Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Scriptures that Demonstrate an Abuser is Not a Christian+

It is crucial that we all keep the definition of an abuser in mind as we work to sort through the subject and all of its deceptions and intricacies. By “abuser” we are not talking about someone who sometimes abuses someone else. If we were, we would all be abusers. No, we are talking about a person who is defined by, whose very essence of character is – abuser. That is to say, an abuser is a person whose being is one of a profound sense of entitlement to power and control, who therefore uses a variety of wicked tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control, and who feels perfectly justified in doing so. Ok? That is the person we are talking about.
And I maintain that the Bible makes it very clear that such a person cannot be a Christian. Is not a Christian. Never has been a Christian. And in the majority of cases, never will be a Christian because he will not repent.  Consider the following Scriptures that support this conclusion.  As you read, apply these truths directly to the abuser as we define him and ask, “is this true of an abuser or not?”

Psalm 1:1-6

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 32:1-5

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
[NOTE: Is this characteristic of an abuser? Is this really what happens when the abuser sins? Is this how he feels?]

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
[NOTE:  See the application of this passage in Hebrews 8 which clearly demonstrates that this passage is speaking of the New Covenant in Christ, the new birth in Christ, the Church]

Ezekiel 36:24-27

24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Psalm 50:16-22

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I[a] was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
[NOTE: The abuser, who is described quite well here, has NO part in God’s covenant. That means he is not a Christian.  Notice also – VERY important – God gives this wicked one the LAW, not the gospel. Mark this…lest I tear you apart!  That is the message we are to give to the wicked, not “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”].

John 3:1-5

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
[Think it through. Do people KNOW that the abuser is a Christian because of his demonstrated, practiced love for others? Especially for believers? Of course not]

Romans 8:3-9

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[a] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Romans 8:13-14

13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Galatians 5:16-17

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
[NOTE: The “you” in the last phrase here is the Christian. The person YOU really are in Christ. And what YOU want to do is to walk in the Spirit, not do the desires of the flesh. A Christian is a person who DESIRES to walk in the Spirit and whose life therefore is characterized by that desire, by the fruits of the Spirit, even if imperfectly. The abuser does not desire to obey Christ and does not walk habitually in the Spirit. He may be rather masterful at pretending this Spirit-flesh battle is raging in him, but it is not].

1 Thessalonians 4:9

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
And then you have virtually the entire book of 1 John.  Here are some examples:

1 John 1:6-7

6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 2:3-4

3 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,

1 John 2:9-11

9 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[a] 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.

1 John 3:6-10

6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 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. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
[Actually I really only needed to put this one passage here to prove the case, right?]

1 John 3:14-15

14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

1 John 3:24

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

1 John 4:7-8

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:20-21

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 5:18

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
[“keeps on sinning” does not mean perfect sanctification is required in order to be a Christian. What it does mean is that the habitual, characteristic walk of a Christian is not one of practicing sin]
There.  That should do it. The abuser is not a Christian, never has been a Christian, and never will be a Christian without real, genuine, miraculous repentance. I was kept in confusion for many years on this subject because of just plain false teaching in the churches I grew up in AND in one or two seminary classes I took. I remember one day after a soteriology class (the doctrine of salvation), asking the professor what we are to do with all these “either/or” statements in 1 John. He gave me some garbled answer like “well, you see, for John, things are presented more black and white, but we must be careful in how we apply what he says.” Hogwash!! By the way, that professor the very next year booked off from his wife and hit the road with a counselee he was “affairing” with.  His theology was quite convenient for him.
The abuser is not a Christian. The thing is impossible. No matter how smooth his deceptions are, how sometimes noble-looking his sheep disguise is, he is not a child of God. Remember, sheep do not put on wolf suits, but wolves love to put on wool. Good does not disguise itself as evil, but evil very often disguises itself as good. So when you have Mr. Abuser the “christian” – remember. The Mr. Hyde evil side is the real person.  Anchor yourself in God’s Word! It is our compass and is infallible. Don’t base your conclusions on observations of your abuser, or on your abuser’s claims,  or on stories other people want to tell you to try to claim a Christian can be an abuser. Go right back to these Scriptures (and there are many more) and anchor your certainty in their truth. As long as you keep struggling with the notion that an abuser, your abuser, is or might possibly a real Christian, you are going to stumble around in the fog of confusion.


