Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

**Another Look at the Abuser as Reviler

How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever (Psalms 74:10)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11)
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

I want us to think some more about this word “revile” and the person who is called a “reviler” in Scripture. Every abuser is a reviler. As you can see from just these verses, a reviler is not a Christian. Revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God. That is about as plain a way of stating it as you could want.

Reviling is a very, very evil and serious sin. What does it mean? Well, you see that root in there — “vil” — that makes us think about other words like “villify,” or “villain.” I suggest to you that “revile” means to falsely accuse, to malign, to wrongly curse, to make an innocent person the villain. All of you who have been targeted by an abuser know exactly what all of this looks and feels like. Revilers are the children of the devil. After all, he is known as the accuser of the brethren, right? You even see in the verse from the Psalms quoted above that revilers revile God!
Alright then, what does this reviling look like when it comes our way? I can tell you, and I know that most of you can tell us as well. The reviler looks for opportunity to falsely accuse his victim. One of the most wicked I have ever dealt with (a man who hid behind a facade of “saintliness”) seemed to be very unpredictable. You never knew where he would come down on an issue. But eventually we realized that in fact he was very predictable and consistent. He would always be watching for some situation or topic which he could use to villify others. He would do this by:

  • Championing the opposite position, accusing those who saw things otherwise as being wrong or even sinful
  • Watching for a statement or action made by his target, then accusing them of being guilty of sinning for making that statement or performing that action
  • Even more deceitfully, he would “refuse” to voice his opinion or position on a subject, claiming he would simply remain “neutral,” when in fact his behavior made a loud and clear statement which accused others of sinning or at least of being seriously wrong

This is the reviler in action. I have no doubt that local churches are peppered with these kind. Of course, like all abusers, what they are about is fulfilling their lust for power and control, of being “first,” and of demanding that everyone do what they say. Diotrephes was a reviler:

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10)

See it? He lusted to be “first” and to do that he reviled. He villified. He spoke”wicked nonsense” against the Apostles and other servants of the Lord. Diotrephes was a wolf in wool. John was going to call him out in front of everyone, and that is precisely what we need to do today.
These kind creep into our churches. They crave to be pastors, elders, or “eminent” church members. Their tongue is their weapon of choice.
Now, let me tell you the mistake that genuine Christians often make when they are not yet wise about the reviler. When they are reviled, they accept the guilt, wear the blame, or at minimum they assume that a Christian is to be humble when falsely accused. And sometimes that is the course we are to take. But not when dealing with a reviler. When we see a pattern of reviling in someone, we must realize what we are dealing with is incredibly wicked and is being carried out by a person who is a servant of the devil. We are to put them out of the church and have nothing to do with them.
So then, why is it that pastors and churches and counselors and theologians are telling us otherwise? Why are revilers being warmly received in the church and their victims expelled?


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New Short Book Published – Who is a Christian? (Jeff Crippen)


  1. Debby Seguin

    This concept of my abuser being “evil” is by far the most difficult to grasp and believe and accept. I remember over the 3 decades I was “married” to him that it would confuse me that when I made (the almost never ending ) “mistakes” he ACCUSED me of (I never thought of it as accusing before, always just sort of “pointing out flaws in my day to day actions, but it WAS accusing! Thank you!), there was usually a look of DERISION on his face, for something as simple as making an entire perfect meal but I forgot to get the sour cream out or I bought the “wrong” dressing or other stupid tiny things. It was so painful bc I worked so hard at making the meal or event or task just right for him and my kids and to have one detail harangued about was very confusing. You feel like a failure no matter what you do no matter how much effort you put in. Dr George Simon book and Don Hennessy book finally broke through the fog and I began to understand that I wasn’t making so many mistakes, I wasn’t incompetent. I WAS BEING SET UP! That revelation almost destroyed me.
    And I experienced the awful response from the church when I tried to get help . A double betrayal. A spirit of pride and arrogance within these counselors and bible leaders that led to them acting like EXPERTS and giving me the party line of guilt, shame, and blaming ME for not doing enough/doing the “wrong” things, JUST LIKE MY ABUSER DID. They called him and treated him as a HUSBAND, instead of an abuser bc they couldn’t admit they didn’t know what to do.
    I’m out after 33 years, but will spend many more years recovering from the trauma. You are so spot on about these people. Thank you for speaking truth.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Debbie. Wow, 33 years. You are very brave and strong to come out of that against all the pressures put upon you to remain in that wicked environment. What you share here is very helpful to many.

