Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

"He has Really Changed – You Need to go Talk to Him"

Romans 8:16  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

I know what it feels like. To have someone come up to you and tell you how much your abuser has changed for the good. After years of evil treatment at his hands, you finally were able to get away and start healing. But now, along comes some “well-meaning” person who has recently communicated with him and they just have to tell you that he is a changed person.
Now, they don’t have to complete the sentence. They have already said enough to let you know why they are telling you this. They think that you need to go see for yourself. No, they think that you need to forgive and forget now that the devil you knew is transformed into an angel.
Are these kind of people thinking that they are helping? I suppose in some cases. But the fact is that when someone does this to you, do you go away feeling encouraged? No! You feel triggered and re-traumatized. The thing is very DIS-couraging. People can be so, so, stupid, can’t they?

If it were the Lord leading you by His Spirit to go and see for yourself, you would be impelled to go. From within your own self. Not because someone told you to. You see it here (although remember, and this is important, the Apostle Paul was never an abuser – I have written a post on this subject which you can find here). Look at this:

Acts 9:10-15  Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  (11)  And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,  (12)  and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”  (13)  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.  (14)  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”  (15)  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

And again:

Acts 9:20-21  And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”  (21)  And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

Do you understand my point? If the Lord wants you to go see your ex-abuser because in fact he has truly been converted and brought to repentance, if in fact he has “changed” as the person who came to you claimed, the Lord Himself is quite capable of communicating that to you so that you are at peace going and seeing for yourself. But I will give you a tip – In the vast, vast, vast majority of cases the Lord’s leading is for you to stay away from that abuser.
I don’t know if any “helpful, well-meaning” people out there will ever read this post, but if any of them do, let me give them a bit of wisdom. DON’T go to an abuse victim/survivor and start telling them how wonderful it is that their abuser has changed!!! If you think that this is going to help anyone, please go back to Christ’s school of wisdom and wise up. All of us who have experienced the evil of abusers know all too well that they are very skilled at faking repentance and change.


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  1. suzzieq07

    Hi Pastor Crippen, you have highlighted another GREAT angle on this topic! I started reading this post thinking it would be about the abused person wanting to see a “changed” abuser and listening to the “wrong voice.” Such as it was for me, many, many times.
    At one point my abuser left me for 3 months, struggling to pay my mortgage and bills without any income. He conveniently left during winter from a cold northern city to FLORIDA for those 3 months! Early on, he told me he felt he possibly had “made a mistake” in leaving me and his kids. He said he had contacted a psychologist and was “in therapy.” Initially I wasn’t buying it. I got a full-time job cleaning for the State. It was so hard for me an my two children. My sweet dad stepped up and paid two months mortgage, etc. I must have said to “someone” that unless my husband’s therapist wrote me a letter stating he had “changed,” I wouldn’t believe it. Well gee, I GOT that letter!
    Wow, I naively never considered that “someone” might have communicated my “terms” to him! Here’s my point, I wasn’t listening closely to the Holy Spirit, instead I listened to “man.” There absolutely WAS the Holy Spirit saying, “Don’t take him back!” The day he came home, it took quite a bit to shut down my God-given spirit-led wisdom to turn him back out; but unfortunately I didn’t listen. After he was home, I told his brother and my sister-in-law, “He has changed, …he even talks quieter!” I remember a reserved, skeptical reaction, especially from my sister-in-law.
    There we no family members, church members or coworkers trying to sway me, only my own desire for marriage and one, very obscure psychologist in Florida who had never met me, spoken with me, nor solicited my input. To this day I wonder if he realized how he had “played God” and how I had suffered from it. Wake up abused person, it IS God giving you the wisdom you need! Listen to Him!

  2. Amy

    I would say this has been said to most of us abuse survivors. I still remember the day after a Sunday service at the church I had attended with my ex, and still attended after he walked out on me and continued doing very evil things, the pastor approached me and said how he could tell my then-husband was really trying to change. I just looked at him with a raised eyebrow and turned away, and left that church not long afterwards because it became very obvious that either 1) people just didn’t care, 2) tried to appear they cared but told me they couldn’t take sides, or 3) in the case of the men’s group, tried to ‘help’ my abuser see the error of his way and go back home even though his wife (me) was an ungodly woman.
    There were a few people who did reach out, but not many. Most Sundays I sat by myself and had very few ask how I was, if I needed anything, or just a hi and hug.
    No, my ex didn’t change, ever. He is still the same manipulating bastard he always was and I know from the things my son tells me about his dad who he has chosen to stay in contact with.

