Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Mercy of God and the Right Handling of His Word

Jon 1:1-2  Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,  (2)  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
Jon 3:4-5  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  (5)  And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

Many of the churches that we have dealt with in regard to their cruel treatment of domestic abuse victims proudly include in their doctrinal statements an unbending confession of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. I fully concur with that doctrine. The Bible is the very Word of God and is the rule for our faith and practice.
However, it is not enough for us to confess the Bible to be the Word of God. We must also interpret and apply it as the Lord intends for His Word to be understood and applied. The Pharisees, as you know, were very conservative in doctrine and held to the letter of Scripture. And yet they were so, so very wrong in how they used it. Grievously and mercilessly wrong.

Jonah’s mission was given to him by the Lord. He was to go to Nineveh and preach to that wicked city that in 40 days the Lord was going to destroy everyone there. Amazing as it was the people believed the Lord’s Word and repented:

Jon 3:10  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

God himself “repented.” The Lord whose Word is true, whose decree is unchanging, whose very nature is the same yesterday, today and forever, changed His decree. Jonah of course was not happy-

Jon 4:1-2  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  (2)  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Admonishing Jonah, the Lord put this rhetorical question to him-

Jon 4:11  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

The inerrant, authoritative Word of God must always be handled as He handles it. God Himself does not apply His Word with an unbending, stiff, merciless “well, that’s too bad. What I said stands no matter what. Nineveh is toast.” That was the lesson Jonah needed to learn and I suspect he did learn it. After all, it is most likely that Jonah himself is the one who recorded His own story right here in the book of Jonah.
Pastors and elders and theologians and professing Christians in so many cases have never learned about the mercy of the Lord and the proper application of His Word. To them, prideful as they are in their allegiance to the inspired letter of His Word (and the very letters are indeed inspired by God), the spirit of His Word goes wanting and unheeded.

Mat 12:7  And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

And this is why the majority of “Bible-believing” Christians treat abuse victims and the oppressed with such hard-heartedness and cruelty. “God’s Word says this and that about divorce and remarriage. It says this and that about a wife submitting to her husband. And therefore that is what a wife must do no matter how terribly her abuser is tormenting her. She must give sacrifice. That’s what they say. But Jesus said the Lord requires mercy, not sacrifice. Mercy.
Over and over again we see it. I tell victims of abuse that they have every right before God to divorce and be free. Then their pastor steps in. He and his elders take the details of her case and filter them through the grid of their Bibles, and then strain out the gnat while ignoring the camel that gets by them.
Mercy in the handling of Scripture does not mean that we endorse all manner of sin. It does not mean that we embrace the evils of our day and declare that all is forgiven by the Lord because He is merciful. No. Not at all. But if our interpretation and application of the Lord’s Word is exercised without mercy, then our merciless result twists and perverts that Word so that it is no longer the Lord’s Word at all.


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  1. walkinginlight

    These people in the church who try to be theologically correct are blind and shortsighted because they seem to forget 1Corinthians 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have LOVE, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
    (I capitalized the word love to stress a point).

  2. Maya

    Thank you for all you do to promote the truth. May God multiply grace, blessings and boldness to you (as he did for Paul). It is refreshing for survivors like me.

  3. no one down here

    struggling. have separated from husband due to abuse. almost 6 months now. church cannot guarantee he has changed. “not trying to pressure me into returning” but pressuring me into beginning communication with the spouse. because how am I supposed to know if he is any different or not… they have retaught him the scripture he already knew… He says he is ready to do anything. he wants to be better husband, better dad. the issues are so deep that I don’t feel I can even write them “anonymously” on a site like this. I don’t want to return. I feel that continued lies means he is just the same as ever, only called out. If I returned … what would he do?! I don’t feel safe. But I’m told I should feel safe because he knows that there are people watching him now.

    • Jeff Crippen

      no one down here – I understand. Your church is giving you the standard bad advice. Their pressuring you to resume communication with a wicked husband is ridiculous and you have every right to reject their counsel. Abusers never change. What your husband has done to you in the past, be assured he will continue to do no matter how many “sorry’s” he says or how often he insists he has changed. He is indeed just the same as ever. You have him pegged exactly. What kind of a marriage is it if people watching him is required to keep him from abusing you? Your desire to not return to him is true wisdom. Follow that path and be free.

