Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Do as they say, Not as they do?? What does this mean?

Mat 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, (3) so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

Have you ever read these words of Jesus and been confused? I have. Wouldn’t you think that we should disregard what such hypocrites say as well as what they do?

Well, recently a commenter on this blog gave an account of how he was taken in by a similar hypocrite and his comment I believe sheds some light on why Jesus said what He said:

My wife and I have a friend that has been at our home the past three days. A family that were pillars in the church….married over 50 years….the husband a mentor to me when I was a young husband and father….who come to find out, behind closed doors in the home abused his wife and children. So instead of a home filled with the love of Jesus it was a house of horrors. Pray for the family. Pray for their safety especially the wife. Pray for wisdom.

So what you are telling us Pastor Crippen is even though I broke bread with this man…studied the Word together, prayed together, shared our deapest thoughts and concerns…learning to be a godly husband and father with him…he did this as a wolf, as a fraud, as a hypocrite? I should be weeping losing a friend. But I find myself not…instead there is this steadfast anger in my soul….not a raging anger….just a steadfast mad….might it be righteous anger? I am now doubting he never became a new creation in Christ as he claims.

Thank you Wade, for sharing this.

The scribes and Pharisees “sat in Moses’ seat.” This brings to our minds how Ezra read the Scriptures to the people after they returned to the land and apparently that tradition continued in the synagogues as some teacher would read and expound the Law given through Moses to the people. We see it in Jesus’ actions at Nazareth:

Luk 4:16-20 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. (17) And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, (18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (20) And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

Hypocrites, in other words, are very capable of stating scriptural doctrine. Of quoting Bible verses. So when these Pharisees in the synagogues read Moses’ words, Jesus told the people to do whatever the Pharisees “told them to do,” ie, whatever the scriptures said. BUT the application of the Law by the Pharisees is what the people were to reject. Because these wicked counterfeits warped and twisted the real meaning and spirit of the Law.

Remember that people in Jesus’ day, just as so many people have been down through the centuries, did not have personal access to the Scriptures. People didn’t carry their Bible around and I would imagine that myriads of people wouldn’t know how to read it if they did. So they were dependent upon their synagogue leaders to read God’s Word to them. THAT is the part Jesus is telling them to hear and do. But the actual practical interpretation and handling of it was botched and was to be rejected. Jesus was upholding the Law as God’s Word, but was denouncing the ways the Pharisees and scribes twisted and perverted it.

And that is what Wade (author of the comment above) has experienced in this guy whose mentoring even benefitted him. I have experienced the same thing more than once, only to learn later that the person I thought was genuine was a fraud. And as I looked closer, I could see how such people misapplied and twisted God’s Word.

You can think of many examples of this very thing. Think for instance of the “godly” and saintly and wise preacher who was well-known and appreciated by thousands, and then is found out to have been living a sham all along. Did we benefit from his “ministry”? Yes, in many ways. To the extent he was truly communicating God’s Word in the Bible to us, we did. BUT, we had better go back now and closely examine how we might have bought into some of his applications of Scripture because in some way ALL of his applications are going to be tainted.

Really, I think what Jesus is saying is simply what we refer to as “sola scriptura” (if I spelled the Latin correctly). Scripture alone. Yes, God gives us pastors and teachers and so on (Ephesians 4), but our sole authority for what we believe is the Bible alone. We err greatly if we make any human being our authority.

Practically, what will inevitably happen when we are dealing with a hypocrite, is that if we will apply Jesus’ instruction here, it will not be long before the hypocrite hates us and leaves us. Because hypocrites demand that we do as they do. When we make Scripture our only authority and thus do what God says to do, the counterfeit will be incensed – and exposed.


More Thoughts on Why an Abuser Cannot be a Christian


They Go too Far — Watch Out for Leaders who Have a Book or a Word for Every Aspect of Your Life


  1. Natalie

    My question would be if Wade discovered this family friend is an abuser, why would he be allowing this man into his home? What message is that sending to the abuser’s wife and family?

    When any Christian gives protection to an abuser, that abuser uses it as proof that he is justified and acceptable. He will then throw it in his victim’s faces and use this acceptance and protection from Christians to further abuse and silence his victims.

