How to get kicked out of church: Verbal Abuse
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian 1 who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, 2 or a drunkard, or a swindler.Do not even eat with such a person. It can be a hard thing to be dis-fellowshipped or shunned over a behavior you love more than your Christian family. Previously, I discussed drunkenness and swindling, today I'll look at verbal abuse. King James' Bible uses the word, railer, which doesn't help the modern speaker much. Nave's Topical Bible suggests a couple similar injunctions against this type of talk, 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 6:4; 1 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 2:11; Jude 1:9. I found the translation note on this word by the NET editors very helpful. They write, Or “revilers”; BDAG 602 s.v. λοίδορος defines the term as “reviler, abusive person.” Because the term “abusive” without further qualification has become associated in contemporary English with both physical and sexual abuse, the qualifier “verbally” has been supplied in the translation. Verbal abuse is a very real problem. It can cause a great deal of hurt and damage. It can destroy a marriage and a church. The church has not had a good track record to verbal abusers in their midst. But the church is waking up. Here is an extended quote about verbal abuse from Troubledwith.com, a ministry of Focus on the Family.
Paul wants action in the church as well. Separate those who offend this way from the family table of believers. Not only is the offender acting like an unbeliever, but is also causing pain at the table. In the case of a marriage, the hurt spouse might need a safe place to go to away from the home. The offending spouse then needs to demonstrate effort toward healing. For more on this see this excellent website, Brokenpeople.org, and this article on marital separation in particular. Let me add, if Paul is this worked up about verbal abuse, how much more would he be about physical abuse in a marriage. Some Christians reason that since their is no proof text about physical abuse in marriage, the abused has to persevere in it. However, I reason from the lesser to the greater. I'm not alone.
The well-worn chant, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" is just not true. As Dr. Grace Kettering writes in her book Verbal Abuse, "Cruel names and labels can hurt us — dreadfully! Many times the emotional damage is unintentional. Crippling comments may seem so trivial to the speaker as to be soon forgotten. But at a crucial moment or from an important person, certain words spoken to a vulnerable, receptive individual can make or break a life."
Verbal abuse takes on many forms including criticizing, insulting, degrading, harsh scolding, name-calling, nagging, threatening, ridiculing, belittling, trivializing, screaming, ranting, racial slurring and using crude or foul language. Disparaging comments disguised as jokes and withholding communication are also examples of verbal abuse.
Hurling hurtful words at another may sound like: "You're a nag just like your parents!" "You don't know how to do anything right." "It's your fault!" "You're too sensitive." "Come on, can't you take a joke?" "That outfit makes you look fat." "You're worthless in bed." "Who asked you?" "You don't need that second helping." "All you do anymore is go to church stuff." "Your ex sure screwed you up emotionally." Verbal abuse can happen anywhere, at any time. Individuals who are teased and pressured at work or school may in turn take out their pent-up frustrations at home. "Kicking the dog" is not enough; instead, they verbally attack their spouse, children, parents, close friends — no loved one is safe.
Wounds that typically accompany emotional, physical and sexual abuse must not be ignored. Both men and women inflict verbal abuse, but women tend to be more often on the receiving end of this destructive behavior. What may seem innocent and infrequent at first can escalate. Verbal abuse frequently plays a major role in violent crimes. According to a 1998 U.S. Justice Department report on violent crimes, women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.
All forms of abuse follow a pattern that, left unchecked, will only increase over time. Injuries from verbal and emotional abuse can run deep and leave lasting scars. Many emotionally and verbally abused people reason that, because there are no bruises or broken bones, their abuse must not be serious. But it is. Fortunately, support and resources are readily available to guide individuals into safe, loving relationships. In their well-received book Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend state that, "Our pain motivates us to act." If pain motivates you to act against emotional and verbal abuse, then listen and act. You may be saving more than your life.
This is not an issue of the seven dirty words. The Bible speaks elsewhere on that kind of language. Those words are not at the level of being kicked out of the dining room. The issue is about intent and effect. With the nicest words, the most brutal of intentions and greatest of pain can be inflicted. This is what is unacceptable. This does not remotely resemble the life of Christ. This deserves ejection from the fellowship.