Continuing the interview with Kathi Macias, author of the new book Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World (New Hope, 2008):
On page 74 you write about “the hypocritical religious leaders of Jesus’s day who were spiritually abusing the very people to whom they were supposed to be ministering. For although these religious leaders had good intentions in trying to protect God’s Word and keep the people from breaking His laws and commands, their efforts had instead deteriorated into a form of legalistic religion, a perversion of God’s intentions.”
Do you see us Christians doing this same thing at times today? If yes, in what ways and how can we change to do better? And do you see forms of “spiritual abuse” happening today. If so, where? What does it look like?
KM: Yes, sadly I think we all fall into that at times. The most comprehensive definition of spiritual abuse I ever heard was this: Any time anyone in a position of spiritual authority (whether a pastor or priest, a parent, a Sunday school teacher) uses that position to come OVER someone and add to their burdens, rather than coming UNDERNEATH and helping to relieve those burdens, it is spiritual abuse. Do we do that? Oh, yes, absolutely! And we need to repent of it.
I believe the key to dealing with spiritual abuse is to recognize the true meaning of the word submission, which is “to come underneath in a safe place.” When we realize that, we will more willingly (and joyfully!) submit to God and to others, and we will more readily provide that safe place for those who are to submit to us. That sort of understanding (and commitment to walk accordingly) will revolutionize our relationships.