Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Abusers are not Your Average Sinner

1Ti 1:12-13 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, (13) though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,


Often we come across the question of how we can say that abusers never change. And as was pointed out recently, that Jesus saved people like Zacchaeus the tax-collector and of course, Saul of Tarsus – the Apostle Paul. Aren’t these cases of abusers coming to repentance and being saved?


The kind of sinner, the brand of evil that we address here under the name “abuser,” is quite different. All sinners are not the same. The large majority of abusers do, what? They parade under a disguise of the most wonderful, charismatic, kind, holy, saintly….just keep piling on the adjectives….person you would ever know.

Mat_6:5  “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Mat_6:16  “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Mat 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

Understand? Think about it carefully. This is one of the typical qualities of the abuser. Hypocrite. Disguise. Mask. That is why so many of them are church members and claim to be fine Christians.

The Apostle Paul was never such a person. Did he abuse, before his conversion, Christians? Yes. But why? Because he genuinely believed that he was serving God in doing so. As he says, he acted “ignorantly in unbelief.” The Lord showed him mercy.

And here then is the difference. Paul was a sinner. He was a legalist, but he was not a hypocrite. He was what he was and did not pretend anything else. He was wrong. He was a sinner. He was persecuting Christ. But he was the real thing, even though that real thing was sinning.

One kind of person that Jesus did NOT eat with was the Pharisees and scribes – those hypocrites he pronounced divine woes upon. These are the real abusers. No conscience. No repentance. Lusting for power and control. Using and oppressing. Paul was never one of those. And you can bet that Nicodemus was not one either.

And it is those kind who do not change. Those are the abusers. They operate in knowing unbelief. And for them, God has no mercy.

Other Related Posts:
Saul of Tarsus was not an Abuser – Let Me Show You Why


Be Sure to Read This Comment by Lynn – She has Learned this Wisdom through Hard Experience


Loyalty is a Fundamental Quality of Love


  1. I like the distinction. I’ll be pondering it for a while. I became a Christian because I repented of offending a very holy God, received Christ for free forgiveness, and i’ve continued to practice repentance throughout my life, of course realizing that Jesus also forgives me. I married someone from a specific faith tradition that teaches “we are all sinners”, that sin is the great leveler, AND this denomination wants to make it very clear that we are NOT saved by works. So, I hope that is why it is that they have an “inadequate model of repentance”. However, it is very easy in that denomination to mouth the words that you are “sorry for your sins”, and do nothing about them. After two years of a front row seat to extended family dynamics, I am a. sure not a one of them will get into heaven on their own merits lol and b. sure that repentance is an essential part of becoming and continuing to be a Christian. In fact, over the years, I have gradually tended towards the idea that the grand, soul-breaking repentance that initiates us into Christianity, also can teach us not to be afraid subsequently of the black hole of repentance, because Jesus meets us at the bottom of it, so we know to repent more easily in the case of future mistakes, thus making us into lesser hypocrites and better people. Somehow, this model of repentance does not seem to ‘stick” in the extended family or their Denomination. It seems to be a thing of trite words only, not actions, and more of an obligation to the offended party to forgive, than to take responsibility to acknowledge offence & make amends.

  2. Free

    Thank you Pastor Crippen, amen to the bold truth. Jesus did not eat with the Pharisees and scribes, in fact he called them out for being the cunning snakes that they were (are!). For those religions, “Christians”, etc. that want us to do otherwise today with the Pharisees of our times, they’re essentially telling us to be above Christ!!! Above our Lord?!!!
    Having been abused in so many physical and emotionally deceptive ways by a modern day Pharisee, then cast aside by so many “Christians” while they looked the other way (supported the abuser via affiliation/social media, via keeping him in the church so I had to leave, via dismissing the impact of the abuse, via using Bible to try and shame me for leaving him, via gossip instead of support, via protecting their weak egos instead of circling in support, etc.) – I’ve come to realize that not only were the abuser’s choices quite willful and evil, so were those that looked the other way – many are pushing equivalent to the fans of the Pharisees.
    We are not above Christ and if he did not cover the tracks of the Pharisees and scribes, and look the other way as they abused, he would never, absolutely n-e-v-e-r instruct us to. That’s as far as it goes – period. All the other talk of promoting conduct otherwise is as much an alliance with the beast.
    Again, thank you Pastor for stating the position on the abusers as the Lord did.

