Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

"Reconciliation" With an Abuser is the Twilight Zone

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:12)

There are two brief times every 24 hours when darkness and light attempt to co-exist. Dawn and twilight. (Hey, pretty good book title: The Dawn of Twilight. No idea what that means, but it’s good, right?). Anyway, at dawn and at twilight, light and darkness mix it up. Just for a bit. The sun rises, the night recedes. The sun sets and night comes. One shows up, the other must go.
Day and night. We even use that phrase to describe two things that are radically different: “Man, those two are as different as day and night.” The Bible uses these images, light and darkness, to underscore the complete incompatibility of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world (headed up by Satan). Kingdom of Light. Kingdom of Darkness. Righteousness. Unrighteousness. You can’t mix the two. In their very essence, light and darkness are as different as. . .well. . .night and day.
Twilight and dawn are nature’s announcement to us that light and darkness cannot be reconciled. When the one comes, the other must go. Light is light — it is some- thing. Darkness is. . .is. . .darkness is no-thing. It is the absence of light, not a thing in itself. Light and darkness cannot co-exist. And so it is with the kingdom of our Lord and the kingdom of darkness.
Which brings us round to our main point.

You cannot reconcile darkness and light. Jesus did NOT (notice this now very carefully), Jesus did NOT reconcile evil and goodness, righteousness and unrighteousness, at the cross. The cross is not God saying to all of us, “Come on you guys, look how much I love you all. Can’t we all just shake hands and co-exist?” This apparently, as bizarre as that sounds, is what many people apparently believe who profess to teach us what the Bible says.  No. At the cross, THIS is what happened:

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. 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. (1 John 3:8-9)

At the cross Jesus destroyed the works of the devil. He did not effect some divine reconciliation plan wherein the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light could reconcile into some eternal twilight zone. No. The light comes, the darkness must go.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

You cannot reconcile darkness and light. Darkness must become light. That is one of the most incredible truths of the gospel:

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8)

Which brings us to our application of all this to abusers and abuse victims. Ready? You can never reconcile with an abuser. You can never effect reconciliation with an abuser. Give it countless hours and even years of effort, of counseling, of trying this and trying that. . .the thing cannot be done. Because he is darkness. You may as well try to get Cain and Abel to be best bud’s. Not gonna work. Cain murdered his brother simply because Abel was righteous and Cain was not. Darkness hates light, and that hatred is intensified when an abuse victim is a Christian. The light of Christ is particularly repugnant to the darkness of the abuser.
What, therefore, do these facts say about the efforts of churches and pastors and counselors to “save the marriage”?


"Christian" Enabling of the Abuser Increases His Attacks on the Victim


How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated?


  1. This concept, truth, is huge. It’s playing out all around us, not just in relationships. Unrighteousness cannot be righteousness. Something can not change its true character. Not possible. That’s why there is masquerading, pretending, where lies are being believed as truths–but something can not be what it is not. One can figure this out when one takes an honest look and faces the facts.

  2. joepote01

    Excellent post, Jeff! I love how you expounded on light versus darkness. Especially this, “You cannot reconcile darkness and light. Darkness must become light. That is one of the most incredible truths of the gospel.”

  3. Mhiggins

    I am trying really hard to understand this concept but here’s where I still struggle. We all sin. I still sin. I sinned during the abusive marriage when I would get so frustrated with his treatment of me and mostly my son. I would stoop to his level and call him bad names in return. I spent a long time just letting him yell in my face horrible things about me and my son and then I broke. Letting him yell at me wasn’t working so I tried putting the gloves on too. I said horrible things I would never say to another person. So then tell me how I don’t apply to the 1John 3: 8-9. Aren’t I just as bad as him? Please respond because I really need your answer.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Mhiggins- the difference is repentance. You are repentant. Yes all Christians sin, but we repent and turn from it. And Christians do not walk in sin habitually as the wicked unregenerate do. That is not who we are. I can assure you that your abuser does not feel true remorse for the evil he did to you. Abusers do not think like believers do.

      • Grace

        Thank you for this question, for your courage and asking it, and for the answer, Pastor Jeff. It is something I struggle with as well. All those years I tried to survive within the abusive marriage and I know some of my responses and reactions and behavior were grievous to the Lord. I continue to ask for his forgiveness but I too struggle with these thoughts… Thank you so much for this as well as all of the many wonderful, encouraging, helpful, bold and true posts. They are life-giving.

      • GladI’mout


    • IrisJane

      Dearest Mhiggins, what you did was react to abuse with behavior that you abhor, you were provoked, abusers love to provoke so that they can point the finger at you and your eyes will be taken off of them. But you didn’t create or instigate the abuse, they did. I know of many similar incidents from other victims of abuse, whether physical or emotional, that reacted the same way, myself included, and they all felt horrible afterwards, but the abuser never-ever felt horrible afterwards, nor repentant. When we react it actually feeds the abuser and fills their sick and twisted souls with a perverted kind of joy. I completely go ‘gray rock’ now around abusive behavior and starve them of any reaction, it’s much more peaceful for my spirit and that is what I need to protect at all costs, not theirs, they are responsible for their souls, you are not. You are not alone. God Bless…praying for you.

