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April 25/26, 2015

Fooled by False Leadership

Jason Meyer | 2 Corinthians 11:16-21

I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.—2 Corinthians 11:16–21 


Brief Tour of Verses 16–19

I want to do a quick tour of verses 16–19 before focusing like a laser beam on verses 20–21. You may remember that 2 Corinthians 11:1–21 is an introduction the fool’s speech, which stretches from 2 Corinthians 11:21 to 2 Corinthians 12:10. I have also labored to point out that the command in verse 1 (“bear with me”) is the main point for this introduction.

One of you might say to me, “Pastor, you have introduced the last three sermons that way. Why?” Here is my answer: I am repeating it again because Paul repeats it once again in our passage today. Look at verse 16: “I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.”

I am trying to mirror in this sermon what Paul is doing in this text. I keep repeating myself on purpose, just like he does. I want you to say, “Paul, just get on with it so Jason will have something different to say. Why is it taking you so long to get to the speech? 

It takes Paul so long because his embarrassment is building. Can you feel it? He almost can’t bring himself to do it. He keeps going on and on, giving reasons for why he has to been driven to this speech. Why? Because he is profoundly embarrassed to stoop to his opponents’ style of talking: foolish boasting. He almost feels like he is trading teams for a moment. Imagine a die-hard Vikings fan who hates the Packers being forced to wear a Packers jersey and put on a cheese-head hat and brag about how great Aaron Rodgers is.

Paul is doing a similar thing in verse 17: What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool.” Paul calls attention to donning a different jersey here. It is almost as if he steps up to the microphone and says, “Excuse me everyone, can I have your attention please? I would like to point out that I am no longer speaking for team Jesus. I have joined team ‘doofus,’ and I am going to talk like them for a brief moment. But I am not happy about it, and I am going to let you know that every chance I get.”

Showing his embarrassment is a way to show that this is not what he is comfortable doing. It is a little bit like when your wife asks you to carry her purse. There is no manly way to carry a purse. If you sling it on your shoulder, you show that you are a little too comfortable with it. But you can’t refuse because you really want to serve your wife and help her out. So you carry the purse in a way that shows your discomfort. You hold it by scrunching the handle and holding it out several inches from your body—just far enough away to show you are not about to sling it over your shoulder.

Paul is someone who wants to only talk about what Christ has done, and now he is being asked to brag about himself and to provide a list of all his accomplishments. His hands are tied because the people who have the Corinthians’ ear talk this way all the time. Verse 18 is the clearest proof: Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.” The false apostles are very happy to talk about themselves and to go and on and on about their accomplishments. They are happy to pass around their letters of recommendation. They want to talk about how wonderful they are, and they pass out letters from others saying how wonderful they are.

He can’t let that comment go (“I too will boast”) without dropping a sanctified sarcasm bomb on them to shake them up from their foolish slumber. Look at the wisdom bomb—For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!” (v. 19).Can you feel Paul’s passion for these Corinthians? He is pulling out all the stops. The straightforward way to state the obvious would be this: “The fact that you Corinthians gladly bear with fools shows that you are fools.” The sarcastic way to say it would be this: “Why do you gladly bear with fools? Oh, I know—it is because you obviously have achieved a superior level of wisdom. I am surprised you can even see us from way up there where you sit upon your wisdom peak.” 

He is saying, “If you were wise, I could speak the language of wisdom. We could have a normal, Christ-exalting conversation. But no, you have been so fooled that I have to come down to the valley of folly and speak your language just so you can understand me.”

The background of the book of Proverbs is so helpful here.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
—Proverbs 26:4–5

Proverbs says that you are not supposed to answer a fool in his folly lest you become a fool yourself, but you also have to rebuke the folly, or the fool will be wise in his own eyes. Paul uses a sanctified form of sarcastic language to keep the Corinthians from being wise in their own eyes. He then turns to a specific issue that is like Exhibit A for their lack of wisdom.

