I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this phrase applied in this way, but I believe it fits when I say, I was raised in a spiritually-abusive church. It’s been many years since I have attended that church and sat and listened to the condemnation emanating from the pulpit. Thanks to my husband’s kind and wise counsel, I have even healed and grown beyond the legalism under which I was raised. Only in the past decade have I actively begun to identify spiritual lies when they are uttered, whether aloud or within my mind, and found relief by correctly applying God’s word.
The reason I bring this up is to make you aware of the damage done by well-meaning preachers who in their concern for their flocks’ souls, use scriptural manipulation in order to control their parishioners. In my church, because they did not want their teens straying they forbid any normal youthful activities. Dancing, movies, and bowling, just to name a few, were all taboo. They cited scriptures with such words as “lascivious” as proof that these activities would lead us to dance with the devil.
When Paul admonished us to “rightly divide the word of truth” he meant to preach it correctly, straying neither to a liberal nor a legalistic bent. Using scripture to bring people into line is not only wrong; it is too often a failure. Within my church I saw dozens of teens leave, some of them saying, “If I’m going to hell anyway, I’ll go have fun on the way.”
I often wonder how many of them would still be serving God had the Word been applied more truthfully. No doubt, some would still have strayed; however, I wonder how many would have returned like the Prodigal Son when they realized their rebellion was not as fulfilling as they had hoped. I believe if they had understood grace they may have returned.
Something to think about. Have any of you experienced what I’m saying? I sincerely hope not, but I’d like to hear from you.