Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Can You Change a Wolf into a Sheep by Counseling?

There are popular “ministries” out there that focus on the issue of domestic violence. They can and do provide some good help to victims, but even though they profess to be Christian and biblical in their core beliefs and methods, they are fundamentally flawed in regard to Christ and the gospel. You need to beware because groups like this can end up enabling your abuser and guilting you as the victim.

Here is a real life example of these things. It is taken from the website of one such well known group. It says that it works to educate church leaders and counselors to this end:

As a church leader, learn how to shepherd both the victim and the abuser in a way that honors God and provides safety and accountability for all involved.

Now, think this through. How is anyone going to “shepherd” a wolf? How? This statement means that the wolf is going to be regarded as a sheep. How is it that we are supposed to provide “safety” for the wolf? And what is the inevitable effect of this approach going to be for the victim of the wolf? I think you know the answer?

The Bible never tells us to shepherd a wolf! It tells us to be discerning and not be duped by a wolf in wool. We are to put such a person out from among us, not pet him and tell him “poor wolf. You just don’t understand how much God loves you and we are going to teach you so that the good in you breaks forth.”

I don’t know precisely why, but I do know that these kind of ministries gather a large following and enjoy popularity in the professing Christian world. I suppose it has to do with what Paul said to the arrogant Corinthians:

1Co 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

This kind of unbiblical theology allows man to pat himself on the back for being soooo loving and merciful and gracious to everyone. It really fancies itself a better Christian than Christ!

Watch out then for any person or group that takes this approach to dealing with evil. Inevitably they add to the fog and confusion that abusers love to spread.

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10 Comments

  1. Sheep don’t live in flocks of wolves…..

    Thank you for shining the light on this. This is what happened with the abuser when I left him – the church we were attending would not stand up to him and essentially sheltered him. And sheltered him even further in one of their “ministries” as they gathered routinely and he waltzed on in to it, praying, lying and pretending he was all about the marriage. Even when the court said the abuser had committed the violent assaults the church would not stand up to him, and the senior pastor told me the abuser could worship there, implying we were both free to – or I could leave, which I did.

    Following that experience I was at a large religious gathering (thousands) for the group that has an immense pull in the churches in our area – they were speaking out of the problem of abuse in the church, only in horror to see towards the end of the event they shared a video of an abuser. Basically they were positioning where this could be sinner to saint story of the abuser, it appeared they were empathetically tracking the abuser?!!. I also asked in the lobby outside the gathering why they had all kinds of religious books they were trying to sell yet not one single book on domestic violence?! Hundreds of books and not a one – they were stunned at the fact that I asked, and they admitted they did not have any, didn’t even have one written – and yet they were there because everyone inside the building was there discussing abuse in the church?? If anyone sees this behavior in a group or church it’s best not to walk away from such an organization- run from them and do not look back. Wolves attack sheep – that’s what they do, if you stay amongst the wolves as your church “family”, it’s not if you are going to be attacked – it’ll be when you are attacked.

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    • Thank you!! This is truth absolutely. Without doubt the vast percentage of people who purchase or even acknowledge the books I have written on this are victims of abuse. Very very few are pastors or your average typical professing Christian.

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    • Helen

      I left my marriage back in 2014 and my spouse took me through the ringer of the legal system for years which furthered the abuse. I am traumatized by that and I have not even gone back at this point to complete the divorce as it was all put on hold with the arrival of Covid (which also gave me a reprieve from the legal shenanigans).

      My spouse or ex spouse as I refer to him as later sought shelter in the church and specifically with the pastor I previously went to see around the time I left him. The pastor despite me sharing my side of the story saw my ex spouse as doing what was good and I was not in his eyes as I walked away from the marriage. The question can be asked though, who abandoned the marriage and broke the covenant of marriage early on… I and another pastor I counselled with saw it as my spouse with his behaviours including porn and emotional abuse.

      Lately, or within the last few months especially, my spouse has been “nice” again and amicable in transfers with our child…despite the history, this has been working on my emotions again and creating doubts again which I have not been experiencing to this degree in a long time. He continues to share stories with our child, stories of things him and I shared or did when we were together, even before our child was born… I find this behaviour most peculiar and feel that this is not appropriate and seems to continue to be using our child as a pawn, enmeshing her into our past marriage.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Helen- I know exactly what that is like. You have suffered terrible betrayal by multiple persons.

        The guilt you are feeling is false. It is the work of the enemy – the father of lies. If your ex is talking, he is lying. His niceness is a lie. It is all abuse. Many blessings to you and thank you for sharing.

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      • twbtc

        Helen,

        You wrote, “My spouse has been “nice” again and amicable…despite the history this has been working on my emotions again and creating doubts…”

        When my -ex was being “nice” it helped me to remember that people don’t pretend to be mean, but they do pretend to be nice. Over time a pattern emerged: when he was “nice”, but didn’t get his way, then his true nature surfaced. As Pastor Crippen said, “niceness” is a tactic.

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  2. This post is great, Pastor Crippen!