For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.—2 Corinthians 11:20

Dear friends, do you see what the Corinthians are doing? They put up with being beat up. They have spiritual bruises all over the place—I believe a few even have physical bruises—and they still have the audacity to say, “Look what strong leaders they are, Paul. They really let us have it.

Here is Satan’s cunning trick that becomes a trap. False leadership has the appearance of strength, and true leadership has the appearance of weakness. I want to drill down into those two points in the rest of the sermon. First, the false leadership that seems strong (v. 20) and second, the true leadership that looks weak (v. 21).

Once I have sketched those two points, we are going to do something painful. We will look at ourselves as a church and ask if we have been foolish like the Corinthians.

1. False Leadership That Seems Strong (v. 20)

For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

Paul has asked the Corinthians to bear with him (v. 1), and he has charged the Corinthians with bearing with counterfeit Jesuses, counterfeit spirits, and counterfeit gospels (v. 4). Paul used this same verb in verse 19 (“you gladly bear with fools”), and now he repeats it once more in order to make plain some of the foolish stuff the Corinthians put up with. Look closely at the five evils the Corinthians are tricked into tolerating.

First, Paul tells the Corinthians that the false leadership “makes slaves of” the Corinthians. This is the most all-encompassing term. It’s like an umbrella word. The Corinthians have been completely taken over and treated as slaves. The other four terms could be taken to explain what being a slave means.

Second, Paul says that the false leadership “devours” the Corinthians. This is a financial term. It is like the false teachers were eating the Corinthians out of house and home. It’s the same word as Mark 12:40, where the scribes devour the homes of widows.

Third, he says that the false leadership “takes advantage of” them. This is the Greek word for entrapment, like ensnaring a bird or catching a fish in a net. Look at 2 Corinthians 12:16, where Paul shares the Corinthians’ charge that Paul trapped them with deceit. 

But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit.—2 Corinthians 12:16 

Fourth, he says that the false leadership “puts on airs.” The false leaders put themselves forward and elevate themselves over the Corinthians and others.

Fifth, Paul says the false leadership “strikes [the Corinthians] in the face.” This could be a metaphor for humiliation or rough treatment that leaves spiritual and emotional bruises, but most commentators acknowledge that this is probably a reference to physical abuse. Among the Jews, a backhand blow to the right check was a way to humiliate a person. Remember that both Christ (John 18:22) and Paul (Acts 23:2) were struck in the face by the Sanhedrin.

2. True Leadership That Seems Weak (v. 21)

To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Paul indulges here in a mock confession: he says that he is ashamed that he was too weak to abuse them. How shameful—Paul clearly was such a wimp that he couldn’t overpower the Corinthians and beat them into submission. He lacked the iron fist that dictator-type tyrants have. If he had just learned how to become a more abusive jerk, he could get a better response from the Corinthians.

Paul is using shock effect language. His words are charged and biting—anything to break through the Corinthians’ spiritual slumber. If they bear it when the false apostles do all of these evils to them, then why would they not bear with Paul’s servant-like love? 

The five evils of the false apostles introduce five points of contrast with Paul: First, Paul did not lord his authority over them to make them his slaves. Instead, he used his authority to serve them. Second, he didn’t even come close to exploiting them financially. On the contrary, he slaved night and day for them without pay. Third, he did not snare them by trickery—he told them the truth with integrity. Fourth, he did not exalt himself and put on airs. Instead, he humbled himself so they could be exalted. Fifth, he would never dream of physically abusing them—he was physically abused many times for their sake, as he will make clear in the next passage.

But the real point of contrast is once again the difference between an apostle of Christ and a servant of Satan. Paul reflects Christ so that he leads the way Jesus led. One commentator nails the difference. He says the contrast boils down to “the power of coercion” versus “the power of the cross” (David Garland, Commentary on 2 Corinthians). 

