The human mind responds to trauma in unique ways. There is something called the Stockholm Syndrome where hostages will actually align themselves with the hostage taker, instead of the rescue team. When the Stockholm Syndrome is fully developed there have been cases where hostages have actually fought back against the incoming rescue team. The hostages came to believe an attempt at their rescue would put them in greater jeopardy than remaining a hostage. They believed their survival was dependent on maintaining their imprisoned status quo – even if that meant a rescue never came.
Something similar happens to those held hostage in spiritual bondage. Years ago, I remember trying to explain to a couple that men and women were equally qualified and empowered in Christ to do the work of ministry. This couple had been raised up in a church that taught a woman was not allowed to speak in a public meeting or hold a leadership role. Today, this mindset only remains within a narrow portion of the Church, but at the time it was especially prevalent in the valley where I live.
When I proposed a way out of that limited way of thinking it was the wife, not the husband, who responded with the loudest objection. While the husband was the one who parroted his church leadership’s limited and restrained view of women, it was the wife who was the one held hostage to that thinking and who had spent her entire married life forming her identity around that lie. To have someone like me come and attempt to rescue her from that way of thinking, I became a threat putting her identity and belief system in jeopardy. She gathered up her family and promptly left our church. In essence, she was living within the equivalent of a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.
I remember when I was a Hostage Negotiator in the real world of police work. I saw and experienced the effects of the Stockholm Syndrome firsthand. In a hostage negotiation our ally was time. Over time we could wear down the hostage taker or set up a plan of rescue for those held captive. The same is true in spiritual matters. When you deal with people who are held hostage by systems of belief that diminish their identity or a healthy concept of God, give them time. In the waiting, you will discover God is already at work with His own plan of rescue. Our plan of rescue will, many times, only try to prove our point. God’s plan of rescue will always have as its desired resolution the freedom of His children.