Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Angels of Darkness Masked as Light – The Satanic Nature of Abuse

2 Corinthians 11: 14-15 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Jack’s wife Mary was in the pastor’s office. Apparently there had been some kind of spat between them and she had come to the pastor to tell him about it. Jack was one of the finest Christian men in the whole church – everyone knew that. If you wanted something done, Jack was the go-to guy. What a servant’s heart! But now here was Mary – visibly troubled, haltingly sharing a few details of what had happened last night. Jack, she said, had been in a rage. He pushed her down hard onto the bed and told her to sit there and shut up and listen to him until he was through!
Depending upon the initial response Mary gets from her pastor, she will tell him more, or she will tell him nothing else. Abuse victims “test the waters,” whether they realize this is what they are doing or not. If they know that their hearer is open to listening and appears to believe them, they will tell more. If, however, they hear “Well, Mary, your husband is a fine Christian man, and I am sure that he loves you.  He must be under a lot of stress for him to lose his temper like that. Did you say anything that would set him off?” – then forget it. She is done talking.

Let’s assume in this case that something unusual happens – the pastor listens to her and at least is willing to consider what she is saying is true. So she goes on.This is not the first time this has happened, she says. In fact, it happens a lot. Mary and her children live in fear. And Jack has threatened her more than once that if she ever talks about “what goes on in this family” to anyone, she will be sorry.
Why should such a thing surprise and confuse us as much as it seems to?  Oh, I recognize that it is no fun thing to learn something like this about a person whom you thought to be a model Christian (that is a foolish thing for any of us to think of one another, by the way.  I certainly am no “model” to be held up on a pedestal – and I bet you aren’t either!).  But really, why should we find something like this so difficult to believe.  Our Lord warns us over and over in Scripture that Satan is incredibly deceptive.  That he is able to come right in among us (as Judas did) in his sheep disguise, or in his angel of light/servant of righteousness get-up.  What do we think all of this means?  It means that the “Jacks” in our churches are children of the devil, in spite of the disguise they have sold us on.  HIS servants. Do you see that little phrase?  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.  Who is “his”?  His is him – Satan!  The Apostle Paul is telling us that the servants of Satan infiltrate the body of Christ in angelic disguises of light.  So DON’T be surprised!
Apparently, we don’t really believe that this could happen to us. Today. In OUR churches. But it does. It is. And one of the favorite disguises is an abuser, who hates Christ and hates the people of Christ, including his victim, convincing his church and pastor that he is a fine, holy, eminent saint. If we will open our eyes to this tactic, then we will start understanding, for the first time, just who “Jack” really is! There, seated before you in that committee or board meeting, is the enemy. That one standing in the pulpit praying so piously or greeting people at the door every Sunday morning year after year – is not who he appears to be. How do you know? His wife comes and tells you. Finally, because she can’t see him abusing her children anymore.
What will you do?  Pastor?  Christian?  What will you do?  So it is no surprise if his servants….  Will you be surprised? Shocked?  So that you just can’t believe it?  Or will you be wise in God’s Word and recognize the thing for what it is?  Only then will you be prepared to deal with Jack in truth and righteousness – and effect justice for his victim – to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.


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


There is a Time to be Done with Your Abuser


  1. cindy burrell

    As always, I thank you for the wisdom you offer here. I can only pray that pastors and other leaders are reading this. Going beyond simply hearing an abuse victim’s words but rather LISTENING what her heart is trying to say.
    You are right. The victim will shut down and wonder if ANYONE will come alongside and validate her painful truth and support her desire to protect her children – and leave.

  2. Maggie

    This is my husband of 20 years. He was a pastor. Shortly after we married he started raging and it just escalated over the years. He had me so isolated and trapped I could not get out. I finally filed a restraining order and divorce and custody (last year). He left his job and has not gone back nor supported me and our (several) children. He is claiming disability and has no plans to ever go back to work. I have a chronic illness and have been a stay at home, home schooling mom forever. He is also an attorney and is trying to destroy me and is going to fight for custody of our kids, even though he doesn’t seem to care much about them and yells at them all the time and is mentally unstable.
    God is taking care of us and I am working hard to make it. We are slowly starting to heal from all the trauma, but my 2 oldest (teenagers) are completely turned off by church, God and men. Since this all happened my husband has totally done a turn about and is drinking heavily, sleeping around and cussing and watching horrible movies in front of the children when they have to go for visitation. He is actually encouraging them to sin and telling them they have no rules at his house.
    I am just struggling to understand this. He was horrible and violent and raged a lot but seemed to abstain from sinful activities. I thought we were on the same page as far as God went and ungodly living. He still professes to be saved and prays “all the time”. I am so confused. I am trying to make sense of this. I don’t understand if he did get saved when he was (a teenager) and then somewhere got caught up in sin until it overtook him and his conscience is seared. Or if he prayed a prayer but never really surrendered to God. I cannot understand how someone can live a double life or a lie for over 20 years.
    My love for God and serving Him is sincere so I am just struggling to understand all this. Just wondered if you had any insights and would also appreciate prayers for all of us.
    Thank you so much and God bless.
    Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He’s trying to change your heart.
    (Moderators edited specific details to protect commenter’s identity)

    • Jeff Crippen

      Maggie- You can be certain that your ex husband is not and never was saved. He put on a disguise the entire time, though his “halo” slipped quite often. I have seen these guys even preach “good” sermons that sound so biblical. As Paul told the Corinthians, Satan’s servants can appear to be “sons of righteousness.” But no genuine Christian could ever walk in evil as he has done and as he continues to do. If you read 1 John, I think that you will see that your ex is and has always been a liar.
      And he is never going to change. These kind of men are like Esau who came to the point when repentance was impossible for him. Like the person described in Hebrews 6:4ff, they have not only known Christ’s truth, they have actually tasted it and experienced its goodness, but rejected it.
      Nothing that happened is your fault. What happened to you was the doing of an evil, wicked man. And the way God is changing you is to give you clarity and wisdom about this evil so you can be free.

    • GypsyAngel

      Maggie, may I pray for you please?

    • nursesearl

      Your comment- “I am just struggling to understand this. He was horrible and violent and raged a lot but seemed to abstain from sinful activities.” Just to let you know, being horrible and violent and raging IS sinful activity. He wasn’t abstaining. Praying for you and your family. So glad you’re out of there! Praying for your healing.

    • cindy burrell

      I’m so sorry you are going through all of this.
      My husband began to openly engage in behaviors similar to what you describe after we finally separated for good – women, drugs, alcohol, porn and violent or highly offensive movies, which he watched while the kids were with him. We went to mediation, and I prayed my brains out for two weeks, until I was finally granted custody, and my kids had the option of choosing whether and when to see him. Over time, the man burned his bridges with all four kids, and none of them have seen him for six years now. But he still did a lot of emotional damage in the process.
      I pray you will do whatever you can to protect your children and refuse to compel them to spend time with him. If they share with a mediator what you shared here, the odds are good that they will not be obligated to spend time with him. I urge you to go to the mat for them… they will be forever grateful.

  3. Kelly

    So what does this say about the elders and church family who know about my husbands evil abuse, but refuse to do anything about it?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Kelly – those kind of pastors and elders and church members are everywhere. What are they? Well at the very minimum they are ignorant of evil, ignorant about the real existence and tactics of abusers, ignorant of the phoney “sons of righteousness” that Paul says (2 Cor 11) creep into our churches in disguise. However, it is my opinion that mere ignorance cannot explain the gross, willful blind eye turned to this evil by these churches.
      Churches, including the ones who are evangelical, who claim to believe the Bible, who profess that a person must be born again and so on, widely and typically teach that a Christian is a “sinner.” That is to say, they teach and maintain that someone can walk in sin habitually and yet, because after all salvation is free and by grace alone, such a person is a Christian who we are all required to be patient with. Hogwash! Absolutely unbiblical and false. Even a cursory reading of I John for example shoots that teaching down. So your church elders and members who know about your husband’s evil abuse yet refuse to confront him and put him out of the church hold to this false theology. They maintain he is a Christian.
      But there is more.
      I believe that the fundamental reason this is happening to you in your church is that the elders and members are cowards. They like being ignorant and blind to evil. Why? Because then there is no cost to them, only to you. And you are expendable. So they lay all this false teaching on you – you can’t divorce him, you must submit to him more, yada, yada, yada. It is all designed to lay the burden on you and not on them.
      Let me tell you what happens in a local church when evil is confronted and exposed. People bail out like crazy. I know. Our church has about 35 people in it now. We have peace. We have love and unity. But there used to be about 150 people there when I first came some 25 years ago. Many were counterfeits. Others were cowards. Others were duped by the wicked and left with them. All the hatred and blame was put on me and the genuine believers left. And THAT is what, I believe, elders and church members like yours know. They know that will happen if they deal with evil. They will lose people. They will lose popularity. They will lose money. They will lose denominational career opportunity (if your church doesn’t grow in numbers, you are finished in the career path you know). So, they blame you and they enable and protect the abuser.
      I have been accused of being too harsh by saying these things. But I can tell you this is truth. Your church is a false church and your pastor is a false shepherd if they will not confront the wolf and protect the lambs.

  4. anonymous

    As scarring and near deadly as it has been, perhaps one upside is the ability to see just how demonic it all was and is. Woman abuse is nothing short of evil and abusers are of the devil. All the more frustrating to see batterer intervention-like stuff being promoted by the church and Christian leaders. I don’t see abusers having any hope, especially those with any church exposure. Just like the abuser standing in a church saying his marital vows, swearing to Almighty God. Nope. Abusers are of the devil.

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