One of the topics I have come across that causes a lot of confusion around the topic of spiritual abuse is the true definition of what is abuse. The American government and court systems have defined other abuses with destinct behaviors and outcomes, but that has not been done with spiritual abuse.
There are definitions out there, for example this one is provided by The WatchmanExpositor (http://www.watchman.org/profile/abusepro.htm): Spiritual abuse is the misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. Sometimes abuse arises out of a doctrinal position. At other times it occurs because of legitimate personal needs of a leader that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes described as legalistic, mind controlling, religiously addictive, and authoritarian. They also provide common characteristics of abuse.
A common error in abuse is interpretting church discipline and confrontation of sin as abuse. The Word of God is clear that there are times to confront others and that sin is a very serious issue. There are both private/personal sins, and there are public/corporate sins. The scriptures even define somewhat different processes for how to deal with each type of sin.
I am going to do a series on this topic. I have been attending a church that recently has dealt with two different people in the church body, one with private sin and one with public sin. I will these as an example to explore how churches can deal with sin, provide a loving and firm example for others, how we should disciple and confront others, and how to move toward the ulimate goal of restoration and repentance.
I would love some discussion about this as I don’t know that my thinking is completely correct and I am sure there will be some differing views. Please feel free to share your thoughts and insights and I promise I will try to be open and accepting to all views…my goal is to lay out a spiritual wise and biblical approach for dealing with these topics.
Looking forward to this!