  4. no one down here

    There are a lot of articles on this website that are balm to the hurting heart. When you are in a position where the spouse is in a very respected position at a very respected institution and who is known by many pastors and missionaries globally, and even now people are at work to keep it as quiet as possible… and you don’t really want to be part of scandal anyway…. Praising God for His obvious working in many ways, but the heart still hurts, and there is still confusion over what is the right thing to do. I wish to share this site with all the people “in charge,” but I don’t think they would get it. Thankfully, I do have one counselor who is standing strong. Interesting what you say about what kind of marriage would it be if it requires people watching him. They want me to teach him how to act, to be the one who corrects his wrong thought patterns when they are evidenced, and they hope that he will not show wrong behavior. It’s a gamble at best. They gamble that he will not show the bad behaviors, or that they won’t be bad enough to make me unsafe, and I will be able to correct him and teach him how to behave. But if he does show wrong behavior, no one can guarantee my safety at that point. They just THINK he will be safe. Physically safe. Or they think that I would be able to call them if he were unsafe.

    • Jeff Crippen

      no one down here – It is amazing how far up the “church” ladder a wicked man can advance all the while wearing his saintly disguise. But it happens all the time and I suppose we should not be surprised because we are warned about such facades in Scripture. Satan as an angel of light and his servants appearing to be sons of righteousness. When the whistle is blown, as in your case, such a person’s fans react selfishly. They have much invested in the hierarchy focused around evil and have been benefitting from it themselves. So damage control and coverup is the order of the day. The victim of course is expendable.
      The Lord plainly tells us in His Word that every real Christian has been taught by the Spirit of Jesus to love the brethren. Anyone who says they love God but hates their brother (or wife) is a liar. A liar. In other words, he is not a Christian at all. As Christians we are born again. We are indwelt by the Spirit and He is leading us. He enables us to put to death the deeds of the flesh. Yes, we still sin, but we repent when we do and we are grieved over our sin. No one needs to pressure us to love Christ and obey Him.
      But this is what these people you are describing are doing. Their entire concept of who a Christian is and what happens to us when Christ saves us, is horribly wrong. They believe in whitewashed tombs full of dead mens bones, and their idea of sanctification is to keep slapping more whitewash on the rot. It is most probably that none of them really know the Lord either.
      You are wise here in what you say. They are gambling with your safety if not with your life. And even if he never touches you physically, you aren’t safe around him. Abuse most often is non-physical, but it causes horrible damage mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and ultimately physically too. Most every victim of long-standing abuse that I know has serious health problems.
      May the Lord bless you and guide you into freedom. And may He exact justice upon this wicked man who is blaspheming Christ’s name by being a wolf in wool.

      • No one down here

        Thank you.
        It seems that there is a sentiment that I am the only one who would be able to tell if he is genuine in his repentance or not. So I have to be the one to start communicating and spending time… I have to give him a chance since he says he wants to be different… he is “humbled” and repentant.
        This man was one who raged at any thing. Threw chairs across the room in November, claimed I brought demons into the home, talked about wanting to kill me 5 years ago. Six months ago threatened to have me declared mentally incompetent. Practiced a form of paganism. Is gay. Not to mention the little things like extreme control and making sure he was never inconvenienced.
        But now he’s sorry. And wants to restore. And I have to start working with him sometime. Church getting anxious.
        Why would I want to give him a chance? Why do I care if he thinks he is repentant?
        How is my heart supposed to heal? I look to God all the time. I know He is always good, all the time . But I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to know if he is repentant. I don’t care. But I feel guilty about that.
        I do have a counselor who tells me differently than the church. So confusing. I’m afraid to tell the church the things I think.

        • Jeff Crippen

          No one down here- you can tell them you already know if he is repentant. You know that he is not! You are wise, be confident. I know it is hard when you have church leaders and professing Christians telling you otherwise. But you know. You are right. Any guilt you feel is false.
          I have been a conservative Bible believing pastor for 36 years. It has taken me the last 15 yrs or so to shake off all the false things I was taught. But I never really understood the Word until the Lord turned on the lights for me. He is doing the same for you.
          Your husband is no husband. He is wicked. And he is not born again. The thing is impossible. The theology and traditions of any person or pastor or theologian who claims a man like him can be a regenerate person is absolutely false.
          And your abuser is dangerous. Take safety precautions. See your local womens crisis center if you need help being safe. Those people are not of the devil. They are far more reliable than churches.
          Many blessings to you in Christ. Even if the Pharisees cast you out of the temple, Jesus the true Temple will bless and receive you.

          • Jeff Crippen

            Oh, and in spite of what many will tell you, abusers never change. Never. I have no doubt that your abuser is an apostate Esau. He will never repent.

        • Jeff Crippen

          Next time they pressure you to associate with this incredibly evil man, show them this:
          Psa 1:1  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
          Psa 1:2  but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

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