what we have. Thank God we’re neither alone nor unarmed in this fight.
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