Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Sin Destroys Relationships — And Sometimes the Destruction is Total

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did…(Joshua 7:19-20)

As many of you know, a major event in my own awakening to the nature and mentality of abuse involved the sexual abuse of a child. This grievous situation was dropped in the lap of our church through the sin of the perpetrator. I could write pages about it, including about how the Lord used that one event to lead us into the ministry of Unholy Charade. At the same time, He was moving in the lives of others – also through having abuse touch their lives – and eventually led all of us together. That is the happy stuff.  I could also write about the grief and damage done to the victim and to our church.
But what I wanted to write about today is a hard, true, fact that each of us needs to learn. I had to learn it, many of you have learned it, and others of you are still in process of learning it. That lesson is this: Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is beyond repair. When it is, we need to stop trying to rebuild it. Abuse damages and destroys a marriage, and usually that destruction is total. Let me show you how I learned this lesson in the case in our church I mentioned above.
When myself and our elders were trying to sort out what justice and love and mercy and wisdom would look like in this scenario, we came to a conclusion.  It took some time because none of us had experienced something like this before. Our church was small and close – what looked like a family. And then this test came. When we concluded that there was no way we could provide a safe, healing church environment for the victim and at the same time permit the perpetrator to continue to attend our church, I remember telling the congregation that sin destroys relationships. Even when there is real repentance and real forgiveness, some sins are so grievous that the destroyed relationship simply cannot be put back together again – nor should it be.
Now, the response from a couple of people went something like this – “but we are all sinners. And we have all been forgiven by Christ. How can you say that sin destroys relationships when grace and mercy and love are able to overcome any sin? We don’t believe what you are saying. We think everyone should forgive one another and love one another and the relationship will be restored and everything can be like it was.”
That kind of talk is unbiblical, false, exceedingly selfish, and very damaging to the victim and everyone else. The fact is that some sins are so grievous, so destructive, and so harmful that any relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is fully and finally over. That destruction is the perpetrator’s doing. Abuse not only harms a marriage, unrepented of (which is the normal case) it destroys the marriage irrevocably.
Abuse, as we define it on this blog, especially the kind perpetrated by a pseudo-Christian, fully and finally reduces the husband-wife relationship to ashes, never to be rebuilt. (In many cases the relationship was a mere facade from the very beginning!)
I am afraid that many professing Christians are radically ignorant of this hard fact. Namely, that certain sins are so evil that to begin to beat the drums of “forgiveness and reconciliation” is sheer madness. I am afraid that there are Christians, for example, who would actually propose that the Lord would have a madman who had walked into a church service and slaughtered a host of people, welcomed into that church with a great big hugfest carried out to the tune of “Only a Sinner, Saved by Grace.”
But the Lord Jesus Christ calls this foolishness, not love. He calls us – no, He commands us – to put the wicked one out from our midst. He shows us in case after case in His Word that there are indeed limits to His mercy. Did you hear that? God’s mercy and grace are not infinite. That is why there is a hell. He tells us that there are lines which, if crossed, there is no returning to Him. Esau (see Hebrews 6) is a prime example. And the infamous Achan of Jericho fame is another example.
Did you read the verses above? Listen to them again-

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did…(Joshua 7:19-20)

How does that sound to you? It sounds like a script worked up to introduce a happy ending, right? “Truly I have sinned against the Lord…this is what I did….”.  Yay! Achan repented! Everything is ok, right? Nope –

And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. (Joshua 7:24-26)

Achan, you recall, had by his sin caused the death of over 30 of his fellows. Achan had crossed the line.
Sin damages and destroys relationships, and sometimes that destruction is total so that rebuilding of the relationship is impossible and even wrong. Remember that the next time you sense the tempter at your door. And let us all remember this when working with the victims of grievous evil, and when we must deal out real justice to their oppressors.
Because with some sins, the sinner gets no second chance at the relationship. Molest a child and your relationship with that child and the child’s family is over, no matter how close you were. Abuse your wife and, well, do not tell us that you deserve another shot at the marriage. Betray the trust of an entire church congregation over whom the Lord placed you as shepherd – understand that such betrayal may well totally and fully and irrevocably destroy your relationship with those people.
We close with one more account of two people who crossed that line, and there was no going back –

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)


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The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 5)


  1. Praying lady

    Pastor Crippen, I cannot say, “AMEN,” loud enough! I would give this post 100 likes if that was possible. Everything you said is absolutely true according to God’s Word and His examples. Genuine Christians must stop trying to please human beings and be much more concerned about obeying the Lord and His commandments, principles and instructions.
    People who pressure a victim to forgive and reconcile with an evil person/wolf in sheep’s clothing cause further pain and trauma for the victim. I have ministered to so many women who were deeply wounded by their “Christian” counselors, pastors, families and friends. One woman was told by her family that she would “go to Hell” if she divorced her emotionally, physically and sexually abusive husband. I told her that our heavenly Father loved her and that He did not want her to live like that. She divorced her husband.
    “Sin Destroys Relationships — And Sometimes the Destruction is Total.” That is a concept that abusers refuse to accept, but it is the truth and trying to rebuild a relationship with someone who has crossed the line by abusing us is not God’s will. He does not want us to be the life-long victims of evil people. We must cut off the relationship with them and trust the Lord for His total justice to be applied in the end. Cutting off the relationship with the evil person is just, right and protects the victim from further abuse. It is also an important aspect of having healthy, godly boundaries.