    When we discover one is an abuser, we as Christians, are to refuse that one felllowship – do not even eat a meal with such a one. Instead, we are to provide support, acceptance and protection to the victims.

    When we succor an abuser “friend” in our home, we become complicit with his abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Natalie – I’m not sure as far as him allowing the man in his home – maybe he is finished with him?? Wade, perhaps you could let us know your thoughts on this. But you are correct Natalie, just as the scripture you referenced (1 Cor 5) commands. Done. Finished. I have been attacked by wicked people many times over the years and it is always disheartening to see other people continuing to maintain friendships with them. Our church has had to on some occasions actually reinforce this to everyone when we put an evil person out of the church. We told everyone that we cannot dictate who they hang around with, but if anyone chooses to continue friendship with the kind of wicked person 1 Cor 5 talks about after we have expelled them from the church, then such people will not be permitted to be among us either. Otherwise all that happens is the evil ones continue to exercise their evil through church members who keep hanging out with them.

      • Z

        This last sentence, Pastor, is SO TRUE! In both a church setting and in a relational setting where one has gone No Contact with the abusers and “professing christian friends and family” continue to be buddy buddy with the exposed abusers. They act as if abuse is some small deal! No. It’s depraved wickedness. We have to stop the abuser from being able to continue to inflict harm on us vicariously through others via their choice to continue friendships with evil. We have to end “friendships/associations” with those who are complicit with evil too. And anyone who WANTS to continue to be friends with people who abused you were never really friends in the first place! The abusers WILL definitely use those “christian friends and family” (fakes) to further torment their victims. It’s what they do-abuse. It’s up to us to get wise and stand firm against them and their allies. It’s how we get free.

  2. Noka

    Thank you for this explanation! I have been wondering about this too because I have seen this verse misused to say, ‘we need to submit to spiritual leaders even if they are evil, as long as we don’t become like then or do what they do’… or something along those lines. That never made sense to me why would Jesus say that, since he condemned them so much, but this makes more sense now. Jesus was pointing them to the Scriptures!

  3. Wade


    First thank you pastor Crippen for pointing out the possible ambiguity in my post. Also, Natalie you are correct in stating that we should break all fellowship with the abuser.

    To clarify; for three days the victim was in our home as we encouraged, comforted, affirmed, this poor victim. Offering her our home indefinitly if she was so led. We as graciously as we knew how, recommend that she not go back to her home. If she felt like she needed to, which she did, to consider leaving the home in secret. That our home would be a place to run to.

    One of her concerns was that what she had shared would ruin the friendship that I had with the abuser. We told her that if this didn’t change my friendship with him, then there was something wrong with me….that also by sharing the truth with us, she DID NOT ruin the relationship but the ABUSER did.

    For my wife and I all our wonderful children are grown and on their own. If they were still in our home the abuser would not be allowed through the front. I will not invite him. However, I would consider having a conversation in our home if strategically I believe we were safe and that it would help keep the victim safe.

    If I ever get time with him, I will expect him to groom me…to keep me as an ally….to disperage his victim(s)…or play the pity card….Again, I would spend the time to listen only if it kept the victim safe. So for now I will not confront him for two reasons…safety for the victim and knowing he won’t change. So, if it is ever safe this side heaven to confront I will.

    I also know that I can let Jesus do it…and dialogue will probably go something this…”I was missionary, homeschooled the kids, preached, tithed in Your Name.” Jesus will answer ” I do not know you, depart from Me”

  4. Susan

    I have a question. An ex pastor I know of is, I believe, an abuser. He is definitely “my way or the highway.” He has embarrassed his wife by calling her out from the pulpit and many such things. Here is the question, if the wife herself continues to protect him to the whole world, should you try to get involved in her life? I have a friend who she confides in and this friend says the pastor’s wife often “calls her in tears.” The wife is not a member of my church, but she comes to our Senior Citizens Center for lunch once a week (with hubby of course). My advice to the friend she confides in is to not soften her view of the husband in anyway when the lady calls her in tears. The wife needs to know his behavior is one of abuse, not healthy. Unfortunately my friend continues to say, “But I know he loves her.” I don’t know what to think about that. The wife certainly seems completely committed to the man and really, she doesn’t even appear to be “off kilter” as you might expect her to be. (BTW this pastor at one point caused the church to split over his anger toward his wife and others!)

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