    • Susan

      My abuser was similarly never happy with much that I did. After I was able to make good meals (I never learned while still at home) he then complained I didn’t make desserts to go with dinners. So, of course, I then did that. There were numerous added things he wanted me to do for him. Eventually I realized he kept “raising the bar” to a point I was never going to reach a state where he would be satisfied. It’s really sad when you do things out of love and yet those efforts are criticized and dismissed as being inferior. 33 years is a long time to be devoted to someone so undeserving. God bless you for being the person you are. You will hear “Well done, thou good a faithful servant” for everything you do for your Lord, even if you were not recognized here on earth.

  2. no one down here

    It all comes down to deceit living inside your heart.
    You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
    What is falsely accusing someone, if not murder of their very character. The maligned person is still living and breathing and walking around. But their testimony—their character—now has a blot. A false shame weighs down on them.
    God is the exact opposite of lies.
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
    Lies are hidden things, cowering under the cover of darkness.
    If we claim that we have fellowship with him, but keep living in darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth (1 John 1:6)
    Contrast this with God – the creator of and father of light …
    This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
    The sun shall be no more your light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto you, but the LORD shall be unto you as an everlasting light… (Isaiah 60:19)
    Those who walk in darkness are under a great woe.
    Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20)

    • Jeff Crippen

      No one – I always very much appreciate your applications of Scripture. Thank you.

    • sweethonesty7

      “What is falsely accusing someone, if not murder of their very character.” — VERY powerful, no one down here. Your choice of Scriptures perfectly woven together revealing the truth.

  3. IrisJane

    Revilers are verbal assassins whose goal is to destroy the very best of their victims character, soul, and spirit. They are completely void of any true ‘selfless’ compassion or goodness, among other things, so that when they see it in others they must tear it apart, bit by bit. From families, to churches, to political arenas, they all operate the same…any showing of competence, self sufficiency, and real true love is a threat to them, for they are incredibly incompetent in all, though they create a facade of being very capable, one in which they are Oscar worthy experts at portraying. Truly poisonous people.
    Also, revilers abhor peace and must have chaos or some kind of mess at all times, true peace is what destroys them, they can’t handle it, so they must continually stir the pot in any way they can to stay relevant and in control, it’s a never ending battle…may God give us all continued strength and courage to stay standing.

  4. cindy burrell

    The truth has been so beautifully, painfully revealed in your piece, Pastor Crippen, as well as in all of the biblical exposition and comments shared here.
    Why, I wonder, is this vital, life-affirming truth so shockingly – and disturbingly – difficult for other pastors and bible teachers to embrace and relay in its fullness?
    It boggles the mind.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Because in most cases they are not Christians, they aren’t born again, Christ does not know them. Thx Cindy

      • Joy

        I grew up Baptist. Basically born a believer. My relationship with Jesus wasn’t based on works, yet the enemy knew where to get me. He couldn’t trip me up with “shameless deeds done in darkness”, but he could make me feel bad about not being good enough. This began my lifelong battle with getting grace. I just couldn’t hang on to that slippery stuff! Grace grows in God’s goodness , which I had known, but the enemy always comes to steal, kill and destroy.
        Fast forward to my marriage at age 26. I had previously removed my father from the pedestal of my heart, but had not replaced him. My mistake. My husband then took his place. 9 years into marriage I took myself to counseling, as recommended by my husband. His marriage was perfect so it must be mine then. (I thought we were one, right?) In this prayer counseling I took my husband off of the pedestal and put Jesus there. Also, the two of us sat there with Jesus, a cord of three stands….so I thought.
        In my journals I often talked with the Lord about my feelings of guilt, blame and shame. I wondered why God would have given me someone who just heaped it on me more. I did everything I could to bless my husband and our 4 kids. Lateness was cause for eruption, whilst not offering to help with the kids. I threw a book at him early on in our marriage as he laughed while I cried about the way he treated my body. I felt guilt asking him to “babysit” our own children. Over 4 years, of our 15 year marriage, he slept on the couch and then accused me of withholding intimacy.
        After telling him about the pedestal experience things took a turn for the worse. The Lord s-l-o-w-l-y taught me who I really was in Him. How my purpose and meaning, my very lifeblood comes from Him. The opinions of man do not matter, because in the end my accuser will not be found and only my Savior will have the last words. In fact, He has had last words before and they are “It Is Finished”. My God has never been so vibrantly alive, so vehemenantly FOR ME! His Spirit courses through my veins and my Joy is full! Even in the storm of my life I walk on the waves! This is His Glory Story! He has redeemed my life from the pit!

