Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Moving Beyond Victimhood

Rom 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (33) Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In our many discussions of and articles about abuse, we use common titles for the abuser’s target – victim being the most common. Sometimes survivor is preferred. These are good and useful labels to describe our experience of being treated wickedly by evil people.

But in this article I want to propose to you that it is a damaging error to embrace these terms to describe who we are. Because if we do that, we are going to mis-identify who we really are in Christ. And that mistake leads to all kinds of trouble.

The Apostle Paul was abused. Big time. Listen to him here:

2Co 11:24-27 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; (26) on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; (27) in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Think about this. Talk about being traumatized! And yet Paul did not characterize himself as a victim, or a survivor of abuse. He knew who he was in the essence of his being – a child of God, a saint, a citizen of heaven, a person deeply loved by the Lord. You see it in the Romans 8 quote above. Notice how often he mentions the love of Christ.

The Bible does not leave us in perpetual victimhood. It does not deny the reality of evil – quite the opposite. But we must understand that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. We do not have to be enslaved to the trauma effected upon us by the evil one. And I believe that this is a great error pushed upon us by quite a lot of counseling. It leaves us stuck in victimhood. That is not God’s will for us. He wants us as His children to know who we are in Christ and to live in the freedom these truths bring. Understand? Trauma is real. PTSD is real. Fear is real. I have no doubt that Paul experienced some or all of these things. But in the end, he knew who he was and he refused to be identified as a victim. He was a conqueror. He had been set free by Christ and he knew it.

I think that one of the keys to moving from victim into the joy and freedom Christ intends for us, is to come to know the love of Christ. Check this out:

Eph 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, (15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (16) that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

To know the love of Christ. To be filled with the fullness of God. These are gifts shown to us by the Spirit. Rooted and grounded in love.

I believe that one of the traps that keeps people in perpetual victimhood is an inability to accept love. Evil has sold them so many lies that when truth comes along, they don’t accept it. When love comes, they do not receive it. So one of the crucial things that we need is for the Lord to lift off the blinders that wicked people have put on us, and enable us to see the love of Christ for us. Otherwise what is going to happen is that when real love does come to us, we won’t have it. We will be stuck. Bogged down in confusion about who we really are. And make no mistake, evil people just love to tell you who you are! These are of course lies from the pit designed to enslave.

Here is some good news then. Without denying the reality of the painful effects of abuse – they are very real – let me say this: you can be free of these things. You do not need to live the rest of your life as victim. But the key to this freedom is not man-made. It is not “I am going to stand up for myself. I am not going to put up with this anymore. I am going to work out and practice with weapons and nobody better ever mess with me again!” All of that is just a disguise for perpetual victimhood. And even worse, it can become a path to us becoming quite abusive ourselves. No, freedom lies in Christ. It is to be found in knowing the unknowableness of His love for us. If you are a Christian (and you must be born again!) then the Spirit of Christ is in you. He wants to show you who you are. He is trying to teach you about this freedom that is yours if you will just receive it. He is trying to reveal to you the depths of God’s love for you. He is trying to show you that, well, you are not a victim. You are a conqueror and this victory comes through Him who loved us so.


One Bad Apple…


We Have a Choice: Follow Christ or Become Cruella Deville


  1. Anonymous

    Thank you and AMEN !!!

  2. hannah

    The world’s focus these days is all about being a victim. You can see it on social media all of the time. People post what bad thing happened to them in an effort to get sympathy from their followers. As Christians, we are immediate targets of the evil one. Those of us who were in abusive marriages were targeted by an evil poser (a puppet of the devil) and we’re victimized by the schemes and violence of satan, the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. And as Christians, however, we have the wonderful Counselor who is ready to validate everything we’ve experienced and then take us out of that place of bondage! When we pour out our hearts before the Lord as David did, confessing all of the pain and fear we’ve experienced, we come to the same conclusion as he did: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 NASB Other translations say: “I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.” When we stay in our misery, we are giving the enemy the power and control over our lives that belongs only to Jesus Christ!! His word in Revelation says it over and over again at the end of the letters to the churches, “I will give the victor….” and “the one who is victorious…..” If the Lord says we are more than conquerors, than I do not want make His word null and void in my life. It is for His namesake (and my benefit) that I came out of victimhood and into His glorious victory!!!

  3. Z

    It is so true that those of us who have been abused as children by parents who were supposed to nurture, care for and love us, do have great difficulty, later as adults, receiving and accepting into our hearts the love of our Heavenly Father. We may know cognitively and believe by faith that He loves us because we believe His infallible Word that says He does. But even in our born again spirits, a “Father’s Love” is a foreign concept to us. We didn’t ever experience it before. Quite the opposite. So I t’s hard for us to grasp the emotional feeling and the reality of the love of a father (or mother/both for some of us). But after I prayed for God to help me “know” and “feel” His love, He helped me slowly become able to truly receive and experience it. And it has made ALL the difference in my healing.
    NO counselor or book or treatment, etc…can heal a heart that has been totally shattered and love-deprived since childhood like spiritually experiencing the love of God. Once the beautiful, sacred, perfect love of our REAL Father, the presence of Jesus, our beautiful Savior and constant Friend and the supernatural comfort of the Holy Spirit, penetrates an abused heart, the real healing begins. When we can truly receive His love, feel Him holding onto us in His arms of perfect love for us which casts out all fear and receive His Fatherly embrace of protection and sufficiency, something shifts in our hearts. A seismic shift.
    Yes, symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc…may still linger or pop up from time to time. But we can know they are no match for the boundless love of our Good Father. They no longer define us! We can stop being victims and become survivors in Him. He makes us MORE than conquerors through His love. He becomes the place of refuge we can always run to for His love, peace, protection and healing. The symptoms and scars gradually fall away and lose their power. And what remains is His love that will never fail us. Never leave us. In Jesus, we can now live in hopeful expectation of seeing the GOODNESS of our Father God in the land of the living. HOPE. The best medicine possible!

  4. Noka

    This gives me so much hope that we can conquer anything with Christ’s power! And the emphasis on God’s love for us was on point! Sometimes I feel stuck in a rut with no way out, so this post was a great reminder.

  5. Susan

    Yes Pastor Crippen, Amen! Once we allow God to shine the light on the abuse we have suffered (which, in itself, is a manifestation of His love), we need to see what else He has planned for us! I stand in awe of how He has set me free, but now I need to see what His love is opening for me! Recently I’ve been somewhat aware I’ve been less focused on “moving beyond” and more focused on the whole history of being set free. I need to “forget those things which are behind so I can press forward to that for which Christ has called me!” (rough paraphrase)

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