Paul’s Leadership is a Pointer to Christ’s Leadership

Jesus did not break a bruised reed. He was meek and humble in heart. He went around healing sickness and disease, casting out demons, touching lepers, and holding children. When surrounded by throngs of people and crushing need, frustration was not squeezed out of him—compassion was. He reserved his hard words for the Pharisees, who were blind guides leading the sheep into a pit and making people twice the children of hell that they were. Jesus fiercely protected his sheep from the wolves by laying down his life for them. He rose triumphant over all our enemies—sin, death, hell, and Satan. The way that he led left a pattern for his disciples to follow.

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42–45

Paul took his cues from Jesus, and so 2 Corinthians 1:24 sounds like Mark 10:42–45.

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.—2 Corinthians 1:24 

Paul is their servant, not their lord. But the even more amazing thing is that their real Lord was also their servant. He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a payment for their sin. Do they have a taste for the cross or not? The discernment of the Corinthians is once again called into question because they cannot detect the difference between true Christ-like leadership and false devilish leadership. Let us state the main point of verses 20–21 as a contrast: Christ-like leadership focuses on becoming a servant; the satanic distortion of leadership focuses on making servants and then exploiting them.


Hyper-Headship and Domestic Abuse

This was not a stand-up-and-shout sermon for me to prepare. It was a break-down-and-weep sermon. I want to talk about two painful realities: hyper-headship and domestic abuse. Before I get to hyper-headship, let me give a bigger picture with two ditches.

Servant leadership is the biblical road, and on either side of the road, Satan has set a snare of two devilish ditches. The ditch on the left is too passive, and the ditch on the right is too controlling. The one on the left is a ditch because it is too passive. In this ditch, the husband checks out and abandons leadership. He makes the wife do most of the initiating work and puts her in the vulnerable position of appearing like a nag because she always has to ask to get anything done that needs to get done. He’s using a form of control—passive aggressive. The ditch on the right is a ditch and a distortion because the leadership is overly active. In this ditch, the husband micromanages. He dictates so much that the wife doesn’t feel like a spiritual equal. She feels subjugated and squelched and walks around on eggshells, and her contribution as a complement is tightly fenced in and controlled. 

Let it be said like a shot across the bow: Harsh lordship is not Christ-like leadership because Christ does not abuse his bride or treat her harshly. She flourishes under his leadership; she doesn’t shrink down to size. She does not walk on eggshells; she rests secure in the depth of Christ’s tender love. 

Let me say just as clearly: Passive abandonment is not Christ-like leadership because Christ loved his bride by giving himself up for her in words and actions to demonstrate his love and commitment. No one can look at Christ and see passiveness. He pursued his bride by coming from heaven to earth, from the earth to the grave, and from the grave to the heavenly throne. He is preparing a place for her, providing for her needs daily and perfectly, and coming back for her so she can enjoy his full presence forever. What about this looks anything like passive?

So let me say clearly that I am going after one ditch in the rest of the sermon because we have not addressed it clearly enough before. It is a little like the Sanctity of Life sermon—we believe children are a gift, and we have preached against the left ditch which says children are a choice, but we had not preached against the right ditch which says children are a right. I want to also bring balance to the way that we uphold the beauty of biblical manhood and womanhood. 

1. Hyper-Headship

John Piper has been a lion-hearted defender of biblical manhood and womanhood in a culture that wants to destroy all distinctions between men and women. Gender complementarity believes that the two genders are spiritually equal in God’s sight but that God has given these spiritual equals distinct parts to play in relating together in ways that showcase the different roles of Christ and his bride (the Church). In both the spheres of marriage and the church, God has given the man the responsibility to lead in a loving, servant-like, Christ-like way. God has given the woman the responsibility to receive that Christ-like leadership in a church-like way. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. 

This view is often contrasted with egalitarianism, which says that men and women are spiritually equal before God and have no differences of roles at all. If complementarianism says that God calls husbands and elders to lead well and that God calls wives and church members to submit well, then egalitarianism says men and women have equal roles. In marriage, it is a partnership in which no one is recognized as the leader. In the church, both men and women can be pastors and elders. 

