Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 1)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

This subject has been on my mind now for some months.  I keep seeing it crop up in the stories that many of you tell us. In particular, the stories about your experiences with your church when you asked for help with an abusive marriage. Issues of divorce, marriage, separation, remarriage, submission and headship – all of these and more arise in these kinds of scenarios, and what is so often being applied to them as God’s Word just doesn’t seem to ring true with what Jesus says is His easy yoke.

I do not want to stereotype, categorize, and slam every local church, every pastor, or every Christian. That would be to slide into an ugly self-righteousness.  Nor do I  want to be some kind of crazy conspiracy theorist who suggests that there is some united, malevolent scheme in place that wars against abused Christians.  Well, let me think through that last sentence and re-phrase.  I don’t want to be the kind of nutcase who imagines conspiracies that aren’t there.  But when I wrote that phrase about “a united, malevolent scheme in place that wars against Christians (abused or otherwise)” – it struck me that I am not imagining something that doesn’t exist. There IS such a conspiracy.  The god of this world is at the head of it.  It is united. It is malevolent. And we are in the fight whether we like it or not, or whether we know it or not.
If Satan has, in centuries past, established false religion in place of true religion, are we so foolish to think that he would not keep trying the same thing over and over again?  Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments gives us many accounts of how the true shepherds of the people of God were usurped by false shepherds.  The Pharisees, scribes, priests and Sadducees are the New Testament example, but the same types were around in, for instance, Jeremiah’s day –

Jeremiah 2:8, The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.
Jeremiah 10:21, For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.
Jeremiah 12:10, Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. The Lord promises a day when these false shepherds would be no more.  Instead, true shepherds – undershepherds of Christ the Chief Shepherd  would pastor His flock:
Jeremiah 23:1-4 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.”

Once more,  do not misunderstand.  I am not setting out in this series to label as a false shepherd every pastor or theologian we have criticized in regard to their mis-handling of abuse (though frankly over the years I have concluded that far more are false shepherds than I beleived at first).  But what I do want to accomplish is to bring to light the mentality, the nature, the tactics and teachings of the oppressive religion that the Enemy of our souls has so often introduced among the people of God.  Then, I want to search out (with your help) examples of how that false religion is cropping up among us in our churches – and maybe in our own thinking as well.
My plan is to begin at Matthew’s Gospel, and move right on through it, stopping every time the religion Jesus so harshly condemned makes an appearance.  We will examine it.  Think about it.  Ask questions about it and mark down its qualities and tactics.
Because I believe that it is this religion that strains out a gnat but swallows a camel that is behind the almost unbelievable teachings that abound in our conservative, Bible-believing churches today.  The thing has taken hold of us and we have accepted it without question.  And like a virulent virus, we just keep passing it on.
The remedy has to be in the infallible, inerrant Word of God.  We just need to find it.
(Go to Part 2 of this series)


How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated?


The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 2)


  1. walkinginlight

    I will be so looking forward to this study. I know most Christians believe that forgiveness = reconciliation with a abuser (offender) and that God hates divorce (due to the mistranslation in Malachi 2:16) It is really amazing how the ministers of the word of God get it all wrong and end up putting a huge load on a persons back. The worse part is when you try to lovingly show them the error they snarl and the fangs come out! By the way, revealing a prideful and unteachable spirit which has nothing to do with the new birth and becoming a new creation in Christ. Run away from people like this, they are phonies and white washed tombs!!

  2. Stormy

    One of my biggest irritations with the church is its teaching on suffering and forgiveness. It is always taught we should submit joyfully to suffering (just suck up the abuse, The wickedness, the bullying etc. )
    Accepting situations can be helpful when dealing with Cancer or the death of a loved one but it does not apply to domestic violence victims.
    These concepts when not fully explained, to a new Christian wreck havoc on the confused, suffering victim. They set up true Christians to believe its their Christian duty to submit to bad people who hate them and want to destroy them.
    I was in church this Sunday and the teaching on count it all joy came up. There was no explanation given on how to accurately apply the scripture. Instruction is needed when sheep are dealing with evil doers and the wicked. It was just left at that. The sheep are left to figure it out.
    These verses misapplied and given in sermons without appropriate application confused me and drained me of the emotional strength I needed to escape from my abuser.
    It was my outrage and righteous anger that was snuffed out by teachings like this. The righteous anger was the fuel I needed to get out of the situation.
    I wanted to serve the lord and thought the suffering was coming from God. That God ordained the abusive bully and supported him in my abuse. (Bill Gotthard seminar teaching)
    This thought that God was on the abusers side was further supported when he was a church organization leader, he was friends and was supported by head of the organization and he turned other (fake) Christians against me, isolating me and causing others to doubt my credibility. The abusers false persona was in place and the smear campaign against me was in full bloom. If I ever spoke out I would not be believed.
    It was so twisted and sick. Of course I see it now but I was a new Christian and it is and was unconscionable for preachers to imply that suffering at the hands of an abuser is glorifying to God. That we should somehow submit joyfully and God will handle the rest????
    It’s all so wrong!!
    Teachers and Christian authors are still putting this concept in print in their marriage counseling books like a quote from Gary Thomas— marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy it’s supposed to make you holy!!!
    Not if your in a relationship with an abuser.
    If your a selfish brat ready to divorce at the drop of a hat then yes this applies, but his readers are not that —many if not most are women trying to repair a relationship with an abuser. That’s why they are buying his books because nothing is working in their marriages.
    This teaching that suffering at the hands of an abuser is glorifying to God has got to stop. The sheep are being devoured and satan is twisting Gods word to make it look like a noble thing.
    It’s the churches responsibility to protect the sheep. Please God help us all.

  3. eagerlabs

    As if there aren’t enough false accusations from the abuser themselves, more come with so called leaders…surprisingly without knowledge of any kind. No..not sinless; however, nothing justifies wicked abuse.

Leave a Reply

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