    “The Bible never tells us to shepherd a wolf! It tells us to be discerning and not be duped by a wolf in wool. We are to put such a person out from among us, not pet him and tell him ‘poor wolf. You just don’t understand how much God loves you and we are going to teach you so that the good in you breaks forth.'”

    That is a perfect description of what most churches/ministries do with the abuser/wolf. They tell the abuser, “Poor wolf,” and THEY PET HIM, as if he needs or even wants their comfort and help. They are doing exactly the opposite of what they should be doing to a predator. Wolves need to be removed from the churches, not coddled by them! There is no good in wicked people and wolves in wool are evil to the core. Wolves will continue to attack and seriously hurt or kill the sheep as long as they are allowed to exist among them.

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  3. Lynn

    Woe to those who extend mercy to those whom judgment is required. They are blind guides, leading those who follow them to become twice the child of hell than they are. That is what those who seek to minister to wolves are. Look at how Jesus interacted with the wolves in his day. He didn’t love them to salvation and have therapy sessions with them so they could learn how to stop being a wolf and start being a sheep. He confronted them, calling out their hypocrisy for all to see. Those who claim they can fix the wolf are self-deceived blind guides, all proud of their “loving” hearts towards unrepentant abusers. They mistake their role in the salvation process, believing that their “love” – cough enablement – is going to win this poor wolf to Christ when it’s not true. Christ is the only who saves people. We are just the messengers.

    I’m not advocating for treating the wolf badly. I’m advocating that we recogize the wolf for he or she is, a child of satan for whom the gloom of utter darkness is reserved and that we depart from them as Christ instructs his people in scripture.

    God doesn’t love everyone in the same way. He only loves His people in an all-encompassing, redemptive way. See Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17. In it, he specifically mentions those whom the Father has given him and clarifies he’s not talking about the entire world. To those who are not His people, God extends common grace to them until they die and face their appointed time of judgment. Their punishment may appear to be being held back, but in reality, God is waiting for the appointed time. They will get perfect justice.

    To those He did not elect to save, God gives over to a reprobate mind so they are free to pursue their desired wickedness. Nothing we do can change that. Not counseling. Not prayer. Nothing.

    Only Christ has the power to save a wolf. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Does God want to save the wolf?” While God wants all men to come to saving faith in Christ, He has not elected all for salvation. Some He has created as vessels of wrath and some for honor. Wolves are vessels of wrath. Don’t treat them as unpolished vessels of honor.

    To treat an abuser as if he’s an unfinished vessel of honor, just in need of a bit of polishing, is foolishness and sinful. Don’t fall for the lie that we can never truly know what is in the heart of man. A man’s heart is revealed by the fruit of his life. Bad fruit equals a bad heart. Unwillingness to genuinely repent when shown their abusive actions is bad fruit. Inflicting pain on others is bad fruit. Habitually manipulating others to get your own way is bad fruit. Emotionally terrorizing people is bad fruit. Using money to control the lives of others is bad fruit. Physically abusing others is bad fruit.

    All abuse ends up being physical because the body keeps score. Those words your abuser cut you with create a chemical reaction in your brain that produce negative physiological responses that over time cause disease in the body. That financial abuse that your abuser perpetuated triggered your brain to produce a negative physiological response resulting in illness. That’s why when scripture talks about needing 2 or 3 witnesses to corroborate an accusation, physical manifestations should also be included as a witness. If an abused wife has been suffering from fibromyalgia, that diagnosis should count as a witness.

    Remember, no amount of counseling or therapy can fix the wolf. He or she doesn’t want to be fixed or saved. They want power and control, to be treated as God. They mimic their father the devil who rebelled against God, and will receive the reward their actions require.

    The only one who could fix the wolf is Christ. The challenge we run into in scripture is that we don’t see wolves genuinely repenting. Keep in mind, not all sinners are wolves. Your next door neighbor who is a hard core atheist, but treats others with dignity and respect is not a wolf. King David was not a wolf. The Apostle Paul was not a wolf. Yes they did wicked things, but when confronted with their sin, they repented of it. Wolves don’t repent. They can’t. It would be a violation of their belief system that is rooted in them being the center of the universe.

    Wolves are a special breed of sinner. They have bought into their own self-delusion regarding who they are, what they deserve, and have no problem doing whatever they want and whatever it takes in order to achieve their desired results. They have no qualms with lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, as long as they get their way. So do not hold your breath, hoping and praying one day that God will transform the wolf into a sheep. It’s not going to happen.

    I know that may be hard for most professing Christians to swallow. But its the truth. I waited for nearly 4 decades for the wolves in my family to “change” before I finally said no more. If anything, they will get worse with time, not better. The most loving thing you can do for yourself and the wolf is to walk away and faithfully pray imprecatory prayers for them. They deserve the justice their poor behavior has earned them.

    Stop enabling abusive behavior. Your suffering will not produce a repentant heart in a wolf. All it does is validate his or her delusion about themselves. You are not honoring God by enabling a wolf. You are violating God’s command in 1 Corinthians 5:11 to not eat with such a one. Christians are not to tolerate or associate with ANYONE who is a wolf. That includes family, friends, pastors, or church members.

