People have abused other people under the cover and claims of ‘religion’ since the beginning of creation. Satan himself deceived the first people, Adam and Eve, with his religion of ‘self’. He told them not to trust God for their needs, but to desire to be their own gods. And after that it was all downhill. Humans became experts at rejecting God and making up their own religions. Thankfully God sent Jesus to repair the damage. Yet there are still people who lead others astray and take evil advantage of our natural yearning for God.
Thanks to the internet we are now much more aware of sad and disturbing stories of ‘religious’ teachers and leaders abusing their power to feed their own selfish desires. I find it very sad when I see these stories and even whole websites devoted to revealing how men, women and children who were under the authority of either parents or other persuasive adults were taken advantage of by church members or leaders or their own parents and hurt in many ways including sexual abuse and mind control and restriction of freedom to come and go and live life. In some cases the parents were also victims of the church but their children suffered due to their belief that they were doing the right thing according to the rules of that church.
Please know that this is not the way it’s supposed to be! I’ve been going to church all my life, like millions of Christians, and I have never been under the control of a power-hungry or abusive preacher or teacher. Church is meant to be a place of peace, fellowship, discipleship, prayer, worship, and praise. It bothers me that people may read these stories and, if they do not have a positive experience of their own to compare it to they may think that 1) all churches are bad and 2) God is bad. Wrong! If that is the case for you, if you have suffered under a controlling , FALSE religion, please do not blame it on God. God is love! He is not abusive. When you come to know the REAL Jesus, you should feel peace, joy and freedom. Jesus is called the Good Shepherd because he loves his sheep, his people, and gave his life to save them from the wolf, Satan.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10
Satan is the leader of the false teachers of the world. The only way to recognize Satan’s presence and influence in a false religion is if you know THE TRUE religion, which is not religion, but faith in Jesus Christ himself. No church membership will get anyone to heaven. No preacher has the power to save anyone. Being born into a certain denomination or baptized as a child does not save anyone. Only faith in Jesus Christ, as expressed by his own words, is the way to forgiveness of sins and reunification with God. In other words, like the U.S. Treasury workers study authentic bills to recognize forgeries, we must study the words of the Bible in order to know when someone is leading us AWAY from God instead of to Him.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12
The devil is very sneaky. He will make a false religion look VERY similar to the real thing in order to trick and trap those who do not know the Word of God very well, and of course, if you are born into a false religion, you may have no exposure to a real Bible. He and his false teachers are purposely deceiving you so that you will not know the real Jesus! He is very happy if you think that baptism saves you, or that giving to the church saves you, or that wearing certain clothes and doing certain things saves you, or that only certain people who have the ‘anointing of the spirit’ (a false teaching) are saved. He will use religious words from the Bible , the name of Jesus, and include many teachings that ARE true, mixed in with FALSE teachings. The preacher who is in it for his greed and power will often use guilt, pressure, shame, personal attacks, gossip, secrecy, lies and other means to control the members . None of that should be used in any Gospel preaching church.
No preacher or church should ask you do anything that causes you shame, such as sexual acts, no matter how they try to tell you that YOU want to do it. If you (or your child) have been pressured into any sexual acts by any church leader or member, tell the police! This is illegal and not of GOD. No Christian church should require that you PAY a certain amount to be a member. That is not a biblical teaching. No Christian church should abuse you in any way such as hitting you, spanking, controlling your actions by preventing your freedom, making you afraid by threats of blackmail, kicking you out of the church, hurting your family, etc. Tell the police and stay away from that church.
If you are in a church and you feel shamed or afraid, you have been told lies. The preacher should teach about sin, but explain how Jesus paid the price for those sins! That is called GRACE. You can be FREE from judgment, free from slavery to sinful desires, free from Satan’s manipulative schemes. And the only way is by believing on the one who can do it, Jesus himself. Not by any other way!
What is Grace? Grace means that God forgives you because HE is good, not because YOU are good. Jesus died for us so that we could escape the punishment that we deserve for sin. He died for us because he loves us! Grace is a free gift, no strings attached! You can’t buy it or earn it! All the religions of the world attach strings to their idea of salvation, but not Jesus.
There’s another type of false religion I want to mention. These are completely unrelated to God. One is the idea that nature is God, or that there is no need for God because YOU are your own god, or the idea that there is some other spiritual leader or being besides the creator , Father , Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one God. These groups often prey on those who have grown up in homes without faith in God or they prey on those who were hurt by false religions. These are sometimes known as cults, but many mainstream false religions are also cults. For example, Scientology preys on college students who are seeking to understand themselves better.
If you have rejected God because you were hurt in a church or by religious parents or as an adult in a false religion, I pray that you will turn back to Him. Ask Him to heal you and reveal himself to you , and read the Bible for yourself . Keep praying and TRUST that God is GOOD and he LOVES you. Bad people do not mean God is bad. Just like bad people hurt others in groups besides churches,( such as schools, clubs, jobs), that does not mean those groups are bad. We have a tendency to generalize our bad experience in an effort to protect ourselves, which makes sense, but we can take that too far and reject the good things as well.
Well said PK! It’s like when I worked for the other university I had a coworker who considered himself an atheist. One day I asked him why, then he said “If there is a God, then why does he allow all the horrible things happen to man?”
I looked at him and replied “God gave us free will, and all the horrible things that happen to man, happen because of man, not because of God.” Believe it or not, he was offended and stopped talking to me. I was like, okay if you don’t want to hear the truth, keep your head in the sand.
Well, good for you for trying! Maybe you planted a seed. Lots of people ask that same question, but they don’t really want the answer! And lots of people think the same way, that they know what God should and shouldn’t do. It’s not easy for ‘smart’ people to humble themselves and admit there are things that we cannot understand from our vantage point. I was thinking though that the ones who seem the hardest to reach are the ones who have ‘no need’ for God. They are perfectly happy and self-sufficient, no thought for the after life or if a Creator exists, the ones who say, “I’m not religious.” They don’t mind if you are, but it just doesn’t interest them at all. How do you reach them?!