Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Loyalty is a Fundamental Quality of Love

2Ti 4:16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!

2Ti 1:15-16 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (16) May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,

Loyalty. Sticking with through thick and thin. You have the thing is traditional marriage vows – “in sickness and in health.” And yet it is a very rare gem, as the Apostle Paul describes his experience above. There are a few like Onesiphorus, but most desert and jump ship when a cost must be paid.

2Sa 23:14-16 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. (15) And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” (16) Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD

Loyalty stands with. It does not desert nor abandon. A loyal friend does what the Lord commands – bears one another’s burdens. Do you begin to see how rare this is – particularly in the place where it should be most easily found – the visible church. I do not doubt that most of you have been abandoned when it became “inconvenient” for friends to stick with you.

Think of Jonathan’s loyal love and friendship toward David:

1Sa 18:3-4 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. (4) And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

Jonathan had a LOT to lose by being loyal to David when Saul, his father, was trying to kill David. And yet Jonathan stuck with his friend:

1Sa 19:1-2 And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. (2) And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself.

Loyalty is an essential, defining quality of love. Where there is the love of Christ, there is loyalty to Christ. Where it is absent, love is absent. People who claim to know Christ, but who desert Christ’s people in adversity, will not be owned by Him. This is widely denied among professing Christians today. I remember hearing a man who used to be in our church argue that this fellow surely was still a Christian:

2Ti 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

Demas blew it, this fellow said, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still saved. WRONG! Demas chose the world over Christ. Why do professing Christians seem to want to defend his salvation? I can tell you why. Because they want to lower the bar and make it easier on themselves.

Central in virtually ALL the stories you have told me about how you were treated by family, friends, your pastor, your church is this thing, desertion. DIS-loyalty. Scripture reveals loyalty, or its lack, as a central litmus test of a person’s spiritual state. And so I say once again, if you want to know where a person or a church stands with Christ, look into how they respond to a victim of abuse. The truth is that the majority of them are of the same species as Demas. They love this present world.


Abusers are not Your Average Sinner


Seeing, Yet not Seeing Evil


  1. IrisJane

    Sadly many victims, after enduring years of abuse and neglect, become incapable of being the friend they desire to be or were once able to be, it becomes almost impossible, then we look like the deserters. It’s part of the isolation perpetuated upon us in tiny, sometimes imperceivable increments over time, and before we know it, we are completely alone and unable to share our lives with and have community with others in the ways we used to before the abuse.
    And if the abuse started at an early age, it creates a lifetime of struggle in this area, especially if the child then grows up and is led into another abusive situation by not knowing any better.
    It also becomes very difficult to make and keep new friends, as our reality doesn’t lend itself to having others want to join us in our wilderness unless they are like minded and have suffered the same, which is rare to find in person, though thankfully now can be found online in platforms such as this one.
    I meet wonderful people through my job but I wouldn’t want any of them coming near my home life, I used to try, but there were always disastrous results, so I gave up. It’s very difficult when you have a spirit of hospitality and are unable to fulfill its calling.
    My heart breaks for those who throughout the centuries had to suffer truly alone without the blessing of connection through outside resources, even books, we are blessed in that way, it’s lifesaving. And of course, knowing that Jesus and others throughout the Bible suffered the same is a great comfort and very helpful in learning how to continue to serve despite the loneliness and isolation. He and the apostles were the perfect models of doing just that.
    May God in His grace and mercy give us all the ability to do so as well.

    • Innoscent

      IrisJane, you’ve summed up my life to a T. The abuse we suffer as victims leave us maimed socially also. We seem to only be able to gravitate around other victims of abuse or the few educated people who truly know and understand the dynamics of abuse.
      When you live on your own, it’s very hard to connect with couples and families who have it all. Same if you have health issues or unable to get a job. We seem to live in different worlds.
      You no longer fit any model and people don’t know what to do with you. And so you go from desertion from your abusive “husband” to desertion from the church, family and friends, and gradually you find yourself in a deserted social land where oases are scarce.
      Sometimes I wish the abuse had left me amnesic of my past and I could start a new life for good. But this won’t happen until in the earth made new.

