The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Forgiveness

Another common and wicked tactic of the “Christian” abuser is his insistence, on supposed biblical grounds, that his victim continually forgive him and love him.  Anyone who knows much at all about the nature of abuse will realize that abuse occurs in a cyclical manner which involves several stages.  The stage that comes right after the big blowup stage is commonly called the “honeymoon stage.” During this time, which can be short or long, the abuser can appear to be contrite, remorseful and even very kind.  He expresses remorse over what he has done and promises it will never happen again. He makes promises that he’ll change, that this time all will be different. He might buy presents for his victim, fulfill a few past promises made to her or even appear to take an interest in spiritual things. His promises are all nonsense, of course. In fact, because his supposed sorrow and repentance is FALSE (he even has himself deceived about it), the cycle WILL repeat itself.  After all, that is the nature of a “cycle,” right?

When the abuser “repents,” he always includes more or less flagrant demands that the victim needs to forgive him.  He will often throw in a couple of “false guilt/blaming” missiles about how his abuse was caused at least in part by the victim.  None of this is true repentance.  In fact, this is abuse itself.  The honeymoon period is within the cycle of abuse and is just another aspect of the abuse.  It contributes to the confusion of the victim and works to strengthen the abuser’s control over her.

Often the abuser will quote Scriptures that seem to support his demand that his victim forgive and love him.  Some of the commonly used ones are these:

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven…. Matthew 18:21-22

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18:35

The abuser will distort these verses in this way, “Jesus says that even if I sin again and again and again against you, you are required to forgive me whenever I ask you to.”  

Of course, as we have just discussed, the abuser is NOT repentant.  He may say he is, but he is not.  Nevertheless, he insists that because he has said he is sorry, his victim is required by God to forgive him. By saying thus, he is twisting Jesus’ words. WE CAN PROVE THAT JESUS’ WORDS ASSUME THAT THE OFFENDER IS REPENTANT, when He tells us to forgive even seventy times seven.  Here is the proof –

  1. Jesus intentionally calls the offender our “brother.”  So He is speaking about a scenario in which one Christian sins against another Christian.  Genuine Christians repent. Abusers do not.  Yes, we can forgive our enemies even if they do not repent but only in respect to not taking personal vengeance upon them. We cannot forgive unrepentant people judicially (pronounce their sin forgiven) because not even God will or can do that. Nor does forgiveness require reconciliation of relationship in every single case.
  2. An even clearer proof that we are NOT required to forgive the abuser even if he persists in his abuse time after time, comes from the context of Matthew 18.  If we go back to verse 15, here is what we find –

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (16) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (18) Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (19) Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (20) For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:15-20

If he refuses to listen, tell the church. (That’s not gossip or slander, by the way).  And if he won’t listen to the church, he is to be put out of the church.  That is what we call ex-communication.  Does that sound like forgiving “seventy times seven” in the way that the abuser insists we forgive him just because he says he is sorry?  No way.  Abusers “refuse to listen” and the evidence of their unrepentance is that they keep on sinning seventy times seven!  But their repentance is false.  They do not “listen” when they are confronted.

The abuse victim is NOT required to forgive and reconcile with her abuser just because he says he is sorry.  His continued pattern of evil demonstrates that his “root” is evil.  In other words, he may be a man who says he loves God, but because he hates his victim, he is a liar.  He is not a Christian.  He is, in reality, the victim’s ENEMY.

How then, do we deal with an enemy?  Abusers might do some Scripture quoting in this regard as well.  Jesus said we are to love even our enemies – so surely victims must love their abuser, right?  Once more, the abuser shows he is of his father the devil in that he perverts the Word of God to his own evil ends.  Here is what the New Testament says (and the Old Testament as well) –

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (18) If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (19) Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (20) To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21 [See Proverbs 25:21-22]

Let’s see if we can summarize what these verses are teaching us.

  1. Enemy, neighbor, brother – these are not interchangeable terms.  Love for our enemy is NOT going to look quite the same as love for our brother in Christ.  We are not going to be reconciled and have an ongoing relationship with our enemy!  If we could, he would not be our enemy!   Our neighbor, as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is anyone – especially if they are in need – but that isn’t calling us to an on-going, intimate, relationship with those who abuse us.
  2. Loving our enemy means, a) not taking vengeance upon him, and b) doing good to him such as feeding him if he is hungry.  We don’t render evil to him as he has done to us. We do good to him.  We can greet him and not curse him.  But this does not mean reconciliation has occurred!  He  is still our enemy, unless he repents.  Therefore our relationship with him will be quite different than our relationship with our brother in Christ.

