Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

We Become Like the Master we Choose

Psalm 115:4-9 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. (5) They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. (6) They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. (7) They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. (8) Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. (9) O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.

Here is a very important theme the Bible teaches numbers of times. We become like the master we choose. Those who make mute, blind, deaf gods will progressively become mute, blind, and deaf themselves. I suppose this is another way of saying idolaters are becoming lifeless just like the chunk of wood or metal they carved into a god.

Now, I want to be very clear that in this article I am NOT talking about domestic abuse victims who want to be free but simply cannot do so immediately. There children, finances, dangers and so on that have to be considered. And in so many cases the victim is on her own, having been rejected even by her “church.” I understand completely.

But here I want to talk about a kind of person who is a target of abuse, but who knowingly and willfully chooses to yield to their abuser, to in a way “ally” with him and to remain with him even though the victim has a plain avenue of escape. I have known enough of these people to know that they do exist.

Now, when we willingly choose a master, Scripture tells us that we will increasingly become like that master. When we make the right choice and choose Christ and follow Him, we are on the road to becoming like Christ. This is called sanctification. We will have ears to hear His Word (His sheep know His voice). We will have eyes to see things as they really are. We will be able to speak His truth and recognize the enemy’s lies. His life flows more and more into and through us.

On the other hand, if we choose an evil master…. You can complete the sentence. Our ability to see and hear and speak truth will grow weaker and weaker and weaker until one day it is no more.

Isa 44:15-20 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. (16) Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” (17) And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” (18) They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. (19) No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” (20) He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Choosing to yield to and remain with an abuser or some other evil person rather than to obey the Lord and “come out from among them,” is to choose another god. This is why, for instance, Jesus said more than once that if we love even father or mother more than Him, if He calls us to follow Him but we delay and run back to the wicked “just for now,” then we cannot be His disciple. That means, we cannot be saved. It is a looking back to Sodom – remember Lot’s wife.

I have seen victims of abuse watch their children being abused by a wicked spouse. In so many of your cases, as you have told me, that was the defining moment. They realized that they cannot permit this any longer. Their love for their children drove them to leave. But the kind of person I am speaking of here sees the thing happening – even to the children – and yet remains with the wicked one even when the door is open for them to make an exit. I suppose they have swallowed the kool-aid of false teaching – “well, you know it’s always better for the children to have two parents.” Or something like that. But for whatever reason, they stay. And the kids, who have no choice, are stuck there too.

It is never, ever better to choose your abuser as your master.

Mat 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

I have wondered about some of the abuse victims I have known who have shut down. You cannot ever really know what is going on with them because they won’t talk. They will even defend their abuser and refuse to hear truth. We all were at a similar point early on I am sure, but as the Lord shone more and more of the light of His truth in us, our spiritual hearing and sight switched on and pow! There it was. Once we were blind but now we see. But in these type of people I am thinking about here, that light switch seems to have been shut off for good. And like their abuser, they will hate the light.

Do not go down that path. Do not give in and and choose your abuser as your master. It is a path that will lead to nothing good, a road that leads into ever increasing darkness and ends in the death of your soul. We become like the master we choose.


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  1. wingingit

    This is so true.
    Exactly what happened to my mother. I remember seeing her abused alongside us kids.
    Remember seeing her sit on the couch crying into a kitchen towel, many times.
    She began quietly getting her college degree. But once she had a good job, we kids were all nearly grown, she began to come up with reasons to stay.
    As our father grew physically sick over the years, she said she had to stay to care for this vile, evil man. We pleaded with her to go, but she would not.
    Then, she began defending his every evil action and word.
    Then, she became mean and bitter and acted ugly to all of us.
    We would plead with her to leave and have the life she deserved, but by then she claimed she must stay, even though he made her life hell, because he would die soon and she would not lose the life insurance she had sacrificed so much to claim.
    She grew more and more angry and bitter and rude as he slowly died over a 10 year period.
    After he died, she became a recluse in her house, bitter and glad to tell anyone who would listen the most harsh criticisms about themselves.
    I finally had to stop taking my children around her when her attacks toward them were making them scared to go near her and she began calling my abusive ex husband to feed him details of my life and to listen to him slander me.
    In the end, she became an abuser, just exactly like my father. And now she sits bitter and alone, just like he did.