  4. GypsyAngel

    Ohhh The Dawn of Twilight…sounds like the title of a book about why victims get into abusive relationships in the first place. It could explore the psychological reasons and scriptural remedies.

  5. Praying Lady

    That is exactly what happened to me, Pastor Crippen. The evil in my ex tried to kill me, literally. When he had his hands around my throat strangling me, the darkness was trying to snuff out the light. I thank God every day that the Lord came to my rescue by having a policeman respond to my 911 call. That policeman was a Christian and a huge blessing by saving my life. My ex was walking in darkness, but pretending to be a follower of Jesus. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who tried to kill the real sheep. LIGHT AND DARKNESS CANNOT CO-EXIST!
    Counselors, pastors, ministers and churches that try to “save” a marriage to a lying abuser will NEVER be successful. Abusers always lie and there is no way to change any of their behavior, because they are not born-again. I tried for over 3 decades. You have the right answer, Pastor Crippen… Marriage, or any other relationship, with an abuser must be ended.
    I praise the Lord that I am no longer living in the Twilight Zone!

  6. walkinginlight

    Praying Lady, I loved that you had said “Marriage, or any other relationship, with an abuser must be ended”. It was not bad enough to be in a abusive so called marriage for thirty five years, but to have relatives in the last days become very abusive to me. They would be the “other relationship” that you spoke of. What they did to me was mind blowing and they will not even acknowledge their behavior towards me. I had to end the relationship for my own self protection and also what the Lord has to say about the behavior and how I am to respond as born again believer. Some folks think I should just look the other way and pretend all is well. I can not compromise with evil behavior to please others. On a personal note, their behavior destroyed all trust and warm fuzzy feelings I felt for them. Their sin totally destroyed the relationship. I can not and will not mesh my light into their darkness.

  7. gracemercyjoy

    My pastor sat me down after I’d escaped a monstrous abuser and was in a safe house. He told me to meet him at his office, where my then husband cried his tears apologizing but not really, because he left out details that should have got him imprisoned. I was there at my pastor’s request because my fake Christian husband contacted him and wanted to reconcile. After the lying display of repentance the pastor turned to me and said “what more do you need to be restored, you need to forgive this man”. I went back to my children’s sorrow.
    I stayed many more years to the extreme damage of me and my children. They were learning how to be disrespectful and I was not changing the monster he was changing me. One day I realized that I was starting to take on characteristics of my abuser, in horror and shame. Abusers feel no shame they transfer it all on you.
    To those that are staying for the sake of the children, decades later my children now in their 40’s still act like petulant teenagers relentlessly disrespectful because they were groomed by a master at it. I didn’t think to ask myself when I’m 60 do I want to hear his voice still reflected in them? If you stay and if you reconcile even in the name of being a good Christian you sign on for generations that think it is normal to treat you like garbage They model that in front of your grandchildren as the curse of abuse is passed down through generations because no one called it out..
    If I could do things over I would have walked out of that meeting, shaking the dust of the pastor, the church, my now ex off my feet and insisted on being treated with respect. To Christian leaders a word of advice “if you want women to respect your ministry stop feeding them to the wolves”

    • Jeff Crippen

      Gracemercyjoy- thank you. This is wisdom and may the Lord deal in justice with your abuser and his pastor ally.

  8. Lynn

    I’m new to this site, everything resonates with me for sure but I just have always been told by my husband that it’s my fault that he has to react the way he does. Violent rages, screaming, breaking things, throwing things, etc. because I don’t listen to him in those moments leading up to the blow up. Is it possible to cause someone to be this way?
    I have very strong convictions and it’s in those moments that I stick to my conviction or whatever else topic I feel passionate about , it’s then that he goes off and then when the dust has settled he makes me think I caused it . “You just won’t listen to me” he says , “that’s why I have to do this’ but there is so much hate coming out of him it’s hard not to feel completely hated and disrespected. I feel hopeless!!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Welcome Lynn. You feel hopeless, but there is hope. Wicked abusers like yours love to make their targets feel hopeless because then they are easier to control. Power and control is what it is all about. As to your question, no – it is not possible to make someone be the way he is. He IS because that is who he is. He has a profound mentality of entitlement to possess power and control and you BETTER obey him or else! His rages are his tactic to force you to submit and that is why he goes off when he sees strength in you. He is not going to change. This is who he is. As I always say, a marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended. But be safe. Abusers can be quite dangerous, especially when their victim resolves to leave. Many blessings to you in Christ and once again, we are very glad you are here.

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