Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

How Did David Treat Goliath? (Shouldn't He Have Been More Loving?)

Goliath was an abuser. A really nasty one. Listen to him:

1 Samuel 17:8-10  He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”  And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”

Forty days this business went on with the giant mocking the Israelites and thus, mocking their God. Then, one day this kid shows up for the showdown and Goliath intensifies his mocking:

1 Samuel 17:40-44 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

Goliath was an abuser. He was a giant and he knew it. Pity his wife if he had one. Goliath hated God (although at least he was forthright about that and didn’t pretend to be a worshiper of the Lord as so many abusers do today). Goliath ridiculed his victims. Power and control and self-glory were what he was all about.
So, how should David have dealt with Goliath? I suggest to you that many Christians today think they know better than David. They tell abuse victims that when the abuser roars, victims should be meek and submissive. Win the giant over with love, they say. After all, you were a sinner too and God showed you mercy. You show Goliath mercy. Take him some sandwiches. David should have dropped to his knees and prayed and let God handle things. There’s the thing, you see.

But David didn’t take that advice:

1 Samuel 17:45-49 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
And then David even cut off Goliath’s head. He didn’t try to lead Goliath to Christ at all. He just shot him, and cut off his head.
Now, I am not recommending that abuse victims shoot their abusers and cut off their heads. That will land you in prison unless it is in justified self-defense. And yes, human beings are indeed allowed by God to defend themselves. But self-defense isn’t the main topic of this article. My point is that this far too common business of Christians telling abuse victims that they must not ever raise their voices to their abuser, that they must speak kindly to them always, that they must endure suffering and patiently await that big day when Goliath gets born again — this business has to stop. Stern stuff is quite appropriate: calling the police, leaving, divorcing, drawing firm boundaries, getting restraining orders, exposing the abuser for what he is to his church.
So the next time someone starts giving you the mercy-love-kindness lecture, grab your Bible and open it up here to 1 Samuel 17. Ask them if they are saying that David messed it all up with Goliath. Ask them why they are insisting that you need to negotiate with your giant. Then send them back to the quivering Israelite camp while you pick out five really nice smooth “stones.”


They Never Admit Wrong: A Sure Sign of an Unsafe (and Unsaved) Person


Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit Requires Dealing With Abusers


  1. Mhiggins

    Wow. When I was in the marriage and looking for biblical answers I only found a couple. One was authored by a female congregational pastor and the other was over my head and geared towards well theologically educated pastors.
    I wish I had known about this resource back then. I have kept my eyes open for unbiblical advice here but so far it’s been so sound. You are showing us over and over again where the Bible itself tells us and shows us the truth. And now this one is so blatantly obvious and yet I never would have connected it. Thank you so much for all that you do. I am so grateful that God has lead you in this ministry.
    Peace of mind is something that is destroyed when you are in an abusive relationship and doesn’t come back quickly because you are constantly questioning if you did what was biblical because of the messages we get from Christians. It’s so hard to get it to sink in that we have been misunderstanding, misusing and abusing scripture.
    Bless you and thank you.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Mhiggins- and thank you for comments. You are a real encouragement to us!!

  2. Stormy

    Incredible resource I love this — you’re an answer to my prayer Pastor Crippen. Thank you so much!!

  3. C

    Already smiled when I read this title – so true.
    By the way, most parts of the prophets read like: you bunch of…stop that mischief and unrighteousness. Don’t play the harlot to other gods, repent and turn around…or else
    Moses, coming from the mount Sinai seeing them dancing around a calf…does NOT say:
    well, maybe, might you consider to, uhm, reconsider, well, pray(thee), oh my dear…
    That’s the Old Testament? Now it’s all grace on steroids?
    Here’s Luke 3,7 (NLT)
    When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath?
    Oh, right, John is sometimes called the last prophet of the old type. So let’s see if Jesus uses hard words.
    Jesus says (Matthew12,34, NKJV):
    Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
    He is kinder to the downtrodden, the outcasts.But when reading His speaches, many of them do not sound to me as syrupy or as pathetic as they are usually read in church.
    Thank you for this wonderful example of courage and straightforwardness of young David: He might pass for a misbehaving teenager in many a modern church. Sometimes, we have to be bold in the Lord.
    God bless you,

  4. no one down here

    I have been realizing that most churches I have been in do not preach the whole gospel. They think they do, or claim it, at least… but they really only cherrypick what they like. They preach repentance, which is right. But they don’t tell you how to know if repentance is true. IF they preach against wickedness, it’s focused on preaching against movies, drinking, abortion, homosexuality, etc. It’s not also against verbal abuse, deceit that is based on partial truths, hypocrisy, anger, hatred, idolatry, etc. IF they preach on separation, it’s not about separation from true wickedness… it’s separating from someone who has a different opinion on music than you do. They do practice real separation from gross doctrinal errors, but it’s based on errors that happened in “That denomination.” They don’t preach on wolves coming into the congregation. They don’t preach on people that destroy the lives and minds of others. They preach forgiveness, and turn the other cheek, but forget that what those directives are based on.
    Oh, and if the person who has abused you has gross sexual immoralities … you can forgive that person and suck it up. Only if it’s a “worldly” person, do you actually separate.
    They don’t even know what real idolatry looks like.

    • Jeff Crippen

      In other words they are Pharisees. Whitewashed tombs. Yep.

      • no one down here

        It’s the disconnect a belief and an experience
        Belief: a person really is regenerate, based on “he said so” — and deserves treatment worthy of a regenerate person. Discipleship, mentoring, friendship, love, acceptance, gentle rebuke, forgiveness, acceptance—oops, said that one twice…
        but yet,
        the Experience: the person is exhibiting nearly every single characteristic of a person who should not enter the kingdom of heaven.
        For some reason that first belief always trumps the experience listed in the second statement.
        It is pounded into us that man looks on the outward appearance while God sees the heart. This is true enough, but if we weren’t supposed to judge, why are there so many statements throughout Scriptures teaching us how to discern (judge) who is or who is not regenerate?!
        I cannot understand this and I somehow keep expecting it to stop. Do all of these church leaders really have no intellect? Can they really not reason this out? It makes zero sense to me.
        Pharisees, Israelites who rejected Jehovah, wolves in sheep’s clothing, church at Ephesus who lost the first love, all the warnings in OT about offering sacrifices but not drawing close to God in heart, Paul telling us exactly who is not part of Christ’s kingdom. John telling us what true believers look like… Christ telling those unfortunates to depart from him… because they saw him hungry and thirsty and naked but didn’t provide … they said when did THAT happen? (of course we would never deny YOU, Lord!!)… but because you didn’t provide to the least of these…
        How is all of this ignored?

  5. Change Agent

    I believe God is a God of balance. He meets you at the point of your need in the way you need. Consider how he deals with Lazarus’ sisters. Think about what Jesus said about Elijah and the widow. There were many widows in need but Elijah was only sent to one. Jesus and the jar of alabaster is another example of how God displays discretion in giving and expects us to do the same. Sin inspectors are always ready to embrace slander and justify oppression. It is like the day laborers who get upset with the employer for paying everyone the same wage despite the time they began working. Ultimately the message is clear that God loves justice, hates oppression, manipulation and violence. We do selectively choose which verses we prefer and ignore the principles of Truth. Jeremiah 9:3-5 They all fool and defraud each other, no one tells the truth. With skill they all tell lies, wearing themselves out with sinning. The betrayal is how you learn to distinguish between Christ and religion.

Leave a Reply

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