  3. Z

    Sometimes we make mistakes in not listening to the Holy Spirit Who lives in us because we so “wish and hope” for that supposed “change“ to be true in our abusers. We look for reasons to believe. But we ignore the Word of God telling us to simply look at their FRUIT. In my case, their fruit always remained rotten. There was no basis for my “hopes and wishes”. Yet we often ignore God showing us their fruit so clearly and instead hopefully and naively listen to their allies and duped people and let them convince us otherwise to our detriment. Forgetting that our abusers are accomplished actors and manipulators.
    BUT GOD! He orchestrated a serious coordinated attack by my abusers which revealed to me the extent of their evil. I couldn’t “wish and hope” it away in my lifelong desire for a real family. But I did finally listen and heed what the Holy Spirit showed me with that final attack. People did try to reach out to me to tell me the abusers were sorry and wanted “their family back together”. I wasn’t swayed anymore by man’s opinions or people’s endorsements of the abusers. I only embraced what God Himself had shown me. And I completely broke free. My spirit is settled and at peace with that decision. The aftereffects are hard but worth it. They are the beginning of my recovery. Turn off all the outside noise and listen for God’s voice in your spirit and obey only Him.

  4. Jeff Crippen

    Truth here!! Thank you.

  5. Leslie@Goodbye, house! Hello, HOME!

    Great post! I also believe, that if the abuser has repented and seeks recompense or forgiveness from the victim, the abuser themselves will go to each person they harmed and ask for grace personally.

    • Jeff Crippen

      And when the abuser comes – beware. He is lying. True repentance would be to leave the victims alone, right financial wrongs and slanders, and ask for nothing. In my opinion abusers never repent. Never change.

      • Cara

        I was really surprised with Pastor Hinton’s twitter feed, where he retweeted a story about a couple whose daughter was abducted, raped, and murdered and how they went and wrote to the two criminals in prison, telling them they forgave the criminals. Both pleaded guilty to the charges to spare themselves the death penalty and are spending their lives in prison without the possibility of parole.
        A quote from one of the criminals, included in the article, said something about how when he received a letter from the parents of the woman they raped and murdered, he initially thought they were going to cause him more pain.
        Imagine that. The rapist murderer wondered about the parents of his victim, causing him “MORE PAIN”, by sending him a letter in prison, letting him know they’d forgiven him.
        In the Bible, Tamar’s rapist half-brother doesn’t get sent a letter, doling out forgiveness, but rather retribution is delivered in his murder (I say justice but vigilantism is most often thugs using ‘justice’ as a means to go out and be thug criminals and hunt others, vandalize, thieve, etc)
        I think this whole, ‘unsolicited forgiveness’ is a bad thing. It teaches bad responses and sets victims up to additional pressure from those in the church (as well as general society) to forgive unrepentant persons, like abusers.
        Why should victims not be afforded justice? Those parents received a criminal justice response which ensured their daughter’s rapist-murderers had their lives taken (essentially) and they’d spend the rest of their lives paying for it. Most victims don’t get any criminal justice system response, nor civil courts, nor anything at all.
        Victims should be encouraged to seek justice, not this cheap, blanket forgiveness, oh, he’s changed!, or, let’s get him into counseling, let’s love him to Jesus stuff. No, God is a God of justice. We cannot play nice with wolves. All it does is gets us and other innocents devoured all the more.
        I like Pastor Hinton’s works, but I loathe any promotion of this bad teaching of so many churches and Christians, that we are to forgive all, be grace-filled to all.
        But then again, how does the ‘forgive them’ of Stephen as he was stoned work? Perhaps we are to forgive all. I’m not sure, when I think about the stoning of Stephen and how he cried out for God to forgive those stoning him right before he died.
        I personally don’t care any longer what happens to my abuser. There won’t be any justice whatsoever in this life for me. I know God will take care of him. Does that mean I’ve forgiven him? No way. But, perhaps a person endangers their own soul if they withhold forgiveness from others, unrepentant or not.
        So many conflicting messages. I feel calm and okay with not forgiving my abuser. He’ll never change. That’s for sure. He delights in being evil.