Let’s get the picture firmly in our minds. Complementarianism calls for humble headship, and egalitarianism calls for no headship. Egalitarianism is a ditch that we have spoken against it multiple times, but we have not preached against the other ditch, which I call hyper-headship. In other words, the issue is similar to the debate over God’s sovereignty in salvation. You can have Calvinism, but there are ditches on either side—both Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism are ditches. In terms of the gender debate, there are also ditches on either side of complementarianism—both egalitarianism and hyper-complementarianism are ditches. Rather than use fancy and confusing labels, let’s translate them into what they say with respect to male headship.

We have to have our baloney-meters tuned to potential sources of hyper-headship teaching. One example is Doug Philips’ ministry, called Vision Forum. A recent sex scandal that caused Doug Philips to step down has also raised even more questions about Vision Forum’s credibility. We do not want to leave people vulnerable to false teaching by failing to speak out against hyper-headship.

I am not going to talk about all the details of Vision Forum because I am not just addressing ideas—I’m also addressing attitudes toward women here at Bethlehem. We can talk about male leadership in such a way that gives too much deference to men, which can lead to not putting enough stock in what women say. The net result is that their voices are not given enough weight and value. Woe to us as a church if our women get the impression that we don’t value their input or contributions. We have sought to involve more input from the wives of pastors and elders, telling them that we not only want their input but that we need it because we have blind spots.

An ethos that does not value women can lead to an environment where sick things slip under the radar. I have heard this statement before—warning, if you want to see me get visibly upset, just say what I am about to say in my presence: “If wives would just submit better and become more meek and quiet, then husbands would not get so angry.” These thoughts must be taken captive, or else we can create a climate in which domestic abuse can take root and grow. 

Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership. Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse. 

2. Domestic Abuse

We have become aware of some domestic abuse cases throughout Bethlehem, and we have learned that we have not always handled them well. We brought a biblical counselor, John Henderson, to train the elders in better detecting and dealing with domestic abuse. I want to share three eye-opening things that stood out to me in what we were taught.

First, we learned that not all abuse cases are the same, even though they may share certain things in common. Henderson told us that if “we have seen one abuse case, we have seen one abuse case.” We have seen one case—if you have seen one, you have not seen them all. The abuser could be the man only, the woman only, or both together. He also gave us examples of these different abuse experiences.

Henderson said that he has sat with couples where the man was the abuser. In these cases, the husband worked himself into violent fits without provocation. In his mind there was provocation, but a coherent, sensible, and honest look at the facts revealed little cause for any anger at all—the meal wasn’t hot enough; there were toys on the floor; there was too much noise; there was a broken dish.

Henderson has also counseled couples where the woman was the abuser. In these cases the wife was like a volcano ready to erupt without warning if he had the wrong tone in his voice; if the gift he bought her that was too cheap; if he forgot to pick up a few groceries. Pressures with the kids and with life as a whole seemed to add heat until she boiled over into threats of leaving, threats of suicide, and violent outbursts at her husband—clawing his face, kicking his midsection, pulling his hair, and trying to choke him.

Other times both the man and the woman are the abuser. These couples seem to be the perfect storm of jockeying, competing, button pushing, manipulating, demeaning, accusing, and cruel behavior that escalates into a tragic and eventual outburst of physical aggression and violence. 

Second—and perhaps the most far-reaching lesson I learned—is the need to distinguish between two types of marital sinfulness: normative sinfulness and abusive sinfulness. I believe failure to discern the difference between these two things has been our biggest mistake at Bethlehem, and it is one that we have sought to correct. 