  2. Sue

    Dear IrisJane, Amen! The takers keep on taking. And it takes a long time, if ever, to recover that spirit of hospitality. Takers leave so much of a me$$ behind, takes precious years to clear it away.

  3. Z

    Excellent post, Pastor Crippen. I know you’ve read all the many comments over the years by victims of abuse who were further ripped apart in their hearts by the disloyalty of “Christian” family, friends, church leaders..
    Sometimes it feels like that mass abandonment by people we thought knew our character for decades or more & we thought loved us feels worse than the actual abuse! Those, like me, who were born into an evil family of “Christian Abusers”, became almost used to that abusive home environment. Some, like me, even married another abuser just to get away from the family of origin abuse. It’s what was “normal” for us so we didn’t see the red flags that were there. But we had the option of eventually leaving our abusive childhood homes & even the unwise abusive marriages once we decided not to tolerate the abuse any longer.
    But the pain of nearly everyone one knew all their life turning their backs on the victim all at once-usually when the victim exposes the abusers as fraudulent Christians and abusers-is so jarring to a person that they really lose their sense of identity and get knocked off balance in a really unfamiliar way. We walk around in a fog. This is totally unfamiliar & unexpected.
    We developed survival skills growing up in a home where abuse was the norm. We might even have brought those coping skills into an early unwise abusive “escape” marriage. But nothing in life can prepare a person for a mass exodus of all the people in their life. The 2-step betrayal. 1) Turning AWAY from a known victim of abuse who is suffering and 2) Turning TOWARDS the known frauds & abusers! The human mind can’t process that level and size of rejection, abandonment, betrayal. The ensuing isolation and loneliness is agony.
    It takes a long time to recover from abuse and maybe even longer to recover from “Christians’” hard-hearted, self-preserving, cowardly, ungodly, unscriptural responses. It’s mind-scrambling trying to figure out the WHY? & HOW?
    But Jesus comes close right at that time & we shed the need for other people because He is enough.
    And, as Iris Jane wrote, we end up with a sort-of aversion to people. Many of us who comment here have that shared experience & response. Self-protection from ever again feeling that level of crushing pain that we never thought humans-so-called “Christians” especially-were capable of inflicting on an abuse victim. Heaping more hurt onto a hurting person they’ve known all their lives. Jesus is in charge of that too. If He desires to, He will send safe, loving people into our lives. I’ll let Him choose!
    Pastor, my one BIBLICAL QUESTION about Paul’s response to his betrayers/abandoners is:
    Why does he let them off the hook so easily? Why does he expose their sins against him but ask for it not to be held against at them? Especially given what he wrote in 1 Cor. 5:9-13?
    I’ve never understood that. Maybe, Pastor, you have some context or insight?
    🙏🏽May God comfort all who have been through not only abuse, but this additional egregious horror💔of utter abandonment by those who would know better than to behave so abusively too, IF they really knew Christ. But they don’t.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Perhaps because they were of a different brand than Alexander?
      2Ti 4:14  Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
      2Ti 4:15  Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.

    • Innoscent

      Z, your comment totally resonates with me as the abuse was in my home environment also and that’s all I knew when I met the abuser who was going to become my husband.
      From the time of my conversion to Christ to my meeting the abuser, I spent 10 years in the church. Never ever was I given any psychological support, biblical teaching that could have built me up and equiped me to detect and stay away from abusers.
      The shepherds, guides, teachers, older sisters/brothers were not loyal to their calling to educate and protect the flock, especially the babies in the faith.

      • Z

        Dear Innoscent,
        I’m so sorry any of the horror story of my upbringing in an abusive home and the all too common “escape marriage” to another abuser (because “crazy was all we ever knew”) resonates with you. Being an innocent, helpless, hopeless abused child causes so many repercussions for the victim-a lifetime of agony it seems. Even after No Contact. The abusers get others to join in the mental abuse by joining in the smears and lies to the point of turning ALL against their target. You’re right. We were so let down, so mistreated, so thrown away, made to feel worthless by so many “christians”. It rocks one’s world.
        I love your statement of wishing for amnesia! I’ve often said I wish for a machine that erases all memories and thoughts of my past life related to the abuses such as the one depicted in the movie “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”.
        Instead, I pray we both, as well as ALL the victims who comment here, receive the RENEWAL OF OUR MINDS by Jesus which includes erasing them from our memories. All thoughts of the abusers and all their disloyal, selfish, cowardly allies. Let the Lord deal with all of them.
        Hebrews 10:31
        “It’s truly a frightful thing to be on the WRONG SIDE of the Living God!”