    • IrisJane

      Mind boggling came to my mind as well Cindy…it truly is!! The flying monkeys also boggle my mind, especially when they’ve been on the receiving end of the abuse and yet continue to support the abuser, always forgiving them, yet distancing themselves from the victim. I’ve sadly come to the conclusion over time that most are likely wolves themselves and are protecting one of their own, all while claiming to be showing grace and forgiveness.
      Such a twisted maze to navigate through until God allows us to see who and what they truly are.

    • Susan

      Yes Cindy, I wonder the very same thing. It seems they are so afraid to call out what needs to be called out. Often churches seem to split rather than effectively dealing with the evil person correctly. Where it would be possible to perhaps lose a few members if things were handled early the biblical way, instead factions form and either dig in or leave taking half the congregation with them.

  5. Innoscent

    The abusers in my life were/are all expert revilers, didn’t use physical abuse but their evil manipulative tongues and schemes, which felt so much worse to me, excruciating.
    If/when I tried to reach out for help as I felt I was drowning, you guess.. church people and the abusive ex-husband would flip it all around to make me sound like the gossiper and reviler.
    It is a never-ending battle.
    So glad and comforted to read these Scriptures. Thank you Jeff! God sees it all, soon He will bless those who are reviled against and will judge the revilers. He will put it right, all evidence out, books open, witnesses, no fooling Him!

    • cindy burrell

      Pastor Crippen, perhaps your readers might appreciate a piece I wrote a while back called “The Hearter Murderer,” based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 referencing verbal abuse. It’s here if you’d like to post it as additional biblical validation: http://www.hurtbylove.com/the-heart-murderer/

  6. Debby Seguin

    Scene 1; bible counselors office everywhere.
    Victim: (pointing at abuser) He’s an enemy!
    Abuser: (in gentle voice) I’m your husband. I love you!
    Bible counselor/pastor: See? He loves you. What’s YOUR problem? You must have issues you have not dealt with.

  7. Inquiring

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
    “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    So in the above Bible verses, are they talking about continued patterns of behavior? For example, when I was in my early 20s, I had more than one glass of wine on more than one occasion. Does that make me a drunkard? How many binge drinking incidents before a person is a drunkard? And what if they stopped? I was a Christian then, but young, dumb, stupid, and misguided. Does that banish me from heaven?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Nope. Not ambushed. The issue is what defines us? What is the essence of who we are? The flesh? Or the Spirit? See Gal 5:16ff and Romans 8.

    • IrisJane

      Thank you for asking this Inquiring, and thank you also for your answer Pastor Crippen, as I’ve wondered this myself so often, not in regards to drinking but to some of my reactions and behaviors after years of abuse, which made me feel even worse than the abuse sometimes. They created two devastations in my soul instead of just the one from the abuse.
      This helps to ease my mind and spirit a bit.

      • Inquiring

        I’m with you, IrisJane!
        It devastates my soul some of my reactions and behaviors after years of abuse, trauma, and victimization, too. On one hand, I think we are too hard on ourselves (and outsiders are way too hard on us). On the other hand, I wish I had been superwoman and not reacted in this or that way.
        I know of abusers who would force their victims to be a part of some crime, or to commit the crime themselves, and thus harm their own conscience and further be an assault on their identity. It made them ashamed and gave them another weapon to use against the woman.
        I also have seen women driven to drink, in order to cope with the pain of the abuse. Then the abuser turns it around and says what a drunk and alcoholic his wife is and how he is this saint husband for bearing it. Same goes for drugs. Then the abuser has even more control. Pimps do this to targets they want to turn out. They turn them into addicts and therefore have even greater leverage.
        It’s all a setup. All a scam. I find society has very little compassion, empathy or understanding towards victims and what burdens they are forced to bear and how the abuse changes them. Somehow, no matter what, women are to be superwomen, most especially if they are being abused. They must have no faults, nothing whatsoever. Even then, even if a perfect victim, she’ll be attacked and blamed in some way or another. Never fails.
        I suspect God is understanding of our bad reactions. God knows what was done to us. He knows how injured we are and the extent of the damages.

        • IrisJane

          Yes Inquiring, I think abusers love to provoke and force us to behave in ways that completely go against our natures so they can point their finger at us, and I also believe that one of their main goals is to turn us into one of them. Almost every victim I’ve come across, such as those on this site as well as other sites, are incredibly intelligent, kind hearted, loving, sweet caring souls, and the abusers can’t stand it so they continually try to destroy these beautiful qualities and turn their victims into the empty, angry, ignorant, superficial shells that they are, so they can then turn around and blame us for all the ills in the relationship and continue to pretend to be the one victimized. Provoking their victims feeds them, without doing so they would starve.
          I pray with all of my heart that God does understand and forgives our bad reactions and thoughts from abuse, and that He gives us all the ability to be stronger in the face of it, and to be pleased with the ‘essence of who we are’, as Pastor Crippen pointed out, as so often out outer self isn’t able to portray our true selves.