  2. Norma

    Quite sobering in context but liberating in execution. Thank you for your thoughts…and sharing the story. It’s crazy how wrong we can be while trying to do good. Underlying beliefs can keep us (and organizations) in jail, so to speak, in bondage to a misguided understanding of love and truth. Wrong choices can relate to fears, embarrassment, and a desire for privacy by the victim…as a mantle of protection for the victim and their family … as a way to walk tall even when their world is crumbling. They don’t realize the trap found in this way of thinking. I lived it. Kept my dignity. Wore a false front to maintain my balance. Eventually it caught up with me. I had a breakdown. He, however, walked free, never was exposed (but did leave the assembly on his own accord). Everyone loses when we don’t deal with ‘what is’ with honesty and justice. We don’t do anyone any favors when we go into hiding to protect an image that’s false.

    • No one down here

      How to know what to do. I said to myself if God ever got me out, I would not go back. Then now I am out. God did it. I am safe. I can drive without someone telling I’m doing it wrong. I can make a meal without worrying someone is going to throw the food across the room. The children are starting to obey better, be more relaxed, but now I’m pressed to start communicating with the spouse. Love was killed a long time ago. Lies, so many lies. So deep the treachery.
      The pastor started out feeling safe, but now he thinks he’s done as good a job as he could. I like that you say I need to be free. To not go back to be wise. And this post that some relationships cannot be restored. Even Covenanted relationships. But I’m afraid that maybe that’s a dream and a wish, but really God would have me at least try.

      • twbtc

        Dear No One Down Here,
        As you said, God got you out. You are safe! The pressure you are feeling is not from God. God does not want His children to associate with evil. In fact Scripture tells us that light cannot associate with darkness. So it is not God who is pressuring you to reconcile with your evil abuser.
        The pressure you are feeling is from man – in this case from the church leadership. Their main concern is being able to say, “We saved another marriage.” They are not truly concerned for the oppressed and the victims – if they were they would not be pressuring you.
        You have been very courageous. Stay strong. Don’t let man cause you to doubt the truth that you know. Don’t let man cause you to doubt what God has said and done for you.

      • GypsyAngel

        Dear No One Down Here,
        As was said so well by TWBTC, God got you out, and he does not want us to walk back in, etc.
        I think in part what you may be feeling is a spiritual bond that does occur, especially in marriages to these individuals. In some psychological circles, it is referred to as Trauma Bonding, which is a good description of what happens. However, I think it goes deeper. I honestly think it is chains on a soul level that needs must be broken for us to be free of them emotionally. We are bound to them via these chains spiritually. The church leadership is not helping, by trying to enforce that bondage.
        You are free. You can claim that freedom. You have that right as a Daughter of The King. One of the litmus tests that I personally use to decern if a thing is of God, is if I have peace about it. From what I have read, you most definitely do not have peace concerning the thought of returning. Believe that. Trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. Trust that God is directing you truly and has Your best interest at heart. He Loves You. You and Your Life Matters to Him. You matter Dear One.
        I hope and pray that you are lead to a Church where your hurts can be healed, and those soul ties can be broken off of you. I know that I went through a theophostic {God centered] counseling concerning the soul ties with my now ex-husband. When I did…it felt as if a ten-ton weight had been lifted from me. There was a shift that happened. It was like a barrier had been erected between the ex, his minions, and I. From that point forward I viewed life and my past with the ex, through different eyes. His attacks became less and less, and they and his allies had much less power over me. I became empowered and strengthened to move forward and take my place as a daughter in the Kingdom. Am I 100% healed? Not Yet. But then…I am still a work in progress. From Glory to Glory untill the day I’m called home. This is what Our Father has for you too. Healing, Freedom, and Glory.

        • Praying Lady

          You are absolutely right, Gypsy Angel. The soul ties and trauma bonds in the spiritual realm need to be broken through godly, Biblically based prayer!! Until they are broken, survivors often feel an extremely strong pull to return to the abuser even though, in their minds, they KNOW it would be a huge mistake and basically “going back to Egypt.” That it is why Scriptural inner healing prayer is needed to further a survivor’s freedom.

