Scripture does not prohibit calling police about sexual abuse


When a sexual assault is reported, church leaders may be tempted to invoke the Apostle Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 6:1. “If any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?” (CSB).

That passage is dealing with what we in the U.S. call civil lawsuits, where church members were asking the Roman courts to rule on disagreements between church members. “As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7, CSB).

This passage is not dealing with sexual assault. If a Christian in Corinth had murdered someone at a church meeting, the church, I think, would have called the local authorities to have the person arrested before he could kill anyone else.

This “anyone else” has to be at the forefront of our thoughts. Sex abusers generally repeat the offense. This is why the State of Texas registers sex offenders. But the state cannot register a sex offender if an offender is not reported and prosecuted. In the absence of legal consequences, the offender is likely to abuse again.

Ephesians 5:11 provides the best instruction for churches. “Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them” (CSB).

Related articles: Executive Board emphasizes the importance of safeguards at May meeting / Caring for abuse survivors / The increasing need to protect children in church