This article has also been placed on the top menu bar under the SCRIPTURES tab


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  1. Amy

    What an absolutely amazing post! Shared to my FB page.
    It’s interesting — most of the scriptures you shared, especially the Psalms, were ones I read when my abusive then-husband walked out on me 10 years ago and tried to convince the church we attended that I had kicked him out, was having an affair and he just wanted to reconcile because he’s such a good man and would never ever think of divorcing because that’s not what a Christian does even though that was all I wanted.
    And people believed him! And truly believed, and many still do, that this abusive manipulating evil man was and is a Christian!
    Yet whenever I opened up my bible it was right there in front of me what God says about abusers, and they are not saved, they are evil people intent on destroying others. And I always wondered how no one else saw this. I was told a million reasons why my then-husband was so harsh with his family — he was after all a sinner like me (wait, what?? I thought Christians were no longer sinners but considered saints?), he was just a lost soul, he was sick, he’d had a hard childhood, and on and on it went.
    Wouldn’t it have been interesting if instead they told me the real reasons he did what he did — he’s an evil man who does not know the Lord and needs to repent and find redemption. Period.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Amy- exactly. And I have a theory. Namely that most of the people who ignore/deny scriptures like these that are SO clear, are not regenerate people themselves. They don’t love the truth. Christ does not know them.

  2. Clockwork Angel

    Dear Pastor Jeff,
    I have a difficult slew of questions, a wee bit off topic, but I hope you don’t mind as I could really use some pastoral care. You might remember me from ACFJ going a few years back. A little background. I suffered childhood abuse from my father, and watched him also beat and abuse my mother. I have been a Christian all my life, and am now in my 30s. A few years ago, I read a church history book for the first time, and realized that I had been told a lot of lies and quacky stuff. Thinking that sticking to a thread of Tradition would keep me safe from the quacky stuff, I joined an Anglican church.
    Then last year, I made a huge mistake. I wondered how the church traditionally handled domestic violence. I had caught wind that maybe they did more than tell sufferers to just “stay and pray” as is so common today. That they granted separations. So I read, and read, and read. Barabara Hanawalt, Sara M. Butler, James Brundage, just to name a few. To my horror, I found out that Christian clerics from late antiquity all the way through the Modern Era (including a lot of Reformers) taught that some wife beating was okay because it was the man’s job to maintain order in the home. I believe you are familiar with this based on some of your old posts and comments concerning the Puritans.
    I had never known before that the vast majority of Christian teaching allowed husbands to employ physical chastisement of their wives. Very few and far between are the John Chrysostoms of the world, who forbid any and all verbal or physical correction of wives. Canon law and ecclesiastical court cases reflect women having to prove that they weren’t scolds or disobedient to their husbands before they could even hope for a separation, if one was granted at all and the husband wasn’t just slapped on the hand with a “don’t be that severe again” warning.
    I have suffered from horrific depression over this. The last 8 months especially have been a nightmare. I’ve had a complete mental breakdown. I feel so betrayed, angry, and despairing. It’s all I can think of, now. It’s burned my mind.
    If you were to ask any Christian today, they would say that of course any abuse of a wife is wrong and that the Bible does not support any wife beating whatsoever. But it wasn’t obvious just even a few hundred years ago. They didn’t even say “wives submit”, but rather, “wives obey”. And what really spooked me, is how the justification for physical chastisement of wives was eerily similar to those reasons that typically argue against women’s ordination, including in my own Anglican denomination (which I have since fled once the dots connected). Basically, that women are stupid, easily deceived, etc., and need to be led by men. (I hadn’t realized those were the denominations reasons, especially since a few of their representatives had different reasons, but ultimately, even they ignore the other less flattering reasons for the sake of unity.)
    And the question I keep having is why? Why wouldn’t God write the Bible more clearly and explicitly forbid any and all wife beating? How do I stop seeing God as negligent and uncaring at best or at worst downright cruel and hateful towards women? How can I ever trust again? If God loves women, why would He allow this, or leave the Bible so open ended to where very few men got it in their heads that they shouldn’t ever strike their wives? I feel like my brain is on fire trying to resolve this information, to make sense of it, so I can finally let it go. I keep searching and searching, hoping I’ll find a different set of information to counteract the bad I’ve read, but this has only reinforced what I’ve read. I never fathomed that the church could be even worse at handling domestic violence than it is today with the typical “stay and pray”/”be a martyr” mantra. That it could proactively teach something so diabolical as the physical chastisement of wives.
    I’ve tried counseling with a qualified psychologist. All CBT did was make me cry worse. I’m getting treatment for perimenopause, but so far it hasn’t helped my thought patterns or fear. It’s only relieved my anxiety. The depression is still there. The insomnia. What can I possibly do the undo the hurt to my brain? I feel like my head is spinning like a top. I dread waking up in the morning. I can’t get the image out of my head of Russian serfs hooking their wives or daughter-in-laws up to their carts and whipping them like a horse. All with the church looking the other way, uncaring.
    How do I get my trust in God back? How? Nobody has an answer that I can swallow. How can I know that God loves me, a lowly woman? I feel like He made us to be chattel and gave us little protection. I used to not be scared of men, but after reading what I did, I now am. I don’t want to be. I know there are nice guys. And yet I think, how many nice guys are there really if so few stand up for the abused? Especially over the vast majority of Christian history?
    I know you’re nice. I know lots of guys in my new church are nice. But I can’t even…. I can’t ever think that even the nicest guys in times past were remotely nice if they could en masse look the other way and condone treating women this way for any reason. Even the nicest husband under such a system is a participant in enabling all the other bad husbands, and clings to his “rights” over his wife. In which case, where is the Gospel working in any of these men? Why did it take feminism to change things? Why didn’t Christianity change things, especially within the church itself? Am I really just supposed to believe that so few are actually Christ’s sheep throughout history? Doesn’t it just make it all yet another religion–powerless to actually change anyone or anything?
    Is there anything that can counteract what I read? Does God hate women? Are we really chattel? Why has the church so persistently messed up over this? Where is the Holy Spirit to guide the church? Wasn’t He supposed to do that? What happened? If He knew we needed His giftings to stay on track, why did He remove them? Where is the Good News? I feel like the Gospel is just more bad news, now. How do I get my faith back and not live in such constant terror of both God and men?
    Thank you very much. I know this is a lot to read and answer.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Clockwork – In summary, you asked: “Is there anything that can counteract what I read? Does God hate women? Are we really chattel? Why has the church so persistently messed up over this? Where is the Holy Spirit to guide the church? Wasn’t He supposed to do that? What happened? If He knew we needed His giftings to stay on track, why did He remove them? Where is the Good News? I feel like the Gospel is just more bad news, now. How do I get my faith back and not live in such constant terror of both God and men?”
      And yes, there is a simple answer. The Bible. I notice in your comment and questions that you are going to all kinds of sources: denominations, history books, the practices of professing Christians down through history, etc. You will never find your answer there. God has indeed written clearly on the subject: He loves all HIs people, including women and he never condones abuse. You are confusing the teachings of men with the Word of God. The two are not the same.
      The fact is that there are indeed comparatively few real Christians in comparision to the number who profess to be. What churches and denominations have taught in the centuries before us is not to be accepted if it contradicts God’s Word in Scripture. This is where you are getting confused. Pick up the Bible and ask the Lord by His Spirit to direct you into real understanding of it. No one can understand His Word apart from being born again and led by His Spirit, and that is where all the false teaching comes from – people who profess but who in fact do not know Christ.