    • twosparrows

      I have moved out, but I still struggle to see if it is REALLY abuse. He doesn’t fall neatly into any clear definition. I struggle to stay away from him, yet I know I can’t go back to the way it was before.
      This blog post is coming with interesting timing. I am having a hard time with my daughter and he is being there for me.
      Sometimes it is very hard to sort through it all. Please pray for clarity for me.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Twosparrows- understood. Maybe it would provide clarity if you distill it down to “what did he vow at the wedding and is he habitually breaking those vows with no genuine repentance?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Wingingit- a perfect illustration for sure. I have seen this dynamic many times. Those who choose them become like them.

  2. Profound. Rings true in so many ways: abusive family members, what I also saw happening to my mother, similar to wingingit, the choices I’ve seen Christian friends make to follow false teaching/ministries wherein they too grew more and more blind and unable to speak up for truth. As well as a needed exhortation that I need to watch myself not to get enmeshed again with abusive family from whom I have broken apart from; it can be so hard to go no or limited contact with people who remain unrepentant and denying of wrongdoing, especially as elderly parents approach end of life. But I do know that I must love Jesus above all else too. Thank you for this post.

  3. lg

    A good message in time for the Passover / Exodus and the Easter season!

  4. Free

    The trauma bonding is a very real issue with those that have or enduring the most devastating abusers. It’s often part of the byproducts of the abuser’s oppressive toolbox and not something we can take lightly.
    In the end, you will need to live with the choices you make – whatever they are. That is something no one else can determine for you.
    For those that are having a difficult time breaking free of the chains of the traumatic bonding with the abuser- please precious sister(s), please know many have gone through this and we are here to tell you you can do it. It will be hard, very hard, yet you will be ok in a way never known once you cross over and leave for good (truly for good – no more back and forth)…. life will never be the same – you will have the chance to live like never known before. The key is you MUST deny the abuser, you MUST turn from their manipulative evil and never, NEVER look back, no matter how much they smear, plead, threaten, love bomb, etc. …. if you don’t, they remain a master of the very oppression you have already endured for so long.
    Please sister(s), as Pastor Crippen said… do not go down that path. With the abuser as your master, it will literally be a silent hell in this life….
    You can break free…. and when it’s time, whenever that is, brace yourself in the Lord and what options you have, few as they may sometimes feel; absolutely stand firm in YOUR relationship with the Lord (not the one the “church” and the abuser told you to have – but YOURS) and keep your eyes set on Jesus and ONLY him. It will most likely be the hardest and most natural thing you have ever done.
    I have been through it, after way too many times of going back, and now…. later… live every day knowing that denying the abuser was the hardest, most terrifying, best decision of my life. And probably also the lives of the generations that will follow that I will probably never know. In this very real choice you face, may God bless you and cover you in every possible way. You will know when it’s time, no one can decide that for you, the Holy Spirit will be that guiding light – when he shows you another opening… you… and only you will know…. then sister… know and stand firm in that knowing.

  5. lg

    Wingingit’s story is spot on. I have observed this with a woman I work with – she is still with him b/c of the money and said so. But she is also filled with contempt and bitterness, sarcasm and f-bombs a lot when she talks.
    God commands us to leave the Pharaohs in our lives and He promises to provide a way out in time. When He does, it is not an option for us to stay under Pharaohs roof.
    Many / most the Christian community think they are providing godly advice for advising abuse victims to remain under Pharaoh’s roof! Like Pastor Crippen said – we can not serve two masters. The abuser’s ultimate goal is to be worshipped and made Number One in your life – even if he has to manipulate, lie and intimidate you into doing this.
    The Israelites whined and complained in the desert, longing to return back to their life of slavery under Pharaoh in spite of all that God had done – including miracles – and provided for them (Psalm 78).
    And just like Lot — he was commanded to leave an ungodly corrupt city that was corrupting his family in spite of Lot’s righteousness.
    When we are tempted to look back – like Lot’s wife and the Israelites – and it is easy to be tempted, then we need to immerse ourselves in his promises he provides for those who fear Him and obey His word.
    God promises Freedom and he promises to care for His widows and the fatherless.

