What drives false teachers, bullies and abusers?

False teachers also tend to be bullies and abusers. The reverse is also true, abusers and bullies tend to be false teachers if they happen to be involved in church life and leadership. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, false teaching is itself a form of spiritual abuse, secondly false teaching is used as a cover or excuse for bullying and abuse.

In Galatians 6:12-13, Paul says:

12 Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.[1]

Notice the following about the false teachers in Galatia. They are seeking to force people to be circumcised. Now, given that we are talking about adults  for whom the act would have been painful and shaming, we are seeing physical abuse at work here. When people add on their own rules to the Gospel, they tend to do that. Think of how young men were told by Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth that they were to receive punishment beatings for their own spiritual good.[2]

Secondly, notice the hypocrisy.  Legalistic bullies rarely are willing to be held to the same standards as the people they bully. They are willing to expose and subject others to public shaming and impose harsh sanctions often on the basis of false accusation. Yet when they are challenged about their own behaviour, they expect privacy, confidentiality and no sanctions, often gaslighting away in order to distract people from the true issue.[3]

Thirdly notice their motivation. They want to look good, it is all about their own reputation and standing. However, notice why they want to look good, it is because they want to avoid persecution and suffering. Bullies, abusers and false teachers are always, always cowards who will put saving their own skin first.

We do not need to fear such people. Rather as the body of Christ we should be willing and ready to face abusers down knowing that we can trust in Christ to look after His Church.


[1] Galatians 6:12-13.

[2] Galatians 6:112.

[3] Galatians 6:13.

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