  3. Debby

    And perpetrators are often masters at false repentance.

  4. Alison

    Yes, and abuse does not have to be physical. Emotional abuse by lying, addicted, narcissistic, selfish people causes extreme chaos to children and wives. Health problems begin in the wives who try to hold it together in near impossible circumstances. All relationships must be built on truth, and it compromises the mind to live in constant lies, and can even cause a form of brain damage to the frontal cortex. (Which God can heal but it’s serious.) Porn is an evil that is shaping the mindsets of our men and boys to abuse us. I’m not on a man hating soapbox. No one in the churches was prepared for the onslaught of pornography.
    I asked God to show me that in the Bible and He took me to 2 Sam 13 where David’s son, Amnon, raped Tamar. It says that as soon as he raped her, “he HATED her more than he ever LOVED her.” He lusted after her and as soon as he raped her, it turned to hatred. Interesting.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I think I got your comment edited as you wanted, Alison. No problem. Let me know if it still isn’t right.

  5. Change Agent

    Thank you again for the message of truth. I continue to be in awe of those who not only rewrite history and claim your voice but go as far as to suggest you are property. Triangulation is evidence enough of irreparable relationships. When you add in the abuse of gaslighting and smear campaigns on top of the psychological, emotional and financial abuse that sets a clear boundary. It is for me the point of no return. Divorced 6 years and never looking back, growing forward!

  6. GrayRock

    Amen! This is also my experience as a victim. Once I reach the point of no return when I could never, ever trust that person again, the relationship is over because without trust no real relationship is possible. If for some reason I have to remain in a relationship with that person, I function with as little emotional involvement as possible. Unsurprisingly, abusers don’t notice that because they have no idea what a real relationship is like and therefore cannot tell the difference between a real and a fake relationship.

    • crankybeach

      Point of no return. I called it the “thud” moment. Near the end of my first marriage I physically felt something go “thud” inside of me, and I knew that was the moment the marriage finally died. There was no going back. The moment was actually a relatively trivial thing, but it was the 1001st cut in the fabled death by a thousand cuts. My grandmother had just died that morning (and my husband’s only response was “oh”). That evening I was rushing to finish sewing the black dress and jacket for the funeral and it wasn’t going well, but I was under a time crunch. My husband said, “You never hemmed up my pants.” “I don’t have TIME to hem up your pants!” “You have time to do that.” And that was where I totally lost it, and my tantrum was only about one-quarter faked. “I’m not wearing your pants to my grandmother’s funeral, you never even said you were sorry my grandma died, she was the only one who ever told me she loved me and now she’s dead and I have to drive 300 miles tomorrow to help bury her, and WAAAAAH!” Tears and snot flying everywhere.
      After a moment of silence, he sheepishly said, “I’m sorry your granny died.” “TOO LATE!”
      It was another 3 months or so before he finally moved out, but the marriage was irretrievably OVER that night.

  7. jennifer

    My ex husband, a senior pastor in the PCUSA church, committed adultery. I experienced gaslighting, lies, betrayal, abandonment, and finally divorce. Now he is refusing to pay all of the required child support. Now he pulls into my driveway with his mistress, now wife, to pick up my children, as though this is perfectly normal.
    I think adultery is abuse too.
    I tried counseling, but was told that I need to forgive. That I need to be amicable because they are married now. I stopped going to counseling.
    I’m so tired.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jennifer – what a wicked man. I don’t know how many times I have been contacted by wives whose abuser was a pastor “husband.” The church of course should be disciplining him and defrocking him for his evil and helping you instead of laying all this forgiveness nonsense on you. There is no forgiveness where there is no repentance. Very good move on dumping the counseling. Many blessings to you and to your children. It is a hard road for sure, especially when you have children and all the visitation complications.

  8. Thank you for this very articulate post. So much more I would like to share but like one other commenter stated, “I’m just tired.”
    Very much appreciate the time others have taken to share their stories.
    The Lord is faithful and we can trust Him … this promise is what sustains me.

  9. R

    I wish I knew what a normal Christian marriage and family looked like from the inside.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Glad to help, R. For starters, discard and garbage can most everything you have read in “christian” marriage books or heard at conferences or from counselors. Wrap it up and toss it.

    • Rebecca

      It looks like a man and a woman with mutual respect for one another. A husband and wife who have no idols of ‘authority over’ or ‘my opinion trumps yours’ but defer to the other. Dying to self, they both will do whatever it takes to love and serve each other.

  10. Rebecca

    A true sign of repentance of an abuser would be for them to leave. Leave the relationship, leave the church, leave the city and maybe even the country. They would take 100% of the blame on them self. They would face the evil demonic inside themselves and want to be free, to be forgiven. This is true repentance.

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