Every marriage involves sinfulness. Every marriage will include moments of rudeness, selfishness, pride, false accusation, and conflict. We could call this normal sinfulness, not because we condone these sins but because they fall within the range of normal marriage issues when two sinners say, “I do.” These sins must be faced honestly and repented of soberly so that a rhythm of reconciliation can take place by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This rhythm and these patterns are to be expected; they are not abusive. In situations of normative sinfulness, biblical counseling aims to help each spouse work on his or her individual issues that contribute to the overall conflict. The counselor can also help the couple communicate and resolve conflicts better.

However, the dynamics change decidedly in situations of abusive sinfulness. In these situations, the conflict is not treated as normal marriage issues in which each spouse can look at what he or she is contributing. This is a predator/prey or abuser/abused situation. The prey needs to be protected from the predator. The abuser needs to be held accountable, and the abused needs to be shepherded to safety. Working on communication and having the couple go on dates is not the way to address abusive sinfulness. Telling the woman to submit better—and making her feel like she is to blame in some way—is the worse thing someone could say in that situation.

If there is continual destructive abuse, you should never to ask the abused what they did to bring the abuse on. One of our counselors shared an analogy that stuck with me. It would be a little bit like the police on a 911 call coming into a crime scene where the wife has been shot and asking her what she did to bring on the bullets. The goal is to care for her and make sure she is safe and the shooter is arrested.

Third, we learned about the spectrum and varieties of domestic abuse. This point was the most eye-opening of all because we had to come to grips with the different aspects of abuse. Henderson started with a good definition of domestic abuse: “a godless pattern of abusive behavior among spouses involving physical, psychological, and/or emotional means to exert and obtain power and control over a spouse for the achievement of selfish ends.”

There are varieties of abuse. Some are easier to identity and define at a glance than others. Physical and sexual brutality are both clearer and therefore easier to label than verbal and emotional abuse. The statistics tell a scary story. According to a 2010 national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 3 (35.6%) women and 1 in 4 men (28.5%) have “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” That same survey found 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have been “hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something” at some point in their lifetime” by an intimate partner (–seldom–preach–about–domestic–violence/).

If these are the numbers for physical and sexual abuse, imagine how much bigger the problem is if you add mental and emotional abuse. Let me put this in layman’s terms. Do not say insensitive, misguided things like, “If it doesn’t leave a physical mark, then it is not abuse.”

Henderson gave us a practical and detailed chart entitled “Markers of Relational Abuse and Violence.” This chart had four categories of abuse: mental, emotional, physical, and sexual. He stated that these four categories are not mutually exclusive categories, but they are more like layers or dimensions. That is, emotional torment will always include mental torment, and physical abuse will always constitute a kind of mental and emotional abuse.

Mental abuse is a pattern in the use of words and actions to assault, reorder, and control the thoughts and ideas of the other person for the achievement of selfish ends. The more intense and longstanding the pattern, the more destructive it is to people. 





Regular, harsh criticism; Constant questioning and challenging thoughts and perspective; Cold shoulders or silent treatment to punish; Frequent “innocent” sarcasm about the ideas of the other person; Instinctive defensiveness; Habitual dishonesty to avoid accountability and blame others; Using Scripture to correct and control spouse to selfish ends.



Frequent insults; Biting sarcasm; Threats of suicide or harm to self; Playing mind games; False accusations as a means to control; Mocking; Screaming; Using tone to instill fear; Separating the other person from friends; Isolating the other person from contact with friends and family; Withholding help— money, means of transportation, medical care, and other resources.



Threats of physical harm; Vicious, demeaning words; Constant assaults upon character; Threats to harm children or friends; Severe and repetitive verbal harassment and intimidation; Relentless attacks upon and controlling of the other person’s view of reality. Really sick distortions of Scripture to torment, mock, and subdue the other person.

Emotional abuse is a pattern in the use of words and actions to assault, reorder, and control the emotions and affective state of the other person for the achievement of selfish ends. The more intense and longstanding the pattern, the more destructive it is to people.





Regular, low-grade anger; Blaming the other person for frustration and irritability; Constant criticism and questioning of how the other person feels; Cold shoulders; Silent treatment when upset in order to arouse guilt or anxiety in the other person; Subtle attempts at humiliation. 


