Spiritual Abuse and Pursuing Christ


I heard a sermon message awhile back about how Jesus passed by a blind man, named Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). What catches your attention about this man is that when he hears who is coming down the street, even with the crowd surrounding him, he quickly strategizes the situation in order to take a huge risk.

When he knows that it is Jesus of Nazareth who is coming, he must make a decision to go against the expected public protocols in order to get Christ’s attention. Bartimaeus began to call out loudly.  This was highly irregular behavior.  Those close to him in the crowd insisted that he be quiet, that he ‘can’ it!—that he just back off and shut up!

With all this commotion echoing in his ears, what should he do? As a blind man, he already had a weakened social rank in society. Bartimaeus could have acquiesced to their demands and just slid back into his routine place in the Jewish social strata.

Bartimaeus had heard about this Jesus.  It is no doubt that he would have had time to ponder all that he had heard about the activities of this rabbi.  Was he the One who would come?  If Jesus was reported to be the healer of multitudes of others, with severe physical and spiritual conditions, then maybe, just maybe, there might be something that this Jesus could do for him.

Bartimaeus had to think quickly or he might lose this moment. What would he decide to do?  He decided to take a chance, to go against what others had frowned on. He decided to go against what others had expected from him.  At this very intersection of time, it was crucial for Bartimaeus that his voice be heard.

Bartimaeus began to raise his voice with passion and intensity. The question remained:  Would this spiritual teacher, this healer in Israel, respond to this man’s compelling cry, or not?  Would the desperation found in his voice, the heart cry from within him, be heard or simply ignored—as just another voice, lost in the crowd?

Everyone watched to see what the busy teacher, enroute to Jerusalem, might do.  The story finds Jesus responding to this blind man with this curt enquiry:  “What do you want?”  The blind man, without hesitation, replied:  “That I might receive my sight!”

Each step that Bartimaeus took was one step closer to presenting his need to the Healer.  This Jesus was seen as a compassionate leader who was able to single out the desperate cry for help from one man from the many other voices among the crowd.  Christ’s response was:

“What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51

Bartimaeus expressed his desire clearly:  “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus commanded him:  “Go, your faith has healed you.”  In that instant, Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

What About Us?

When I think about people who have suffered from spiritual abuse in their local church, I consider how often they are told to just be quiet, to get over it, and to not bother people about their concerns for their church and for the Church as a whole.  Frankly, it would be so easy to do—just to be quiet and not to allow one’s heart cry to be heard.

The one thing that this story reminds us is that even though people urge someone to be quiet and to slide back into the crowd, it may be the very time to take a risk and allow one’s voice to be heard instead.  Though difficult and though it may seem like it may not be worth the bother, maybe it is exactly the right time to take some distinctive action and make one’s voice heard.  There is inspiration and courage that can be gained by knowing the story of Bartimaeus.  This courage can propel each of us forward.


What Happens With Spiritual Abuse?

When trust has been shattered with church leadership after experiencing spiritual abuse under their care, then one’s personal relationship with Christ is so often affected. So many people have problems understanding why God allowed this to happen to them.

Many people have a crisis of faith through the whole situation. Their faith is crushed and the disillusionment, with everything that they have been taught, now comes into question.  It is a frightening and grievous time in someone’s spiritual life.

Others find that though a church leader and their own church has let them down horribly, they find that they can go to Christ for refuge.  Some find it much harder to include Christ in their church dilemma since this painful experience of spiritual abuse now confuses the relationship with deity and they find themselves deeply perplexed.

Recognizing how this harm has affected you, as an individual, will help you to consider what ways that you need to take in order to begin on the path towards recovery.



Recognizing that Christ always longs to respond to those who have been wounded and help those who don’t know which direction to take–has always brought comfort to his followers over the centuries.  The family of believers throughout history have a united witness that God has been with them when times are tough.

The story of Bartimaeus gives individuals hope—to take a risk with Christ, to cry out to him in one’s desperation, and to expect that he will hear and respond to their call.  Knowing that Christ is there for you, even when your emotions may be telling you that he is not, can provide a buffer in a dismal and heart-wrenching situation.

This situation can be an opportunity to understand, in a much deeper way, how the ‘cross of Christ’ more richly fits into one’s belief system in a much more meaningful way–even through this disheartening experience.

It is time for you to call out to Christ—to expect that he hears and understands your situation.  Though it may feel so difficult, it is time to pursue Christ, in fresh, new, and significant ways.

Cheering you on in this worthy pursuit.


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For Further Reflection

Some motivational thoughts:

  • Where can you make a change?
  • You are the change—therefore, be the change.
  • Take a risk to make a difference.
  • Use your voice to take a stand for justice.
  • Take a risk to follow Christ in deeper ways.

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You Tube:  Healing of the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus



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© 2013   Barb Orlowski, D.Min.