    • Z

      Ig and wingingit,
      Unfortunately, I experienced the same thing. A “sister” who claimed to be living with an abusive husband for decades told me, when I asked why she stayed for so long and still would not leave (adult children out of the home and no financial or other roadblocks to leaving), that she stayed for the big home and the lifestyle. She refused to “downgrade”. When I urged her to break free from the bondage as God tells us to do, that after so many years she would easily get 1/2 the house and belongings and could make a nice life for herself but without the abuse, she turned on me. Namecalling, accusations, nastiness. She has chosen the Master she will serve. Mammon. Money and material comforts. She simply wanted to use me as her personal “silent/listening counselor” (I’m a recovering severe abuse victim with CPTSD!). She would constantly want a one-way conversation (her way) griping, complaining, reporting every offense by her “abusive husband”…A domineering, angry spirit who would not hear any Scriptures or alternatives I would try to offer. Twisted and refuted all my words-the ones I could get in! She became very triggering to me as a recovering victim and I had to turn away from her draining, one-way, self-serving communications. She then escalated her viciousness and I saw the real person and situation for what it was. She too is an abuser! She’s made her choice of who she will serve. Herself and her selfish “wants”. It’s a very sick game she’s playing and I want no part of it. I tried. But in the end, I did what I had to do and end all communication with her to protect myself. I had already gotten free of my own bondage-at enormous emotional, financial, mental and physical health costs to me-I went No Contact with my abusers. My family of origin. I’ve paid a very high price but it was the right and godly thing to do. And I know God will protect, bless and provide for my life and recovery because I obeyed Him and I departed from the Pharaohs in my life. Jesus has guided me and walked beside me every step!

  6. Detoxify

    As a former church volunteer, I was burned by enabling wives of the abusive or inappropriate men who were driving new members away. As soon as the church or group tries to tell the wife she’s welcome but the husband’s not, the wife would “suddenly” come down with a health condition that supposedly makes her unable to drive so she “needs” to have him drive her there and attend with her. Yet we’d see those same wives all over town, driving themselves to work, the gym, concerts, and grocery store. They were assertive women who had good careers and the money to leave, no kids at home, and friends offering them help getting out.
    Strange to have a medical problem that only flares up on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, no? Nobody at that church put their foot down because the wife was supposedly so “nice,” so we were told we had to take the husband and wife as a package deal. Well, a lot of those victims were nice, and they left. And I question how nice the enabling wife really is when she knowingly brings the abuser around new victims and gives the volunteers a guilt trip if they complain about him?
    So glad I’m away from that toxic stew of a church. Thank you, Pastor Crippen.

  7. Free

    Detoxify, thank you – you spotted it. I lived in ultimate terror of my spouse – but painted the good wife picture who would “fall ill” and still be a work etc. even though we had to dodge certain settings because of his cruel abuse games. What people didn’t know was that the abuser would literally physically cause me to be incapacitated, it was awful what he did behind closed doors – but you know I would paste on a smile and tell people I had just had a stomach this, back ache, etc.
    Here’s the deal – you MUST deny the abuser’s participation in church and presence at church. Literally that is opening the door to satan if you don’t. And if that means the spouse can’t come – that is how it is. When the abused spouse cannot attend because of the abuser, that is one more downside of being caged in with the vile abuser and one more reality of staying with an abuser. You don’t open the gate to satan – period. I have been on both sides of this mess and what we need more than anything is a church body who will NOT tolerate the abuser on their grounds. That is the bottom line.

    • Detoxify

      Thank you, Very real. I agree that longtime abusers need to be shown the door even if that means the wives may stop attending as well. I eventually tired of the excuse that we had to keep the couple around as a “package deal” because we didn’t want the wife to become “isolated” which meant she’d be less able to leave him. That pretense wore thin for me after several known incidents. Where’s that same compassion for the new victims her husband keeps affecting?
      All of those enabling wives are still with the husbands to this day, so what was the point of all this? We kept losing volunteers and potential members. The enablers were all given offers of temporary places to stay, or referrals to community and court programs, yet they still never left. Most of the wives had their own resources anyway.
      Added to this is a problem is that if you keep the couple around for too long, they might go on the offense. Don’t be surprised if the enabler suddenly offers to sit on the governing board, and the church is all too eager to give it to her because they say it will be therapeutic for her. Then she uses that power to stomp out any proposed policies that could make your church safer and so she can sabotage misconduct complaints early. I saw both happen before I left that church.

  8. Stormy Knight

    So true I’ve seen it with friends and saw it with the new wife of the abuser.
    My former friend would lie to me to cover up for her husbands drug use, wild parties and adultery.
    In another situation the former abusers wife was
    Not an abuser when they first got married. Her parents tried to warn her —tried to tell her to stay away —but she married him anyway.
    Now years later she’s become a criminal and actually commits crime for and with the abuser. Felony level crimes and they get away with it. It’s absolutely horrible.
    She’s even sacrificed their child to not ruffle the feathers of the abuser. She’s basically lost everything including her very own soul. It’s scary.
    From the start He discouraged her from getting a job —any training or anyway to make money. He tried to do the same to me. Thank God I got away.

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