Emotional explosiveness; Insults; Biting sarcasm; Threats of suicide or harm to self; Playing mind games; Trying to induce guilt and shame in order to manipulate; Taking advantage of emotional frailty and weakness; Attempts to instill fear in order to control the other person.



Threats of physical harm; Vicious, demeaning words; Constant assaults upon character; Threats to harm children or friends; Severe and repetitive verbal harassment and intimidation; Attempts to instill terror for the fun of it; Really aggressive mocking and ridicule.

 Physical abuse is a pattern in the use of posture, property, and physical contact to assault, punish, and control another person for the achievement of selfish ends. The more intense and longstanding the pattern, the more destructive it is to people. 





A bristled, threatening posture; Hostile facial expressions; Clinched fists; Slamming doors; Getting in the face of the other person; Poking or flicking; Self-harm to punish and manipulate; Refusal to offer simple physical assistance; Use of law enforcement, legal counsel, and churches to threaten the physical and financial livelihood of the other person.



Grabbing; Pushing; Shoving; Stalking; Punching walls; Throwing objects around the house; Spitting; Forced drug use; Destroying the other person’s items of value; Slapping; Physically isolating the other person from friends and relatives; Refusal to offer vital physical assistance



Punching; Biting; Stabbing; Shooting; Forced confinement; Torture; Hitting with objects; Physical injury to the other person’s loved ones; Active involvement of law enforcement or churches to threaten or severely harm the physical and financial wellbeing of the other person.

I am not going to read the sexual abuse list because I know children are present, but it will be in the manuscript, and I urge you to read the list there.

Sexual abuse is related to physical violence but more centered around sexual organs, ideas, and acts. Involves the use of sexual thoughts, privileges, and acts to assault, demean, devalue, manipulate, and control the other person for the achievement of selfish ends. 





Unwanted sexual touch of genitals, breasts, backside; Pushing for sexual acts that feel demeaning to the other person; Criticizing sexual performance; Comparing to others; Viewing pornography before, during, or after sexual intercourse with spouse; Refusing sex to punish or manipulate; Sexual teasing with no intent to fulfill aroused desires but simply to frustrate the other person.



Coerced sex using threats or incentives (perhaps to avoid a beating or violent outburst); Forcing unwanted behaviors during sex (like sodomy) or unwanted locations (like in a public restroom); Verbal or physical punishment if the other person doesn’t comply. 



Purposeful injury to sexual organs or breasts; Forced making of pornography, or prostitution, or involvement of other people; Forced sexual intercourse after physical assault; Demanding spouse let other people watch, even their children.


 We could add that spiritual abuse would be doing any of these things in the name of Jesus and using the Bible to defend them. Abusive leadership uses physical, psychological, and emotional (and spiritual) means to be lord over others. Servant leadership uses physical, psychological, and emotional (and spiritual) means to serve others.

One last point before I close—please do not judge by appearances. It can be tempting to hear an accusation about a certain abuser and say things like, “Surely he could not be an abuser—he always seems so kind and likeable,” or “He teaches the Bible so well”, or “He is so willing to help people in need.”

Remember the point of these passages in 2 Corinthians and the emphasis on deceit, disguise, and cunning. Abusers are not walking around wearing wife-beater shirts any more than Satan’s servants are going to carry pitchforks or have 666 tattooed on their foreheads. Abusers can be so charming around other people—that is part of the deception. Do you think they will really show their true colors in public? Don’t judge by appearances and discount what a woman says with flippant incredulity. Think about how much she is risking by saying anything at all. Take it seriously. Tell her that you believe her, that God hates abuse, and that you are committed to help her. 

Such a Time as This

The elders have reached a draw-a-line-in-the-sand kind of moment. We would like to send a message, and so we have written a statement that I would like to read now.

