Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Abuser is a User: an Ab – User

Galatians 4:17 ESV  They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.

This morning I was thinking about how, over the years, wicked people have used me. And the thought struck me that “abuser” is a very descriptive word in this regard. Abusers are users. To ab-use is to use someone or something for an abnormal, deviate, twisted and improper purpose.  The prefix “ab” means “off” or “differing from.” Ab-normal then means “off normal. Differing from that which is normal.”
To ab-use then means to use someone or something in an “off” manner as opposed to using for a proper purpose. The wicked use their targeted victims for reasons that are “off” what is a right and healthy use. Let me describe my experience in this business for the purpose of helping you see how it has come at you in your life.

I have known people over the years, particularly in my years as a pastor, who showed many signs of being true friends who loved me. They invited me to their homes. They were faithful in being at the meetings of the church. They experessed thanks for my sermons and ministry. They even stood with me against evil people who were trying to destroy that ministry. And this kind of relationship continued for years.
But then…
They dumped me. Left. Gone. Their “love” turned to an essential hatred. it seemed to me to be a kind of divorce. What happened? I can tell you.  They no longer had any use for me. As it turned out, they were using me for selfish, self-glorifying purposes. The friendship was a sham all along and in an instant I was discarded. Oh, of course they will never acknowledge this. They will blame me for the separation, just as your abuser has done to you. But the reality is that for whatever reasons, I was no longer of any use to them. They could not use me any more, just like you might donate some item you have used for years to the Goodwill because you don’t need it any longer. (Only these users have no goodwill!)
Your abuser uses you. Wrongly. For wicked, selfish purposes. He uses you for:

  • Selfish economic reasons
  • Selfish sexual gratification reasons
  • Wicked craving for power and control reasons
  • Evil servile reasons (you are his servant and slave)
  • and many others

This is what the Apostle Paul is referring to in the Scripture quoted above. Abusers use. They flatter, but only to suck you in so that YOU can then “make much of them.”  They abuse and misuse the flock of the Lord when they are a pastor or church leader:

Jeremiah 23:1-2 ESV  “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.  (2)  Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.

Any relationship that is characterized and motivated by ab-use is not a loving relationship, be it marriage, friendship, family, or some other association. It is a toxic front disguised as “love,” but completely devoid of the Lord’s proper and righteous design.


A Warning Sign – Counselors who are Self-Centered


The Error of Regarding the Wicked as Victims of Sin


  1. JB

    Jeff, first of all THANK YOU for your honest ministry! Those of us who have been wounded by abuse, I think, find your work refreshing. It puts sense where there was only confusion before. I’m still trying to dig myself out, with Jesus’ help, of the hole I was tossed in by spiritual, emotional, verbal and possibly sexual abuse by my husband. I have been out of our home for over a year now and God has provided so beautifully for me and our youngest three children. Our oldest daughter, who is 15 now, has chosen to stay with her dad and has written me off almost completely. When I text her I mostly get one word responses or none at all. She ignores me when I see her at school. She is very much like her dad and has treated me very similarly most of her life. Perhaps this “separation” is a way of God preserving me that pain as well, but a whole new pain of rejection is now my battle.
    My husband has a girlfriend that he aquired only a few short months after I left. She has since moved in and taken up residence in our home with her two teenage children. It breaks my heart imagining what my children see and hear in that home and the example that my “godly” husband is setting for them. He still goes to church and posts pictures of the entire “family” in their matching Christmas jammies on Facebook with all sorts of “praise to God” and scripture to go right along with it. I know it hurts God’s heart to see the lies being posed as praiseworthy truth, but we live in a world like that right now…where right is wrong and wrong is right. And NO ONE has the guts to stand up to him. Even though we have gone to that church for 12 years together and he, much longer, the pastor only preaches at him from the pulpit, no face to face, no accountability. When I left home, I left my church home too and most of my “friends”. Most have not reached out at all.
    Perhaps you can respond to my situation with some Biblical counsel or encouragement for me about all of it, but mostly my situation with my forsaking/alienated daughter.
    Thank you again, Jeff for helping expel the darkness with the truth. It makes a difference. It really does!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Dear JB – I am very sorry that you have suffered all of this, and continue to suffer – particularly at the loss of your daughter to the abuser. I know several other mothers who have gone through the very same trial and perhaps their experience might help you. In one case all of the children in the home (ages ranging from grade school through college) saw through the evil of the abuser father and remained steadfast with their mother – EXCEPT for one. The eldest allied with the abuser and has no relationship with his mother. In another case, the eldest daughter effected about as much abuse as the abuser. And in still a third case, a once loyal and seemingly loving daughter married a wicked man and allied with him, rejecting her mother and forbidding the mother to see her grandaughter.
      Why? I believe the answer is to be found in the Bible’s images of light and darkness. Darkness hates the light. The light exposes the darkness for what it is. So people choose sides according to who they really are.
      Also, over time, what these mothers find, is that as you mentioned, the departure of the child who chooses the abuser turns out to be a blessing. For all the pain and the hurt it brings (you remember them as the little kid they once were who loved you), they have now chosen to become a different person – they choose the darkness. I saw it happen in my own experience with a family member who loved me as a little kid. But that little kid is gone and has been for a long, long time.
      In regard to that church where the pastor and people ally with your abuser. I am certain that the majority, and I mean the LARGE majority of local churches and pastors are not of Christ at all. They consist of unregenerate people. And this whole matter of evil in their ranks, such as the evil of abuse, consistently exposes them for what they are. Like that child, they choose the evil and reject the light. They totally disregard God’s clear teaching and command (see 1 Cor 5) to put such a man out of the church and not to associate with him at all. But they blow all that off and boast about how loving and merciful they are and they hammer on the victim until she is driven away.
      Therefore, you have not been cast out by Christ’s real people. You have the honor of suffering for Christ’s sake and can be reassured by this that you really belong to Him.

    • Free

      Yes, agree, thank you for the insight Pastor Crippen and JB. Please, if I may – as painful as their casting you aside is, and/or discarding and publicly shaming and blaming you in the process is……. your life is better off without them. In a reverse fashion, it’s a thank you to them when they are gone. Had they stayed and you (we) have continued in the abuser’s’ land of pretend love, it would have eventually sucked the life out of you and dimmed the very light they were after.
      Hang on through the grief – it will pass and you will be a better light for it. You will.
      This is the only thing I can assure you – it is better to live a life with a few, literally, genuine people than a roomful of ab-users. It won’t be an easier life, but it is destined to be a better life. In many cases, they would not have stopped abusing in their fake love until you were physically dead, I am not joking. Be it indirect or direct, their using and abusing you will take its toll on your body, let alone your heart.
      Stand firm, be relieved of their duplicitous “love”, and praise God that you are alive and here to read this. And know – we are not the first or last, and although few and far between, we are not alone. It’s a true sucker punch when you see it is your family, by blood or by church family association, that are the ab-users. They have a free will, as do we, and you see them for what they are, and they see you for what you are. The dividing line is you either have to join them – or they have to join you. Hard as it is – with abusers, they either had to go, or you do – light and darkness cannot coexist in a “healthy” “loving” space, it has not and will not ever be possible nor was it intended to be. Family, church, or other – the fundamentals remain the same.

  2. Innoscent

    Interesting how with the ab-user it’s all about making USE in various ways of anyone and anything:
    . Mis-use, ill-use, over-use, under-use, or re-use
    . Making his victims use-ful or use-less.
    …all on their “terms of use” of course and breaking the “right of use”.

    • twosparrows

      Very succinct….you capture the experience well with only a few words.
      Thank you….that piece of clarity is what I need right now.

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