We must be very wise then when it comes to speaking of loving and forgiving the abuser.  The abuse victim is being the most loving toward her abuser (and her children) when she refuses to tolerate his evil any longer.  While Christ does require us to forgive, that forgiveness in its essence means not hating nor seeking vengeance, but leaving vengeance to the Lord.  It does not necessarily include the maintaining of a relationship or marriage to the abuser.

10 thoughts on “The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Forgiveness

  1. Deb

    This is so helpful and echoes Pastor Sam Powell’s sermon on Psalm 129. With regard to “vengeance”, I feel that victims need to understand that it is not vengeful to use the authorities God has placed us under to bring charges against their abusers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norma

    It is interesting how I could see this cycle more clearly once I was no longer in it. An unrepentant person fails to see or acknowledge the harm they’ve caused. The victim waits and waits for this but usually to no avail. True repentance is life-giving and restorative.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All of this makes sense, but there is one aspect with which I continue to struggle. When dealing with an abuser, is it feasible to attempt to bring in witnesses to confront him, particularly if the only witnesses are the abuser’s wife and children? And what happens after such an encounter? For me, that’s a scary thought. What are your thoughts?

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    1. Jeff Crippen

      No. That would be a mistake in my opinion. Same error really as couple’s counseling. And after all what would be the point? He is going to insist on being right no matter how many witnesses. Matthew 18 doesn’t apply here. 1 Cor 5 does.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Z

    I struggle with the command to “love” my abusers. And to “pray blessings on them-my enemies”.
    The abusers are both my parents, who brutally physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally and spiritually abused me all my childhood. (They were & still are professing “Christians”.)
    As an adult, after leaving home & getting (good) individual counseling, I learned “tools” to keep them at a physical & emotional distance. I separated from them with little to no contact, firm boundaries, etc.. and later “became one” with my supportive godly husband of many years.

    However, my parents continued their abuses whenever they could. No longer able to physically abuse me, they verbally & phychologically abused me as well as my husband. I kept setting & keeping boundaries & consequences of “No Contact”, sometimes for a year at a time. Then the crocodile tears, begging, fake apologies..guilting me into forgiving them. AGAIN & AGAIN.

    I thought as a “real Christian”, I had to keep forgiving. But I still kept very firm boundaries & had many more instances of separations, minimal to no contact. (I know this boundary-setting is what made them hate me & abuse me MORE! And it finally recently led to a violent attack on me and my husband, after one rare short visit. We called police & instituted full & permanent “No Contact” with these criminals.

    So I thank you for your explanation of the “forgiveness” Scriptures that were twisted to keep me in bondage.

    But loving them? And the other Scripture which adds that we are to “pray blessings on them”?
    I can forgive, I have turned them fully over to God’s vengeance. I don’t hate them. I don’t even think of them.

    I can pray for the “blessing” of their coming to repentance, so they don’t go to hell, as they are headed there if they don’t repent. But that’s as far as I emotionally can go.

    I can’t make myself love them or pray that “blessings and good things happen for them”!

    Am I disobedient to God because of this? My desire to “obey God” by forgiving them over and over and over in the past is what got me to be in a position for them to have that final access to me and use it to violently attack me in revenge for my boundaries & consequences on them.

    Any thoughts to help me be clear of ANY wrongdoing on my part in God’s eyes?

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    1. Jeff Crippen

      Read the Psalms. Check out how many of them are prayers for the Lord to destroy the wicked oppressors of the Psalmist. Those are the prayers I pray “for” abusers.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Z

        Yes. Thank you. I’ve also been praying those same Psalms daily. But I’ve felt a bit “guilty” at times. (Due to more twisted doctrine from codependent, dysfunctional, abuse-enabling, false teachers/ministers in my extended family who knew about my child abuse & did nothing but cover it up-No Contact with those wolves either!)

        Then I realized the Word of God is written by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Every word is there to teach & edify us.

        I just wanted to check with a Pastor such as you, who “gets it”, to be sure praying those Psalms “qualifies” as praying for my enemies-although none are “blessings”-nor should they be, it would seem according to those Psalms!

        And right now I believe even God doesn’t love reprobates who He gives over to their depravity. They refuse to repent & live in Jesus’ Righteousness. So I don’t feel the need to feel love for them. Pity, yes.

        Thanks Pastor Crippen!

        Like

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