Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Abuse as an Attack on Marriage by the Evil One

Genesis 2:23-24 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (24) Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Satan hates marriage.  This should not surprise us.  He introduced sin into the world through a husband and wife.  The devil knows very well that marriage is God’s divine picture to the world of Christ and His bride, the church.  When a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, the gospel is preached by that marriage. Satan hates that.  He hinders the knowledge of Christ whenever he can –

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. (4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

As I have studied the mentality and tactics of domestic violence and abuse, I have been continually impressed by what I call the Satanic nature of the thing.  Describe an abuser – how he thinks, how he attacks his victim, how he deceives – and you describe the devil.  I don’t know about demon possession in our day.  We know it has happened because we have numbers of records of it in Scripture.  Is there any reason why we should not expect Satan to actually possess a man in our day?  What would such a person look like?  I think that a good description could be given by many abuse victims as they describe their abuser.
Now, before you all run off and start designing exorcism rites for abusers, let me clarify that I am not saying every abuser is demon-possessed.  I think there may well be a good possibility that some are.  But what I am primarily considering here is that just as the Pharisees were of their father, the devil (John 8), so the abuser is of his father the devil.  He does the wishes of his father.  He hates Christ and those who are of Christ, and he tries to murder Christ. He lies and deceives just like his hellish father, who was a liar and murderer from the beginning.  In this sense, abuse is particularly Satanic.
And yet Christians and pastors and churches are most often oblivious to this.  I don’t say that arrogantly, as if somehow I am superior to all other pastors and Christians, but because I was oblivious too for so long.  We stubbornly cling to assumptions that abuse is just another kind of marriage squabble between a husband and wife that can be cured with counseling and improved communication.  But what if we look at it this way.  What if we see it for what it really is – the work of the Evil One.  A Satanic attack on Christ through an attack on one of God’s primary pictures of Christ and His redemption – marriage – by a child of the devil.  Once we grasp this, then we are in a position to begin to understand that what the victim tells us is being done to her and her children really is happening!  We won’t just dismiss her as a talebearer – a silly woman whose hormones and thoughts are running amok and blowing things all out of proportion.
Ask yourself again – why should we not expect Satan to devote large portions of his energies to keeping the world blind to Christ and His glory by twisting and perverting one of God’s fundamental portraits of Christ – marriage?  Abuse is Satanic.  It is demonic.  The abuser is in the grip of the Evil One.  As you study abuse and come to understand how abusers think and how they persecute their victim – without conscience – you cannot help but start to realize that this thing is from the pit itself.
Finally, one more thing will happen when we come to this realization.  We will re-examine our own methods for dealing with the abuser.  This is spiritual warfare at perhaps its greatest intensity.  So if we think that we can just have this fellow and his wife come sit in our office for a few times and have a little chat, and help them communicate better – well, what can I say?  We are foolish.  Very, very foolish.


A Common and Surprising Ally of Abusers – Christians Who Grew up in Church


No Abuser is Hidden From His Sight — Sermon by Ps Jeff Crippen


  1. KS

    This is a great post which leads me to ask a question I’ve had for a while. But this topic is the perfect one in which to raise the question.
    In a conversation with my soon to be ex-husband recently, (moderators edited specific details to protect identity), I mentioned the spiritual oppression that our home was under while he was there, and the subsequent freedom from oppression that we have experienced since he left.
    He got all excited and said, “That’s it. You got it. You understand!” And confused, I said “what?” He asked me to repeat “spiritual oppression” and began to talk about how it was spiritual warfare etc as if I had never read my Bible. But then, once again, there was not enough time to have a real conversation blah blah blah and I said “just email me”.
    Basically he was trying to excuse his (many) years of emotional, psychological, sexual abuse by saying it was “spiritual” We wrestle not against flesh and blood, etc.
    What kind of answer can I give to that? I’m baffled.

    • Jeff Crippen

      KS- Well, abusers like him (ie, all of them) love to keep things very confusing. They hate precision in communication because it is more difficult to refute. I would suspect that what he was saying was “it is all your fault because you have been soooo ignorant. I have known all along that our troubles in this marriage and home are the devil’s work, but you haven’t seen it. You’ve been blaming me.” He then goes on to claim to be the big expert in what he calls “spiritual warfare.”
      The truth is, yes there has been warfare in your home. There was war because the enemy was there and that enemy was represented by his agent, your soon to be ex. But as always, YOU are the problem, you see.
      I am sure he will have no trouble finding “Christian” allies who will fall for his spiritual warfare line and who, of course, will conclude that you are to blame because YOU didn’t put on the full armor of God.
      None of them deserve any answer. They don’t want truth. He only wants power, control, and self-worship.
      Congratulations on getting free.

    • cindy burrell

      Hello, KS. As Pastor Crippen noted, your husband’s design was to create confusion, which is always of the enemy. It also points to the reality that our enemies (including abusive spouses) twist Scripture to suit their purposes. Yes, we wrestle with dark forces, but we don’t succumb to them! That’s where your abuser failed and how he tries to justify his sin.
      I pray you find joy and peace in your new life – a life free from abuse.

  2. cindy burrell

    Well, Pastor Crippen, what you shared rings so profoundly true, this piece pretty much knocked my socks off! It makes so much sense – the insidiousness of it all. And what you shared about the typical pastoral/Christian counseling dynamic is also frighteningly true, yet it is the norm. It’s tragic, and it’s about time we all stood up and called this dynamic what it represents: a mockery of God’s design for marriage!
    P.S. I’ll be printing this piece for future reference. I know I’m going to need it.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Cindy. As you know, and as was your experience, these things were learned by me in the hard knocks pews and pulpits filled with so many false Christians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *