Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

But He has Changed!

Luk 3:7-8 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

With some regularity I hear from domestic abuse victims that they believe their abuser has changed – for the good. Most Christians today it seems do not like it when I tell them “abusers never change.” Not the kind of abusers we talk about here – those who lie in wait in disguise in churches, pulpits – who have no conscience, who lust for power and control. They do not change, they are not changed, because they don’t repent of their evil.

I was looking at the reviews of my book on Amazon recently and saw a “one-star” reviewer say, “This book allows no hope for God to work in a repentive heart. Not a single chapter acknowledged anyone who has truly repented to the Father and their spouse…As a pastor, implying to readers God doesn’t work in repentive hearts is not biblical.”

Well, God does indeed hear the prayer of a believing and repentant person and I have never taught otherwise. But this reviewer is coming from a false premise – that we need to expect God to work in the abuser’s heart and cling to the hope that he will one day repent. Such a hope, I maintain, will lead to continued bondage to the wicked and necessarily causes us to make bad decisions.

This reviewer also made this statement that really reveals his mind: “If you are hoping and praying for a better understanding of yourself and looking to create a better version of yourself, this book tries to convince you that change is impossible.” Well, just who is the “you” he is speaking of? It is the abuser. The abuser, he insists, can want to create a better version of himself and understand himself better. And therein is the lie. Abusers do not desire to understand themselves – because that would mean wanting to know their sin. But abusers are never wrong, never guilty. They are quite sure that they know themselves and their victim. Further, no sinner can ever “create a better version of himself.” That is not the gospel of Christ. Change must come from above. We must be born again.

I also heard recently of an abuse victim who is rejoicing because her abuser is evidencing such wonderful change. He has found a program to enroll in that is just enabling him to be transformed, she says. And “she says,” – why? Because “he says.” He says he has changed.

But the thing is a false hope. Wicked, conscienceless, “christian” hypocrites – these wolves in wool, will do most anything possible to ensure that their target remains under their power. If that requires enrolling in a program whose steps promise reformation, many will gladly do so. They will “get counseling” although before the program or the counseling are over, they will have won the director and counselor over to their side!

There IS hope for us in Christ. But “us” does not include the wicked who refuse to bow to the Lord and turn from their evil. To think otherwise is to remain enslaved to the enemy’s lies.


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  1. a woman


  2. Lynn

    Words without changed behavior are just another manipulation tactic. That’s why the only way I would consider viewing an abuser – especially a family member or spouse – as someone who is genuinely repentant is to look for contrition followed by a voluntary change in behavior that sticks. Specifically focusing on voluntary restitution and a willingness to do whatever it takes to restore and support the healing of the person the abuser harmed no matter what the consequences or how long it takes. Anything less is a tactic to get and maintain control of the victim.

    I know this because I’ve lived it. I’ve had family pretend to repent and offer up restitution only to change their mind at the last second and demand their own way. They say the words they think will get them the result they want without evidencing genuine repentance. It’s why I maintain no contact. I don’t believe there is evidence that they ever will change or desire to change. They like who they are and how they live. They don’t see any incentive to change because they do not have the conviction of the Holy Spirit working in them. They do what is right in their own eyes and believe their own lies. Like God who gave man over to their own desires and hardens the hearts of those who he hasn’t elected so that they will pursue their own evil desires in Romans 1, I have given up my family over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, but do not have the confidence that they will ever repent of their sin. Their lives do not evidence a desire to know, obey and submit to Christ’s rule and authority in their lives. They have determined in their heart to worship themselves, and by extension Satan, in order to get the power and control they crave. They will reap the whirlwind of a life lived in violation of the commands of God, and receive the justice their actions require.

  3. Amy

    Thank you for continuing to share the truth! It is so needed.

    Many years ago, my abusive then-husband walked out on me and our two sons in what I would later come to discover was a scheme of his to make me look bad to our then church by convincing people that I had kicked him out.
    One day after a Sunday service, the pastor of that church approached me to let me know how much my then-husband was changing (he kept in touch with my ex) and I remember thinking, that all the hateful emails he sent me didn’t show much sign of change. And on that day, I knew that I would get no support from that church and left.

    No, abusers do not change, and even if they appear to the minute they are pushed into a corner, their true self emerges once again.

  4. Lynsey

    My ex husband didn’t even try to change, because he believes that he is the innocent victim and that I am the whackadoodle for calling police the day after he assaulted my son and I. He was removed from the home, no contact orders and was placed on probation after he took a plea deal in criminal court. Yet, He has successfully been able to convince our church community to take his side and they support him. They have completely condemned/ostracized and excommunicated me for reasons that no one has ever actually explained to me.

    They do what they need to do to hold up an image. Some abusers have to play ‘pretend’ for a while, but their true self is always there in all their self-righteousness, need for control and entitlement.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Lynsey – I know exactly what that is like. You called the police, so you are the one to blame. I suppose that church concluded the same thing – after all, you didn’t submit. He didn’t have to work very hard at convincing the church to take his side – in reality they always were – and against anyone who calls out evil in their midst. Not only do abusers work hard at upholding an image, so do pastors and churches and that image-preserving becomes the chief goal.

  5. Be free…..

    Thank you for speaking the truth! As far as the Amazon reviews, they’re just that, a chance for people to post or not post, nothing more. Having just read one of your books I can say it was an absolute gift of fundamental truth, if I were to post on Amazon that is what I would post.

    With regard to people that feel they should or can go back to the abuser because the abuser claims to “have changed” – you bet they have changed! Abusers change for the WORSE each time you go back. Sometimes you have to exhaust the number of times you listen to the well orchestrated lies and promises of the abuser before you don’t go back, and before you can fully grasp the level of evil that willfully exists in the person you were entangled with. The truth is the abusers absolutely do change, they continue to get worse over time.

  6. Loved by God

    My husband said he wanted to change, and I wanted to believe him. He went to counseling. But it was only words, not actions. He didn’t take responsibility for his actions: he didn’t restrain himself from what he felt like saying and doing. It was all lip service. Very disappointing.

    So I am giving up and leaving him.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes. So typical. As I always say, abusers never change and a marriage to an abuser doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.

  7. Shannon

    Pastor Jeff

    Thank you for your insights on evil people. I have learned much from your posts.

    My husband of 20 years controls my income and keeps taking money from our joint account. I don’t know what he does with the money but he probably has a secret account. I let him have a joint account in the early years of our marriage because I trusted him and believed he was a good Christian.

    He stopped working 2 years into our marriage and has not worked since. I am trying so hard to save some money each month for my retirement and for my son’s education. I find it hard to tithe even, because if I did, I won’t have much money for savings and this causes me so much anxiety. I have acquired health issues over worry and anxiety in the past few years. I do give tithes on and off but I want to give more. But I fear that my husband will know if I take money from the joint account.

    I don’t think he will change and I am begining to believe that he may have been a manipulative person even before marriage and that he looked for a financially naive person to marry.


  8. Shannon

    And the other matter is that my husband does a lot of good stuff like taking care of our son’s needs, cooking meals for us and taking care of car repairs and grocery shopping. I get very confused with the good he does and the stuff about taking money and not saving it for our future.

    My pastor told me that what he takes is his entitlement to the money as he is equal partner to the marriage and that it does not qualify as theft. Maybe I am the one who has the wrong thinking.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Shannon- the fact that he controls you by controlling the money and doing so secretly offsets all the other “good” that he seems to do. If he truly loved you rather than himself, he would partner with you in all areas. And his willful refusal to work is also bad fruit.


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