          • Inquiring

            I hope and pray for the same. Yes, to be pleased with the ‘essence of who we are’ [in Christ].
            Darkness hates light. Makes me think of David’s son who schemed and plotted and raped his half-sister, just to defile her and ruin her.
            Light is to hate darkness. And in the overwhelmingly popular false teachings of blanket, cheap grace, mercy and forgiveness, happy hippie kind of ‘c’hristianity, it’s hard to retain that sensibility. We are to hate darkness. We are to hate abusers. They most assuredly hate us.

  8. sweethonesty7

    Always when I was alone, no witnesses–a sampling:
    I noticed it was dark in the house, so I opened the window blinds in the living room and kitchen. He BLASTED me!–“CLOSE!–THOSE!–BLINDS!!!” in another blistering loud R-A-G-E for—-doing absolutely nothing wrong. What he was accusing me of was ‘letting men see me in the house.’ I was cleaning and minding my own business; to do such a thing never, ever entered my mind. It rightfully angered me and I said, “No, I will NOT close those blinds! They stay OPEN!” I was just starting to get my voice back and squash his lies. He then accused me of being “mentally ill and psychotic.” Huge tears welled up in my eyes and a look of pure gleeful evil enveloped his countenance. All this as he was leaving to pick up our son from youth group!
    Another time I was home cleaning and he came up to me in a bullying poster; I was afraid he was going to hit me. So I ran out the front door and waited on the sidewalk in front of my next door neighbors’ house and waited for my young adult children to arrive home. The next time he did the same intimidating poster I ran out the door, got in the car, and drove off to the food store. When I came back, no one was home so I ran next door and visited with my neighbor and that’s when I told her what was going on. When he came home he saw my car in the garage, but I wasn’t in the house. He told people at church and his lawyer that I was having an affair! The children without saying the exact place I was at told him he was wrong and that they saw me where I was—true, because I called them and they saw me through the neighbor’s front window.
    He *knew* I wasn’t guilty of any of the above or the plethora of other lies he made up and attributed to me. He endlessly *loved* watching me cry, he *enjoyed* piercing my soul with his lies, he *took advantage* of learning my fears and worries in “marriage counseling” and *using them against* me! He was *hell bent* on *destroying* me our entire marriage.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Sweethonesty7- an evil, wicked man who was energized by hell. You were and are very brave.

      • Aimee

        All these comments are so intelligent, insightful, inspired. If someone asks me what my abuse was like I feel confused and lost for words so am very grateful that others can describe it. Creating chaos, reviling, provoking – all so true. Had a divorce court hearing (the fourth) scheduled for today but it was postponed owing to coronavirus.

        • Sweethonesty7

          Aimee, you’re so right–chaos–they love to keep us there; we’ve all been there, in the fog of abuse. I could not express my abuse either, until I started reading books about it; such a relief! I remember feeling elated that what my gut knew, but my mouth couldn’t express was said for me! From there on out there was no stopping the truth from flooding my mind and heart.

      • Sweethonesty7

        And still has not changed. I’m worried for my young adult children. He’s coming from another state to see his new victim/girlfriend–she won’t notice, yet–I’m sure he’s love bombing her to no end; she lives in an epicenter/mega cases of the coronavirus. That selfish jerk will go see her and then very possibly drag that disease back to the children or she has been in their apt and she might go there too! He wants to stay with the children 4 almost a week! He did this at the winter holidays, he wanted “his mommy” (evil woman) to see our children and he KNEW she was extremely ill. He has *many* family members right in the same town as her and what did he do–he made the children stay in her house! One of the children came back home very, very sick! I am praying God blocks him from traveling to them.

        • Cara

          “his new victim/girlfriend…I’m sure he’s love-bombing her to no end”
          It is what they do, isn’t it?
          Preventing unnecessary illness in his children? tsk, tsk, such insignificant details for any abuser’s agenda of the moment.
          Hope everyone takes coronavirus seriously because it has been shown to have lasting effects and scars the lungs. Some medical professionals believe those who have it will then be more susceptible to getting it again in the future.
          Sorry your irresponsible abuser is risking your kids’ health. Love-bombing is a limited thing. Must ensure intense attachment early and keep the target’s total attention!

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