Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

More Thoughts on Why an Abuser Cannot be a Christian

Good people never pretend to be evil, but evil people pretend to be good.  Sheep don’t wear wolves’ clothing. 

In the beginning, when abuse still had me in the fog and I was a new pastor (the fog can last for years!) I used to think that the many abusers I had met in the church, people who profess to be Christians and were even highly thought of by the rest of the church, were Christians with problems. A hard childhood, shame issues, and so on. As long as I dealt with them that way, in my relationship with them as their pastor, I got nowhere. In fact, what I did do was enable them in their abuse, supporting them in their excuse-making. Have to hold the church together, you know.

Then, after almost 30 years of being emotionally and spiritually slapped around by these kind, the Lord opened my eyes to the real nature of abuse – its mentality and its tactics.  He gave me an extra-hard wakeup “whack” upside the head as they say down South.  The result was that I began to see what was happening to me, and to their other victims, and I also began to read the Bible like never before, with new understanding about what it says about the psychology of sin. Nothing illustrates the nature of sin better than abuse, in my opinion. I realized that when the Bible says things such as it does in the following verses, it means exactly what it says.  I say that again – it means exactly what it says!  I had been taught for years, like many of you in the evangelical church that these black and white words are actually quite gray.  Wrong!

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (1 John 2:4)
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (1 John 2:9) 
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15 )

Christ truly changes us when He saves us. I mean, He really changes us so that though we are not perfect by any means, the fundamental nature of our being becomes one that loves God and loves others.  Have you been taught otherwise?  I was taught “otherwise” at a conservative Bible college for Pete’s sake!

When I faced up to this, I realized that a person who is an abuser simply cannot be a Christian.  It can’t be. He may look like it in many ways and at many times, but he is a fraud. I learned that good people never pretend to be evil, but evil people love to pretend to be good. Sheep don’t wear wolves’ clothing. What is perhaps even more sobering is that this also means that many people in our churches who may not be classic abusers, nevertheless are not genuine Christians. Abuse victims in a church can really suffer at their hands too.

As I began to deal with abusers in this light, progress was made. Oh, they didn’t change and we didn’t all live happily ever after together. They blew up at the exposure and hated me and left. They still hate me.  It will be the same for you.  But now I have peace and these false sheep are gone. I wish I could have been better help to their spouses, but so many victims remain under the confusing fog cast by their abuser. Maybe one day some will see it.


Our Suffering is Not Redemptive – We do not Redeem Others


Challenging the No Divorce for Abuse Fortress Which Has Been Raised Up Against the Knowledge of God


  1. Wade

    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 eventhough 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 hypocrate? 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.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for this post Pastor Crippin. I believe this happens quite frequently. My husband “became a christian” in 1995 and then 24 years later , in 2019, came out as an atheist. Though there was no physical abuse, he was very harsh and controlling at home, making life almost unbearable. I just thought he was a christian with problems as well, but now he admits that he really didn’t believe christianity the whole time. When asked to give his testimony at our large church shortly after getting saved, he backed out at the last minute due to “not feeling well”. He now admits though that he backed out because he really didn’t have anything to say. He also now says that he went to church because he enjoyed having a group of people to socialize with .

      Shortly after a terrible accident, he said that God spared his life because He had a purpose for him. After he adopted atheism, he admitted that he only said that because that is what everyone wanted to hear. We raised our five children in the faith, I was a stay at home Mom who homeschooled our kids and now after 32 years our marriage is ending. There was abuse and infidelity.

      I look back now and can see all the warning signs, but at the time I was clueless. I do believe we should be questioning people’s spiritual status and calling people out. These wolves in sheep’s clothing should not be able to hide so easily amongst the sheep.