  3. Lynn

    Thanks for this reminder Pastor Crippen.
    I think we as Christians – at least those professing to be Christians – tend to forget there are more than one type of sinner. We assume that God can and wants to save every type of sinner. Scripture shows us otherwise. God didn’t save Pharaoh or Judas. He hated Esau and all those who actively pursue wickedness.
    There are three main types of sinners – the deceiver (hypocrite/abuser), the legalist (moralist/ruler follower), and the libertine (pleasure seeker/epicurean).
    Deceivers can be broken down into sub-groups: abusers, false teachers, false prophets, Pharisees, heretics, actors, con artists… these sinners are divisive, greedy, manipulative, obsessed with power, image and control. They are fueled by their own self-deception and are of their father the devil. They demand their ears be tickled to feed their own delusion and drag their followers down with them. They know the truth of God, yet insist on twisting it for their own gain. They are idolaters who wish to replace God with self, demanding those in their sphere act accordingly lest they risk the wrath of the deceiver. They lack a conscience and are not able to be convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit and refuse to repent of their sin. They violently lash out when confronted with their sin or seek to cover it up as if it never happened. They will gaslight, project, blame shift, sin level, and other such tactics in order to get their way. They have chosen the pathway to destruction and are determined to take as many people as they can with them on their journey.
    It is their absolute refusal and inability to genuinely repent and persistent unbelief that damns their soul to destruction. 2 Peter 2:3 tells us of what awaits the deceivers – condemnation and destruction.
    In Jeremiah 11:14, God instructs Jeremiah not to pray for deliverance for such a people. So what types of prayer are appropriate for deceivers? Pray that God will swiftly deliver his perfect justice against these sinners. That their time on earth is short, and that God restrains them from continuing to inflict harm on others. Pray the imprecatory Psalms as you cry out for justice. Pray that they would reap the full measure of what they have sown in their lives, even if that includes a whirlwind of destruction.
    Examples of deceivers in scripture are: Cain, Pharaoh, false prophets during the reign of the kings, Ahab, Jezebel, Judas, the Pharisees and scribes in Jesus day, Ananias and Sapphira, Diatrophes.
    The legalists are the next type of sinner. They are very much wrapped up in keeping the laws and the rules, but miss the heart of God. While straining gnats, they swallow camels. They belief their works righteousness can save them from God’s wrath and secure his favor.
    They talk of freedom, but do not practice it, and hold others back who want to break free from their man inspired traditions and rules. They love doctrines of absolute male headship and authority, female submission, hierarchy, anything that keeps those who are currently in power in charge. They love the laws themselves and institutions more than the people who the laws affect.
    They make idols out of marriage, family, male headship, patriarchy, pastoral offices, placing heavy burdens on those in their midst and refusing to lift a finger to help ease the burden they caused. They refuse to help victims and often add an additional layer of abuse by how they respond to victims of abuse.
    Examples of this type of sinner include: all false religions (Roman Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc…), Nicodemus when he meets with Jesus in secret, pastors and leaders who preach submission to abuse victims and advocate for remaining in abusive situations as a means of godly suffering – run from this teaching if you’re pastor is advocating for this wicked behavior.
    This is what the apostle Paul was prior to his conversion. He persecuted Christians because of his fervent belief that they were disobeying God’s law. When Jesus graciously opened his eyes on the road to Damascus, Paul repented of his sin and spent the rest of his life in service to Christ, sharing the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul’s repentance and changed life is why he is not an abuser. Were he really an abuser, he would not have repented and spent the remainder of his life in service to Christ.
    The last type of sinner is the libertine. They are the pleasure seekers out for their own gain. It’s all about how they feel and what they want. They are the sexually immoral, greedy, lust-fueled, pursuing every kind of desire in their heart without thinking through the repercussions their actions may have. These are the fornicators, adulterers, sexual deviants who stray from God’s perfect plan regarding sex and human relationships.
    We see this in scripture with the woman accused of adultery and Zaccheus. Jesus comes to where they are in their sin and offers them a better way, his way. To become a part of the kingdom of God.
    The difference between deceivers, legalists, and libertines is their willingness to repent when confronted with sin. It’s a matter of degrees. The longer one goes rejecting the truth of Christ and closer they become to reaching that state of being a deceiver. Just like we don’t know how long we have been given in this life, we also don’t know how long the door of salvation is open to us. We may want to believe that we all get the entirety of our lives, but that may not be the case. At some point in our lives we make a choice that will either hold open the door for the gospel to reach our hearts or we shut it for good. Pharaoh hardened his heart against God first, then God further hardened his heart so that his glory would be on display as he rescued Israel from the bondage they were enslaved to. Judas chose to live a life of wickedness while being in relationship with Jesus and serving with him before betraying him to the Pharisees. We each will have choices in our lives that have eternal ramifications. Don’t wait too long and miss your opportunity to accept God’s gracious gift of salvation.
    While all three types of sinners will end in hell if they do not repent and place their faith in Christ, only those who have not crossed over that threshold and have not hardened their hearts to the point of becoming a deceiver still have the opportunity to heed the Holy Spirit’s invitation. If you haven’t become a Christian by repenting of your sin, surrendering your life to Christ and placing your faith in him to pay the debt you could not pay, I invite you to do so. The time is now.

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