        • Innoscent

          Dear Z, I am also sorry for what you’ve been through, and the repercussions you still suffer. Thank you for words of consolation and encouragement.
          Praise God for His comfort toward us innocent victims and the strength He provides for each day.
          Yes one day, God will erase all memories of sin and evil from our subconscious and “he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time” in His universe. (Nahum 1:9)

  4. Peace

    Pastor Crippen, your post is again so clear and distinctly aware of the vast majority’s loyalty to the abusers and the disloyalty to the one(s) they abused. Until it happened to me enough times I was not ready to face how awful the reality of this was – I see in this post and many others, you most certainly have faced it head on and help all of us because of it.
    IrisJane (& others) I completely understand the situation of the spirit of hospitality yet a world that you would no longer dare invite it. What I have come to realize in my journey is my home, now finally away from the abusers, is my safe place – I own very little now, yet I love being in my peaceful home and I rest here like no other. As much as I do have a spirit of hospitality, I do not want “them” in my safe place. Very few people have earned the right to this space, and the few that have are also survivors, they get it. Knowing the gift of hospitality is still there, it is now used in smaller scale places outside of my home, e.g. at work, meeting at public places, or I just use it in small encounters as I am out and about. It’s been a life altering experience to have been through such severe and repeated abuse, but once you survive and gather the pieces of your shattered life, a deeper more aware and more mosaic-type version of you arrives. This version is very selective of who is allowed in, and it does not matter what everyone else thinks – truly does not matter (it may hurt at times, but ultimately it does not matter).
    If nothing else, those disloyal “friends” “family” “church” members, etc. that don’t get it won’t, and they have the right to their thoughts and opinions – in their lives, but doesn’t mean they do in ours. It is completely gutting to go through this, but on the other side, there is calm. I never thought I’d say it, but the mosaic life – the one made from some many broken pieces, has the chance to be so much more than we knew before. I look at stained glass – all those tiny pieces of glass, sharp and broken when just left there on their own, but when the pieces are brought together, they are stunning – light shines through them and creates an opportunity for beauty to be held that was absolutely never known before in those prior broken pieces.
    Stay loyal to the Lord, and stay away from those that are disloyal….. this is a chance to build your mosaic-life from the pieces of what you knew before.
    May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

    • Jeff Crippen

      I used to quickly welcome visitors to our church even though I knew nothing about them. In earlier years I invited people to come all the time. Nope. No more. Because NOT EVERYONE is welcome in Christ’s church. I was taught wrongly and it just about made me quit the pastorate many times.

    • Sue

      Dear Peace, yep, me also. i love living alone in my clutter-free home. As for inviting people over, for the most part, would rather not – have had more than enough years of other people’s issues. i know, as Christians, we’re supposed to be extroverts – that’s a real struggle.

    • Innoscent

      Same here Peace, Sue and others. The place where I live alone is my sanctuary. Hospitality, which I truly enjoyed, is a thing of the past.
      Peace, your illustration of a mozaic life I found very soothing, I needed that today as I’ve been facing a few challenges lately.
      This week, the Lord comforted me by Jeremiah’s words..
      30:16 Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.
      30:17 For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

  5. Sarah Howard

    In my experience, people either want from you or on you (to use as leverage).

    • Sarah Howard

      ….want something..
      My ‘favorite’ form of abandonment is when someone clains they want to avoid conflict. They sound loving and kind yet are allowing and tolerating abuse.

  6. voicilebois

    Have lived through these experiences too and am also so grateful to Pastor Crippen for his unflinching exposure of abuse, because having gone through it I am somewhat ‘brainwashed’ and make excuses for the abusers.
    I love the mosaic image as I believe God can make something truly beautiful from the broken pieces of a life, and the symbolism illuminates the truth that Jesus was broken for us.
    I believe He will restore and make me fruitful again in his own way.

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