The Grace & Truth Blog

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Authority And Abuse

Do Christians who are being abused by their authorities have to endure, or can we flee?

There is a great risk taken in teaching passages that call us to submit to authorities (Rom 13, 1 Peter 2-3, Eph 5-6, and Col 3-4) and that is the assumption that such passages suggest God approves of, or at least tolerates oppression and abuse.

One of the common accusations presented against such passages is that in encouraging submission to ungodly authorities, they are by extension endorsing abuse. If we are taking seriously the whole of Scripture on this subject, then this accusation must be patently false. That is like claiming that when Christians glory in the cross, then they, by extension, endorse the torture of innocent people. But, what happened to Jesus was horrific. There are not words in the English language strong enough to describe the evil that took place on Calvary. Likewise, any form of abuse is horrific- which is especially true when performed by the hands of a person in authority.

God hates abusive authorities

God’s anger against abusive authorities is recognized in examination of the following passages:

Matthew 23- Jesus rebuked the Pharisees as leaders of the people who abused their authority by leading the people away from the truth

James 3:1- Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James warns people to exercise caution in becoming teachers because they will incur a stricter judgment.

Hebrews 13:7 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. The author of Hebrews tells us that leaders will have to give an account of how they used their authority.

Luke 17:1-2 - And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Because of the implied vulnerability of children, those who take advantage of them will be severely punished. By extension, authorities who abuse those vulnerable to their authority should expect similar treatment.

One of the main themes of the book of Revelation is the vindication of the saints in the pouring out of God’s wrath on their oppressors. This is most poignantly revealed in Rev. 16: 4-7.

Rev 16:4-7- The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. 6  For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”

Rom 12:19-  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

From a biblical perspective, any abuse of authority is sinful and foolish. Those who have been abused by those in authority should take great comfort in the fact that such abusers will have to give an account to their creator for what they have done. This will probably not provide immediate comfort for those who are currently being afflicted. It also gives little direction in knowing how they should respond to their abusers.

If we are suffering due to abusive authorities do we have to endure, or can we flee?

God wants us to live at peace

1 Tim 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 Roman 12:18-If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

God desires us to live at peace, but he also sovereignly ordains suffering.

Phil 1:29- For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

2 Cor 12:9-10-  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

James 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

See also: (Rom 5:3, 8:35-39; Php 2:17,18; Col 1:24; 1Pe 1:6,7 4:13,14) .

How do we come to terms with the tension between the two: peace and suffering?

Although passages like Matt 5:39, advise one way to respond-  “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). The Bible also gives warrant for believers to flee their suffering as well. This was part of the purpose of the cities of refuge that were commanded to be established in Israel (Num 19).

John Bunyan, who was all too familiar with suffering, wrestled with the tension of these two truths in the Bible as he sought to come to terms with how God would have him respond given his own situations.

He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11­–12; Jeremiah stood, 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Acts 20:22–23. . . . Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word, Matt. 10:23. (emphasis mine). (Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers, in The Works of John Bunyan, volume 2, page 726)


  1. Treasure and utilize laws that protect the vulnerable

We are incredibly blessed to live in a society that advocates for the weak and vulnerable. We have strict laws in our country against domestic violence, sexual harassment, child abuse, and elderly abuse. Few countries in the world (and certainly throughout history) are as cognizant of the responsibility to protect the vulnerable. Because of this immense blessing, Christians who are subject to abuse by their authorities have a great advocate on their side, namely the law. Therefore, even in respect to the authority of our government, Christians who are subject to, or are aware of illegal activities such as domestic violence or child abuse, have a doubly moral responsibility to notify legal authorities.

The elders at Grace and Truth Bible Truth recognize the immense responsibility given to us as leaders of Christ’s church (Heb 13:17). Therefore, in the fear of God and in love of the church, we are committed as a church leadership to firmly stand against abuse and will take every accusation of abuse seriously by reporting it to the appropriate authorities.


  1. Know that believers are called to care for the vulnerable and oppressed

Micah 6:8-  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you   but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Prov 21:3- To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

 Isaiah 1:16-17- Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

James 1:27-  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

 Matt 25:34- 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

As believers, when we become aware of oppression we need to have the courage to confront it. We cannot be afraid to call out evil and confront wicked people who are being cruel. Even if we lack legal authority, we do not lack moral authority- we can appeal to the oppressor’s dignity and their conscience in hopes that they will be brought to repentance and that justice will be served.

I appreciate John Piper’s words in regard to how the church should respond to women who are abused by their husbands:

What I want to stress is that long before they reach a point of desperation — or harm — the women of the church should know that there are spiritual men and women in the church that they can turn to for help. By way of caution and lament, I cannot promise that every church has such spiritual, gifted, and compassionate men and women available for help. But many do. The intervention of these mature brothers and sisters may bring the husband to repentance and reconciliation. Or they may determine that laws have been broken and the civil authorities should or must be notified. In either case, no Christian woman (or man) should have to face abuse alone. (John Piper, Dec 19, 2012,

  1. Pray for Justice

Jesus appealed many times to his followers to pray for God’s will to be done on earth; maybe the most familiar appeal being in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done”. Jesus calls us to pray in his name, meaning that we were to pray for what he would have (John 15:7, 16:23-24). Given God’s passion for justice, we can also pray boldly that justice will be done upon the earth. This is a common theme echoed throughout the Law (Ex 23:2, 6; Deut 10:18, 16:19-20, 24:17, 27:19), the Psalms (Ps 10, 28, 35, 43, 72, 82, 103, 106, 140, 146), and the Prophets (Is 1:17, 10:2, 16:3, 42, 56, 59; Jer 5:28, 7:5, 21:12; Ez 18:8, 22:29; Hos 12:6; Amos 5:7, 15; Micah 6:8; Hab 1:4). Therefore, knowing God’s interest in justice for the oppressed we can boldly go directly to him. In contrast to seeking our own vengeance when wronged, we can appeal to the highest authority and trust in his sovereign rule over all things.

Rom 12:19- Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Here are some helpful links for more in-depth thought on the matter: