Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

God's Law as Protection Against Abusers

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” (17) The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; (18) for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” John 4:16-18

Ok, this is a dangerous subject.  It’s dangerous because I run a real risk of being misunderstood, having an unmerciful and uncaring attitude toward victims of abuse.  Some readers might think that I am in company with the old school of thinking that a rape victim “brought it on herself.”  I hope that isn’t true, but then I’m not infallible.  With that said, let me just state my thesis –

“If we obey God’s Word, especially His commandments regarding sex and marriage, we go a long way in protecting ourselves from the abuser.  Conversely, when we violate God’s commandments, we make ourselves very vulnerable to the tactics and deceptions of an abusive person.”

As I read victim’s stories, with some regularity I notice that their initial relationship with the abuser broke the instructions of God’s Word about sex and marriage.  NOT always and perhaps for Christian victims, perhaps not even that frequently.  For any victims reading this article, I remind all of us of God’s forgiveness and grace in Christ for all who believe in Christ and repent of going their own way.  Christ does not intend for us to be weighed down forever by the load of our past sins and foolishness.

I like to read Ann Rule’s true crime books.  Numbers of them, like Dead by Sunset  and Too Late to Say Goodbye [*affiliate links],  are sad stories of horribly wicked sociopath abusers who ultimately killed their victims.  As you read them, you find yourself wanting a time machine so you can go back there and take the guy out before he kills her.  But, that cannot be.  Anyway, in these true stories, I read about women who gave into the abuser’s wiles and engaged in sexual relations with them outside of marriage, moved in with them without being married, and sometimes did so while the abuser was still married to someone else.  Let me say again – I fully understand the incredibly deceptive tactics of these kinds of abusers, and how easy it is to get drawn in by them.  To pity them.  To be charmed by them.  They are really a kind of “spell-caster.”  I know this and I don’t deny it.
However, God’s Word is very clear on basic points.  Sex is only for a man and a woman committed by marriage covenant to one another.  A man and a woman are not to live under the same roof in a romantic relationship unless they are married. In fact, apart from some possible rare exceptions (caring for an invalid, etc), it is not wise for a woman to live in the same residence as a man who is not her husband. One wonderful young woman ended up being drawn in by a murderous, incredibly evil man when she agreed to live in his house as a hired nanny.  The man was going through a divorce at the time.
In addition, God makes it quite plain that a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian (Romans 7).  We are not to be bound together with unbelievers –

 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (15) What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Of course we realize that many abuse victims got deceived into a marriage with an unbeliever who was hiding behind a Christian facade.  (It is my opinion that a classic abuser CANNOT be a Christian).  But today it seems that young people, and even some older ones, profess Christ and yet they insist upon knowingly marrying an unbeliever, and those marriages are being accepted by pastors and churches and other Christians.  I recently heard of a case in which a young woman who professes to be a Christian intentionally, and against the advice of the elders of her church, married a non-Christian.  The pastor of the church would not do the ceremony – to his credit – however, one elder and his wife put on a gala reception for her and invited the whole church to it!  When a Christian marries a non-Christian, they can be increasing their chance of entering into an abusive relationship.  Not always – but the thing is not right in God’s sight.  His Word is very clear on this.
A very good test of the character of a person is to refuse to violate God’s Word in our relationships with them.  If a woman, for example, refuses to commit sexual immorality with a man and insists upon honoring God’s wisdom in her relationships, an abusive man is not going to like it at all.  He will see early on that this is a woman whom he cannot manipulate.  She is going to obey God rather than man.  And, if she is fortunate enough to have a godly man as a father, she will have further protection if she includes him in her decisions.  I know a man who ended up marrying a terribly abusive woman who ruined his life and family – with continuing ramifications even to this day – and he did so against the advice of some of his best Christian friends.  She was a pastor’s daughter and a real manipulator and a very, very abusive person.
Now, once more – I realize that there are godly, Christian women (and men) who have worked very hard to obey the Lord in their life, and especially in regard to sex and marriage and family.  Yet they got fooled by an evil, abusive man.  This does happen.  I do believe however that if our churches were what they should be and if we were teaching our people about the ploys of the enemy and what abuse looks like and operates, we could do much to minimize these sad situations.  To abusers who have deceived and victimized a Christian woman (or even a non-Christian woman!), I say, your Day is coming.  You have touched the apple of Christ’s eye, and if you think that you are going to get away with it, you are most surely going to find out differently.  In due time, you will slip.  There are thousands of ways for God to take you out of this life in a moment, and then what will you do?  Your lies and facades will be nothing then, as you stand before the One whose eye sees into the very depth of your being.  Nothing is hidden from Him, and you will give account.
For now, we must be wise.  Obey God’s Law.  It is life.


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Update on Giving for Abuse Survivor's Tax Bill


  1. walkinginlight

    Wow! This is complete truth and confirmation for me. I was young growing up in the 70’s and completely ignorant of what God has to say concerning premarital relations. I dated the man for many, many years until I sinned against the Lord. Even though I gave Jesus my heart at eight years old and asked Him to save me, as a teen I was drifted away from His word. The boyfriend was laid back, kind, gentle, and easy going (so he seemed).
    This is what attracted me to him as my earthly father physically abused me and my brother with beatings. My Dad was a closet drunk and a very angry man. Once we were married everything changed. There were control issues and once our first child was born all the hidden anger came out. He had told me that he was sexually abused by a stepfather as a kid. His mother never got counseling for him and he hid this from me all the years dating. As the years went by, he took on more and more the characteristics of a full blown abuser.
    As God put Lundy Bancroft’s book in my hands six years ago, my eyes were opened to what I was really dealing with. Lundy’s book read like a manuscript to my then thirty year marriage of heart break and living nightmare. I know that the Lord has forgiven me for fornication but what I have endured for disobeying His word, well. . . . . . Whenever a young Christian lady comes in my path asking questions about romantic relationships, I tell her my story and plead with her to abstain from any premarital sex. I know quite a few have listened to me when they hear the pain and regret in my voice.
    Wonderful post Pastor Crippen.

  2. Stormy

    Thank you I appreciate your wisdom in the wording of this. I stayed pure and did not allow myself to be manipulated by the abuser, con man, fake Christian leader, wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    He would pray with me on dates and pretended to be Billy Graham. Behind my back he was a pervert, criminal and deviant. He revealed his true slimy self to others in leadership and they embraced him while rejecting me!
    He was mad about not being able to manipulate me ( all behind my back) even though he was a leader in a Christian youth group.
    He gathered his allies-bible study leader and music minister, and anyone else he could secretly turn against me. My best friend even turned against me for this reason.
    None of these folks have ever apologized or even repented privately. They are still leaders in churches and pretend to really love God. It’s all fake not one of that group is sincere!
    In a very strict evangelical Christian group I was treated like the bitty who would not put out. While paid minister addressed it briefly in one mini sermon I was left alone to deal with the situation.
    I was not warned by anyone in that group of the truth of this guy. I was smeared and maligned behind my back. I was abused for a season. I paid the price for my decision to not allow him to manipulate me.
    It was horrible but it would’ve been more horrible if I had married him. Thank god for that.

  3. Stormy

    I would like to edit my post by clarifying that the paid minister briefly stated that fornication was wrong but did nothing to directly address the predators behavior against me. The paid staff minister did not warn me nor was the abuser ever confronted or dismissed from his leadership role.
    No one tried to protect me or warn me about the abuser who was in a top leadership position. The fake Christian abuser was hiding in plain site . If ever confronted They would say they didn’t know the truth, but I believe they knew something was wrong and know more that they would like anyone to believe.

  4. I understand where you are coming from and wholeheartedly agree with your view of the risks and moral and emotional issues that arise from premarital sex, but I have a slightly different take on Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman.
    It was up to husbands to provide a wife with a writ that allowed them to remarry. The Samaritan woman had been divorced by her previous four husbands, but I am inclined to believe that her fifth husband did not divorce her lawfully (provide her with a writ), leaving her legally bound to him. For this reason, the man she was with was not her husband.
    Such women were known as “agunah,” which means “chained woman.” Since their husbands failed to provide them with a writ, they were usually also deprived of the measure of financial support required under the “ketubah,” the marriage contract, so those women were often left with few options but to accept a “husband” even if they were still married, in which case both parties were committing adultery. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5:32 (Literal Translation), when he told the men that they “caused” their wives to commit adultery – by “putting them away,” not divorcing them for cause and failing to provide them with a writ (and support) as required under the Law.
    Personally, I don’t sense Jesus judging her at all. I think He was demonstrating compassion for her, simply conveying that He knew her painful history of rejection and understood her legal and financial dilemma, which to some extent was not her fault…
    Just food for thought. 🙂

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Cindy.

    • I agree with your thoughts on the Samaritan woman Cindy. Being put away without a legal divorce made it impossible for the woman to remarry in the Jewish culture. It left the woman in limbo and in a dire situation – an agunah – a “chained woman”, who couldn’t remarry because she was still technically married to a man she no longer lived with.
      However, the husband was able to marry another woman or even live with a single woman and have children from her (these children were considered legitimate under Jewish law) – i.e polygamy.
      If the woman was simply put away without a bill of divorce, the man was under no obligation to give back the dowry and bride price, which was a woman’s only financial security in those days.
      She’d have to fend for herself out on the streets without her dowry to fall back on as she would have no food, clothing or shelter. She could be forced into prostitution, or into indentured servitude in order to survive in that tough misogynistic culture.
      Plus she was not able to legally remarry again for she and her first husband were actually legally still married. But if she did remarry just to survive, this could result in her and her new partner being stoned to death for adultery. Though the Romans did not let the Jewish authorities execute capital punishment. She had no legal rights when put away, while a written bill of divorce gave her the legal rights to her dowry. She could depart, have enough money to live on, be free to marry another man and start her life over again.

    • GladI’mout

      Great, Cindy. Thanks for this.

  5. Amy

    Excellent post, and very true.
    Yes, as an abusive victim myself and one who did live with my abuser before marriage, it can be hard at first to read your words and not feel a little attacked perhaps. As if you are saying to me and every other victim of abuse, well, if you hadn’t made such a foolish decision outside of God’s Word, then you wouldn’t have endured the abuse you did. And yet, that is exactly how life works, isn’t it?
    God gave us free will and yet that doesn’t mean that some choices we make, especially when outside of His will for us, won’t be without repercussions or consequences.
    Am I to blame for my abuser’s treatment of me and our two sons? No, he made his own choices to do the things he did. But, I too made a decision to live outside of God’s Word, although I was not a believer until 10 years into my first marriage, and I suffered the consequences because of those poor choices.
    I appreciate the truth you share here and am still growing and healing even after all these years.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Amy. I understand. No vibes of attack intended but as you say it can feel that way. “There is therefore now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus”

  6. Stormy

    After years of the wicked being defended by Christians. Years of hearing teaching on how we must love the abuser to Christ , all have sinned, no one is perfect, turn the other cheek, That we must accept evil doers as true Christians, That anger is wrong, that it’s wrong to pray the imprecatory psalms against the wicked,
    That we must forgive no matter what etc.
    I lost hope that God was on my side. While I was being abused by so called leadersin the church I thought God was against me.
    Your words below are so soothing. They are words I’ve longed to hear. They are words I wish my college youth pastor had spoken against my abuser. There are words I should have heard while I was being abused. Thank you I’m so grateful for your words. I’ve seen the smirk— as they think they’ve gotten away with their evil. It’s so comforting to be reminded by a pastor they will ultimately answer for the pain they’ve caused others.
    Below is your quote that brings comfort. Thank you!
    “To abusers who have deceived and victimized a Christian woman (or even a non-Christian woman!), I say, your Day is coming. You have touched the apple of Christ’s eye, and if you think that you are going to get away with it, you are most surely going to find out differently. In due time, you will slip. There are thousands of ways for God to take you out of this life in a moment, and then what will you do? Your lies and facades will be nothing then, as you stand before the One whose eye sees into the very depth of your being. Nothing is hidden from Him, and you will give account
    For now, we must be wise. Obey God’s Law. It is life.”

  7. Anonymous

    What if a lesson to be taken from this is perhaps Christ and the woman illustrating that a man who requires, pressures, forces, compels, and manipulates a woman into sexual relations prior to marrying her (or without ever marrying her) is not a husband, but a user, a predator, a child of the devil?
    I’m not well studied on the Bible and I certainly don’t know Hebrew or whatever else, but what if Christ was making a point about the men, not the woman, and the men’s lack of character?
    What if this woman was a 5-times-over (actually 6) victim of abusers? And the 1st 5 put her away for whatever reason? Maybe they all died. So, in deeply misogynistic cultures, the woman is likely to be absolutely destitute and on the street homeless, starving, etc. Along comes predator, guy #6, who demands she act toward him as though they are married (requires her to sleep with him) in order for her to not starve?
    In modern day terms, it’s called “survival sex” where the homeless woman is forced to be intimate with some lecherous, abuser, in order to not starve and freeze to death out on the street. It’s not actually sex, in my opinion, but very much coerced and forced, which is how these predators like it…..predation is what excites them. I consider it to be rape, as there is no free or voluntary consent and most of the time the homeless women being preyed on are severely traumatized, possibly mentally ill, possibly drug or alcohol addicted, and with histories of rape, battery, and abuse in their backgrounds (been severely victimized before the latest predator came along) and it’s done in an unequal setup and fear or other coercion is used to gain and maintain compliance and submission.
    Perhaps, also, this topic can be preached about in a more equal way where women are not seen as ‘gatekeepers’ and rather the onus of responsibility goes back on the men. Instead of potentially going the victim-blaming route, it should be seen that most abusers are relentless about forcing sex before marriage so as to entrap the woman who wants to please God, so as to ensure she’ll marry him. Kind of like in the OT, the rapists would get the option to marry the victim — which boggles my mind. But pressured, forced sex isn’t really sex, but rather predation and rape.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I agree with your thoughts here Anonymous. But I think we should add something else. Namely that, correct me if I am wrong- nowadays many young girls are as much the sexual predator as the boys?

      • Comfort

        Pastor Crippen, I have thought about this myself, from a slightly different angle.
        Mothers, that claim to be christians, yet, appear to be subtly grooming their daughters to be sexy, seductive, starting in high school because they are beautiful.
        An example of grooming, is the mom approving, the type of prom dress that reveals cleavage and the photo is one you would not want your husband to look at every day in the living room. The young woman will go on to earn money being a “victoria’s secret” type of model or go-go, seductive dancer.
        One mother says, “proud” a lot , ”isn’t God good?”, with a smooth as butter, sweet type of voice. Boasting her daughter is engaged to marry, for example, an attorney or insert another high paying profession. Only earthly minded priorities appear to be in mind.
        Is it possible from the start the mother was grooming her to be a “sexual predator” from the start?

        • Jeff Crippen

          I have seen such mothers. Yep. And they aren’t that uncommon. Good observations.

    • Stormy

      Anonymous I love your response. It’s so good and thoughtful. It’s also a comfort to me to see this in writing. It’s affirming that yes indeed my abuser was a treacherous, amoral leech.

  8. crankybeach

    Fascinating discussion. Some years ago I read a fictionalized account of the life of the Samaritan woman I can’t remember the title of the book, nor the author. The way the author told it included one husband (IIRC her first, an arranged marriage neither of them could get out of) legally divorcing her because he, um, liked boys better than girls and thus he was eager to set her free; a couple of other husbands who died in various ways (one was murdered), and the final legal husband was a merchant who set off on a long merchant trip and never came back, presumably lost at sea or something. She gradually sold off his/their possessions until she had no more to sell and was destitute, and then a predator came and moved in on her and basically forced her into, well, being a woman who had no husband but had someone living with her (against her will). It was quite an interesting take. In the end, the long-lost husband actually returned and explained where he had been. He had contracted leprosy on his last journey and thus could not return to the community, but when this interesting new teacher and worker of miracles started making his way around the country, he was healed, and he was the one leper who came back and said thanks. To top it all off, turned out he also was the Good Samaritan of the story.

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