The Bruised Reed means …(5) Restoration for those damaged by false teaching and spiritual abuse

We started by talking about recovery for the abused. Sadly, not only do we see victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse but we also see a lot of victims of spiritual abuse. This happens when religious leaders use their authority position to control and manipulate.

Often, spiritual abuse is linked to false teaching. In fact, this was what sparked the Reformation 500 years ago. The Catholic Church used its authority to manipulate and control people.  Church members lived under the burden of rituals and rules including confession and penance. Fear of dying and death was used to extort money out of you through indulgences.  Luther, Calvin and Zwingli turned people back to the Bible where they discovered afresh that they were saved by grace and justified by faith. This set them free from the control of spiritually abusive leaders.

Over the past few years we’ve had a lot of contact with people who have been under the influence of “Prosperity Teaching.” I used to think that the Prosperity Gospel was about greed but in fact it is about fear.[1]That’s why it gets heavily mixed up with teaching about spirits and curses. I’ve met people who sleep with a Bible under their pillow to ward off evil spirits. I’ve been asked to perform infant baptisms because the parent is afraid that without this the child will be at risk from evil spirits. I’ve met people who’ve told me that they can identify the generational curses going back many years in families.

Prosperity teaching is not just the promise of health and wealth if you have enough faith. Rather it is the claim that your present life is in danger – that you don’t experience health and wealth because you are under a curse, that evil spirits can harm you even when you are a believer and that the only way to be safe is by going to the prosperity preacher, by paying your tithes to him and by receiving special prayers of blessing and deliverance. Fear is used to drive people into the hands of those who want to control them.

Fear is used very cleverly here because it is not simply that you feel guilty about obvious and known sins. Rather, you are manipulated into thinking there must be something hidden and lacking in your life that you’ve missed. You need to have a certain level of faith but it is not quantifiable – only the pastor knows when you have got it.

The Apostle Paul has a word for this type of teaching. He calls it “nonsense.”[2] But it is dangerous nonsense because it is designed to take people away from their loving saviour and into the hands of men who are just there to get what they can out of them.  Prosperity teaching is another way of bruising reeds and crushing bruised reeds. It leaves you feeling useless, guilty, shamed and afraid.

The Gospel sets you free from guilt, shame and fear.  When Jesus died on the Cross, your old life died with him. This means that you have a new identity in Christ. You are safe in him. You can be free from fear.

The Gospel restores fearful, damaged people to useful service in God’s Kingdom. Instead of seeking to do and say the right things in order to appease your spiritual abuser, you are free to serve God and your brothers and sisters out of love. Instead of trying to calculate what is the right amount of tithe to pay to meet the Prosperity criteria, you are set free to loving generosity. Instead of trying to work up within you an emotion that will equate to “Faith” you have faith simply by trusting Christ and putting your life safe into his hands.

Read Colossians 2

[1] Of course, it is about greed and power and control for those at the top of the pyramid but most people in the movement see very little of the wealth or power and rather are controlled and manipulated.

[2] Colossians 2:8.