It’s 1517 and preacher Joseph Tetzel is travelling through Germany with his little ditty:
“As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs”
With these words, he encourages, cajoles and manipulates people into paying “indulgences” in order to free their parents and grandparents from suffering in purgatory.
Each Sunday, you turn up for Mass. When it is time for the bread and wine to be eaten and drank, you don’t participate, that’s for the clergy and the monks. The Lord’s Supper has been replaced with a quasi sacrifice that you watch at a distance.
When you do something wrong, you go to the Priest and confess to him. He then tells you what you should do as penance to win back God’s favour.
When you pray, you can’t be sure that Jesus will want to hear your prayers, so you look for intercessors such as Saints and the Virgin Mary.
I want you to notice two things about the pre-reformation church. First of all, God has been put at a distance from you. He is someone to be feared. He is not someone you can know and love. Secondly, the church uses fear, guilt and shame to keep you in your place. The motive for this is greed as the elite find ways to make you part with your money so they can become rich at your expense.
Spiritual Abuse is all about putting God at a distance so that powerful human beings become as gods to vulnerable people. This is all about greed and power. Spiritual abuse means that religion is distorted so that the powerful can demand money, loyalty and service from the vulnerable. Spiritual abuse often includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The Reformation was about saying that evil people have no place in church leadership. By returning the church to the Gospel of Grace, by reminding us that we are justified by faith alone and by showing us that we can know God personally through Christ without need for any other mediator, the reformers robbed spiritual abusers of their power.
There are still people today who get into positions of spiritual power, manipulating and controlling others for personal satisfaction, sexual pleasure and financial gain. It is the same Gospel of Grace that the Reformation brought the church back to which will disarm spiritual abusers today.