Elders’ Statement on Domestic Abuse
We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.

If you are a woman experiencing domestic abuse and would like counsel from a female “first responder” who is a member at Bethlehem, please contact   or 612-338-7653 x789. 

If you are an abuser, I call you right now to repent and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The only hope is on the other side of repentance—getting out of denial so you can own your sin. That is the only hope because if you confess it as sin, there is a sacrifice for sin. There is no sacrifice for denial.

If you are being abused, the bulletin gives information on next steps. Please let us help. God hates abuse, and so do we. We are committed to help. If you have come to us for help before and have been disappointed, please give us another chance. We believe that the tide of awareness has risen on all three campuses and that positive changes are happening.

If you are a child and have seen one of your parents abuse the other, it is not right, and it is not your fault. You are not to blame. We want to get you help as well. You may think telling someone will tear your family apart, but it may be the only thing that can bring your family back together. If you are a child and you are being abused, let us help. Don’t walk this road alone. Tell someone. Please tell the children’s pastor or your youth pastor or a Sunday school worker.

Men of Bethlehem, let me address you. I will lay it on the line. At first glance, it looks like there are three possible doors the men of this church can take. Door 1: side with the abusers, Door 2: take no side, or Door 3: side with the abused and stand up to the abusers. If you are tempted to open Door 2, please know that it is a slide just takes you to the same place as Door 1. Doing nothing is doing something: it is looking the other way so the abusers can do their thing without worrying who is watching. Saying nothing is saying something—it’s saying, “Go ahead, we don’t care enough to do anything.” 

I chose a closing song for this week that is fitting when we have such pain and loss and heartache staring us in the face. At the Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the National Cathedral after the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy, what would a country in crisis sing? This song: “My Shepherd Shall Supply My Need.” As you sing, listen to all that our Shepherd does for us and take heart—even though the earthly counterfeit may have failed you, the heavenly bridegroom is here to save and sustain and give a settled rest.

Let me close with a picture from Revelation 7. In this chapter, we are introduced to some abuse survivors. They have been through great tribulation, and they are singing. The abuse they endured did not win because it did not silence their song. They are singing about something that could not be taken away—the Lamb suffered abuse to save them, and no abuser can take it away. Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb (Revelation 7:10). No one could take away their salvation, so no one could stop their singing. God the Father sent his Son as the Lamb of God who shed his blood to save them, and the slain Lamb is now the resurrected Shepherd of the redeemed forever. They have much to sing about now as they enter their rest. This is our future:

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.—Revelation 7:15–17

Sermon Discussion Questions

1. False leadership that seems strong (v. 20)
2. True leadership that seems weak (v. 21)

Main Point: Christlike leadership focuses on becoming a servant; the satanic distortion of leadership focuses on making servants and then exploiting them.

Discussion Questions
1. How did Paul reflect the cross of Christ in his leadership? How did the false teachers reflect the opposite of the cross? What does the Corinthians’ response to Paul’s leadership say about their savoring of the cross?

  1. What is complementarianism? What are the ditches of male leadership? How can living in these ditches be a breeding ground for abuse?
  2. What is the difference between normative and abusive sinfulness?

Application Questions
1. Married men: What kind of leader are you at home as a husband or father? What about in the way you interact more broadly with others? Single men: Ask yourself the same questions: How do you interact with those closest around you? How about with those in the next sphere out in your relationships? Both married men and single men: Are you prone to be overactive or too passive? What steps can you take to counteract these tendencies? Answer these questions yourself and then ask your wife (or a close friend) and compare answers.

  1. Women,how do you respond to the idea of male headship? What has your experience been in the home? What has your experience been at church?
  2. Look again at the chart on markers of relational abuse. Have you experienced any of those things as a child or an adult? Have you crossed any lines in inflicting any of those actions on others? If yes, what are next steps in response? If no, how can you support those who have experienced them?

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Chief Shepherd will empower Bethlehem to root out domestic abuse in our midst.