      • Solveig Warren

        I spoke with a woman who had experienced something similar to what you describe, she raised two sons and after 42 years of marriage she discovered her husband a clergy man in a somewhat high standing positions was not what she or her sons thought, a Christian with morales, but a fake, a fraud and a beastly wolf. Together we pieced the events of the last 42 years and came up with a pattern of deception, collusion and opportunities he had used to get to where he was – a carefully plotted plan never dreamed by a Christian. As you state, it was at home where the cloak fell off him and he revealed himself, as he slunk out of the door into the dark night, like a thief who had failed trying to steal the soul of wife and two sons. He was a soul snatcher not a soul healer. By God’s grace the wife and two sons were shown the true picture and the two grandchildren were saved from ever having any contact, just a vague memory of their grandfather. They are not aware of the last words he uttered about them, “I can’t stand the grandchildren”. Not words associated with a loving grandparent – a Christian?

    • Solveig Warren

      Draw a line in the sand walk away from your ‘friend’, drop him and what he stands for, move on into calmer waters as you set yourself free from contamination. This is harsh advice but based on my own experience. Looking into the eyes of evil all you see is a dark void there is no soul to save! You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Abusers are in their own minds perfect and normal and all others are not. Abusers feed off the trough of human kindness and spit in the faces of Christians.

      • Z

        Solveig Warren,
        I 100% agree! It may seem harsh to those who’ve not experienced this darkness that knows no bounds. But it is absolutely necessary. And Scriptural.

        • It’s true

          Solveig (and all others), agree with the points.

          Keep in mind the abusers do slip, their masks comes off since they can’t sustain their act all of the time, it’s impossible – most often they slip up in a big way where they spend most of their time, which is usually home. As Wade said, it is a house of horrors living with them.

          If someone doesn’t think the wolves in sheep’s clothing concept is true, live with the Christian pretenders long enough and their evil will unveil itself. The wolf does come out and it’s on the attack.

          To your point Pastor Crippen, the abusers are not Christians. It’s not possible, they can’t be. The ones that try this angle aren’t confused about scripture, rather they exploit and torture – and in a very twisted way, use scripture as their weapon.

    • Noka

      Wade, I would say, for a man who went on in that kind of self deception for that long, it shows he was never converted and that it’s not even possible for him to ever be converted at this point. Hebrews 6:4-8

    • Jeff Crippen

      Wade – Yes, that is what I am saying. Think of it – the devil is able to appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11) and his servants as sons of righteousness. I have known numbers of people who I was just sure were Christians (although as I look back on it, there were some warning signs) but who after even years finally evidenced themselves to be unregenerate. They have been people just like the guy you describe.

  2. This is so powerful and absolutely true! “Good people never pretend to be evil, but evil people pretend to be good.” Genuine Christians never pretend to be evil, but evil people do pretend to be Christians. Sincere Christians must be wise as serpents to discern wolves wearing sheep’s clothing. Thank God, the fog lifted for you, Pastor Jeff, and that you are helping so many abused believers see the truth.

  3. Em

    Thank you Pastor Crippen. Your lesson/page titled: Scriptures that Demonstrate that an Abuser is not a Christian is also very helpful in this area!

    twbtc note: The page that Em is referring to can be found here: Scriptures That Demonstrated that An Abuser is not a Christian

    • Noka

      Yes, so important to make this distinction, and to define “abuser” correctly. I have seen people use David or Saul of Tarsus as examples of “abusers” who repented or to say that it’s possible for sheep to act like wolves at times. This comes down to a wrong concept of what a Christian is and isn’t.

      The way it helps me to think of it is that the ABUSER does not know how not to be an abuser. He can’t not abuse. That’s all he knows and that’s all he does. He can’t function without manipulating. Everything he does is abuse, it’s calculated and on purpose. Even the “good” is part of the disguise and manipulation to suck people in for the intent of abuse. An abuser (a wolf, a predator) is not like a Christian who sins sometimes but wants to avoid it. Abuse is what defines him and has no desire to change that. He can’t imagine there’s any defect with him and thinks he’s entitled to have power over others.

      You can’t say that was true of David or Saul of Tarsus and you can’t say that’s true of a Christian. The Christian is marked by humility, repentant of sin even when not seen by others, remorseful and rejecting sin even when not called out by others, longs to be rid of the flesh, to be free of sin, has no desire to have power over others. The Christian in essence is the complete opposite of the abuser, and would be horrified at using people for selfish gain on purpose all the time.

      The abuser is nothing like a Christian and a Christian is nothing like an abuser.


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