  3. Excellent post! I’m printing this out to read again and again! Thank you!

  4. Clockwork Angel

    I didn’t get banned, did I? If I have offended, I’m sorry. Please let me know what I did wrong so I can apologize more specifically. I had had a very bad night trying to sleep the other night. Very bad nightmares. Any advice for getting rid of these horrid memories and facts attacking my brain would be appreciated.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Clockwork – no worries. Not banned. Just that I think I have explained all I am able. Perhaps visiting a physician might help you be able to sleep?

      • Clockwork Angel

        Ah, I see. Okay.
        Yes, I’ve been seeing a physician. Lots and lots of doctors. Thyroid. Perimenopause. Asked yesterday at the GP about sleeping aides, but she said they can be habit forming. I’m loathe to go there. I must somehow endure.
        Please pray for me. I’ve never been depressed for 8 months straight, let alone faced sleep deprivation like this.

        • Clockwork Angel,
          twbtc here – sleep deprivation can wreck havoc with many systems of the body. I have a family member that battles this and have seen how it messes with so many other areas of her life.
          Maybe something else to consider is EMDR (Eye MovementDesensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. It is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been helpful to other abuse victims that I have spoken with. Here is a link to understanding EMDR.
          Just a thought.

          • The link I gave to information about EMDR was in error. Thanks to a reader for alerting me!! Link is now fixed.

  5. Bree

    This is an excellent article. God has so much to say about the abuser. Pastor Jeff, I’ve read many of your articles and I appreciate all your work and teaching on this subject.

  6. Claudia

    Outstanding post! God’s word is very clear. Thank you for confirming what I suspected many years while married to the abuser.

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