    To those who are ensnared by a wolf, I invite you to find your freedom in Christ. God doesn’t require you to stay in relationships with people who are toxic. You and your safety are more important than your marriage or your familial relationships. God cares more about the people than the state of the relationship. God divorced Israel in the Old Testament for their continued idolatry and failure to keep His commands. If God can do that, so can you. You’re not sinning by divorcing a wolf. It is an act of obedience to Christ to leave a wolf.

    If you aren’t a Christian, now is the day of salvation. Don’t wait. Don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow. We don’t know the day or hour our time on this earth expires. I emplore you to repent of your sin to God, asking Him to give you His heart of flesh in exchange for your heart of stone. Cry out to Him, accept his gift of salvation and acknowledge Jesus is the only way for you to be made right with God. Turn from your sinful ways and follow Christ. There is freedom in Christ. There is peace in Christ. There is complete healing in Christ. There is victory in Christ, both now and in the life to come.

    Be free in the freedom Christ offers. Whom the son sets free is free indeed.

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  4. Z

    Lynn, I wish I could like your comment (all of them actually!) a million times. Your life experience with a whole family of professing “christian” wolves mimics mine in so many ways. The decades of tolerating and forgiving so many abuses due to false teaching by the enabling “christian” teachers within my family’s clan/cult. I walked away from them all. Including extended family, church “friends” (enablers), pastors, elders…All of them caused the physiological chemical stress/trauma responses in my body/nervous system/brain resulting in chronic illnesses.
    But just as God intervened and created the “parting of the Red Sea” moment that opened my eyes fully and Jesus walked by my side as I walked away for good from them all with no support system but my husband (their abuse victim too) and Jesus basically my only Friend to this day, I fully expect that He will heal me of those scars. He has been faithful throughout it all and will continue the work He started in setting me free!
    Thanks, Lynn. It helps to read your words knowing you’ve walked a similar very hard path to mine and come out of it with such great deep insights and truths. God has blessed you with a remarkable depth of understanding of wolves and evil in the church as well as Scriptures. And you are a blessing to me!

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    • Lynn

      Z, I’m glad my post helped you. Thanks for the encouragement. I really appreciate it.😊 The thing about having the lights turned on by God makes me want to offer the insight to others because I know that I am not alone in the struggle of trying to understand how to navigate abusive relationships. There is soooo much bad teaching out there, and the lie that a wolf can be saved is a big one. When we start to understand the psychology of sin and what the Bible actually says versus what most professing Christian teachers and authors write, everything makes so much more sense.

      Why would a perfect, loving holy God require victims to stay in relationship with those that hurt them? He doesn’t. But most professing Christians don’t know or believe that. They unwittingly empower wolves and then blame the victim for not responding as they expected. That’s not of God.

      There is an eternality to God’s law of sowing and reaping. We see it here in creation, and I believe we will also see it play out in eternity. You can’t pray a quick prayer and then live as you want for the rest of your life without reaping the consequences. To live a life to please yourself is to sow the wind. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. They may not see the whirlwind in this life, but they will in eternity. What’s 70, 80, 100 years in comparison to eternity? It is almost nothing. That is why we persevere in the faith. We cling to Christ and not man. Clinging to man will lead to eternal destruction. We can see there’s something better in store for us that makes these painful trials pale in comparison. We get to be truly free and whole in a way that can’t be satisfied in this life.

      It’s been hard to walk away from my entire family, but it is also the right thing to do. They insist on remaining in blatant sin and thrive on manipulating others to get their way. So, instead of turning myself inside out and still never being enough, I chose to focus on what I can control, which is me. My hope is that as I share my insights, the lights will turn on for others like me and know there is a way out, and other victims know they are not alone in what they’ve experienced. It may not be identical, but having your experience validated is so important. It helps stop the internal crazy making by validating it for the victim. So much additional harm happens as a result of dismissing other people’s pain. As Christians we are called to care for widow, the orphan, the sojourner, and the oppressed. Part of how we do that is shining the light on wicked teaching and offer the hope found in Christ.

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  5. Sheep don’t live in flocks of wolves…..

    Lynn, you have spoken volumes into where I was before and see I could quickly become subject to, yet again, now that the abuser has resurfaced directly and also indirectly. The common denominator, with the repeat situation, are the wolves that look so fragile, some so “godly” in their Bible study trail blazing, some playing up their game by using aging bodies as their behavioral excuse, etc. and yet, once again it is anything but that – they are the wolves they chose to be before and choose to remain now. They are incredibly strong in their steps, habits, commitments and mode of operation – they are anything but fragile….

    I read your post and it hit point after point after point. It all circles back to the very points of the Bible….. no different now….. having escaped so many consecutive traps before, never anticipating the next round was already being set by the very same people before the last traps had barely been closed, yet that is reality. If anything wolves become stronger in time, yet eerily so, they re-use their same old traps – we can be wise to this, or succumb to it…..

    Thank you for the reminders, particularly the “woe” reminder….

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