Recently, I was listening to a friend describe a particular “Christian” program that, to this day, is spiritually abusive to the women and children under its regime. The stories, and particularly the “scriptural” justifications thereof, turned my stomach, caused me to burn with anger at the malignment of God’s character, and broke my heart for the people who suffer this ill-advised and harmful system. “What does this say about who God is,” I demanded. “How can people project such a counter-scriptural version of the gospel?”
It is easy to judge the obviously harmful dogma of some; however, upon meditation, I was forced to ask myself: how am I degrading the gospel in my life? What do others know of God through their interactions with me? Is God merely prohibitive, because I won’t let my kids play violent video games or watch provocative movies? Is He easily frustrated by the failings of His children, as I at times am with mine? Does He expect us to do for ourselves, as I have chided my husband? Does He get bored? Is He tired? Does He hold a grudge? Will He forget what’s important to others? Does He tune people out from time to time? Is He selfish?
The answer to each and every one of the above is: no. Those are all my qualities (though there isn’t anything “quality” in any of those behaviors); those are Jen. Who, then, is God, based on my life’s communication of His gospel?
Perhaps first, I have to ask, “What is the gospel?” The gospel is not a set of dogmatic practices or personal beliefs. It is immediately as simple as John 3:16 and as complex as the entire process of sanctification. A rainbow birthed from a crystal, it is something I can hold in my palm; yet the moment I close my hand proprietarily around it, it is just outside my grasp. I cannot own it, nor bend it to fit my design. If I want to keep it, I have to sit, to focus upon it. I have to follow it as it moves. Yet watching it, interacting with it, delights me and ignites joy.
To carry the metaphor further, I am the dusty chunk of rock that will eventually be a beautifully chiseled crystal; through which the light of Christ may be filtered so that it explodes onto the surface of my environment. And is then caught in the hand of someone who needs that Light. The gospel is not the source of the Light; yet it is partly what changes me, and it is the alluring beauty that points back not to me, but to the Light.
However, for the gospel to be seen in and through me, I have to be willing to be cut; to be changed and transformed from what I am now, to what I was meant to be. I must submit to the Designer, to allow the ugliness, the dirtiness, the world, to be separated from me and thrown away. I must give the gospel sway in my actions, words, and thoughts. And I cannot do that without being in direct and constant contact with the Light through prayer, study, and submission to His instrument, the Holy Spirit.
Which means that for today, instead of merely judging those who propagate abuse in the name of Christianity, I can listen to the stories and weep with those who suffered from it. I can gently assure them that this idea, this projection of God’s character is not who the Great I AM is. I can say, “What happened to you is not okay, I will not tolerate it; but most importantly, God yearns to show you who He truly is.”
And hopefully one of my cleaner, more beautiful facets will catch the Light; so that through me, the rainbow of the gospel might delight the heart of someone in desperate need of beauty, truth, and love.
 Certainly, spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse should never be tolerated within the body of believers. And it is the responsibility of the healthy members to effect change, offer safety and healing for the victims, and even discipline those responsible when necessary.
 Granted, this is a topic that is better suited for seminars, courses, and even entire degree programs (to include doctoral studies). However, for the sake of this space, brevity is key.