Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Is Your Abuser a Christian?+

1Jn 2:3-6 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (5) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: (6) whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

This subject is one that often rankles people. Well, for that matter the entire subject of abuse arouses ire in many – but not for the right reasons. They just don’t want to admit that what we are saying about it is reality, ie, that abusers are hiding in most every local church and those churches most frequently are enabling them in their evil. But this specific issue – is the abuser a Christian? – really seems to churn up the waters. And yet we dare not ignore it because the answer that we give has huge consequences for the abuser’s targeted victim.
The top menu of this blog has an item called “What is Abuse?” It is vital that you read this definition. Because when I am talking about abuse, THIS is what I am talking about. I am not finding abusers behind every tree (though they may well be behind every other tree!) by calling just about any sinful action of a husband toward his wife “abuse.” No. Read that definition. The evil I am talking about is a habitual, ongoing evil that proceeds from a corrupt heart and mind. An abuser IS an abuser. This is what defines him and from which the wicked fruit of his lust for power and control emanate.
Now, with that in mind, ask yourself the question once more – “Is my abuser a Christian?”  He says he is. He often behaves like one in that he quotes the Bible, prays prayers, helps others, preaches fine sermons, but then he turns right around (especially in less public settings) and cruelly abuses you. When you even mildly suggest that he is sinning against you, here comes a lecture supported by Bible verse quotes, showing YOU that not only are your charges false, but that in fact YOU are the one to blame. So convincing is he in his tone, appearance, and words that you frequently come away wondering if or even believing that he is right.
And yet, this abuser we are exposing, is a liar in all this. He is, as Jesus told the Pharisees, revealing who his real father is:

Joh 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Would anyone dare say that these Pharisees were “Christians”? I hope not. To do so would be to reject our Lord’s own words about them. Someone whose father is the devil obviously does not have God as their Father.
Alright then, back to your “christian” abuser. Who is a Christian, according to God’s own Word? John says that a Christian is a person who knows God. Who obeys God’s commandments. And John goes on to say things like this:

1Jn 2:9-11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (10) Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (11) But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1Jn 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1Jn 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1Jn 3:7-8 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (8) Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1Jn 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

And on and on we could go. What is the obvious answer to our question? Is your abuser a Christian? Of course not. Absolutely not. The thing is impossible. Understand this – your abuser hates you. He is slowly murdering you. I have written elsewhere that abuse is really murder.
Why is this such an important question to be clear on?
Because, understanding WHO your abuser IS will determine HOW he is to be dealt with. Local churches, for example, very frequently (even typically) assume that the abuser is a Christian. They really think that he is a born again, regenerate, saved, child of God! Incredible, but true is it not? Why do they think so? Because:

  1. The abuser tells them that he is
  2. The abuser wears that Unholy Charade disguise around them so frequently and has them duped
  3. And, I suggest to you a third reason – because their knowledge and teaching of the Scriptures is tainted with false doctrine. They have been taught and they themselves usually teach that a person can be a Christian and yet have a life that is relatively unchanged. Thus the sickening mantra thrown at victims of abuse – “Well, we are all sinners, you know.”

The abuser is NOT a Christian. Rather, he is an evil man who CLAIMS to be a Christian. He is a “so-called” brother that Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians. HERE is what we are to do with such a person. This is the commandment of our Lord:

1Co 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Are you a sister in Christ who is the targeted victim of an abuser husband? Please understand these things that are so clearly set out for us in Scripture. Your abuser is not a Christian. No more than the Pharisees were who put on such a show of “holiness.” Once you realize this, then you can begin to proceed in making decisions that will be wise. You will stop holding your breath waiting for that “day” when he repents. You will stop thinking that if you just have that one more talk with him he will finally hear you. And you will stop being duped by the unbiblical nonsense that so many of your fellow “christians”have been laying upon you and which serve nothing more than to keep you a slave.


What to do When Hope Seems Non-Existent+


Worship Me, or Else – The Abuser's Command — Sermon by Ps Crippen


  1. cindy burrell

    Yes! This says it all. “Abusive Christian” is an oxymoron – an impossibility.

  2. Christy

    Thank you for speaking TRUTH Pastor Crippen. Even for the survivor who has gotten free from an abusive marriage, if kids are involved, you never are completely free from it. In my situation, my ex has the kids on the weekends and takes them to our old church (which I left because of the very scenarios you describe). When they come home, they tell me that he calls my street Wicked Way and that I’m not a Christian. He says because I broke the marriage covenant and divorced him that I’m sending my kids to hell and dragging God’s Word through the mud….and on and on. I thought that leaving him would make the 24 years of abuse stop…it never stops. It’s a mind game that continues. Truth is the only way to combat the condemnation and lies. Thank you.

  3. Stephanie

    God used your teaching to help me finally break free from a 25 year abusive marriage to a pastor. I “left” him many times throughout our marriage, but was improperly counseled that I had no biblical grounds for divorce. God has given me much freedom these past two years! But as Christy said above, you’re never completely free from it when you share children. I am thankful for every moment of peace…MANY more than when living under his oppression! I hope you will continue to share this truth. So many Christians and pastors have so very little understanding and belief that abuse is occurring in “Christian” homes. Blessings to you!

    • Jeff Crippen

      How often I have heard this – the abuser bring a pastor. So glad you are free and thank you for the encouraging words.