        • Cara

          Well, I’m having an off day. I don’t know why I decided to talk about someone else’s Twitter feed here. Shame on me for that. Seems the rapist-murderers were young 20s and hopped up on drugs. One of them does art now with 70 percent or so of the profit going to his victim’s fund.
          Trauma scars the mind and too much trauma leaves a victim really swirling the drain. Pastor Crippen, Pastor Powell, and Pastor Hinton – thank God for them and their work!
          God bless victims and give them healing and may He bless those who minister to them, too!

          • Aimee

            Hi Cara. I understand how you feel. I don’t think love means anything without justice. God is FOR you. You can trust him to judge right. This all sounds like cliches I’m afraid. I feel for you. X

          • Z

            Cara, Pastor Jimmy Hinton has podcasts/sermons that speak such Biblical truth about “forgiveness”. They are podcasts numbers 33, 34, 35, 36. He doesn’t at all advocate “blanket forgiveness”. Quite the opposite, in fact. They’d be very helpful to you if you could listen to them. They helped me so much to understand forgiveness related to my abusers that I wrote to him and thanked him! No false teaching that we have to forgive. I hope this helps.

          • Cara

            Thanks, Aimee for your comment!
            Z, I do follow his podcasts and they are so good! Especially the ones about forgiveness. I need to listen to them again as the clarity they brought the first time around is waning.
            I was surprised about the article he retweeted on Twitter because it did seem to be of a couple who resolved that the only way they could not become bitter was to forgive, without any indication of remorse or repentance on the rapist-murderers. Perhaps the two criminals said something in their pleas to the judge before sentencing. Perhaps they;d seemed receptive to the anguish of the parents during the trial. Who knows. It seemed the article had a flavor of the ‘forgive or you’re bitter and hateful’ kind of sentiment. That’s why I was surprised. It seemed to contradict Pastor Hinton’s and Clara Hinton’s most excellent podcasts (Spreaker, YouTube).
            Either way, this isn’t the place for it. I shouldn’t have said something about it on this website. It feels as though I’ve now gossiped or something. At any rate, I love the podcasts that Pastor Hinton and Clara Hinton produce!

  6. Mindy

    Cara, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my thoughts so accurately articulated as I have in your comment… I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve written!

  7. Rowan on the high mountain

    And how often are those who expect the victim to accept their opinion that the abuser has changed the same people who failed to recognize–or chose to minimize–the abuse in the first place? If someone was blinded to the existence of the abuse by the public demeanor of the abuser, there’s no reason to trust that person’s judgment about any supposed transformation.
    I’m afraid I agree with you that real change is unlikely. Someone who behaves abusively once or twice and is horrified at his own actions might repent and reform, but not someone whose heart has been hardened by years of choosing to hurt another person. It isn’t that it’s impossible for such a person to undergo a Pauline sort of experience, but it’s extraordinarily rare.
    Most of those I’ve known who’ve harmed others over an extended period of time are unwilling to confront who they are and what they’ve done because of the pain involved in seeing the truth. It hurts less to keep abusing than to face what they’ve done and what sort of people they’ve chosen to become.

  8. Sue

    “He has really changed, you need to go talk to him.”
    Nosey people need to mind their own business.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Well said Sue

    • Cara

      “He has really changed, you need to go talk to him.”
      Possible Response: “No, I don’t. You see, abusers don’t change, and he is an abuser. You have been deceived and manipulated into being an agent for him. Please don’t be allied with evil, as that is what he is. Remember the Bible verse about the angel of darkness masquerading as an angel of light? Evil is deceptive and abusers are evil. They don’t change. Please educate yourself about the dynamics of abusers and batterers and all the various tactics and pity ploys in their arsenal. And no, I don’t need to go talk to him, as he is dangerous and he proved that to me time and time again. Please stay away from him. Don’t do his bidding. Don’t fall prey to his latest manipulation.”
      I cringe at the “nosey people need to mind their own business” comment ONLY because that is often used to silence and shut-down others’ intervention in domestic violence situations. So many people hear or see their neighbor or whomever being abused, hit, threatened, controlled, etc. and they don’t intervene or say anything as they think “it’s not my business” and “it’s not my place to get involved with that person’s private matters”.

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