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Faith Ingraham

I have lived with a secret for most of my life. I know many others are living with the same secret. They like me are suffering from the damage and pain it causes.

I was born into the home of a pastor, the sixth of nine children and the only girl.

My secret began when I was about ten years old. It was then that my father chose to rape and molest me.

This abuse continued until I was seventeen or eighteen. Each day as I came home from school, I would pray that the abuse would end. But the abuse didn't stop. I felt trapped: a prisoner in my home.

During my engagement I felt it necessary to tell my fiancée my secret. His first response was to suggest we cut off our relationship with my father, but I felt that we needed to love and forgive. We thought this was the Biblical way to handle the situation and we forgave him.

Recently we realized our mistake in the way we dealt with my father's sin and criminal activity.

Because I had never told my secret, my brother and his wife allowed their children to spend the night at my parents' home. My father chose to take the opportunity to abuse another victim. He molested their 15 year-old, mentally handicapped daughter.

We learned then that my father had been accused of sexually abusing others. His pattern of abuse had persisted because his behavior had been excused or overlooked. People who knew of his sin chose to look the other way or decided not to make waves. Meanwhile, more victims were added to his list.

What is so sad about my story is that I am not the only one with a secret.

Studies show that 27% of women and 16% of men have been victimized by sexual abuse. Of these 42% of the women and 33% of the men acknowledged never having told anyone their secret. Most of these were victimized by family members or trusted family friends.

It is time to acknowledge that this evil not only occurs in the secular world but it is thriving in our churches.

When my secret was revealed in our small church several members of our congregation shared similar secrets. One pastor's daughter had been raped by a visiting speaker who had been a guest in their home. Another had been abused by a pastor to whom she had gone for counseling. A lady who attended a school for missionaries' kids, witnessed sexual abuse by dorm parents.

If Jesus were to visit our churches today, what would He do? Would He ignore and excuse criminal behavior because He would not want the church to suffer the embarrassment of dealing with prominent church members who are involved?

I believe it is clearly shown through scripture that He would confront the abusers and expect that they face the consequences of their sinful lifestyle. Jesus was not afraid to confront the religious leaders while He walked upon the earth. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus continually rebukes the Pharisees and calls them blind hypocrites and white washed sepulchers. That is why they wanted to kill Jesus, because He did not excuse their ungodly behavior.

Because we live in a day of grace and are offered forgiveness of sins, many are claiming God's amazing grace as a license to commit immorality.

In the book of Jude we are warned about such men. "They are godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord." (Jude 1:5) The rest of the book goes on to tell of God's condemnation of such behavior.

We see many examples in the Bible of men who had been forgiven of their sin yet still faced the consequences of their actions.

When David committed immorality, he repented and was forgiven for his sin but he lost not only the son that was born from the sinful union but he lost three other sons to death as well.

Moses was forgiven for his disobedience when he smote the rock in the wilderness instead of speaking to it as God commanded. But he still was not allowed to enter the Promised Land as a consequence of His disobedience.

In the story of Zachaeus in Luke 19 we see evidence of true repentance. Zachaeus did not take his forgiveness for granted. He told Jesus that he would give half of his goods to the poor and he would restore four times the amount he had stolen to those he had sinned against.

In I Corinthians 5:1-12, Paul gives instruction to believers on how we should deal with immorality within the church. He tells us we are to break off fellowship with those who are guilty of sexual immorality. This is not an unloving act but a demonstration of tough love done in an effort to bring about repentance. This passage describes the immorality as "a kind that does not occur even among pagans." Sexual abuse of children is considered to be the lowest of criminal activities even among criminals. But often Christians don't want to admit that it has impacted our families and churches.

We can no longer ignore the issue and pretend that it could never happen in our organization or our family. The need to address the issue stands before us and if we ignore the call the consequence is that more lives will be impacted and devastated.