  4. sue

    Dear Pastor Crippen, so glad you have this blog. I know several people who walked away from church, because of nay-sayers and nosey people – one is my Mom, who walked away when she was nine years old. Another lady walked away from church after being invalidated/mocked a time or two too many. I think you’re right about “every other tree,” because spousal abuse is just the tip of the bullying iceberg. And i think the main reason my Dad walked, (when he was about 16) was for about the same reason Mom did – people who act all pious, but just want to pry into other people’s business.

  5. Krikit

    Wholeheartedly agree that someone who claims Christianity, but does not live consistently in their behaviors and attitudes as a disciple of Christ, lies. Not only does God’s written word not come back void, but neither does His Living Word, who resides in those that truly *are* His elect. The true work of the Holy Spirit within someone *cannot* produce Fruit that is contrary to God’s own nature.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thx Krikit. And yet you would be amazed how many professing christians refuse to acknowledge this.

      • Krikit

        Actually, I probably wouldn’t. I have plenty of first-hand knowledge from my decades in congregations and conversations.

  6. Gay

    There is a huge megachurch here that just had the 3rd or 4th pastor leave due to infidelity. They hide behind the ” I have an addiction” excuse and not only the pastors remaining but also the congregation sniffs and cries for the ABUSER! THE same old same old comes out, ” wah, pray for the abuser, we all are sinners, God will forgive all.” but no one stands up for the abused wife, humiliated, or her children.
    I am so sick of this I do not even want to go to church anymore.
    Our small church pastor just had a “friend who fell” and all he did was weep for this “friend” and everybody got all sad admitting that they, too, are sinners and will help this abuser over his “crises” but no mention of the wife or the kids.
    Just sick of it.

  7. Z

    That old, tired, twisted answer of “We are all sinners” by spineless Christians (who are willingly choosing to be duped/bribed/polished/bought off…by the known abuser/wolf-who poses as a Christian and who so easily buys them off /cons them so they will side with him when he is exposed) is answered by the Biblical FACT that God searches and judges the MOTIVES & HEARTS of each person.
    Yes, we will all sin from time to time even as true born-again Christians-until we are taken from this fallen world. But not arrogantly, habitually or intentionally. And true Christians are convicted by the Holy Spirit living in them when they sin and so they REPENT quickly and try their best, with the Holy Spirit’s help to do better to obey and please their God.
    And IF we are truly born again, IF our motives and hearts are pure, Jesus makes us righteous and “sinless” in God’s eyes. We get His grace and mercy.
    The “abuser/phony Christian” (impossibility->FRUIT!!) doesn’t see their need to repent! Ever. They will never humble themselves to submit their lives to Jesus truly and completely. Their pride and sense of entitlement won’t allow them to do it. Barring God performing the “impossible” in that evil, phony hypocrite, which only He can do.
    Their hearts and motives are pure darkness (satan). There is no Light (Jesus) in them. And we are to have nothing to do with them.
    I would include in the above category of “have nothing to do with such people” those who side with, remain silent about, enable, cover up..known evil/abuse. They too are complicit in evil and therefore also evil, in my view.

  8. Stormy

    We are to stay away from such people like this because they will turn and attack you.

  9. Wow, this has really hit home for me. Thank you for sharing. When I was younger I was abused by what everyone thought was a Christian and for the longest time I told NO ONE. I thought who would believe me he was high up in the church and me a child. I waited years until I told someone. I don’t talk to anyone from that Church anymore and for the longest time I HATED that man I HATED him with the whole of my body that was until I found the Lord, Now I have forgiven him. Thank you for sharing your story. Maybe I will share my whole story in time.. You are right an abuser is not a Christian… Have a great day, and thanks again for sharing….

  10. R.K

    Can you say narcissistic anti-social psychopath?
    These people often “get into religion” and study scripture and talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. They just use religion to abuse their spouse spiritually as well as emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically. They keep on sinning and hurting others on purpose over and over again, “seven times seventy” times seven hundred times seven thousand and on into the millions. How can God allow this?
    The abuser acts like they are the victim. They might even pretend to repent to gain sympathy while the victim is preached at to be a door mat and to submit to the abuse and suffer in silence. How can God allow this?

    • Jeff Crippen

      RK- God hates it. He will call the wicked to judgment and effect perfect justice on them. We can count on it.

  11. Marie

    May I ask – what if the abuser is so scarred by their own abuse growing up that they don’t see what they’re doing as wrong – but rather a means to an end, which is to find validation? I’m referring to subtle, perpetual emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse.
    I find it so complex. If a parent has endured years of their own abuse, and found salvation but can’t face the pain of the past, so don’t deal with it, can they really be called ‘wicked’ when they abuse their children from that foundation of brokenness?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Marie – such a person does not exist among abusers as we define them. The root of their evil is a profound sense of entitlement to power. No one is ever going to stand before God and blame their abuse of others on being abused themselves. The model you are asking about has its origin from the same place all erroneous theories about abusers come from- from the abusers themselves working on us to pity them.

  12. Monica

    Thank you – having been the target of a covert and cruel abuser, that has hidden behind the Bible the entire time – your words resonate to the very core of the situation. The abusers are not believers, and those that harbor them while turning their back on the abused are just as guilty of this great deception. Unfortunately, all those that have harbored my former husband, a repeated abuser, are also proclaiming to be Christ followers. Stand firm brothers and sisters, do not look back – keep moving forward no matter what the abusive “believers” accuse you of. There are some matters that are simply left to the Lord to handle.

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